Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
The United States will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections. The whole of the U.S. government is using all the tools at our disposal to target those who attempt to interfere in our democratic process. Yesterday’s action sanctions five Iranian entities pursuant to Executive Order 13848 for their efforts to spread disinformation and undermine our elections. We are also adding several cyber actors to our terrorist watch list and databases for their known association with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist, which will effectively prevent those individuals and their families from traveling to the United States.
For far too long, the Iranian regime has used its state propaganda machine to lie to the Iranian people and fan the flames of hatred against the United States. Iran has now deployed some of the same propaganda and media infrastructure in an attempt to undermine elections in the United States. The five entities designated – the IRGC, the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), Bayan Rasaneh Gostar Institute, Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU), and International Union of Virtual Media (IUVM) – have engaged directly or indirectly in, sponsored, concealed, or otherwise been complicit in, foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, or are owned or controlled by entities engaged in such activity.
Through covert media operations, including targeted disinformation efforts directed at U.S. voters, the Iranian regime has demonstrated its intent is to undermine American elections. Over the past few months, Bayan Gostar, a front company for IRGC-QF propaganda efforts, has actively planned influence operations involving U.S. elections. IRTVU and IUVM appear to be propaganda arms of the Iranian regime that assisted in these efforts.
The individuals added to the terrorist watchlist are known members of the IRGC’s cyber operations unit. Those with the technical and educational skills required to carry out malicious cyber acts should take note; we will hold accountable those who join the IRGC and carry out malicious cyber activities. Talented Iranians should use their skills to promote peace and foster prosperity for their families, not assist the Islamic Republic in conducting its oppression at home and spreading terror abroad.
For more information about yesterday’s designations, please see the Department of the Treasury’s press release.
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The report partially addressed this by concluding that the oversight and statutory structures and responsibilities meets statutory and assigned oversight responsibilities. The report does not discuss the alignment of resources, including human capital, as it pertains to the offices with oversight responsibilities. Reporting Element 3: The roles and responsibilities of SOCOM and SOF under Title 10 of the U.S. Code. The report addressed this by concluding that SOCOM and SOF have sufficient statutory authorities to accomplish their roles and responsibilities under section 167 of title 10, United States Code. Reporting Element 4: The current and future special operations-peculiar requirements of the geographic combatant commands and the Theater Special Operations Commands.The report partially addressed this by concluding that current and future special-operations peculiar requirements can be met with current and planned resources. The report does not specify the GAO found that the Department of Defense’s (DOD) report to Congress on special operations forces (SOF) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) addressed or partially addressed each of the eight mandated reporting elements, but did not include additional details on the analysis that underpins the department’s conclusions on several reporting elements. Reporting Element 5: The command relationships between SOCOM, its subordinate component commands, and the geographic combatant commands. The report partially addressed this by concluding that command relationships are adequate. The report includes information on the relationships between SOCOM, the geographic combatant commands, and the Theater Special Operations Commands, but does not discuss command relationships between SOCOM and its service component commands Reporting Element 6: The funding authorities, uses, acquisition processes, and civilian oversight mechanisms of Major Force Program-11. The report addressed this by concluding that these elements of Major Force Program-11 funding, which is used to organize, train, and equip forces to conduct special operations missions and acquire or modify service common systems for special operations when there is no broad conventional force need, are adequate and by including information on the budget development process and uses of Major Force Program-11 funding. The report also addressed the resolution of resourcing disputes between SOCOM and the services; DOD’s assessment of funding authorities and overseas contingency operations requirements; and civilian oversight mechanisms for Major Force Program-11 funding. Reporting Element 7: Changes to areas such as structure, authorities, and oversight mechanisms assumed in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review. The report partially addressed this by concluding that the structure, authorities, Major Force Program-11 funding, roles, and responsibilities are adequate. However, the report does not provide justification on how the department reached that conclusion. Reporting Element 8: Any other matters the Secretary of Defense determined appropriate to ensure a comprehensive review and assessment. The report addressed this by including information on suicide prevention, health, and family readiness programs, and on initiatives to enhance the professionalization of SOF. Why GAO Did This Study Since 2001, DOD has deployed SOF to conduct a range of military operations, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq. To meet an increase in operational demands for SOF, DOD has increased SOCOM’s funding and SOF force levels. DOD strategic guidance indicates that SOF will continue to play a prominent role in support of the defense strategy. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (the Act), Section 1086, required the Secretary of Defense to submit to the congressional defense committees a report on SOF organization, capabilities, structure, and oversight. The Act further mandated GAO to submit to the congressional defense committees an evaluation of the DOD report no later than 60 days after the issuance of the DOD report. GAO examined the extent to which DOD’s report addressed the mandated reporting elements. To address this objective, GAO analyzed the Act to identify the reporting elements, assessed DOD’s report to determine whether each of the eight mandated reporting elements were addressed, and interviewed DOD officials.[Read More…]
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- Science & Tech Spotlight: Contact Tracing AppsBy Sam NewsJuly 30, 2020Why This Matters Contact tracing can help reduce transmission rates for infectious diseases like COVID-19 by identifying and notifying people who may have been exposed. Contact tracing apps, notably those using proximity tracing, could expedite such efforts. However, there are challenges, including accuracy, adoption rates, and privacy concerns. The Technology What is it? Contact tracing is a process in which public health officials attempt to limit disease transmission by identifying infected individuals, notifying their "contacts"—all the people they may have transmitted the disease to—and asking infected individuals and their contacts to quarantine, if appropriate (see fig. 1). For a highly contagious respiratory disease such as COVID-19, a contact could be anyone who has been nearby. Proximity tracing applications (apps) can expedite contact tracing, using smartphones to rapidly identify and notify contacts. Figure 1. A simplified depiction of disease transmission. Through contact tracing, an infected individual’s contacts are notified and may be asked to quarantine. (In reality, some contacts may not become infected, and some of those infected may not show symptoms.) How does it work? In traditional contact tracing, public health officials begin by identifying an infected individual. They then interview the individual to identify recent contacts, ask the individual and their contacts to take containment measures, if appropriate (e.g., a 14-day quarantine for COVID-19), and coordinate any needed care and testing. Proximity tracing apps may accelerate the process by replacing the time-consuming interviews needed to identify contacts. Apps may also identify more contacts than interviews, which rely on interviewees' recall and on their being acquainted with their contacts. Public health authorities provide the apps, often using systems developed by companies or research groups. Users voluntarily download the app for their country or region and opt in to contact tracing. In the U.S., state or local public health authorities would likely implement proximity tracing apps. Proximity tracing apps detect contacts using Bluetooth, GPS, or a combination of both. Bluetooth-based apps rely on anonymous codes shared between smartphones during close encounters. These codes contain no information about location or user identity, helping safeguard privacy. The apps allow public health authorities to set a minimum time and distance threshold for someone to count as a contact. Contact tracing can be centralized or decentralized. With a centralized approach, contacts identified by the app are often saved to a government server, and an official notifies contacts of possible exposure. For a decentralized approach, contact data are typically stored on the user's device at first. When a user voluntarily reports infection, the user's codes are uploaded to a database that other app users' phones search. Users who have encountered the infected person then receive notifications through the app (see fig. 2). Figure 2. Bluetooth-based proximity tracing apps exchange information, notify contacts exposed to an infected person, and provide follow-up information. How mature is it? Traditional contact tracing is well established and has been an effective infectious disease response strategy for decades. Proximity tracing apps are relatively new and not as well established. Their contact identifications could become more accurate as developers improve app technology, for example by improving Bluetooth signal interpretation or using information from other phone sensors. Opportunities Reach more people. For accurate COVID-19 contact tracing using traditional methods, public health experts have estimated that the U.S. would require hundreds of thousands of trained contact tracers because of the large number of infections. Proximity tracing apps can expedite and automate identification and notification of the contacts, reducing this need. Faster response. Proximity tracing apps could slow the spread of disease more effectively because they can identify and notify contacts as soon as a user reports they are infected. More complete identification of contacts. Proximity tracing apps, unlike traditional contact tracing, do not require users to recall or be acquainted with people they have recently encountered. Challenges Technology. Technological limitations may lead to missed contacts or false identification of contacts. For example, GPS-based apps may not identify precise locations, and Bluetooth apps may ignore barriers preventing exposure, such as walls or protective equipment. In addition, apps may overlook exposure if two people were not in close enough proximity long enough for it to count as a contact. Adoption. Lower adoption rates make the apps less effective. In the U.S., some states may choose not to use proximity tracing apps. In addition, the public may hesitate to opt in because of concerns about privacy and uncertainty as to how the data may be used. Recent scams using fake contact tracing to steal information may also erode trust in the apps. Interoperability. Divergent app designs may lead to the inability to exchange data between apps, states, and countries, which could be a problem as travel restrictions are relaxed. Access. Proximity tracing apps require regular access to smartphones and knowledge about how to install and use apps. Some vulnerable populations, including seniors, are less likely to own smartphones and use apps, possibly affecting adoption. Policy Context and Questions Although proximity tracing apps are relatively new, they have the potential to help slow disease transmission. But policymakers will need to consider how great the benefits are likely to be, given the challenges. If policymakers decide to use proximity tracing apps, they will need to integrate them into the larger public health response and consider the following questions, among others: What steps can policymakers take to build public trust and encourage communities to support and use proximity tracing apps, and mitigate lack of adoption by some populations? What legal, procedural, privacy, security, and technical safeguards could protect data collected through proximity tracing apps? What can policymakers do to improve coordination of contact tracing efforts across local, state, and international jurisdictions? What can policymakers do to expedite testing and communication of test results to maximize the benefits of proximity tracing apps? What can policymakers do to ensure that contact identification is accurate and that its criteria are based on scientific evidence? For more information, contact Karen Howard at (202) 512-6888 or HowardK@gao.gov.[Read More…]
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