January 19, 2022

News

News Network

United States Seizes Domain Names Used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

13 min read
<div>The United States has seized 92 domain names that were unlawfully used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to engage in a global disinformation campaign, announced the Department of Justice. </div>

Seizure Documents Describe Iranian Government’s Efforts to Use Domains as Part of Global Disinformation Campaign

The United States has seized 92 domain names that were unlawfully used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to engage in a global disinformation campaign, announced the Department of Justice. 

According to the seizure documents, four of the domains purported to be genuine news outlets but were actually controlled by the IRGC and targeted the United States for the spread of Iranian propaganda to influence United States domestic and foreign policy in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and the remainder spread Iranian propaganda to other parts of the world.  In addition, the seizure documents describe how all 92 domains were being used in violation of U.S. sanctions targeting both the Government of Iran and the IRGC. 

“We will continue to use all of our tools to stop the Iranian Government from misusing U.S. companies and social media to spread propaganda covertly, to attempt to influence the American public secretly, and to sow discord,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.  “Fake news organizations have become a new outlet for disinformation spread by authoritarian countries as they continue to try to undermine our democracy.  Today’s actions show that we can use a variety of laws to vindicate the value of transparency.”        

 “Today we are 92 domains closer to shutting down Iran’s worldwide disinformation campaign,” said U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson for the Northern District of California.  “This important work will continue.  Iran cannot be allowed to hide behind fake news sites.  If Iran wants to be heard using U.S. facilities, it must reveal its true colors.”

“Today, we successfully seized 92 domains involved in a disinformation campaign conducted by Iran-based actors to promote pro-Iranian propaganda.  This investigation, initiated by intelligence we received from Google, was a collaborative effort between the FBI and social media companies Google, Facebook, and Twitter,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Bennett. “This case is a perfect example of why the FBI San Francisco Division prioritizes maintaining an ongoing relationship with a variety of social media and technology companies.  These relationships enable a quick exchange of information to better protect against threats to the nation’s security and our democratic processes. The FBI also urges the public to remain vigilant about the information they find and share on social media. Every citizen must do their part to use a critical eye and look for trusted sources of information. We all have a role to play in protecting the American democratic system from foreign adversaries.”

Pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), unauthorized exports of goods, technology or services to Iran, directly or indirectly from the United States or by a United States person are prohibited. Pursuant to the IEEPA, the Secretary of the Treasury promulgated the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR) that prohibit the provision of services to the Government of Iran without a license.  The Department of Treasury may issue a license through its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).  Further, the United States has found that the IRGC has provided material support to a number of terrorist groups, including Hizballah, Hamas, and the Taliban and, on April 15, 2019, the IRGC was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States Government.

In this case, the United States seized 92 domain names on Oct. 7, 2020, pursuant to a seizure warrant.  The seizure documents describe how the 92 seized domain names were being operated in violation of federal law. 

Four of the domain names, “newsstand7.com,” “usjournal.net,” “usjournal.us,” and “twtoday.net,” were seized pursuant to FARA.  FARA establishes a registration, reporting, and disclosure regime for agents of foreign principals (which includes foreign non-government individuals and entities) so that the U.S. government and the people of the United States are informed of the source of information and the identity of persons attempting to influence U.S. public opinion, policy, and law.  FARA requires, among other things, that persons subject to its requirements submit periodic registration statements containing truthful information about their activities and the income earned from them.  Disclosure of the required information allows the federal government and the American people to evaluate the statements and activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents.  Here, the four domains purported to be independent news outlets, but were actually operated by or on behalf of the IRGC to target the United States with pro-Iranian propaganda in an attempt to influence the American people to change United States foreign and domestic policy toward Iran and the Middle East.  These domains targeted a United States audience without proper registration pursuant to FARA and without notifying the American public with a conspicuous notice that the content of the domains was being published on behalf of the IRGC and the Government of Iran.

In addition, the remaining 88 domains targeted audiences in Western Europe, the Middle East, and South East Asia and masqueraded as genuine news outlets while actually being operated by the IRGC to spread pro-Iranian disinformation around the globe to the benefit of the Government of Iran.  The Government of Iran and the IRGC utilized website and domain services in the United States without a license from OFAC.  All 92 domains are owned and operated by United States companies.  Neither the IRGC nor the Government of Iran obtained a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control prior to utilizing the domain names.  A list of the 92 seized domain names is available here.

Visitors to the sites received the following message:

Notice of Seizure

This seizure was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Special Prosecutions Section and Asset Forfeiture Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, and the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, are prosecuting the seizure. 

News Network

  • Maximizing DOD’s Potential to Face New Fiscal Challenges and Strengthen Interagency Partnerships
    In U.S GAO News
    This speech was given by the Acting Comptroller General before the National Defense University in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2010. This speech focuses on DOD and the challenges it faces given the national government's current long term unsustainable fiscal path and ongoing U.S. commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. DOD can take steps to better position itself for the future and maximize the use of taxpayer dollars, particularly by improving its business operations. Additionally, this speech discusses how the Department can work more collaboratively with other national security agencies, such as State and Agency for International Development (AID), to build the strong partnerships needed to adapt to the changing complexities of the national security environment. DOD is facing a number of internal fiscal pressures as it tries to support ongoing operations, rebuild readiness, and prepare for the future. To succeed in this era of fiscal constraint, new ways of thinking, constructive change, and basic reforms are essential. Everything must be on the table and subject to scrutiny. This includes the stove-piped approaches to planning and budgeting that have typically led to a mismatch between programs and budgets. It is also time to rethink and act decisively to rectify inefficient ways of doing business that undermine support for the troops on the battlefield. DOD is second to none in warfighting capabilities; but it is a very different story when it comes to issues of economy, efficiency, and accountability on the Department's business side. By taking decisive action now, DOD can avoid a range of unintended consequences and less than optimal performance in the future. The federal budget's structural imbalance affects the entire national security community, not just DOD. As difficult decisions are made about national priorities, all U.S. national security agencies will need to strike an affordable balance between investments in current missions and investments in new capabilities to meet future challenges. Given the complexities of the security environment, they will also need to build stronger partnerships and improve their capability to collaborate on solutions to address interrelated conventional and emerging threats that transcend the scope and authority of any one agency.The fiscal year 2009 deficit reached a record $1.4 trillion and the debt held by the public exceeded 50 percent of GDP, a level not seen since 1956. While the current fiscal situation has received considerable attention, the federal government faces even larger financing challenges that will persist long after the economy recovers and financial markets stabilize. Recent GAO simulations indicate that, absent major fiscal policy changes, federal debt held by the public will increase dramatically over the next several decades and could trend towards 200 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). GAO highlighted four areas for the Congress and the Administration: 1) ongoing operations will continue to require substantial amounts of resources; 2) extended military operations have taken a toll on readiness and rebuilding such a force will come with a big price tag; 3) personnel and health care costs are increasing; 4) cost growth in weapon systems programs remains a significant problem. DOD programs on GAO's High-Risk List relate to business operations, including systems and processes related to management of contracts, finances, the supply chain, and support infrastructure, in addition to weapon systems acquisition. Inefficiencies and other long-standing weaknesses in these areas lead to challenges in supporting the warfighter, billions of dollars being wasted annually, and missed opportunities to free up resources for higher priority needs. DOD components are developing detailed plans to support efforts to improve financial management in budgetary reporting and related operational processes and accountability for asset existence and completion. Based on what GAO has seen of the plan so far, GAO believes this prioritization is a reasonable approach for now. A consistent focus may increase the Department's ability to show incremental progress toward achieving auditability in the short term. In response to GAO's recommendations, the department has also put in place a process to improve standardization and comparability across components. The success of this process will depend on top management support, as well as high-quality planning and effective implementation at all levels. Opportunities for strengthening interagency collaboration include developing and implementing overarching, integrated strategies, formalizing coordination mechanisms to overcome organizational differences, developing a well-trained workforce, and sharing and integrating national security information across agencies. DOD has a real opportunity to set a new course for the future, take concrete steps to correct long-standing problems, and achieve meaningful results that can better position the Department to respond to changing economic conditions and future threats.
    [Read More…]
  • Afghanistan: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight
    In U.S GAO News
    The United States has provided approximately $38.6 billion in reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan and has over 35,000 troops in the country as of February 2009. Some progress has occurred in areas such as economic growth, infrastructure development, and training of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), but the overall security situation in Afghanistan has not improved after more than 7 years of U.S. and international efforts. In response, the new administration plans to deploy approximately 21,000 additional troops1 to Afghanistan this year, and has completed a strategic review of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Based on our past work and the significance of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan to the overall U.S. counterinsurgency strategy, we have highlighted Afghanistan as an urgent oversight issue facing this Congress. The government of Afghanistan, with the assistance of the international community, developed the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS), which was finalized in June 20083, as a guiding document for achieving Afghanistan's reconstruction goals. The ANDS articulates the priorities of the government of Afghanistan as consisting of four major areas: (1) security; (2) governance, rule of law, and human rights; (3) economic and social development; and (4) counternarcotics. The United States adopted the ANDS as a guiding document for its efforts, and has also identified an end state for Afghanistan using four strategic goals: namely, that Afghanistan is: (1) never again a safe haven for terrorists and is a reliable, stable ally in the Global War on Terror (GWOT); (2) moderate and democratic, with a thriving private sector economy; (3) capable of governing its territory and borders; and (4) respectful of the rights of all its citizens. In discussing his new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan in March 2009, the President noted his goals were to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. In addition, according to Department of State (State) officials, the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan is assembling provincial plans for security and development. Department of Defense (DOD), State, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) officials have suggested that securing, stabilizing, and reconstructing Afghanistan will take at least a decade and require continuing international assistance.Security in Afghanistan has worsened significantly in the last 3 years, impeding both U.S. and international partners' efforts to stabilize and rebuild the country. The security situation, including the overall increase in insurgent attacks from 2005 to 2008, is the result of a variety of factors including a resurgence of the Taliban in the south, the limited capabilities of Afghan security forces, a continuing and thriving illicit drug trade in the south, and the threat emanating from insurgent safe havens in Pakistan. Between fiscal years 2002 and 2009, the United States provided approximately $38.6 billion to support Afghanistan's reconstruction goals, which can often be characterized as construction. According to DOD, $22 billion of the $38.6 billion has been disbursed. Over half of the $38.6 billion was provided to support the development of the Afghan national army and police forces. Almost a third of the funding was provided to support economic and social development efforts, such as the construction of roads and schools, and the remainder was provided to governance, rule of law, and human rights and counternarcotics programs. Since 2003, we have issued 21 reports and testimonies on U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. Over the course of this work we have identified improvements that were needed as well as many obstacles that affect success and should be considered in program planning and implementation. In most of the U.S. efforts in the past, we found the need for improved planning, including the development of coordinated interagency plans that include measurable goals, specific time frames, cost estimates, and identification of external factors that could significantly affect efforts in key areas such as building Afghanistan's national security forces. We also concluded that several existing conditions, such as worsening security; the lack of a coordinated, detailed interagency plan; and the limited institutional capacity of the Afghanistan government continue to create challenges to the U.S. efforts to assist with securing, stabilizing, and rebuilding Afghanistan. To assist the 111th Congress, GAO is highlighting key issues for consideration in developing oversight agendas and determining the way forward in securing and stabilizing Afghanistan. Significant oversight will be needed to help ensure visibility over the cost and progress of these efforts. The suggested areas for additional oversight include the following topics: (1) U.S. and international commitments, (2) Security environment, (3) U.S. forces and equipment, (4) Afghan national security forces, (5) Counternarcotics efforts, (6) Economic development, (7) Government capacity, (8) Accountability for U.S. provided weapons, and (9) Oversight of contractor performance.
    [Read More…]
  • Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry Engages European Allies on Climate Ambition
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Austria National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Two Bizarre Brown Dwarfs Found With Citizen Scientists’ Help
    In Space
    Data from NASA’s [Read More…]
  • Rocket Attacks in Erbil
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • System Review Report of the GAO OIG Audit Organization (prepared by the Architect of the Capitol OIG)
    In U.S GAO News
    Government Auditing Standards require that each organization conducting engagements in accordance with these standards must obtain an external peer review. The objectives of a peer review are to determine whether (1) the reviewed audit organization's system of quality control is suitably designed and (2) the organization is complying with its quality control system so that it has reasonable assurance that it is performing and reporting in conformity with professional standards and applicable legal and regulatory requirements in all material respects. Peer reviews of Offices of Inspector General (OIGs) must be conducted by reviewers independent of the audit organization being reviewed at least once every three years in accordance with guidance established by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. The GAO OIG received a peer review rating of "pass." The Architect of the Capitol OIG completed the peer review of the GAO OIG audit organization for the year ending March 31, 2021 and concluded that the system of quality control has been suitably designed and complied with to provide the GAO OIG with reasonable assurance of performing and reporting in conformity with applicable professional standards and applicable legal and regulatory requirements in all material respects. For more information, contact Mary Arnold Mohiyuddin at (202) 512-3087 or mohiyuddinm@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Black Hole Collision May Have Exploded With Light
    In Space
    In a first, astronomers [Read More…]
  • The 53rd Anniversary of the Founding of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Two Owners of New York Pharmacies Charged in a $30 Million COVID-19 Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering Case
    In Crime News
    The owners of over a dozen New York-area pharmacies were charged in an indictment unsealed today for their roles in a $30 million health care fraud and money laundering scheme, in which they exploited emergency codes and edits in the Medicare system that went into effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to submit fraudulent claims for expensive cancer drugs that were never provided, ordered, or authorized by medical professionals.
    [Read More…]
  • Statement from Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband and Michigan U.S. Attorneys on Michigan Supreme Court Ruling Striking Down Governor Whitmer’s Pandemic-Related Orders
    In Crime News
    Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider for the Eastern District of Michigan, and U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge for the Western District of Michigan issued the following statements:
    [Read More…]
  • Contingency Contracting: State and USAID Made Progress Assessing and Implementing Changes, but Further Actions Needed
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of State (State) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) identified a number of changes needed to improve contract support in overseas contingency operations, but have not completed implementation efforts. As required by the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), both agencies determined that their organizational structures were effective, though State created a new regional Contract Management Office to better support contracting efforts in Iraq. In October 2013, State approved a number of actions to improve policies and procedures, including specific initiatives in acquisition planning and risk management, among others, and intends to institutionalize these changes in its Foreign Affairs Manual in 2014. State generally has not, however, developed plans to assess the impact of these initiatives. Federal internal control standards highlight the importance of managers comparing actual performance to expected results. Accordingly, continued management attention is needed to ensure that these efforts achieve their intended objectives. USAID focused its efforts on areas such as improving contractor performance evaluations and risk management. GAO found that some USAID missions and offices that operate in contingency environments have developed procedures and practices, but USAID did not consider whether these should be institutionalized agency-wide because USAID officials interpreted the legislative requirement to include only a review of agency-wide policies. As a result, USAID may have missed opportunities to leverage its institutional knowledge to better support future contingencies. USAID established a new working group in October 2013 to develop lessons learned, toolkits, and training and is expected to complete its efforts in late 2014. This working group could further assess the policies and procedures developed by the missions and offices, thus potentially affording USAID an opportunity to better leverage its institutional knowledge. State and USAID have increased their acquisition workforce by 53 and 15 percent, respectively, from their 2011 levels and are in various stages of assessing their workforce needs for overseas contingency operations. Per Office of Management and Budget guidance, both agencies identified competency and skill gaps for their acquisition workforce in their 2013 acquisition human capital plans. State's 2013 plan noted that in response to growth in contracting activity in areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan, additional acquisition personnel are needed. In October 2013, State's Under Secretary for Management approved the formation of a multibureau working group that plans to further explore workforce needs for current and future contingency operations. USAID's 2013 plan cited its greatest challenge as providing training for its acquisition workforce, as many personnel have 5 years or less of contracting experience. USAID established a training division in 2013 for its acquisition workforce. State noted in its Section 850 report that it will increase its focus on conducting risk assessments on the reliance, use, and oversight of contractors through the establishment of risk management staff. USAID's Section 850 report did not address reliance on contractors, but in October 2013, USAID drafted a revision to its planning policy that will require a risk assessment and mitigation plan associated with contractor performance of critical functions in overseas contingency operations. Why GAO Did This Study For more than a decade, State and USAID have used contractors extensively to help carry out missions in contingency operations, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. While State and USAID transition to more traditional diplomatic and assistance missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, contract management and oversight challenges remain significant because the agencies are likely to be called upon again to operate in future contingencies. Section 850(a) of the Fiscal Year 2013 NDAA directed State and USAID to assess their organizational structures, policies, and workforces related to contract support for overseas contingency operations. Section 850(c) mandated that GAO report on the progress State and USAID have made in identifying and implementing improvements related to those areas. GAO analyzed the extent to which State and USAID have identified and implemented changes to their (1) organizational structures and policies; and (2) workforces, including their use of contractors. GAO analyzed State and USAID's Section 850 reports to Congress, contract policies and procedures, and 2013 acquisition human capital plans, and interviewed agency officials.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio At a Joint Press Availability
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo with Yoshio Arima of NHK
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Recharges Its Batteries in Flight
    In Space
    Headed to the Red Planet [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Reaches Settlement with the Town of Irmo, South Carolina, to Resolve Allegations of Discrimination Against Homeowner with Disability
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that the Town of Irmo, South Carolina, has agreed to pay $25,000 to a homeowner with a disability as part of a settlement agreement resolving the government’s Fair Housing Act (FHA) lawsuit. 
    [Read More…]
  • Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s Statement on Aon and Willis Towers Watson Decision to Terminate Merger Agreement
    In Crime News
    Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today released the following statement on Aon plc’s and Willis Towers Watson’s announcement that the firms agreed to terminate their planned $30 billion merger. The Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit on June 16, 2021, to stop the merger, alleging that the combination of Aon and Willis Towers Watson, the second- and third-largest insurance brokers in the world, would reduce competition for the business of American companies, effectively consolidating the industry’s “Big Three” into a Big Two.
    [Read More…]
  • Appointment of Ambassador Philip Reeker as Chargé d’Affaires at Embassy London
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Attacks on Yemeni Officials in Aden
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Cale Brown, Principal [Read More…]
  • Department of Justice Invests More than $295.8 Million in Grants to Improve Public Safety, Serve Crime Victims in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities
    In Crime News
    The Department of [Read More…]

Crime

Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.