December 5, 2021

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U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Honors DOJ with Elie Wiesel Award

14 min read
<div>The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum last night conferred their highest honor, the Elie Wiesel Award, on the U.S. Department of Justice in recognition of the successes of its longtime enforcement program’s efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute participants in World War II-era Nazi crimes.</div>
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum last night conferred their highest honor, the Elie Wiesel Award, on the U.S. Department of Justice in recognition of the successes of its longtime enforcement program’s efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute participants in World War II-era Nazi crimes.

More from: April 23, 2021

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    According to the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq (NSVI) issued by the National Security Council (NSC), prevailing in Iraq is a vital U.S. interest because it will help win the war on terror and make America safer, stronger, and more certain of its future. This report (1) assesses the evolving U.S. national strategy for Iraq and (2) evaluates whether the NSVI and its supporting documents address the desirable characteristics of an effective national strategy developed by GAO in previous work. In this report, the NSVI and supporting documents are collectively referred to as the U.S. strategy for Iraq.The November 2005 National Strategy for Victory in Iraq and supporting documents incorporate the same desired end-state for U.S. stabilization and reconstruction operations that were first established by the coalition in 2003: a peaceful, united, stable, and secure Iraq, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism. However, it is unclear how the United States will achieve its desired end-state in Iraq given the significant changes in the assumptions underlying the U.S. strategy. The original plan assumed a permissive security environment. However, an increasingly lethal insurgency undermined the development of effective Iraqi government institutions and delayed plans for an early transfer of security responsibilities to the Iraqis. The plan also assumed that U.S. reconstruction funds would help restore Iraq's essential services to prewar levels, but Iraq's capacity to maintain, sustain, and manage its rebuilt infrastructure is still being developed. Finally, the plan assumed that the Iraqi government and the international community would help finance Iraq's development needs, but Iraq has limited resources to contribute to its own reconstruction, and Iraq's estimated future needs vastly exceed what has been offered by the international community to date. The NSVI is an improvement over previous planning efforts. However, the NSVI and its supporting documents are incomplete because they do not fully address all the desirable characteristics of an effective national strategy. On one hand, the strategy's purpose and scope is clear because it identifies U.S. involvement in Iraq as a vital national interest and central front in the war on terror. The strategy also generally addresses the threats and risks facing the coalition forces and provides a comprehensive description of the desired U.S. political, security, and economic objectives in Iraq. On the other hand, the strategy falls short in three key areas. First, it only partially identifies the current and future costs of U.S. involvement in Iraq, including the costs of maintaining U.S. military operations, building Iraqi government capacity at the provincial and national level, and rebuilding critical infrastructure. Second, it only partially identifies which U.S. agencies implement key aspects of the strategy or resolve conflicts among the many implementing agencies. Third, it neither fully addresses how U.S. goals and objectives will be integrated with those of the Iraqi government and the international community, nor does it detail the Iraqi government's anticipated contribution to its future security and reconstruction needs. In addition, the elements of the strategy are dispersed among the NSVI and seven supporting documents, further limiting its usefulness as a planning and oversight tool.
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  • Military and Dual-Use Technology: Covert Testing Shows Continuing Vulnerabilities of Domestic Sales for Illegal Export
    In U.S GAO News
    Terrorists and foreign governments regularly attempt to obtain sensitive dual-use and military technology from manufacturers and distributors within the United States. Although the Department of State (State) or Department of Commerce (Commerce), or both, must grant approval to export sensitive military and dual-use items, publicly reported criminal cases show that individuals can bypass this requirement and illegally export restricted items such as night-vision goggles. In the wrong hands, this technology poses a risk to U.S. security, including the threat that it will be reverse engineered or used directly against U.S. soldiers. Given the threat, the subcommittee asked GAO to conduct undercover tests to attempt to (1) purchase sensitive dual-use and military items from manufacturers and distributors in the United States; and (2) export purchased items without detection by domestic law-enforcement officials. To perform this work, GAO used fictitious individuals, a bogus front company, and domestic mailboxes to pose as a buyer for sensitive items. GAO, in coordination with foreign law-enforcement officials, also covertly attempted to export dummy versions of items. GAO interviewed relevant agencies to gain an understanding of which items were in demand by terrorists and foreign governments. GAO actions were not designed to test controls of other countries. Relevant agencies were also briefed on the results of this work.GAO foundthat sensitive dual-use and military technology can be easily and legally purchased from manufacturers and distributors within the United States and illegally exported without detection. Using a bogus front company and fictitious identities, GAO purchased sensitive items including night-vision scopes currently used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify targets, triggered spark gaps used to detonate nuclear weapons, electronic sensors used in improvised explosive devices, and gyro chips used in guided missiles and military aircraft. Interviews with cognizant officials at State and Commerce and a review of laws governing the sale of the types of items GAO purchased showed there are few restrictions on domestic sales of these items. GAO was also able to export a number of dummy versions of these items using the mail to a country that is a known transshipment point for terrorist organizations and foreign governments attempting to acquire sensitive technology. Due to the large volume of packages being shipped overseas, and large volume of people traveling overseas, enforcement officials within the United States said it is impossible to search every package and person leaving the United States to ensure sensitive technologies are not being exported illegally. As a result, terrorists and foreign governments that are able to complete domestic purchases of sensitive military and dual-use technologies face few obstacles and risks when exporting these items. The table below provides details on several of the items GAO was able to purchase and, in two cases, illegally export without detection.
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  • Pipeline Safety: Information on Keystone Accidents and DOT Oversight
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) required TC Energy to take additional safety measures specified in a special permit as conditions of allowing certain portions of the Keystone Pipeline (Keystone) to operate at a higher stress level than allowed by regulation. PHMSA reviewed technical information and drew on its experience granting similar permits to natural gas pipelines to develop 51 conditions with which TC Energy must comply. Most pipeline safety and technical stakeholders GAO interviewed agreed the conditions offset the risks of operating at a higher stress level. However, PHMSA did not allow TC Energy to fully operate Keystone at this higher stress level until 2017, after TC Energy replaced pipe affected by industry-wide pipeline quality issues. Keystone's accident history has been similar to other crude oil pipelines since 2010, but the severity of spills has worsened in recent years. Similar to crude oil pipelines nationwide, most of Keystone's 22 accidents from 2010 through 2020 released fewer than 50 barrels of oil and were contained on operator-controlled property such as a pump station. The two largest spills in Keystone's history in 2017 and 2019 were among the six accidents that met PHMSA's criteria for accidents “impacting people or the environment.” According to PHMSA's measures for these more severe types of accidents, from 2010 to 2020 TC Energy performed better than nationwide averages, but worse in the past five years due to the 2017 and 2019 spills. Keystone Accidents Impacting People or the Environment, 2010-2020 In response to each of Keystone's four largest spills, PHMSA issued Corrective Action Orders requiring TC Energy to investigate the accidents' root causes and take necessary corrective actions. These investigations found that the four accidents were caused by issues related to the original design, manufacturing of the pipe, or construction of the pipeline. PHMSA also issued other enforcement actions and assessed civil penalties to TC Energy for deficiencies found during inspections, such as inadequate corrosion prevention and missing pipeline markers. Based in part on its experience overseeing Keystone, PHMSA officials said they have increased resources to conduct inspections during construction of other pipelines and are establishing a more formal process to document and track the compliance of all special permits, including Keystone's permit. Why GAO Did This Study Since it began operating in 2010, Keystone has transported over 3 billion barrels of crude oil from Canada to refineries in Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas, according to its operator, TC Energy. Prior to construction, TC Energy requested and obtained a special permit from PHMSA to operate certain portions of the pipeline at a higher stress level than is allowed under PHMSA's regulations. Since TC Energy was the first and remains the only hazardous liquid pipeline operator to request a waiver of this particular regulation, the Keystone special permit is unique. GAO was asked to review PHMSA's oversight of the Keystone Pipeline. This report discusses: (1) PHMSA's actions to approve the Keystone special permit and allow the pipeline to operate at a higher stress level, (2) how Keystone accidents compare to accidents on all U.S. crude oil pipelines since 2010, and (3) PHMSA's actions in response to Keystone safety issues. GAO reviewed applicable statutes and regulations, the special permit, and PHMSA enforcement actions. It also analyzed PHMSA's pipeline accident data from 2010 to 2020 to describe Keystone's accidents and compare TC Energy to PHMSA's performance measures. GAO also interviewed TC Energy representatives, PHMSA officials, and 17 stakeholders selected to provide a range of perspectives representing industry associations; pipeline safety and technical stakeholders; and environmental, tribal, and state organizations. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or KrauseH@gao.gov.
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  • Weapon Systems Cybersecurity: Guidance Would Help DOD Programs Better Communicate Requirements to Contractors
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    Since GAO's 2018 report, the Department of Defense (DOD) has taken action to make its network of high-tech weapon systems less vulnerable to cyberattacks. DOD and military service officials highlighted areas of progress, including increased access to expertise, enhanced cyber testing, and additional guidance. For example, GAO found that selected acquisition programs have conducted, or planned to conduct, more cybersecurity testing during development than past acquisition programs. It is important that DOD sustain its efforts as it works to improve weapon systems cybersecurity. Contracting for cybersecurity requirements is key. DOD guidance states that these requirements should be treated like other types of system requirements and, more simply, “if it is not in the contract, do not expect to get it.” Specifically, cybersecurity requirements should be defined in acquisition program contracts, and criteria should be established for accepting or rejecting the work and for how the government will verify that requirements have been met. However, GAO found examples of program contracts omitting cybersecurity requirements, acceptance criteria, or verification processes. For example, GAO found that contracts for three of the five programs did not include any cybersecurity requirements when they were awarded. A senior DOD official said standardizing cybersecurity requirements is difficult and the department needs to better communicate cybersecurity requirements and systems engineering to the users that will decide whether or not a cybersecurity risk is acceptable. Incorporating Cybersecurity in Contracts DOD and the military services have developed a range of policy and guidance documents to improve weapon systems cybersecurity, but the guidance usually does not specifically address how acquisition programs should include cybersecurity requirements, acceptance criteria, and verification processes in contracts. Among the four military services GAO reviewed, only the Air Force has issued service-wide guidance that details how acquisition programs should define cybersecurity requirements and incorporate those requirements in contracts. The other services could benefit from a similar approach in developing their own guidance that helps ensure that DOD appropriately addresses cybersecurity requirements in contracts. DOD's network of sophisticated, expensive weapon systems must work when needed, without being incapacitated by cyberattacks. However, GAO reported in 2018 that DOD was routinely finding cyber vulnerabilities late in its development process. A Senate report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's implementation of cybersecurity for weapon systems in development. GAO's report addresses (1) the extent to which DOD has made progress in implementing cybersecurity for weapon systems during development, and (2) the extent to which DOD and the military services have developed guidance for incorporating weapon systems cybersecurity requirements into contracts. GAO reviewed DOD and service guidance and policies related to cybersecurity for weapon systems in development, interviewed DOD and program officials, and reviewed supporting documentation for five acquisition programs. GAO also interviewed defense contractors about their experiences with weapon systems cybersecurity. GAO is recommending that the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps provide guidance on how programs should incorporate tailored cybersecurity requirements into contracts. DOD concurred with two recommendations, and stated that the third—to the Marine Corps—should be merged with the one to the Navy. DOD's response aligns with the intent of the recommendation. For more information, contact W. William Russell at (202) 512-4841 or russellw@gao.gov.
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  • Electricity Grid Resilience: Climate Change Is Expected to Have Far-reaching Effects and DOE and FERC Should Take Actions
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Climate change is expected to have far-reaching effects on the electricity grid that could cost billions and could affect every aspect of the grid from generation, transmission, and distribution to demand for electricity, according to several reports GAO reviewed. The type and extent of these effects on the grid will vary by geographic location and other factors. For example, reports GAO reviewed stated that more frequent droughts and changing rainfall patterns may adversely affect hydroelectricity generation in Alaska and the Northwest and Southwest regions of the United States. Further, transmission capacity may be reduced or distribution lines damaged during increasing wildfire activity in some regions due to warmer temperatures and drier conditions. Moreover, climate change effects on the grid could cost utilities and customers billions, including the costs of power outages and infrastructure damage. Examples of Climate Change Effects on the Electricity Grid Since 2014, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have taken actions to enhance the resilience of the grid. For example, in 2015, DOE established a partnership with 18 utilities to plan for climate change. In 2018, FERC collected information from grid operators on grid resilience and their risks to hazards such as extreme weather. Nevertheless, opportunities exist for DOE and FERC to take additional actions to enhance grid resilience to climate change. For example, DOE identified climate change as a risk to energy infrastructure, including the grid, but it does not have an overall strategy to guide its efforts. GAO's Disaster Resilience Framework states that federal efforts can focus on risk reduction by creating resilience goals and linking those goals to an overarching strategy. Developing and implementing a department-wide strategy that defines goals and measures progress could help prioritize DOE's climate resilience efforts to ensure that resources are targeted effectively. Regarding FERC, it has not taken steps to identify or assess climate change risks to the grid and, therefore, is not well positioned to determine the actions needed to enhance resilience. Risk management involves identifying and assessing risks to understand the likelihood of impacts and their associated consequences. By doing so, FERC could then plan and implement appropriate actions to respond to the risks and achieve its objective of promoting resilience. Why GAO Did This Study According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, changes in the earth's climate are under way and expected to increase, posing risks to the electricity grid that may affect the nation's economic and national security. Annual costs of weather-related power outages total billions of dollars and may increase with climate change, although resilience investments could help address potential effects, according to the research program. Private companies own most of the electricity grid, but the federal government plays a significant role in promoting grid resilience—the ability to adapt to changing conditions; withstand potentially disruptive events; and, if disrupted, to rapidly recover. DOE, the lead agency for grid resilience efforts, conducts research and provides information and technical assistance to industry. FERC reviews mandatory grid reliability standards. GAO was asked to examine U.S. energy infrastructure resilience. This report describes: (1) potential climate change effects on the electricity grid; and (2) actions DOE and FERC have taken since 2014 to enhance electricity grid resilience to climate change effects, and additional actions these agencies could take. GAO reviewed reports and interviewed agency officials and 55 relevant stakeholders.
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    Colorado tax defier Lawrence Martin Birk was sentenced to an additional 78 months in prison for failing to surrender to serve his previously imposed tax evasion prison sentence and for unlawfully possessing firearms, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.
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