October 26, 2021

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Afghan National Arrested for 2008 Abduction of American Journalist

14 min read
<div>The Department of Justice announced the unsealing of a federal indictment charging Haji Najibullah, a/k/a “Najibullah Naim,” a/k/a “Abu Tayeb,” a/k/a “Atiqullah” with six counts related to the 2008 kidnapping of an American journalist and two Afghan nationals. Najibullah, 44, was arrested and transferred to the United States from Ukraine to face the charges in the indictment. Najibullah will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla.</div>

The Department of Justice announced the unsealing of a federal indictment charging Haji Najibullah, a/k/a “Najibullah Naim,” a/k/a “Abu Tayeb,” a/k/a “Atiqullah”  with six counts related to the 2008 kidnapping of an American journalist and two Afghan nationals.  Najibullah, 44, was arrested and transferred to the United States from Ukraine to face the charges in the indictment.    Najibullah will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla.

“Najibullah is charged with taking an American journalist and others hostage in Afghanistan in November 2008.  Journalists risk their lives bringing us news from conflict zones, and no matter how much time may pass, our resolve to find and hold accountable those who target and harm them and other Americans will never wane,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.  “The defendant, like many others before and surely others to come, will now face justice in an American courtroom.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “Nearly 12 years ago, the defendant arranged to kidnap at gunpoint an American journalist and two other men, and held them hostage for more than seven months,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss.   “The prosecution of Haji Najibullah shows that law enforcement will never stop in our mission to hold accountable those who commit violent crimes against American citizens.”         

“Whether someone commits a violent act against an American citizen here at home or overseas, we’ll never stop aggressively pursuing charges against them and, when necessary, seeking their transfer to U.S. custody,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the FBI William F. Sweeney Jr.  “Najibullah’s reprehensible actions over a decade ago earned him a flight to the U.S. yesterday. Today he arrived in U.S. federal court to face our justice system.”

“The FBI, along with our partners, continue to work tirelessly in the pursuit of justice and to hold accountable those who are responsible for the kidnapping and hostage taking of U.S. citizens abroad,” said Assistant Director Jill Sanborn of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division.  “We remain steadfast in our obligation to see justice served, regardless of the how long it may take or where those individuals are located. This investigation and resulting indictment reflects the FBI’s perseverance and commitment to the victims of these heinous acts – We never forget, and we never give up.”

“Haji Najibullah’s alleged kidnapping of a United States journalist and two Afghan nationals was a crime against America, a crime against the freedom of the press, and against the integral work of shining a light on important international affairs,” said Police Commissioner Shea.  “While today’s federal indictment reflects events that occurred a dozen years ago, it shows once again that the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force and all of our law enforcement partners will wait as long and go as far as it takes to bring justice.”

According to the Indictment:[1]

On or about Nov. 10, 2008, Najibullah and his co-conspirators, armed with machineguns, kidnapped an American journalist (Victim-1) and two Afghan nationals who were assisting Victim-1 (Victim-2 and Victim-3) at gunpoint in Afghanistan.  Approximately five days later, on or about Nov. 15, 2008, Najibullah and his co-conspirators forced the three hostages to hike across the border from Afghanistan to Pakistan, where Najibullah and his co-conspirators detained the hostages.  For the next seven months, Najibullah and his co-conspirators held the hostages captive in Pakistan.

During their captivity, Najibullah and his co-conspirators forced the victims to make numerous calls and videos seeking help.  For example, on or about Nov. 19, 2008, while in Pakistan, Najibullah and a co-conspirator (CC-1) directed Victim-1 to call his wife in New York.  In addition, Najibullah and his co-conspirators made the victims create at least three videos in which they begged for help while surrounded by masked guards armed with machineguns.  In one of the videos, Victim-1 — the American journalist — was forced to beg for his life while a guard pointed a machinegun at Victim-1’s face.         

Najibullah, 44, of Afghanistan is charged with hostage taking, conspiracy to commit hostage taking, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and two counts of using and possessing a machinegun in furtherance of crimes of violence.  Each of the six counts of the indictment carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge.

Ms. Strauss and Mr. Demers praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force.  They also thanked the New York and New Jersey Port Authority Police, the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, the Legal Attaché Office/U.S. Embassy Kyiv and the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division for its assistance with this investigation, as well as the Ukrainian authorities and the Office of International Affairs of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division for their assistance in the extradition.

This prosecution is being handled by the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sam Adelsberg, Sidhardha Kamaraju, and Michael Kim Krouse are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney Jennifer Burke of the Counterterrorism Section.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.   


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment and the description of the Indictment set forth below constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

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GAO made revisions based on their comments. GAO maintains that implementation of its modified recommendations is both warranted and prudent. These actions could contribute to ensuring a more effective response by helping to mitigate challenges with the stability of the medical supply chain and the ability of nonfederal partners to track, plan, and budget for ongoing medical supply needs. Vaccines and Therapeutics Multiple federal agencies continue to support the development and manufacturing of vaccines and therapeutics to prevent and treat COVID-19. These efforts are aimed at accelerating the traditional timeline to create a vaccine (see figure). Traditional Timeline for Development and Creation of a Vaccine Note: See figure 5 in the report. As these efforts proceed, clarity on the federal government’s plans for distributing and administering vaccine, as well as timely, clear, and consistent communication to stakeholders and the public about those plans, is essential. DOD is supporting HHS in developing plans for nationwide distribution and administration of a vaccine. In September 2020, HHS indicated that it will soon send a report to Congress outlining a distribution plan, but did not provide a specific date for doing so. GAO recommends that HHS, with support from DOD, establish a time frame for documenting and sharing a national plan for distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccine, and in developing such a plan ensure that it is consistent with best practices for project planning and scheduling and outlines an approach for how efforts will be coordinated across federal agencies and nonfederal entities. DOD partially concurred with the recommendation, clarifying that it is supporting HHS in developing plans for nationwide distribution and administration of vaccine. HHS neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation, but noted factors that complicate the publication of a plan. GAO maintains that a time frame is necessary so all relevant stakeholders will be best positioned to begin their planning.On September 16, 2020, HHS and DOD released two documents outlining a strategy for any COVID-19 vaccine. GAO will evaluate these documents and report on them in future work.GAO will also continue to conduct related work, including examining federal efforts to accelerate the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. COVID-19 Data Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths exists among racial and ethnic minority groups, but GAO identified gaps in these data. To help address these gaps, on July 22, 2020, CDC released a COVID-19 Response Health Equity Strategy. However, the strategy does not assess whether having the authority to require states and jurisdictions to report race and ethnicity information is necessary to ensure CDC can collect such data. CDC’s strategy also does not specify how it will involve key stakeholders, such as health care providers, laboratories, and state and jurisdictional health departments. GAO recommends that CDC (1) determine whether having the authority to require the reporting of race and ethnicity information for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths is necessary for ensuring more complete data, and if so, seek such authority from Congress; (2) involve key stakeholders to help ensure the complete and consistent collection of demographic data; and (3) take steps to help ensure its ability to comprehensively assess the long-term health outcomes of persons with COVID-19, including by race and ethnicity. HHS agreed with the recommendations. In addition, HHS’s data on COVID-19 in nursing homes do not capture the early months of the pandemic. HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began requiring nursing homes to report COVID-19 data to CDC by May 17, 2020, starting with information as of May 8, 2020, but made reporting prior to May 8, 2020 optional. By not requiring nursing homes to submit data from the first 4 months of 2020, HHS is limiting the usefulness of the data in helping to understand the effects of COVID-19 in nursing homes. GAO recommends that HHS, in consultation with CMS and CDC, develop a strategy to capture more complete data on COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes retroactively back to January 1, 2020. HHS partially agreed with this recommendation by noting the value of having complete data, but expressed concern about the burden of collecting it. GAO maintains the importance of collecting these data to inform the government’s continued response and recovery, and HHS could ease the burden by incorporating data previously reported to CDC or to state or local public health offices. Economic Impact Payments The Department of the Treasury’s (Treasury) Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued economic impact payments (EIP) to all eligible individuals for whom IRS has the necessary information to do so; however, not everyone eligible was able to be initially identified. To help ensure all eligible recipients received their payments in a more timely manner, IRS took several actions to address challenges GAO reported on in June, including a policy change—reopening the Non-Filers tool registration period for federal benefit recipients and extending it through September 30—that should allow some eligible recipients to receive supplemental payments for qualifying children sooner than expected. However, Treasury and IRS lack updated information on how many eligible recipients have yet to receive these funds. The lack of such information could hinder outreach efforts and place potentially millions of individuals at risk of missing their payment. GAO recommends that Treasury, in coordination with IRS, (1) update and refine the estimate of eligible recipients who have yet to file for an EIP to help target outreach and communications efforts and (2) make estimates of eligible recipients who have yet to file for an EIP, and other relevant information, available to outreach partners to raise awareness about how and when to file for EIP. Treasury and IRS neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendations and described actions they are taking in concert with the recommendations to notify around 9 million individuals who may be eligible for an EIP. Coronavirus Relief Fund The Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) is the largest program established in the four COVID-19 relief laws that provides aid to states, the District of Columbia, localities, tribal governments, and U.S. territories. Audits of entities that receive federal funds, including CRF payments, are critical to the federal government’s ability to help safeguard those funds. Auditors that conduct single audits follow guidance in the Single Audit Act’s Compliance Supplement, which the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) updates and issues annually in coordination with federal agencies. OMB issued the 2020 Compliance Supplement in August 2020, but the Compliance Supplement specified that OMB is still working with federal agencies to identify the needs for additional guidance for auditing new COVID-19-related programs, including the CRF payments, as well as existing programs with compliance requirement changes. According to OMB, an addendum on COVID-19-related programs, including the CRF payments, will be issued in the fall of 2020. Further delays in issuing this guidance could adversely affect auditors’ ability to issue consistent and timely reports. GAO recommends that OMB, in consultation with Treasury, issue the addendum to the 2020 Compliance Supplement as soon as possible to provide the necessary audit guidance, as many single audit efforts are underway. OMB neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation. Guidance for K-12 Schools State and local school district officials tasked with reassessing their operating status and ensuring their school buildings are safe are generally relying on guidance and recommendations from federal, state, and local public health and education officials. However, portions of CDC’s guidance on reopening K-12 schools are inconsistent, and some federal guidance appears misaligned with CDC’s risk-based approach on school operating status. Based on GAO’s review, Education has updated the information and CDC has begun to do so. GAO recommends that CDC ensure that, as it makes updates to its guidance related to schools’ operating status, the guidance is cogent, clear, and internally consistent. HHS agreed with the recommendation. Tracking Contract Obligations Federal agencies are tracking contract actions and associated obligations in response to COVID-19 using a National Interest Action (NIA) code in the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation. The COVID-19 NIA code was established in March 2020 and was recently extended until March 31, 2021, while a draft of this report recommending that DHS and DOD extend the code beyond September 30, 2020, was with the agencies for comment. GAO has identified inconsistencies in establishing and closing these codes following previous emergencies, and has continued concerns with the criteria that DHS and DOD rely on to determine whether to extend or close a code and whether the code meets long-term needs. GAO recommends that DHS and DOD make updates to the 2019 NIA Code Memorandum of Agreement so as to enhance visibility for federal agencies, the public, and Congress on contract actions and associated obligations related to disaster events, and to ensure the criteria for extending or closing the NIA code reflect government-wide needs for tracking contract actions in longer-term emergencies, such as a pandemic. DHS and DOD did not agree, but GAO maintains implementation of its recommendation is essential. Address Cybersecurity Weaknesses Since March 2020, malicious cyber actors have exploited COVID-19 to target organizations that make up the health care and public health critical infrastructure sector, including government entities, such as HHS. GAO has identified numerous cybersecurity weaknesses at multiple HHS component agencies, including CMS, CDC, and FDA, over the last 6 years, such as weaknesses in key safeguards to limit, prevent, and detect inappropriate access to computer resources. Additionally, GAO’s March 2019 high-risk update identified cybersecurity and safeguarding the systems supporting the nation’s critical infrastructure, such as health care, as high-risk areas. As of July 2020, CMS, FDA, and CDC had made significant progress by implementing 350 (about 81 percent) of the 434 recommendations GAO issued in previous reports to address these weaknesses. Based on the imminent cybersecurity threats, GAO recommends that HHS expedite implementation of GAO’s prior recommendations regarding cybersecurity weaknesses at its component agencies. HHS agreed with the recommendation. As of September 10, 2020, the U.S. had over 6.3 million cumulative reported cases of COVID-19 and over 177,000 reported deaths, according to federal agencies. The country also continues to experience serious economic repercussions and turmoil. Four relief laws, including the CARES Act, were enacted as of September 2020 to provide appropriations to address the public health and economic threats posed by COVID-19. As of July 31, 2020, the federal government had obligated a total of $1.6 trillion and expended $1.5 trillion of the COVID-19 relief funds as reported by federal agencies on USAspending.gov. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report bimonthly on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This third report examines key actions the federal government has taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic and evolving lessons learned relevant to the nation’s response to pandemics. GAO reviewed data, documents, and guidance from federal agencies about their activities and interviewed federal and state officials, as well as industry representatives. GAO is making 16 new recommendations for agencies that are detailed in this Highlights and in the report. For more information, contact A. Nicole Clowers at (202) 512-7114 or clowersa@gao.gov.
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  • Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen’s Video Statement on the Seizure of the U.S. Capitol
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    Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen delivered the following video statement on the seizure of the U.S. Capitol:
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  • Owner of Medical Laboratory Sentenced to Prison for Filing False Tax Returns
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    A Shreveport, Louisiana, business owner was sentenced to 40 months in prison on Sept. 30, 2020, for filing false tax returns, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana Alexander C. Van Hook.
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  • VA Health Care: Preliminary Findings on the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Budget Formulation for Fiscal Years 2005 and 2006
    In U.S GAO News
    This report documents the information we provided to Congress in a briefing on February 2, 2006, in response to a request concerning the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) internal budget formulation process. This includes information that VA develops for its budget submission to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), but it does not include information on subsequent interactions that occur between VA and OMB. We will do additional work to incorporate information from OMB and complete our analysis in a report to be issued at a later date. Congress requested information on VA's budget formulation process because of its interest in ensuring that VA's budget forecasts are accurate and based on valid patient estimates. In response to the request for information on VA's internal budget formulation process, this report provides the following for fiscal years 2005 and 2006: (1) a description of VA's process for developing its budget submission to OMB for its medical programs, and the role of VA's actuarial model; (2) a description of the medical program activities cited by VA as needing additional funding, and how VA identified these activities; and (3) key factors in VA's budget formulation process that contributed to the requests for additional funding.VA's internal process for formulating the medical programs funding requests was informed by, but not driven by, projected demand. VA projected costs based on projected demand for medical care under current policy. Throughout the process, VA compared projected costs to its anticipated request level for the OMB submission and made adjustments to address the difference. VA officials stated that this was done in two ways: through cost-saving policy proposals, such as assessing an annual health care enrollment fee, and management efficiencies. After making adjustments to address the difference between projected costs and its anticipated request level, VA developed its budget submission for OMB. VA later cited a number of activities as needing additional funding based on programmatic priorities and an analysis of expenditure data. Among the activities that were cited for fiscal year 2005 was $273 million for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan; $226 million for long-term care; and almost $400 million for increases in the number of patients, as well as increases in both utilization and intensity of care. For the fiscal year 2006 budget, VA cited $677 million to cover a 2 percent increase in the number of patients, $600 million to correct VA's estimate for long-term care costs, $400 million for an unexpected 1.2 percent increase in average cost per patient, and $300 million to replace funds VA planned to carry over from fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2006. VA officials said that they chose to highlight activities that were of high programmatic priority and could be supported by workload and expenditure data (e.g. veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan). They also reviewed spending and workload trends to determine whether spending trends were on target or whether adjustments were needed. An unrealistic assumption, errors in estimation, and insufficient data were key factors in VA's budget formulation process that contributed to the requests for additional funding. According to VA, an unrealistic assumption about the speed with which VA could implement a policy to reduce nursing home patient workload in VA-operated nursing homes for fiscal year 2005 led to a need for additional funds. VA officials told us that errors in estimating the effect of a nursing home policy to reduce workload in all three of its nursing home settings--VA-operated nursing homes, community nursing homes, and state veterans' nursing homes--accounted for a request for additional funding for fiscal year 2006. VA officials said that the error resulted from calculations being made in haste during the OMB appeal process. Finally, VA officials told us that insufficient data on certain activities contributed to the requests for additional funds for both years. For example, inadequate data on veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in an underestimate in the initial funding request.
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