Briefing with Senior State Department Officials on Diplomacy to Constrain Iran’s Nuclear Program

Office of the Spokesperson

Via Teleconference

MODERATOR: Thanks very much, and thanks to everyone for joining the call on fairly short notice. As you probably saw, we issued a very short statement from me just a moment ago, and we wanted to take a moment to offer some context around that statement. And to do so, we have two speakers on this call, which will be conducted on background. You can attribute what you hear to State Department officials. But for your awareness only, our two speakers are ; we also have with us . Again, both will be identified as State Department officials.

The contents of this call will be embargoed until the conclusion of the call, and we will take questions after and have a moment to offer some initial thoughts. So with that, I will turn it over to our first official. Go ahead.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Hi, thanks for joining us. So let me just say a few words about some of the things – the developments of the day. And from the outset, President Biden, even candidate Biden, has said that he is committed to resuming a American multilateral diplomatic role in trying to resolve the issues that we have with Iran, and that among those goals was going to be to see whether we could get to a situation where Iran is back in compliance with the JCPOA and the U.S. is back in compliance with the JCPOA, and use that as a platform to then negotiate a longer, stronger deal, and also to deal with some of the regional security concerns that we have and that our partners in the region have.

And today, I think we’ve seen some of the logical steps in implementing and even materializing that commitment. First, Secretary Blinken met with his E3 counterparts, and I think what is among the most significant outcomes was – and a joint statement is probably the first time in a long time that – in several years that the U.S. and its E3 allies were able to come together and produce a joint statement, a unified vision on how to address the Iran nuclear issue.

And I think it was clear that we’re on the same page in saying that we’re prepared to come back to talks to get back into compliance if Iran will get back into compliance; and also calling collectively on Iran not to take the steps that it is threatening to take February 23rd in terms of no longer implementing the Additional Protocol and reducing or ending some of the JCPOA verification mechanisms; and saying that it would be a mistake to take – at a time when there’s an opportunity to move forward, for Iran to take a step that is decidedly moving backwards; and also, a consensus on the part of all four of us that if we can get back into the – back to the JCPOA, that should be a step on which we should build to both, as I said, strengthen and lengthen the deal and address some of the regional issues of concern. And of course, Iran would bring its concerns to the table.

In the wake of that joint statement, the EU political director in a tweet said that he would be ready as a convener of the joint commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to convene a meeting of the – informal meeting of the P5+1 and Iran to talk about the way forward in terms of Iran’s nuclear program and dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. And the State Department issued a response saying that, if invited, we would be there and we’d be prepared – I mean, now I’m – this is not in the statement, but the goal of coming together would be to sit down and to see – start what could be a prolonged path of trying to get back to a situation where both the U.S. and Iran were back into compliance. But that’s not going to happen without a meeting, and therefore we’d be prepared to sit down and talk about what are the steps that need to be taken to get back to that point, and then, as I said, build on that to broaden and strengthen the deal.

So that’s what today was about. It’s about taking diplomatic steps to see whether we can get to the point that President Biden has said he was committed to for years now. And some other diplomatic steps were also taken today, and for that I would turn to my colleague.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Great, thank you, and I’ll be very brief before we get to your questions. Just a couple actions up in New York today related to Iran that we would like to highlight as well. The acting representative of the United States to the United Nations, Ambassador Mills, submitted a letter today to the United Kingdom’s permanent representative to the United Nations in her capacity as president of the UN Security Council for the month of February reversing the previous administration’s position on the UN Security Council Iran sanctions snapback issue. In so doing, the United States is affirming that UN Security Council Resolution 2231 remains in full effect. And that letter was circulated to the full Security Council and has now taken effect.

Separately, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations up in New York has notified the Iranian mission that the United States is bringing the domestic travel controls on Iranian representatives back in line with those in place for several other missions to the UN. So essentially, returning to the status quo of the last few years before the last administration.

Today’s actions return our longstanding posture with regard to Iran at the UN and, in our view, will strengthen our ability to work with allies and partners in the UN Security Council to address Iran’s nuclear program and other destabilizing activities.

I’ll stop there, and with that, happy to take your questions.

MODERATOR: Great. Thanks very much to both of you. Operator, if you want to repeat one more time the instructions for asking questions, then we’ll take our first question.

OPERATOR: Certainly, If you’d like to ask a question, please press 1 and then 0 on your telephone keypad. You may withdraw your question at any time by repeating the 1-0 command. If using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you have a question, press 1 and then 0 at this time.

MODERATOR: All right, we’ll start with the line of Nick Schifrin from PBS.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) in substance. These are significant announcements and a shift from what you’ve been saying, but we’re doing this in a background call. I just noticed that the Secretary just put out a tweet about a totally different topic, and the EU political director, with all due respect to him, is not the most senior official. So I wanted to know what the style of how this is being made says about what you’re trying to say through the style.

And on substance, do you believe this should be enough to prevent Iran from following – from following through on its threat to evict inspectors on Sunday, because it does not meet Iran’s threshold of the U.S. coming back into compliance that it demanded before Sunday? Thanks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So let me take those, Nick. Well, first of all, the style, how it was made – listen, I think we recognize that this is just a very first initial step to say that we are prepared to attend the meeting that would be convened by the EU. We recognize that that’s not in and of itself a breakthrough. Even the first meeting itself may not be a breakthrough. So we’re not going to hype it for what it isn’t, but it is a step. Until we sit down and talk, nothing’s going to happen. It doesn’t mean that when we sit down and talk we’re going to succeed, but we do know that if we don’t take that step, the situation’s just going to go from bad to worse. So I think the style of this, as you said, I think is reflecting – reflective of the fact that it’s a meaningful step, but we recognize that it’s just one of many that are going to have to be taken by all sides if we’re going to get to where we say we want to go.

On whether this is – would be enough to prevent Iran to – not to take its step, frankly, that was not part of the calculation. I think President Biden wasn’t particularly eager or in the mode of trying to take unilateral steps to try to prevent Iran from doing what it shouldn’t do in the first place. So these are steps that we took because we felt they were the right steps in order to resume diplomacy, whether the steps that my colleague mentioned or the steps that were – or the joint statement with the E3 or our expressed willingness to sit down with Iran and the P5+1, which are all the right steps in order to get back to diplomacy.

I think it will be up to Iran to decide whether it wants to take its own step, which will be viewed in this context as moving backwards, as a step in the wrong direction when we’re indicating and I think others are indicating that they are willing to move forward.

So Iran will make its own decision. I think it would be – I think we’re not alone and that the E3 feel the same, that it would be a dangerous step if they were further eroding not just the JCPOA but sort of the architecture of the nonproliferation arrangements by diminishing the ability of the IAEA to know what they’re doing. So – but this was not done in a sort of a – in a – with the intent or the – or calculated in order to see whether we could measure what we needed to do to get them to stop. We hope they won’t do it because we think it would be a mistake, but these steps are steps that we’re taking because we think they’re the right ones.

MODERATOR: Thanks very much. We’ll go to the line of Andrea Mitchell, please.

OPERATOR: One moment.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) that they are willing to take any steps, including some of the issues that were raised in the statement released by the E3 today —

MODERATOR: Andrea, I’m sorry to interrupt. We missed the first part of your question. Could – do you mind just starting over?

QUESTION: No, I’m so sorry. Is there any indication from Tehran that they are willing to take any steps, including some of the issues that were raised by the E3 in their statement today, such as the processing of uranium fuel and metals, to get back into compliance before you resume or as you resume negotiations, in addition to not taking these next threatening steps?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So I think the notion that either side is going to take steps in anticipation of the meeting or as a sort of down payment before the meeting, I think that’s probably not realistic. I know President Biden doesn’t think that the United States should take steps simply for the – as a entry ticket to get back to the table with Iran. Getting back to the table is where we will discuss all these issues, including the ones that we and the E3 have asked Iran to reverse. And as we know, Iran has made a number of requests about the U.S. and its sanctions. So – but we’re not going to resolve it unilaterally. We’re not going to resolve these in a vacuum. We’re not going to resolve it by assuming that one side is going to take steps on its own.

The only way this is going to happen – if it’s going to happen – I assume this is going to be a painstaking and difficult process that’s going to take some time for it to see whether both sides agree on what they will define as compliance or compliance. What does it mean? What’s the sequence? What steps does the U.S. have to take? What steps does Iran have to take? That’s not – that doesn’t – it’s not something that is sort of preordained. It’s going to involve getting together and talking about those, which is why the EU invitation is important and why we said that we would be prepared to go if, in fact, the EU were able to organize such a meeting.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to Anne Gearan, Washington Post.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) answer, . When you said that President Biden doesn’t believe the U.S. should take steps just to get back to the table, does that close off some of these sort of creative solutions that various people have come up with – the IMF loan, different ways that Iran could get a cash infusion in the short term, ways to – or ways for Iran to get rid of excess uranium, which would require new waivers? Are those steps and things like it potential things to talk about at this meeting, or do you close those off ahead of time?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, just to be clear, I think all kinds of things could be discussed at the table. That’s why we thought it would – was a good idea when the EU proposed – said that they were ready to invite. We thought, now, this is the right next step, is to sit down to talk about all these issues.

I think the Iranians have the expectation and the desire that the U.S. would take these steps in anticipation of any meeting, sort of as a prerequisite to or as a down payment, if you will. And I think the President’s view, the Secretary’s view, is we’re prepared to talk about all these things, but let’s talk about them to work through them together, to see what we would need to do and what they would need to do in order to get back to the point where we’re both in compliance. So nothing is off the table in that sense. We want to sit down and see what it is that we could work out together, together with the other P5+1 members.

So yeah, that’s my answer. Just that it’s not steps that we are considering taking sort of now unilaterally. We think they’re the kind of steps that we should talk about and see whether we could reach an understanding about what gets done.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to the line of Shaun Tandon.

OPERATOR: Just one moment. Your line is open, sir.

QUESTION: Sure, thanks. Straightforward question: Do you have any indications whether Iran will agree to a meeting? And have you had any informal consultations in any way with the Iranians so far, “so far” meaning since the new administration took office? Thanks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So, I think as we’ve said, we have consulted broadly with all sides. I’m not going to get into sort of the logistics of exactly who we spoke to, but I have to say, no, we don’t have an indication of whether Iran will agree to a meeting. They’ve said that they want – they would go back into compliance if we did too, the mirror image of what we’ve said. Unless – if they think that that could happen simply by both sides separately taking steps, I think that would be unrealistic. So if they genuinely mean what they say, which is that they are prepared to reverse their steps if the U.S. gets back in compliance with the JCPOA, then it’s hard to see how that can be done without sitting down. It will be up to them to decide what they do, but I think it would be sort of both unfortunate and at odds with their stated view that they want to come back if we come back. That’s not going to happen simply by one side telling the other one what to do. It’s going to happen if we sit down together.

So we’ll find out, I assume, in the coming days whether they are prepared to join a meeting that the EU would convene. And of course, our hope is that they would, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

MODERATOR: Take a couple final questions here. Christina Ruffini, go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) colleagues got a couple of mine, but just very simply, through the timeline for the meeting, a location in person or virtual, any other details you could provide would be great. Thank you, guys.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So really, that’s not up to us; it’s up to the EU. And I think all we’ve seen today is a first indication – the first that we’ve seen since President Biden has been in office that the EU thinks that the conditions are ready, that they are ready to invite the parties to talk. So timing I don’t know, and location I don’t know. What I can say it would not be at the ministers level; it would be at the political directors level. So in our case, it would be – well, in our case, it would be the special envoy for Iran and others would – it would be at political directors level. But beyond that, we don’t have any – it’s not up to us, and so we don’t know about either the timing or the location.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to Matt Lee of the AP.

QUESTION: Thank you, guys, very much for doing this. A couple really, really brief ones. One, because back in September when the Trump administration said that it had invoked snapback, basically the rest of the world said, “Well, no you didn’t.” So is there any practical effect to the decision that you made today in terms of what the UN has – how the UN has been treating this?

And secondly, on the travel restrictions of the UN, does this mean now – when you say that they go back to the others, they’re kind of like the North Korean ones where they’re allowed to travel within that 25-mile radius of the UN, is that correct? Because as I recall, the Trump administration’s restrictions basically limited them to going to the UN and to their mission, and that was about it.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah, let me just say a couple words about that. On the travel restrictions, the idea here is to take steps to remove unnecessary obstacles to multilateral diplomacy by amending the restrictions on domestic travel. Those had been extremely restrictive, as you just indicated, and essentially this just reverses the last administration’s imposition of those additional travel restrictions and returns the domestic travel controls on Iranian representatives back in line with those of several other missions to the UN. And that’s just a return to our longstanding posture that we’ve had with regard to the domestic travel of Iranian representatives at the UN.

On snapback, snapback was designed to help ensure that Iran performed its commitments under the JCPOA. And as your question indicated, no other member of the UN Security Council agreed that the previously terminated provisions of prior resolutions had snapped back last September, despite the prior administration’s position. So that essentially isolated the United States on the Security Council and in the UN system and weakened our ability to work with our allies and partners on the Security Council to address Iran’s destabilizing activity. So by reversing this position, it basically puts us back in good stead with our allies and partners and strengthens our ability to engage other Security Council members on Iran, and work within the format of 2231 as we pursue the diplomacy that my colleague has been talking about.

MODERATOR: I’ll try to impose on my colleagues for just a couple final questions given the demand. We’ll go to – excuse me, Nick Wadhams. Go ahead.

OPERATOR: Just one moment. Your line is open, sir.

QUESTION: Hey, thank you. and , can you respond to the criticism that’s already coming in from Republicans that you’re essentially making concessions to Iran while their bad behavior continues and that you’re only rewarding bad Iranian behavior with these decisions? Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So I’ll let my colleague talk about those decisions. I would – as a general matter, I’d say these are not concessions to Iran. These are concessions for common sense, talking to Iran to try to resolve the nuclear issue. I think we’ve seen what four years of maximum pressure and not talking to Iran have yielded: an accelerated Iranian nuclear program and a more aggressive Iranian posture in the region. And removing gratuitous counterproductive obstacles to diplomacy are not in the U.S. interest either, but I’ll let my colleague address those.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Not much more to add other than, again, this is a common-sense shift that would allow us to effectively use the UN Security Council to address Iran’s nuclear program. So this is about getting back to diplomacy, as my colleague was talking about, but also making sure that we can work effectively in the UN system. When we’re outvoted 14 to 1, it’s very hard for us to work effectively in the Security Council. This gets us back into a position where we can work within that framework and work with our closest allies in particular on addressing our concerns with Iran going forward.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to Michele Kelemen, please.

QUESTION: Do you have me?

OPERATOR: Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Okay, great. So, one, are Russia and China playing any kind of positive role here? What have your consultations been like with them? And then the statement with the EU mentioned hostages. Has the U.S. reached out to Iran on that subject separately? Are you working together with the EU on that? And do you see the Iranian mission at the UN as a place to have those kinds of talks?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So, Michele, on Russia and China, they are – they say that they want to see Iran come back into compliance and the U.S. come back into compliance. They have also – they said – so the general posture has been positive. I think in terms of seeing whether the sides could take steps that are more productive than what’s occurred in the past, we’ll have to see when we get to the table how that unfolds. They have taken the position that they wanted the U.S. to take some steps in advance, and we’ve told them that’s – they shouldn’t – we – the U.S. shouldn’t need to take steps simply to get back to the table. Once we’re back at the table, all these issues will be up for discussion.

So in the past, Russia and China during the JCPOA negotiations played a productive, constructive role because they didn’t – they didn’t have an interest in seeing Iran acquire a nuclear weapon and they didn’t have an interest in seeing the conflict in the region. One would expect that those same interests are at play and that despite other serious differences we may have with them on other files, that and on this one we could work together.

On the hostages, I mean, that is a absolute priority for the President and for everyone who works for him. It’s obviously outrageous that Iran would be playing with the lives of innocent Americans simply for the sake of seeking to extract other concessions from the U.S. And so we’re going to be very firm and resolute in getting them out. We will have our way of reaching out to Iran on that issue, and I’ll leave it at that.

MODERATOR: Well, thanks very much. Just a reminder this call was on background to State Department officials. The embargo is now lifted. We look forward to additional opportunities to speak to all of you about this and other issues in the coming days. Thanks very much to our speakers, and operator, we can conclude the call.

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  • Maternal Mortality and Morbidity: Additional Efforts Needed to Assess Program Data for Rural and Underserved Areas
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Nationwide data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System from 2011-2016, the most recent data available at the time of GAO's review, indicate that deaths during pregnancy or up to 1 year postpartum due to pregnancy-related causes—are higher in rural areas compared to metropolitan areas. See figure. CDC data also showed higher mortality in underserved areas (areas with lower numbers of certain health care providers per capita). Pregnancy-Related Mortality Ratios in Rural and Metropolitan Areas, 2011-2016 Note: Micropolitan areas include counties with populations of 2,500 to 49,999. Noncore areas include nonmetropolitan counties that do not qualify as micropolitan. GAO also analyzed the most recent annual data available from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality for 2016-2018 on severe maternal morbidity (SMM)—unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery resulting in significant health consequences. Nationwide, these data showed higher estimated rates of SMM in metropolitan areas (72.6 per 10,000 delivery hospitalizations) compared to rural areas (62.9 per 10,000). CDC and another Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agency, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), fund several maternal health programs that aim to reduce maternal mortality and SMM, including some that target rural or underserved areas. CDC and HRSA collect program data, such as the percentage of women who received postpartum visits, to track progress in improving maternal health, but they do not systematically disaggregate and analyze program data by rural and underserved areas. By taking these actions, CDC and HRSA could help better ensure that program funding is being used to help address any needs in these areas. HHS has taken actions to improve maternal health through its funding of various programs and releasing an action plan in 2020. HHS also has two workgroups that aim to coordinate across HHS agencies on maternal health efforts, such as program activities that aim to reduce maternal mortality and SMM. Officials from HHS's two workgroups said they coordinated in developing the action plan, but they do not have a formal relationship established to ensure ongoing coordination. Officials from one of the workgroups noted that they often have competing priorities and do not always coordinate their efforts. By more formally coordinating their efforts, HHS's workgroups may be in a better position to identify opportunities to achieve HHS's action plan goal for reducing maternal mortality and objectives that target rural and underserved areas. Why GAO Did This Study Each year in the United States, hundreds of women die from pregnancy-related causes, and thousands more experience SMM. Research suggests there is a greater risk of maternal mortality and SMM among rural residents and that underserved areas may lack needed health services. GAO was asked to review maternal mortality and SMM outcomes in rural and underserved areas. This report examines, among other objectives, what is known about these outcomes; selected CDC and HRSA programs that aim to reduce these outcomes, as well as actions to collect and use relevant data; and the extent to which HHS is taking actions to improve maternal health and monitoring progress on its efforts. GAO analyzed HHS data, agency documentation, literature, and interviewed officials from a non-generalizable sample of three states and stakeholders to capture various perspectives.
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  • Justice Department Requires Divestiture In Order For Anheuser-Busch To Acquire Craft Brew Alliance
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it is requiring Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (ABI), its wholly-owned subsidiary Anheuser-Busch Companies LLC (AB Companies), and Craft Brew Alliance Inc. (CBA) to divest CBA’s entire Kona brand business in the state of Hawaii and to license to the acquirer the Kona brand in Hawaii in order for AB Companies, a minority shareholder in CBA, to proceed with its proposed acquisition of the remaining shares of CBA.  The department has approved PV Brewing Partners, LLC as the acquirer.  The proposed settlement will maintain competition in the beer industry in Hawaii benefitting consumers.
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  • Department Of Justice Is Combatting COVID-19 Fraud But Reminds The Public To Remain Vigilant
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice is reminding members of the public to be vigilant against fraudsters who are using the COVID-19 pandemic to exploit American consumers and organizations and to cheat disaster relief programs.  In particular, the department is warning the public about scams perpetrated through websites, social media, emails, robocalls, and other means that peddle fake COVID-19 vaccines, tests, treatments, and protective equipment, and also about criminals that fabricate businesses and steal identities in order to defraud federal relief programs and state unemployment programs. 
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  • Executive Office for Immigration Review Announces Investiture of 20 New Immigration Judges, Resulting in a 70 Percent Expansion of the Immigration Judge Corps Since 2017
    In Crime News
    The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) announced the investiture of 20 new immigration judges today, including three new assistant chief immigration judges.  The introduction of this class marks the most recent step in the ongoing development and expansion of the nationwide corps of professional adjudicators who resolve questions regarding the legal status of aliens in the United States and adjudicate claims of relief or protection from removal, such as asylum or withholding of removal.
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  • Airport Funding: Information on Grandfathered Revenue Diversion and Potential Implications of Repeal
    In U.S GAO News
    According to the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) data for fiscal years 1995 through 2018, nine airport owners—also known as “airport sponsors”—lawfully diverted airport revenue amounts ranging from $0 to over $840 million by a sponsor in 1 year. These “grandfathered” airport sponsors are currently exempt from federal requirements to use all airport revenue solely for airport purposes (see figure). Together, these sponsors own 32 airports serving millions of passengers a year. Five of these sponsors are city or state governments, which regularly diverted airport revenue into their general funds for government programs and services. Four of these sponsors are transportation authorities, which diverted varying amounts for various transportation-related purposes, such as supporting maritime ports or transit systems. Three of the transportation authorities also secured bonds using revenue from their various activities, including airport revenue, to finance airport and non-airport assets. Airport Sponsors That Have Reported Grandfathered Revenue Diversion, as of 2018 According to selected stakeholders, a repeal of grandfathered revenue diversion would have complex legal and financial implications for transportation authorities. Transportation authority officials said that a repeal would inherently reduce their flexibility to use revenues across their assets and could lead to a default of their outstanding bonds if airport revenues could no longer be used to service debt; exempting outstanding bonds could alleviate some financial concerns. For city and state government sponsors, a loss in general fund revenue could result in reduced government services, though they said a phased-in repeal could help in planning for lost revenue. In 1982, a federal law was enacted that imposed constraints on the use of airport revenue (e.g., concessions, parking fees, and airlines' landing fees), prohibiting “diversion” for non-airport purposes in order to ensure use on airport investment and improvement. However, the law exempted “grandfathered” airport sponsors—those with state or local laws providing for such diversion—from this prohibition. Viewpoints vary on whether these airport sponsors should be allowed to continue to lawfully divert revenue. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 provides for GAO to examine grandfathered airport revenue diversion. This report examines: (1) how much revenue has been diverted annually by grandfathered airport sponsors and how these revenues have been used, and (2) selected stakeholders' perspectives on potential implications of repealing the law allowing revenue diversion. GAO analyzed FAA financial data on grandfathered airports' revenue diversion for fiscal years 1995 through 2018, all years such data were available. GAO also analyzed relevant documents such as state and local laws, and airport sponsors' bond documents. GAO interviewed FAA officials and relevant stakeholders, including officials from nine grandfathered airport sponsors and representatives from bond-rating agencies, airline and airport associations, and airlines that serve grandfathered airports that were selected based on those with the greatest passenger traffic. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or krauseh@gao.gov.
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  • FY 2021 State Justice Statistics Program for Statistical Analysis Centers (SJS-SAC) Technical Assistance Program
    In Justice News
    (Solicitation)
    The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is seeking applications for funding to administer activities under the FY 2021 State Justice Statistics Program for Statistical Analysis Centers (SJS-SAC) Technical Assistance Program. This program supports the collection, analysis, and dissemination of statistical information on crime and criminal justice at the state and local level.
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Justice Department Files Race Discrimination Lawsuit Against Housing Authority in Oklahoma
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit alleging that the Housing Authority of the Town of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, along with its former employees, David Haynes and Myrna Hess, violated the Fair Housing Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when they denied housing to an African-American applicant and her young child because of their race. 
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  • Facial Recognition Technology: Privacy and Accuracy Issues Related to Commercial Uses
    In U.S GAO News
    Market research and other data suggest that the market for facial recognition technology has increased in the number and types of businesses that use it since GAO's 2015 report on the topic (GAO-15-621 ). For example, newer functions of the technology identified by stakeholders and literature included authorizing payments and tracking and monitoring attendance of students, employees, or those attending events. Functions of Facial Recognition Technology Accuracy. Although the accuracy of facial recognition technology has increased dramatically in recent years, differences in performance exist for certain demographic groups. National Institute of Standards and Technology tests found that facial recognition technology generally performs better on lighter-skin men and worse on darker-skin women, and does not perform as well on children and elderly adults. These differences could result in more frequent misidentification for certain demographics, such as misidentifying a shopper as a shoplifter when comparing the individual's image against a data set of known shoplifters. There is no consensus on what causes performance differences, including physical factors (such as lighting) or factors related to the creation or operation of the technology. However, stakeholders and literature identified various methods that could help mitigate differences in performance among demographic groups. Privacy. Stakeholders and literature identified concerns related to privacy, such as the inability of individuals to remain anonymous in public or the use of the technology without individuals' consent. Facial recognition technology may collect or store facial images, posing varying levels of risk. Some federal and state laws and the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation impose requirements on U.S. companies related to facial recognition technology. However, as we reported in 2015, there is no comprehensive federal privacy law governing the collection, use, and sale of personal information by private-sector companies. Some stakeholders, including privacy and industry groups, have developed voluntary frameworks that seek to address privacy concerns. Most of these frameworks were consistent with internationally recognized principles for protecting the privacy and security of personal information. However, U.S. companies are not required to follow these voluntary frameworks. Facial recognition technology can verify or identify an individual from a facial image. Advocacy groups and others have raised privacy concerns related to private companies' use of the technology, as well as concerns that higher error rates among some demographic groups could lead to disparate treatment. GAO was asked to review the commercial use of facial recognition technology and related accuracy and privacy issues. Among other issues, this report examines how companies use the technology, its accuracy and how accuracy differs across demographic groups, and how privacy issues are addressed in laws and industry practices. GAO analyzed laws; reviewed literature and company documentation; interviewed federal agency officials; and interviewed representatives from companies, industry groups, and privacy groups. GAO also reviewed selected privacy frameworks, chosen based on expert recommendations and research. GAO reiterates its previous suggestion from a 2013 report ( GAO-13-663 ) that Congress consider strengthening the consumer privacy framework to reflect changes in technology and the marketplace. For more information, contact Alicia Puente Cackley at (202) 512-8678 or cackleya@gao.gov.
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  • Strengthening the Ironclad U.S.-ROK Alliance
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Financial Fraud in the United States, 2017
    In Justice News
    (Publication)
    This report details the prevalence of seven types of personal financial fraud victimization and the patterns of reporting fraud to police and other authorities.
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    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program (USTP announced today that it has entered into national agreements with three mortgage servicers to address past mortgage servicing deficiencies impacting homeowners in bankruptcy.
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  • Former U.S. Army Employee Pleads Guilty to Kickback Scheme to Steer U.S. Government Contracts
    In Crime News
    A former civilian employee of the U.S. Army’s Directorate of Public Works pleaded guilty today for his role in a kickbacks scheme to steer government contracts for work at Camp Arifjan, a U.S. Army base in Kuwait.
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  • Medicaid in Times of Crisis
    In U.S GAO News
    This Capsule—named for its 2-page format—draws from a number of GAO reports to provide examples of how the federal government and states have used Medicaid during pandemics, economic recessions, natural disasters, and other crises. In this Capsule, GAO cites policy considerations and reiterates a recommendation to Congress. For more information, contact Carolyn L. Yocom at (202) 512-7114 or yocomc@gao.gov.
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    In Women’s News
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  • Singaporean Shipping Company Fined $12 Million in a Multi-District Case for Concealing Illegal Discharges of Oily Water and Garbage and a Hazardous Condition
    In Crime News
    Pacific Carriers Limited (PCL), a Singapore-based company that owns subsidiaries engaged in international shipping, was sentenced today in federal court before U.S. District Court Judge Louise Flanagan in New Bern, North Carolina, after pleading guilty to violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, obstruction of justice, and for a failure to notify the U.S. Coast Guard of a hazardous condition on the Motor Vessel (M/V) Pac Antares.
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  • Justice Department Settles with North Carolina Dental Offices Over HIV Discrimination
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement to resolve a claim that Night and Day Dental Inc. discriminated against a woman with HIV in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 
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  • Sierra Leone National Day
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  • ‘All too frequent tragedies demand action to improve judicial security,’ Judge tells Judicial Conference
    In U.S Courts
    “Four federal judges and three family members have been killed since 1979. These horrific tragedies must stop,” Judge David W. McKeague told the Judicial Conference of the United States today.
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  • Tax Administration: Opportunities Exist to Improve Oversight of Hospitals’ Tax-Exempt Status
    In U.S GAO News
    Nonprofit hospitals must satisfy three sets of requirements to obtain and maintain a nonprofit tax exemption (see figure). Requirements for Nonprofit Hospitals to Obtain and Maintain a Tax-Exemption While PPACA established requirements to better ensure hospitals are serving their communities, the law is unclear about what community benefit activities hospitals should be engaged in to justify their tax exemption. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) identified factors that can demonstrate community benefits, but they are not requirements. IRS does not have authority to specify activities hospitals must undertake and makes determinations based on facts and circumstances. This lack of clarity makes IRS's oversight challenging. Congress could help by adding specificity to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). While IRS is required to review hospitals' community benefit activities at least once every 3 years, it does not have a well-documented process to ensure that those activities are being reviewed. IRS referred almost 1,000 hospitals to its audit division for potential PPACA violations from 2015 through 2019. However, IRS could not identify if any of these referrals related to community benefits. GAO's analysis of IRS data identified 30 hospitals that reported no spending on community benefits in 2016, indicating potential noncompliance with providing community benefits. A well-documented process, such as clear instructions for addressing community benefits in the PPACA reviews or risk-based methods for selecting cases, would help IRS ensure it is effectively reviewing hospitals' community benefit activities. Further, according to IRS officials, hospitals with little to no community benefit expenses would indicate potential noncompliance. However, IRS was unable to provide evidence that it conducts reviews related to hospitals' community benefits because it does not have codes to track such audits. Slightly more than half of community hospitals in the United States are private, nonprofit organizations. IRS and the Department of the Treasury have recognized the promotion of health as a charitable purpose and have specified that nonprofit hospitals are eligible for a tax exemption. IRS has further stated that these hospitals can demonstrate their charitable purpose by providing services that benefit their communities as a whole. In 2010, Congress and the President enacted PPACA, which established additional requirements for tax-exempt hospitals to meet to maintain their tax exemption. GAO was asked to review IRS's implementation of requirements for tax-exempt hospitals. This report assesses IRS's (1) oversight of how tax-exempt hospitals provide community benefits, and (2) enforcement of PPACA requirements related to tax-exempt hospitals. GAO is making one matter for congressional consideration to specify in the IRC what services and activities Congress considers sufficient community benefit. GAO is also making four recommendations to IRS, including to establish a well-documented process to ensure hospitals' community benefit activities are being reviewed, and to create codes to track audit activity related to hospitals' community benefit activities. IRS agreed with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Jessica Lucas-Judy at (202) 512-9110 or lucasjudyj@gao.gov.
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  • Maryland Lawyer Charged with Defrauding Financial Institutions and Other Entities to Obtain Control over $12.5 Million of Somali Sovereign Assets
    In Crime News
    A Maryland lawyer was charged in an 11-count indictment for his alleged role in a scheme to fraudulently obtain control of more than $12.5 million that was held by financial institutions on behalf of the Somali government, to improperly take part of those funds for fees and expenses, and to launder a portion of those funds to accounts for the benefit of his co-conspirators.
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  • Spotlight on Naloxone Co-Prescribing
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
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  • Florida Man Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Obstructing the IRS
    In Crime News
    A Florida man was sentenced to 36 months in prison today for corruptly obstructing the due administration of the internal revenue laws, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida.
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  • Justice Department Announces the Opening of Nominations for the Fifth Annual Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Community Policing
    In Crime News
    U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today announced the Department of Justice is now accepting nominations for the Fifth Annual Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Community Policing. These awards represent part of the Department of Justice’s on-going commitment to support the nation’s law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe.
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    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced that Dallas towing company United Tows LLC has agreed to enter into a consent order to resolve allegations that it illegally sold five servicemember-owned vehicles, in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).  
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