Judiciary Steps Up Calls to Enact Security Measures

Citing the latest act of violence this year, in which a judge’s family and officers at two federal courthouses have come under attack, the Judiciary has stepped up its call to congressional leaders for a series of safety measures “to protect the safety of the public at our nation’s courthouses.”

A letter from James C. Duff, secretary of the Judicial Conference of the United States, cited a Sept. 15 non-fatal shooting of a court security officer outside the federal courthouse in Phoenix, Arizona. On July 19, a gunman attacked the New Jersey home of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, killing her son and gravely wounding her husband. On May 29, a Federal Protective Service officer was fatally shot outside a federal courthouse in Oakland, California.

“This pattern of violence against the Judiciary, at home and at work, underscores the imperative for immediate congressional action to address the critical security needs of federal judges and Judiciary employees across the country,” Duff wrote.

The Sept. 21 letter was sent to Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader; Charles “Chuck” Schumer, Senate minority leader; Steny Hoyer, House majority leader; and Kevin McCarthy, House minority leader.

In two letters sent Sept. 4, Duff and Judge David W. McKeague, chair of the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Judicial Security, urged Congress to approve and fund safety measures to prevent violence targeting judges and federal courthouses.

A letter to the House and Senate appropriations committees requested funding totaling $524 million for the U.S. Marshals Service to install modern home intrusion detection systems in judges’ homes and to hire 1,000 additional deputy U.S. marshals; and for the Federal Protective Service to upgrade exterior security cameras at court facilities nationwide.

The Judiciary committees were asked to support a law restricting the dissemination of personally identifiable information that can reveal where judges live and providing permanent authority for judges to redact certain personal information from financial disclosure reports.

The Judiciary also is developing a proposal to monitor the internet for personal information and online threats that could expose judges and their families to danger.

Congress appropriated money to bolster home security for federal judges in 2005, after U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow found her husband and elderly mother murdered in their Chicago home. Home intrusion alarms purchased for federal judges at that time are now outdated, the Judiciary has informed Congress. Similarly, cameras operated by the Federal Protective Service are not adequate to monitor threats outside courthouses.

Since 1979, four federal judges and three family members have been murdered in attacks apparently targeting judges. The number of identified threats and inappropriate communications directed at judges has risen from 926 in fiscal year 2015 to 4,449 in fiscal year 2019, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

“We implore Congress to act swiftly on these requests,” Duff wrote in his Sept. 21 letter, adding that the Judiciary “is prepared to work with the Congress, Executive Branch, and any other party to preserve, protect, and defend the Third Branch.”

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    What GAO Found In June 2019, GAO identified 10 critical federal information technology (IT) legacy systems that were most in need of modernization. These legacy systems provided vital support to agencies' missions. According to the agencies, these legacy systems ranged from about 8 to 51 years old and, collectively, cost about $337 million annually to operate and maintain. Several of the systems used older languages, such as Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL). GAO has previously reported that reliance on such languages has risks, such as a rise in procurement and operating costs, and a decrease in the availability of individuals with the proper skill sets. Further, several of the legacy systems were operating with known security vulnerabilities and unsupported hardware and software. Of the 10 agencies responsible for these legacy systems, GAO reported in June 2019 that seven agencies (the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, the Interior, the Treasury; as well as the Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; and Social Security Administration) had documented plans for modernizing the systems (see table). Of the seven agencies with plans, only the Departments of the Interior's and Defense's modernization plans included all of the key elements identified in best practices (milestones, a description of the work necessary to complete the modernization, and a plan for the disposition of the legacy system). The other five agencies lacked complete modernization plans. The Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Transportation did not have documented modernization plans. Table: Extent to Which Agencies' Had Documented Modernization Plans for Legacy Systems That Included Key Elements, as of June 2019 Agency Included milestones to complete the modernization Described work necessary to modernize system Summarized planned disposition of legacy system Department of Defense Yes Yes Yes Department of Education n/a – did not have a documented modernization plan Department of Health and Human Services n/a – did not have a documented modernization plan Department of Homeland Security No Yes No Department of the Interior Yes Yes Yes Department of the Treasury Partial Yes No Department of Transportation n/a – did not have a documented modernization plan Office of Personnel Management Partial Partial No Small Business Administration Yes No Yes Social Security Administration Partial Partial No Source: GAO analysis of agency modernization plans. | GAO-21-524T Agencies received a “partial” if the element was completed for a portion of the modernization. GAO stressed that, until the eight agencies established complete plans, their modernizations would face an increased risk of cost overruns, schedule delays, and project failure. Accordingly, GAO recommended that each of the eight develop such plans. However, to date, seven of the agencies had not done so. It is essential that agencies implement GAO's recommendations and these plans in order to meet mission needs, address security risks, and reduce operating costs. Why GAO Did This Study Each year, the federal government spends more than $100 billion on IT and cyber-related investments. Of this amount, agencies have typically spent about 80 percent on the operations and maintenance of existing IT investments, including legacy systems. However, federal legacy systems are becoming increasingly obsolete. In May 2016, GAO reported instances where agencies were using systems that had components that were at least 50 years old or the vendors were no longer providing support for hardware or software. Similarly, in June 2019 GAO reported that several of the federal government's most critical legacy systems used outdated languages, had unsupported hardware and software, and were operating with known security vulnerabilities. GAO was asked to testify on its June 2019 report on federal agencies' legacy systems. Specifically, GAO summarized (1) the critical federal legacy systems that we identified as most in need of modernization and (2) its evaluation of agencies' plans for modernizing them. GAO also provided updated information regarding agencies' implementation of its related recommendations.
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  • North Carolina Man Sentenced to 78 Months for Money Laundering and Filing False Tax Return in Tobacco Smuggling Scheme
    In Crime News
    A North Carolina man was sentenced today to 78 months in prison for conspiring to commit money laundering and filing a false tax return.
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    In Justice News
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  • Two Louisiana Return Preparers Plead Guilty to Tax Fraud Conspiracy
    In Crime News
    Two Louisiana tax preparers pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the United States, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
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  • Largest U.S. Seizure of Iranian Fuel from Four Tankers
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced the successful disruption of a multimillion dollar fuel shipment by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization that was bound for Venezuela. These actions represent the government’s largest-ever seizure of fuel shipments from Iran.
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  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Greg Kelly of Greg Kelly Reports on Newsmax TV
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Remarks at the Keynote Session of B20 2021 Inception Meeting
    In Climate - Environment - Conservation
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  • Federal Charges Against Stanford University Researcher Expanded
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury issued a superseding indictment charging Chen Song with visa fraud, obstruction of justice, destruction of documents, and false statements in connection with a scheme to conceal and lie about her status as a member of the People’s Republic of China’s military forces while in the United States, the Justice Department announced yesterday. 
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  • NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Has a Bold, New Look
    In Space
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  • The Expected Parole of Hampig “Harry” Sassounian
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Over 500K Rapid Coronavirus Tests Being Distributed to HBCUs
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
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  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo At the Three Seas Virtual Summit and Web Forum
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Priority Open Recommendations: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified eight priority recommendations for the Federal Reserve. Since then, the Federal Reserve has implemented five of those recommendations. As of April 2021, the remaining open three priority recommendations for the Federal Reserve involve the following areas: Collaborating with other financial regulators to communicate with banks that have third-party relationships with fintech lenders about using alternative data in underwriting. Communicating uncertainties surrounding stress testing, including capital ratio estimates. Communicating uncertainties surrounding stress testing, including tolerance levels for key risks, and the degree of uncertainty in projected estimates. The Federal Reserve's continued attention to these issues could improve its ability to more effectively oversee risks to consumers and the safety and soundness of the U.S. banking system. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Daniel Garcia-Diaz at (202) 512-8678 or garciadiazd@gao.gov.
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  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Prasad Dodangodage of Rupavahini TV
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Department of State Offers Reward Increase for Information to Bring Transnational Criminal to Justice
    In Crime Control and Security News
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