Keeping Faith in the Public Square

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Jack Graham, Pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church

Plano, Texas

Prestonwood Baptist Church

MR GRAHAM: Well, I am so happy to be able to introduce to you Secretary of State of the United States of America Mike Pompeo, who first and foremost in his resume – and you’re about to hear an incredible resume – but first and foremost, he is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and a believer in our savior. (Applause.)

He was born out in California and ultimately landed at West Point, and he graduated at West Point first in his class at this great United States Military Academy, in 1986. (Applause.) He then – he then served as a cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Imagine that. And he also served with the 2nd Squadron of the 7th Cavalry in the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division. So thank you for our service there, Mr. Secretary. And then he returned to the United States and entered Harvard, and he graduated from the Harvard Law School having been editor of the Harvard Law Review. He ultimately ended up in Kansas – back in Kansas – where he began a business, an oil and gas business, and he spent some time out in west Texas and east Texas. And while he is back to the great state of Texas, this Trump administration is taking really good care of the oil and gas business and we here in Texas, we really appreciate that, don’t we? (Applause.) They get it.

Ultimately, Secretary Pompeo ran for Congress out of Kansas and he was elected to the U.S. Congress and he served on very important committees, including Energy and Commerce and the House Select Benghazi Committee. That must have been extremely interesting. It must have prepared him for his next assignments in God’s call upon his life, which was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA – America’s top spy. Mike. (Laughter.) Mike Pompeo. That was my James Bond effort right there. (Laughter.)

But so – and then he was sworn in as our great Secretary of State April 26th, 21 – 2018. And he has served with distinction as America’s chief ambassador, top diplomat. It’s a vital position. If you know your civics, you know that’s – that’s third in line to the presidency of the United States. That’s how close this is. He has the Cabinet. And I’m so glad that he does because he is a man with integrity, commitment, devotion to our country. And Mr. Secretary, you are among great friends today at Prestonwood Church. Let’s all welcome together Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Applause.)

SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning. Good morning, everyone. What a glorious welcome. I think I’m going to take that choir with me wherever I go. (Laughter.) Good things would surely follow.

Pastor Graham, thank you for having me here today. It’s been delightful to get to meet you. First Lady, nice to see you. My wife Susan and I for these past months, much like many of you, haven’t been able to go to church. We’ve been streaming our home church, Eastminster Presbyterian up in Wichita, Kansas, just a couple hours up I-35 from here. It’s not the same thing as gathering with our fellow believers. Those people at Eastminster are near and dear to our hearts. They’re our friends, the people we love to worship with. I was a deacon there. That was my first entry into politics. (Laughter.) And then I taught fifth grade Sunday School. Susan and I taught a class together there for a number of years. I would try and teach the boys scripture, which has been perfect to become Secretary of State. (Laughter.) Fifth-graders and tyrants around the world share certain common characteristics. (Laughter.) Having once had a fifth-grade boy myself, I was ready.

It – look, it put an enormous smile on my face to come in here today, to see the parking lot full of big trucks and to see the pews filled with Christian believers, followers of Jesus. This is the America that I know and the America that I love. It’s great to be with you all here today.

Just a little over three years ago, I was the director of the CIA. I was traveling to a pretty difficult, dark place in the world. I was – climbed off the airplane. It was in the middle of the night. Came down the steps and an older gentleman reached out his hand to me and we shook hands, and into my hand he placed a small palm-sized Bible, kind of tattered. I grabbed it. I didn’t know exactly what it was. I thanked him, said hello, and hopped on into my vehicle. I got in the – got in the car and opened it up, and there was a note from him inside the Bible. It said, “Mr. Director, you have been a light to me and to the world. Bless you.” I later learned that he was a State Department employee. I had no idea that someday I would lead his team. But I did know that for at least one person at that moment in time, I had been a beacon, I had been a light, I had shone for him.

I tell you this story because this is what I want to talk about today. It’s not because of something that I did. I tell you that story because it tells each of us about how we have a responsibility to model Christian behavior and to be a light unto the world.

I am now America’s most senior diplomat. I travel the world. I meet with people of many, many faiths. How America leads in the world is being watched. And there is an absolute responsibility to make sure that they understand our founding as a Judeo-Christian nation. And I believe deeply, with all my heart, that faith – faith in the public square, for each of us – faith in the public square is not only lawful, but righteous. That faith is not only powerful but required by the American tradition. And especially – especially in these challenging times, keeping faith in the public square is not simply acceptable, but it’s an imperative. Our President believes that and the senior leaders of America believe that, and we every day strive to help all of us, for all of us who have a responsibility to keep faith in the public square, whether that’s at home or at work or on soccer fields with our kids or at a PTA meeting. Wherever we may find ourselves, this is essential. It’s an essential part of the American tradition.

I know I’m in Texas. I know some of you think it’s a country. I know it’s not. (Laughter.) My team reminded me that, sir, you’re headed to Guyana, Suriname, Brazil, Colombia, and then you’re going to Texas. (Laughter.) And the original press release said “five countries, five days.” (Laughter.) It is an enormous privilege to serve as Secretary of State and a blessing – a blessing that none of us should forget that the good lord has bestowed upon us and that our founders enshrined in our documents, our core documents for us and preserved for us this right that comes not from governments. The fact that we are human beings; our founders recognized that. And these men – these amazing men back 240-plus years ago – enshrined it in our core documents that faith would in fact be in the public square. We need to live up to that each and every day.

They knew. They came from different faith walks themselves, but they knew. They knew that each of us had human dignity because we were – because we were created in the image of God. That certainly counts for us in America, but it counts for all people. It was George Washington who wrote, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” Think about that. They were fighting a revolution. They were working to build out a nation. And they turned to those central ideas upon which to build. They put protection of human dignity and human freedom at the heart of our founding documents. They knew that religious freedom, the capacity to worship in the way that you wanted, was central to the well-being of a nation. And to this day – to this day, while imperfect, America reflects this. Our State Department, the work that we do all across the world must reflect this as well.

I’ll give you a good example from just this week. I was in the northern part of Brazil, on the – near the Venezuelan border, and the refugees were fleeing from the brutal Maduro regime. And you saw Americans there, some of them working for the government, but many there volunteering. There was mission work taking place as well, providing humanitarian assistance help and a thoughtful prayer for those people who were in such difficult conditions.

We know – we know America is at its best when faith is in the public square. We defend human rights inside of our borders and outside of our borders like no other nation in the history of civilization. And we’re not perfect. We get it wrong sometimes. Indeed, in America, our – some of our greatest failings have been when we didn’t acknowledge the place that faith must play in our lives.

In America, we have a very broad understanding. If you have no faith and that is your choice, we rightly don’t permit a national government to establish a state religion. But everyone in this room knows what nations look like when religious freedom is stomped out and faith in the public square is eliminated.

There’s examples that are ongoing today. We see what’s happening in places like Cuba. Pastor Graham spoke about the fact that I served as a young soldier on the West German–East German border. I sat in my tank and I could see the sullen faces of the East German people who lived in a communist police state. We know the horrors of Adolph Hitler and his godless regime.

Today, sadly, millions and millions of people still live under regimes that want to banish faith from the public square, or any of notion of God from basic civic life.

Today, perhaps the most egregious example is the Chinese Communist Party. Today in the western part of China, a place that none of us might know, a place called Xinjiang, more than a million Chinese have been forced into internment camps, being surveilled 24/7, forced sterilizations, forced abortions, today, in the world in which we inhabit. They are submitted – subjected to torture, and worse. It’s part of the Chinese Communist Party’s constant attack on faith. It’s a war on faith that’s been happening for decades. The United States for the first time in many years is taking this on under President Trump in a serious way.

Earlier this summer, I read a pleading message from a Chinese woman whose husband is a pastor imprisoned in China. She wrote to me, quote, “Beloved brothers and sisters… I earnestly ask for your prayers for me and for my family. It has been over six months since has been incarcerated. At first, he would make phone calls, I’d hear from him from prison. He would let me know that he is okay. Now, the remaining hope that I have is painfully small, and my hope every day is to receive a three-minute phone call. All I have left is prayer.”

We should be mindful of our responsibility, our duty, our obligation, and our capacity to keep our faith, our light in the public square.

As Christians we’re called to do that. We have that responsibility. It’s fundamentally American too. We should pray. That’s the first of all things. I feel prayers. I get notes from people who say they’re praying for me. I can feel it. My wife, my son, we all appreciate it.

Of course, too, you should keep supporting the missionaries that come from your church and from others. They’re doing remarkable work. I see it as I travel all around the world. They are bringing salt and light to some of the darkest corners of the world. But you can also do it in simple ways. In every interaction that you have, whether you’re at church or at a Bible study, at your work, or wherever you may find yourself, exercise your right to religious freedom. Be open. Be clear about who you are.

Imagine millions of Americans of faith – all faiths – exercising these freedoms every day. The cumulative effect is massive. And it would empower me as the Secretary of State of the United States of America. You will be telling the world who we are as a nation. And too, you’ll give nations that are torn apart by religious conflict hope that people of different faiths can live in unity. This is something we do here that is uniquely American. We can pass that on all around the world.

If you hide your light in an open society like ours, that sends a terrible message to places that are more difficult, who have trouble or who are threatened if they choose to be bold in their faith. I’d urge every one of you to use your precious freedoms to do big things for our country alongside of doing big things for our kingdom.

Now, the world is watching us, and there will be naysayers. There will be critics. If you speak up about your faith, it is undoubtedly the case that someone will suggest that that’s not the right thing to do. But don’t be discouraged. It means you’ve got conviction and that you showed it.

I know this firsthand. I’m not a victim, but I’ve seen it. A previous national security advisor said that it was “problematic” that Mike Pompeo is “overtly religious.” The New York Times wrote a piece that my wife still gives me trouble about. It said – it says, quote, “no Secretary of State in recent decades has been as open and fervent as Mr. Pompeo about discussing Christianity and foreign policy in the same breath.” (Applause.)

My son, Nick, who’s almost 30 now, his primary function in life is to keep me humble. (Laughter.) He read that and texted me. He says, “Well, how many breaths are you supposed to take between the two?” (Laughter.) A reasonable question from a wonderful young Christian believer.

Look, connecting faith to America’s foreign policy is an imperative. It’s important. It’s a good thing. I was reminded of that just this week, just this past week on Tuesday. On Tuesday I was at the White House for a ceremony. The leaders of two Muslim nations made peace with the Jewish state of Israel. (Applause.) Many things that we did enabled that. The President made the decision to recognize this biblical land and Jerusalem as the rightful capital of that nation.

But in the end, those leaders, both in public and in private, made very clear that they were adamant that their faith was at the center of this accomplishment, what it is we were collectively able to achieve. Even though these nations had and likely will have disagreements on many things for time to come, I am confident that their faith was what drove them to be able to get to the right place to make these good decisions for both of their peoples. It is no coincidence that the historic agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Israel and Bahrain are known as the Abraham Accords.

Now, I know that God’s name can be invoked for evil, but we should welcome it when leaders across the world feel bound by a higher power, feel bound by a higher power to pursue harmony with other nations. It’s a glorious thing. It’s a deeply Christian thing. Faith strengthens American diplomacy. It doesn’t diminish it.

More good news. I’m not the only one at the State Department that believes this. Recently a group of light-shiners who work at the State Department started the first ever faith-based employee affinity group at the State Department. One of the faith group’s leaders came to me and she said, “Mike, before you arrived, we did not think it wise to gather around our belief in Jesus. Now, because of you, we know we must show the value added by people of all faiths to the State Department mission.” What a glorious thing. The right heart. (Applause.)

So don’t let anybody tell you that faith is disconnected from who we are as Americans. As I travel the globe from Israel to India, from South Korea to Senegal, world leaders always talk to me about their faith. And they tell their people about their faiths too. It’s at the center of lives all across the world. Indeed, it is in the places where faith is suppressed or targeted for total erasure that we see brutality and evil and where humanity is most oppressed.

We have a special responsibility to keep faith in the public square here in the United States of America. Look, I have this great blessing. I get to carry out this mission, this privilege to serve as America’s 70th Secretary of State. It’s only because of God’s grace in my life that I have had this chance. I keep on a table over on the right-hand side of my office a Bible. I try to dig into the Word each and every day. It’s a little harder as I get busier.

I use – there’s an elevator I ride every day into work. It’s about 20 seconds. I use that to bow my head and set myself for the day to pray when I’m in Washington. It’s consistent with what the Bible tells us in Galatians Chapter 6 Verse 9. It reads, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Look, I know these times are difficult. We’re getting our churches and our schools back open. This is fantastic. We will do this good work alongside the Lord. We have great help. It is his “power is made perfect in weakness.”

So here at Prestonwood, my friends, and everywhere else, don’t ever give up shining the light. Don’t ever walk away from an opportunity to put faith in the public square. Do walk with the Lord. And keep at it. Stay true. Keep believing. All of us together will make this nation a light unto the world.

Thank you for letting me be here today. May God bless each and every one of you. (Applause.)

MR GRAHAM: Thank you so much. Just what we wanted to hear and needed to hear, knew we would hear coming from you. I was just wondering – tell us a little bit more about how you got this Christian worldview. We’re in a worldview series right now talking about how we see the world through the lens of scripture, and I know that you have a worldview that is Christian and biblical, clearly. You’ve shared that.

How did that start for you? How did you come to know Christ in a personal way? You shared a little bit about that in the earlier service.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, a little more so. I grew up in southern California. I went to church. But I was going to be an NBA basketball star.

MR GRAHAM: There you go. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So – but when I headed off to the United States Military Academy, in my freshman year there were two older cadets – they would have both been juniors, if I recall correctly – who were holding a bible study, and they offered cookies. I was all in. (Laughter.)

But more seriously, they brought me to Jesus and they taught me how to read the Bible. My walk with the Lord really began with them, and it has been with me ever since. And my faith grows as I travel around the world and I watch people. I’ll have people come tug on my sleeve and thank me for being a Christian, for being a leader. It reminds me of the centrality of who Jesus Christ is in my life, the responsibility that I have to share that each time I get an opportunity to do so, and reinforces my faith and understanding that it is only through him that good things will happen in the world.

MR GRAHAM: It’s really incredible for – to see how President Trump has surrounded himself with people like Mike Pompeo who are believers and followers of Jesus. (Applause.) Like Mike Pence, who you know quite well from the Midwest, Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, of course, and our own Governor Rick Perry, who is here, now retired from the Cabinet. But it’s very important for us who are believers and followers of Jesus that we know people who are leading our country seek God and seek God’s wisdom, and thank you for doing that.

And this man’s light shines, and I can tell you up close and personal he’s warm, he’s winsome, just as he appears here. Thank you for being so genuine in your faith and open about your faith. That’s an inspiration for every one of us. If the Secretary of State of the United States of America can be an ambassador for Christ first, then I know we all can as well.

One of the key issues for us thinking about world view and our view of the world and the Bible is the sanctity of life. And you see it because life is valuable, because life is created by God, as you talked about. We believe life is sacred and that we are therefore very much pro-life. We – from the womb to the tomb, all the way through. That’s why we started two pregnancy centers plus a mobile unit. We’re saving babies and we say, Mr. Secretary, that we are pro-life in our beliefs and pro-love in our actions. And that’s salt and light that’s being – making a difference. That’s being an ambassador.

Tell us your views on life and the sanctity of life. I know you have some.

SECRETARY POMPEO: So you all have the right end of the stick on this, and that’s important. Never walk away from that. Never round edges on that central issue of human dignity and protecting every human life.

I get a chance to work on this now all around the world. We are an enormously generous nation. We provide humanitarian assistance all across the globe to some of the most difficult places, and we do real good. It is unfortunate that from time to time, under certain administrations, some of that money goes to underwriting the termination of life, to abortions. This President has said no, we’re not going to do that. And I, as the Secretary of State, get the chance to enforce that. We underwrite these places. We have to make sure that no U.S. taxpayer dollars, none of the money that you provide, will ever go to funding an organization that is connected to abortion. (Applause.)

MR GRAHAM: How many of you know that we have a Supreme Court vacancy now? And we are at the tipping point on the issue of life in America. We really are. I believe – I tell young people all the time – you hear a lot about millennials. I say, “You can be the generation that ends this holocaust in America,” and we’re getting close.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Amen.

MR GRAHAM: And we need to pray for our President as he appoints the next justice of the Supreme Court, pray that God will give him wisdom and that that will go well.

Let’s talk a little bit more about the Middle East. I know – in fact, we’ve met I think somewhere along the way, but I got to sit down with the President – with the Secretary, rather, and a few other Christian leaders in your office, in your conference room actually. And we talked about the situation in Jerusalem and moving the embassy there, but beyond that trying to create some kind of an agreement with the Arab nations and Israel. We had a time of prayer. The Secretary expressed his heart and intentions on that and now, as you mentioned, it’s happening. It’s happening with this recent agreement, the Abraham agreement.

Can you tell us a little bit more, a little inside scoop on some of that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: The Abraham Accords are the classic overnight success that took forever. (Laughter.) There had been so much work, and the President had made this such a priority. He first laid out his vision for peace in the Middle East. We then recognized that, in the end, the problem wasn’t the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis that was driving so much of the harm. It was the threat from Iran.

And when we made that shift, that we said we’re going to defend and we’re going to work with the people of Israel, we’re going to build our coalitions that respect and honor them and recognize their right to exist, that was the thing that unlocked the key that gave us this incredible opportunity. And now truly remarkable leaders of multiple faiths have said we recognize Israel’s right to exist; it is indeed the Jewish homeland, but we’re going to partner with them. We’re going to work with them. We will pray together. Right? Those of you who had the privilege to travel to Israel have seen, right? You’ve been to the Temple Mount. You’ve seen al-Aqsa Mosque. You’ve seen where these three religions come together.

And we now have an enormous opportunity to build out on what happened this week and hopefully create a lasting set of understandings that will create a much less dangerous Middle East and give Christians that are in places like Iraq and Christians that are in Syria and Christians who are in Lebanon a greater chance to practice their faith without being oppressed by their leaders. (Applause.)

MR GRAHAM: One of the things that we pray about is the blessing and the protection of God upon America. I thank you for your reference to the Founding Fathers. There are a lot of people who want to seemingly rewrite American history that somehow it started in a bad way and continues in a bad way. We love America and I know you do. (Applause.)

Tell us your thoughts of history a little bit and in this whole cultural, cancel culture environment that we’re in right now, how can we as Christians think well of our country and love our country? Can we love our country like we want to?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Amen, amen.

MR GRAHAM: Yeah.

SECRETARY POMPEO: We not only can, we must. It’s actually – Pastor Graham, it’s why I picked this topic this morning to talk about. I served as America’s diplomat to the world, but I am keenly aware that conflict and strife here in the United States undermines my capacity to be a beacon, to have this most exceptional nation in the history of civilization be that light to the world.

And so when I – to your point, when I see people suggesting that somehow this nation didn’t start with this founding in 1776, where our forefathers declared we’re going to make a more perfect union, and that we work on this every day and that we strive towards it, I think there’s two things. One, we have to do this in our civic life in the way we carry ourselves in the world; but second, we need to return to the founders’ central understandings about faith and how this Judeo-Christian nation is central to the world and we must stand with it and we can’t let anybody try and rewrite history to suggest otherwise. It is an absolute imperative that we stand on these traditions and continue to build them up. It’s for our kids and for our grandkids. It’s absolutely imperative. (Applause.)

MR GRAHAM: Yes. And how – this is an election year, and we all know that. Interestingly enough, in 2016, 25 million people who identified themselves as evangelical Christians did not vote. Many were unregistered to vote. Here at Prestonwood, we want you to register to vote. We pray that you will vote. We are asking you to vote.

What is our civic responsibility just to participate, Secretary, and how can we be involved and how can we pray for you, our President, and our country right now?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So we should pray that the elections that we’ll have in 40-some days now will be safe and secure and that everyone’s vote will be counted precisely once. (Laughter and applause.) And I just – I am reminded when I travel the world and we try to help countries build out election systems, and we spend a lot of our time in – I went to Guyana because they had their first democratic election in an awfully long time, and it was amazing to see the responses – people alongside the road for America coming to help them build out a democratic system in their country and to stand – when there was fraud in their vote counting to say we weren’t going to accept it, and we’ve – we worked to get it right. We have a responsibility.

As the Secretary of State I’m not allowed to do politics, but I can do duty, and it is everyone’s duty to be counted, to stand up and express your preference, the things that you want, and to go to the polling place and exercise that freedom that we have been given and that our officers and security teams will ensure that we have the opportunity to go vote. Go exercise that right and make sure every one of your friends does the same, and then the Lord will pass upon it and we will come out of this election a stronger, better nation. I am confident of that.

MR GRAHAM: Amen. (Applause.) So register and vote. We do pray for our President, Vice President, and you, Mike Pompeo, and the entire Cabinet. But we have a very unique privilege today to pray for this man that God has brought our way, and hasn’t he blessed us today just with his words? And thank you. (Applause.)

So I want you to stand with me and the Secretary, and I’m going to pray for him with you, and we’re going to ask God’s favor and faithfulness, which is always present, to continue to be upon him. I know God’s presence is with him, and we want to pray to that end.

Lord, we thank you that you have called us to be ambassadors, ambassadors for Christ, and that you have uniquely and strategically placed this man in his office and assignment, and in your providence and your divine plan he is there representing you, our nation, the Constitution. We thank you that he so overtly and openly lets his light shine. We pray for his wife, his son, his family. We pray that you would watch over him with your peace, body, mind, soul, and strength, that he would love you with all his heart and love our neighbors, neighbors here in this country and neighbors around the world that you’ve put in his heart to do.

Where there is despair, may he be a light of hope. Give him joy in this journey. Give him peace and make him a peacemaker. Lord, give him faith, the strength that he needs, to do the job that you have given him – a huge job, a big assignment. And literally, so often the weight of governments and the world and this country is on this man’s shoulders, so we pray that you would help him by your strength to bear this up and that his faith – so strong and true – would sustain him and give him wisdom. And as we honor him today, we thank you that he turns that honor back to you.

Lord, we pray for our nation. We pray for peace in the world. We pray for our President, President Trump and Vice President Pence, this Cabinet. And we pray, oh God, in the selection of a Supreme Court justice that your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. We know your heart is for every baby, born and unborn, that you are the giver and the author of life. We pray that we could make a difference where we are. And oh God, we promise, we pledge to pray for Mike Pompeo and, Lord, that you will continue to use him for your glory in Jesus’ name, and everyone said, “Amen.” Amen. Thank you, Secretary. (Applause.)

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    Good morning. It is my pleasure to be with you today, even if only through a video screen. Thank you very much to Shinshu University and my hosts for your kind invitation to join the list of distinguished speakers, panelists, and participants in today’s important event. It is my great privilege to be here today representing the women and men of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and I look forward to speaking with you about some of our important work over the past year enforcing the federal criminal laws.
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  • United States Reaches Proposed Settlement with Ranch Owner to Restore Creek and Wetlands and Pay Damages for Trespass
    In Crime News
    The U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that they have reached a proposed settlement with John Raftopoulos, Diamond Peak Cattle Company LLC and Rancho Greco Limited LLC (collectively, the defendants) to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) involving unauthorized discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States and trespass on federal public lands in northwest Moffat County, Colorado.
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  • Department of Justice Highlights Work Combating Anti-Semitic Acts
    In Crime News
    Today, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen presented remarks highlighting the Department of Justice’s work combating anti-Semitic acts at a virtual conference hosted by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo entitled “Ancient Hatred, Modern Medium”—the first ever government-sponsored event focused on online anti-Semitism. Deputy Attorney General Rosen described just a few of the Department of Justice’s many recent accomplishments in combating anti-Semitism, focusing on social media and the internet. His remarks as prepared for delivery are available here, and the full State Department conference may be viewed here.
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  • Disaster Recovery: HUD Should Take Additional Action to Assess Community Development Block Grant Fraud Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO identified four categories of fraud risks facing the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) from 2007 to 2020, including risks from contractors, disaster recovery applicants, grantees, and others, as shown below. In total, we identified 78 cases from Department of Justice (DOJ) public announcements and 110 HUD Office of Inspector General (OIG) enforcement cases. For example, in 2012 following Hurricane Sandy, a New Jersey couple applied for disaster assistance and fraudulently received $79,000 in CDBG-DR funds, according to HUD OIG records. The couple was convicted of conspiracy, falsification, and theft and was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. The funding was for a seaside property they fraudulently claimed was their primary residence, but was later determined to be a summer vacation home that was ineligible for assistance. GAO also found that the CDBG-DR operates in a decentralized risk environment that may make it vulnerable to fraud since CDBG-DR funds flow through a number of entities before reaching their intended beneficiaries. In addition, the risk environment in which CDBG-DR operates may contribute to negative financial impacts, such as improper payments. Fraud can have nonfinancial impacts as well, such as fraudulent contractors obtaining a competitive advantage and preventing other businesses from obtaining contracts. Fraud Risks of Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) HUD has taken some steps to assess fraud risks agency-wide. For example, HUD conducts an agency-wide assessment of risks through a Front-End Risk Assessment, which also considers fraud risks. In 2020, HUD redesigned its agency-level approach to evaluate fraud risks through its Fraud Risk Management Maturity Model. While HUD has taken some steps to assess fraud risks agency-wide, GAO found that HUD has not conducted a comprehensive fraud risk assessment of CDBG-DR, as called for in GAO's Fraud Risk Framework. Further, HUD's current fraud risk approach does not involve relevant stakeholders such as grantees. Leading practices include tailoring the fraud risk assessment to the program and also involving relevant stakeholders responsible for the design and implementation of the program's fraud controls in the assessment process. Ensuring that a fraud risk assessment is completed specifically for CDBG-DR may provide greater assurance that HUD addresses CDBG-DR fraud risks, including ones identified in this report. Why GAO Did This Study In response to a historic string of natural disasters, Congress appropriated approximately $39.5 billion in CDBG-DR grant funds in 2017 through 2019, with most of the funding designated for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, accompanying this unprecedented amount of funding is an increased vulnerability to fraud given that CDBG-DR involves multiple factors. GAO was asked to review a range of disaster recovery issues following the 2017 disaster season. This report addresses: (1) the fraud risks and risk environment of CDBG-DR and their impacts; and (2) the steps HUD has taken to assess fraud risk agency-wide, and specifically for CDBG-DR, in alignment with leading practices. GAO reviewed DOJ public announcements and HUD OIG enforcement cases to identify CDBG-DR fraud risks. GAO assessed HUD's procedures against leading practices in the Fraud Risk Framework. GAO interviewed HUD officials responsible for CDBG-DR and fraud risk assessment; and conducted site visits to Florida and Texas, selected partly for the amount of CDBG-DR funds they received, among other factors.
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  • Court Orders Georgia Defendants to Stop Selling Vitamin D Products as Treatments for Covid-19 and Other Diseases
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  • Freedom of Information Act: Actions Needed to Improve Agency Compliance with Proactive Disclosure Requirements
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 expanded the requirement for agencies to proactively disclose certain records—making the records publicly available without waiting for specific requests. Of the three agencies GAO reviewed—Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Veterans Health Administration (VHA)—only VHA aligned its policies and procedures with applicable Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) proactive disclosure requirements. Although FAA officials stated that the agency has processes to identify and post proactive disclosures, it has not documented these processes. HUD has FOIA regulations, updated in 2017, that address proactive disclosure, but its standard operating procedures have outdated sections that do not reflect statutory requirements. GAO also found that HUD, VHA, and FAA did not fully comply with the statutory reporting requirements and Department of Justice's (DOJ) guidance to accurately report proactive disclosures. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 requires agencies to report the number of records the FOIA and program offices proactively disclosed each fiscal year. From fiscal years 2017 through 2019, HUD incorrectly reported zero proactive disclosures, while VHA and FAA did not track and report all required categories of proactive disclosures in fiscal year 2019 (see table). Selected Agencies' Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Offices' Reported Proactive Disclosures Fiscal year Federal Aviation Administration Housing and Urban Development Veterans Health Administration 2019 8 0 16 2018 89,687 0 0 2017 90,486 0 58 2016 68,046 12 0 Source: FOIA.gov. | GAO-21-254 DOJ's Office of Information Policy (OIP) is responsible for encouraging agencies' compliance with FOIA, including overseeing the Annual FOIA Report that agencies submit to OIP. OIP told GAO that it asked agencies that report zero proactive disclosures to confirm that this was accurate, but it did not follow up with these agencies. For example, OIP asked HUD officials to confirm that HUD intentionally reported zero proactive disclosures, but did not ask why HUD had zero proactive disclosures. In addition, GAO's review of annual FOIA data found that 25 of 118 agencies reported zero proactive disclosures in fiscal years 2018 and 2019. OIP said that agencies with a low volume of requests may have fewer records to proactively disclose. However, by not following up with agencies that report zero proactive disclosures, OIP is not using an available tool that may strengthen its efforts to encourage agencies to make required disclosures. OIP and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)'s Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) officials stated that making proactive disclosures accessible is a challenge for agencies. To assist agencies in addressing such challenges, OGIS periodically reviews agencies' compliance with FOIA and recently issued a report that included strategies for making proactive disclosures accessible. Why GAO Did This Study FOIA, enacted into law more than 50 years ago, requires federal agencies to provide the public with access to government records and information, including through proactive disclosures. FOIA proactive disclosures enhance transparency by ensuring that certain information about the operations and activities of the government is publicly available. GAO was asked to review federal agencies' efforts to implement FOIA requirements regarding proactive disclosures. This report assesses the extent to which selected agencies (1) aligned their policies and procedures with FOIA requirements, and (2) tracked and reported these disclosures. GAO also assessed the effectiveness of the tools, resources, and oversight provided by DOJ and NARA to address known challenges to agencies' FOIA compliance. GAO selected three agencies—FAA, HUD, and VHA—that reflect, among other things, a range in the agency-reported number of FOIA requests received and records proactively disclosed. GAO reviewed DOJ, NARA, FAA, HUD, and VHA documents and interviewed agency officials.
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    A U.S. Department of State employee and his spouse pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods. The guilty pleas took place before U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane, who has scheduled sentencing for March 18, 2021, for both defendants.
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  • Quantadyn Corporation And Owner Settle False Claims Act Allegations of Bribery To Obtain Government Contracts For Simulators
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that QuantaDyn Corporation (QuantaDyn), headquartered in Ashburn, Virginia, has agreed to resolve civil claims arising from allegations that it engaged in a bribery scheme to steer government contracts for training simulators to the company, as part of a broader settlement that includes a guilty plea by the company.  As part of the plea agreement, QuantaDyn has agreed to pay $37,757,713.91 in restitution, which also will resolve the company’s civil False Claims Act liability for the scheme.  William T. Dunn Jr., the majority owner, President, and Chief Executive Officer of QuantaDyn, has separately paid $500,000 to resolve his personal False Claims Act liability. 
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    The Justice Department announced today that a federal court in Orlando, Florida, permanently enjoined Advanced Tax Services Inc. and Genson Financial Group LLC from preparing federal tax returns for others and ordered the businesses to disgorge $710,191.55, jointly and severally, representing the ill-gotten gains that they received for the preparation of tax returns. The court also entered permanent injunctions and disgorgement judgments against defendants Lenorris Lamoute and Dosuld Pierre, whom the court found prepared tax returns for compensation at Advanced Tax Services. The order was entered on default because the defendants failed to defend against the government’s allegations.
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  • Passengers with Disabilities: Airport Accessibility Barriers and Practices and DOT’s Oversight of Airlines’ Disability-Related Training
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Passengers with disabilities face infrastructure, information, and customer service barriers at U.S. airports, according to representatives of selected airports, disability advocacy organizations, as well as a review of relevant literature. Infrastructure barriers can include complex terminal layouts and long distances between gates and can be difficult for some to navigate. Essential travel information is not always available in a format accessible to all. For example, a person with hearing loss could miss crucial gate information that is solely provided over a loudspeaker. A passenger might not receive appropriately sensitive service, such as wheelchair assistance, at the airport, although the service provided is required by the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA) regulations. According to stakeholders, while no solution meets all needs, a number of practices can help reduce or eliminate some of these barriers to equal access at airports. For example, some selected airports use external disability community and passenger groups to proactively engage in identifying barriers and develop solutions. Other airports have implemented technology-based solutions, such as mobile phone applications to make airport navigation easier. Examples of Stakeholder-Identified Features to Assist Airport Passengers with Disabilities The Office of Aviation Consumer Protection within the Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for oversight of airlines' compliance with the ACAA. In 2008, DOT updated its entire ACAA regulation, including adding new training requirements for airline personnel, such as requiring training to be recurrent. Following this update, DOT conducted outreach to domestic and foreign airlines on the changes and reviewed airlines' disability training sessions and materials. Agency officials said that in recent years, DOT has conducted reviews of airlines' training only when passengers' complaints indicate a possible problem, as officials' analyses have not shown training generally to be a significant cause of service violations. DOT officials and stakeholders said other factors, such as limited availability of staff to assist passengers with disabilities, at times may affect the service passengers with disabilities receive. DOT is assessing some of these factors through the statutorily mandated ACAA Advisory Committee, formed in late 2019 to make recommendations to improve accessibility to air travel. The committee met in 2020, established three subcommittees, and plans to reconvene by summer 2021. Why GAO Did This Study Approximately 43 million people in the United States have some type of disability, which may affect mobility, vision, hearing, and cognition. Without accessible airport facilities and accommodations—such as appropriate assistance from the check-in counter to the gate, or effective communication of flight information—air travel for people with disabilities can be extremely challenging. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 includes provisions for GAO to review leading airport accessibility practices for passengers with disabilities, as well as required training for airline and contract service personnel who assist these passengers within the airport. This report examines, among other objectives: stakeholder-identified barriers that passengers with disabilities face when accessing airport facilities, accessibility practices to assist passengers with disabilities, as well as how DOT has overseen airlines' disability-related training. GAO reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, DOT documents, literature, as well as information describing disability training provided by selected airlines and contractors. GAO interviewed a non-generalizable sample of stakeholders, including those at 16 U.S. airports selected based on size and geography, eight large and low-cost domestic airlines selected based on the greatest number of disability-related passenger complaints and enplanements, and six aviation service contractors working for those airlines. GAO also conducted interviews with DOT officials and 10 disability advocacy organizations, among others. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or krauseh@gao.gov.
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  • Environmental Liabilities: NASA’s Reported Financial Liabilities Have Grown, and Several Factors Contribute to Future Uncertainties
    In U.S GAO News
    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) estimated cleanup and restoration across the agency would cost $1.9 billion as of fiscal year 2020, up from $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2019. This reflects an increase of $724 million, or 61 percent, from 2014. NASA identified contamination at 14 centers around the country, as of 2019. Five of the 14 centers decreased their environmental liabilities from 2014 to 2019, but liability growth at the other centers offset those decreases and contributed to the net increase in environmental liabilities. Santa Susana Field Laboratory, California, had about $502 million in environmental liabilities growth during this period (see fig.). Nearly all this growth resulted from California soil cleanup requirements that NASA did not anticipate. These NASA Centers Reported Increases or Decreases in Restoration Project Environmental Liabilities Greater Than $10 Million Between Fiscal Years 2014 and 2019 NASA's reported fiscal year 2019 environmental liabilities estimate for restoration projects does not include certain costs, and some factors may affect NASA's future environmental liabilities, potentially increasing or decreasing the federal government's fiscal exposure. Certain costs are not included in the fiscal year 2019 estimate because some projects are in a developing stage where NASA needs to gather more information to fully estimate cleanup costs. Further, NASA limits its restoration project estimates to 30 years, as the agency views anything beyond 30 years as not reasonably estimable. Sixty of NASA's 115 open restoration projects in fiscal year 2019 are expected to last longer than 30 years. With regard to factors that could affect future environmental liabilities, NASA is assessing its centers for contamination of some chemicals it had not previously identified but does not yet know the impact associated cleanup will have on the agency's liabilities in part because standards for cleaning up these chemicals do not yet exist. New cleanup requirements for emerging contaminants could increase NASA's environmental liabilities and create additional fiscal exposure for the federal government. Additionally, NASA is committed, through an agreement with the state of California, to clean soil at Santa Susana Field Laboratory to a certain standard, but the agency issued a decision in September 2020 to pursue a risk-based cleanup standard, which the state of California has opposed. According to NASA, a risk-based cleanup standard at Santa Susana Field Laboratory could decrease NASA's environmental liabilities and reduce the federal government's fiscal exposure by about $355 million. Decades of NASA's research for space exploration relied on some chemicals that can be hazardous to human health and the environment. NASA identified 14 centers around the country with hazardous chemicals that require environmental cleanup and restoration. NASA's Environmental Compliance and Restoration Program oversees the agency's environmental cleanup. NASA's environmental liabilities estimate is reported annually in the agency's financial statement. Federal accounting standards require agencies responsible for contamination to estimate and report their future cleanup costs when they are both probable and reasonably estimable. This report describes (1) NASA's environmental liabilities for restoration projects from fiscal years 2014 to 2019—the most recent data available at the time of our review—and (2) factors that could contribute to uncertainties in NASA's current or future environmental liabilities. GAO reviewed NASA financial statements, guidance, and other relevant reports and interviewed NASA officials from headquarters and three centers, selected because of changes in their reported liabilities. NASA provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which were incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Allison Bawden at (202) 512-3841 or bawdena@gao.gov.
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  • Whistleblower Protection: Actions Needed to Strengthen Selected Intelligence Community Offices of Inspector General Programs
    In U.S GAO News
    The six Intelligence Community (IC)-element Offices of Inspectors General (OIG) that GAO reviewed collectively received 5,794 complaints from October 1, 2016, through September 30, 2018, and opened 960 investigations based on those complaints. Of the 960 investigations, IC-element OIGs had closed 873 (about 91 percent) as of August 2019, with an average case time ranging from 113 to 410 days to complete. Eighty-seven cases remained open as of August 2019, with the average open case time being 589 days. The number of investigations at each IC-element OIG varied widely based on factors such as the number of complaints received and each OIG's determination on when to convert a complaint into an investigation. An OIG may decide not to convert a complaint into an investigation if the complaint lacks credibility or sufficient detail, or may refer the complainant to IC-element management or to another OIG if the complaint involves matters that are outside the OIG's authority to investigate. Four of the IC-element OIGs—the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) OIG, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) OIG, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) OIG, and the National Security Agency (NSA) OIG—have a 180-days or fewer timeliness objective for their investigations. The procedures for the remaining two OIGs—the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (ICIG) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) OIG—state that investigations should be conducted and reported in a timely manner. Other than those prescribed by statute, the ICIG and NGA OIG have not established timeliness objectives for their investigations. Establishing timeliness objectives could improve the OIGs' ability to efficiently manage investigation time frames and to inform potential whistleblowers of these time frames. All of the selected IC-element OIG investigations units have implemented some quality assurance standards and processes, such as including codes of conduct and ethical and professional standards in their guidance. However, the extent to which they have implemented processes to maintain guidance, conduct routine quality assurance reviews, and plan investigations varies (see table). Implementation of Quality Assurance Standards and Practices by Selected IC-element OIG Investigations Units   ICIG CIA OIG DIA OIG NGA OIG NRO OIG NSA OIG Regular updates of investigation guidance or procedures — — — ✓ — ✓ Internal quality assurance review routinely conducted — — ✓ — — — External quality assurance review routinely conducted — ✓ — — — — Required use of documented investigative plans ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ — ✓ Legend: ✓ = standard or practice implemented; — = standard or practice not implemented. Source: GAO analysis of IC-element OIG investigative policies and procedures. | GAO-20-699 The Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency's (CIGIE) Quality Standards for Investigations states that organizations should facilitate due professional care by establishing written investigative policies and procedures via handbooks, manuals, or similar mechanisms that are revised regularly according to evolving laws, regulations, and executive orders. By establishing processes to regularly update their procedures, the ICIG, CIA OIG, DIA OIG, and NRO OIG could better ensure that their policies and procedures will remain consistent with evolving laws, regulations, Executive Orders, and CIGIE standards. Additionally, CIGIE's Quality Standards for Federal Offices of Inspector General requires OIGs to establish and maintain a quality assurance program. The standards further state that internal and external quality assurance reviews are the two components of an OIG's quality assurance program, which is an evaluative effort conducted by reviewers independent of the unit being reviewed to ensure that the overall work of the OIG meets appropriate standards. Developing quality assurance programs that incorporate both types of reviews, as appropriate, could help ensure that the IC-element OIGs adhere to OIG procedures and prescribed standards, regulations, and legislation, as well as identify any areas in need of improvement. Further, CIGIE Quality Standards for Investigations states that case-specific priorities must be established and objectives developed to ensure that tasks are performed efficiently and effectively. CIGIE's standards state that this may best be achieved, in part, by preparing case-specific plans and strategies. Establishing a requirement that investigators use documented investigative plans for all investigations could facilitate NRO OIG management's oversight of investigations and help ensure that investigative steps are prioritized and performed efficiently and effectively. CIA OIG, DIA OIG, and NGA OIG have training plans or approaches that are consistent with CIGIE's quality standards for investigator training. However, while ICIG, NRO OIG, and NSA OIG have basic training requirements and tools to manage training, those OIGs have not established training requirements for their investigators that are linked to the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities, appropriate to their career progression, and part of a documented training plan. Doing so would help the ICIG, NRO OIG, and NSA OIG ensure that their investigators collectively possess a consistent set of professional proficiencies aligned with CIGIE's quality standards throughout their entire career progression. Most of the IC-element OIGs GAO reviewed consistently met congressional reporting requirements for the investigations and semiannual reports GAO reviewed. The ICIG did not fully meet one reporting requirement in seven of the eight semiannual reports that GAO reviewed. However, its most recent report, which covers April through September 2019, met this reporting requirement by including statistics on the total number and type of investigations it conducted. Further, three of the six selected IC-element OIGs—the DIA, NGA, and NRO OIGs—did not consistently document notifications to complainants in the reprisal investigation case files GAO reviewed. Taking steps to ensure that notifications to complainants in such cases occur and are documented in the case files would provide these OIGs with greater assurance that they consistently inform complainants of the status of their investigations and their rights as whistleblowers. Whistleblowers play an important role in safeguarding the federal government against waste, fraud, and abuse. The OIGs across the government oversee investigations of whistleblower complaints, which can include protecting whistleblowers from reprisal. Whistleblowers in the IC face unique challenges due to the sensitive and classified nature of their work. GAO was asked to review whistleblower protection programs managed by selected IC-element OIGs. This report examines (1) the number and time frames of investigations into complaints that selected IC-element OIGs received in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, and the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have established timeliness objectives for these investigations; (2) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have implemented quality standards and processes for their investigation programs; (3) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have established training requirements for investigators; and (4) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have met notification and reporting requirements for investigative activities. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in June 2020. Information that the IC elements deemed sensitive has been omitted. GAO selected the ICIG and the OIGs of five of the largest IC elements for review. GAO analyzed time frames for all closed investigations of complaints received in fiscal years 2017 and 2018; reviewed OIG policies, procedures, training requirements, and semiannual reports to Congress; conducted interviews with 39 OIG investigators; and reviewed a selection of case files for senior leaders and reprisal cases from October 1, 2016, through March 31, 2018. GAO is making 23 recommendations, including that selected IC-element OIGs establish timeliness objectives for investigations, implement or enhance quality assurance programs, establish training plans, and take steps to ensure that notifications to complainants in reprisal cases occur. The selected IC-element OIGs concurred with the recommendations and discussed steps they planned to take to implement them. For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604, farrellb@gao.gov or Brian M. Mazanec at (202) 512-5130, mazanecb@gao.gov.
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  • Conflict Minerals: Actions Needed to Assess Progress Addressing Armed Groups’ Exploitation of Minerals
    In U.S GAO News
    The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) disclosure rule broadly requires that certain companies submit a filing that describes their efforts to conduct a reasonable country-of-origin inquiry (RCOI), and depending on the preliminary determination, perform due diligence to determine the source and chain of custody of their conflict minerals—gold and specific ores for tantalum, tin, and tungsten. After conducting RCOI, an estimated 50 percent of companies filing in 2019 reported preliminary determinations as to whether the conflict minerals came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or adjoining countries (covered countries) or from scrap or recycled sources. The percentage of companies able to make such preliminary determinations increased significantly between 2014 and 2015, and has since leveled off, as shown below. Source of Conflict Minerals in Products as Determined by Companies' Reasonable Country-of-Origin Inquiries, Reporting Years 2014-2019 However, fewer companies reported such determinations after conducting due diligence. In 2019, an estimated 85 percent of companies made preliminary determinations that required them to then perform due diligence. Of those companies, an estimated 17 percent determined that the minerals came from covered countries—a significantly lower percentage of companies making that determination than the 37 percent reported in 2017 or the 35 percent in 2018. Since 2014, companies have noted various challenges they face in making such determinations; however, SEC staff told GAO that they did not know what factors contributed to the decrease in 2019. We will examine this issue during our future review. While the Department of State (State) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have implemented the U.S. conflict minerals strategy since 2011, they have not established performance indicators for all of the strategic objectives. For example, they have no such indicators for the objectives of strengthening regional and international efforts and promoting due diligence and responsible trade through public outreach. Without performance indicators, the agencies cannot comprehensively assess their progress toward achieving these objectives or the overall goal of addressing armed groups' exploitation of conflict minerals. Armed groups in eastern DRC continue to commit severe human rights abuses and to profit from the exploitation of “conflict minerals,” according to State. Provisions in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act required, among other things, that State, USAID, and the SEC take certain actions to promote peace and security. In 2011, State created the U.S. conflict minerals strategy in consultation with USAID to address armed groups' exploitation of conflict minerals. In 2012, the SEC also promulgated regulations containing disclosure and reporting requirements for companies that use conflict minerals from covered countries. The act also included a provision for GAO to annually assess, among other things, the SEC regulations' effectiveness in promoting peace and security. In this report, GAO examines, among other things, how companies responded to the SEC conflict minerals disclosure rule when filing in 2019 and the extent to which State and USAID assessed progress toward the U.S. conflict minerals strategy's objectives and goal. GAO analyzed a generalizable sample of SEC filings, reviewed documents, and interviewed U.S. officials State, in consultation with USAID, should develop performance indicators for assessing progress toward the strategic objectives and goal of the U.S. conflict minerals strategy. State and USAID concurred with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Kimberly M. Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or gianopoulosk@gao.gov.
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  • Department of Energy: Improved Performance Planning Could Strengthen Technology Transfer
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Energy (DOE) and its national labs have taken several steps to address potential barriers to technology transfer—the process of providing DOE technologies, knowledge, or expertise to other entities. GAO characterized these barriers as (1) gaps in funding, (2) legal and administrative barriers, and (3) lack of alignment between DOE research and industry needs. For example, the “valley of death” is a gap between the end of public funding and start of private-sector funding. DOE partly addresses this gap with its Technology Commercialization Fund, which provides grants of $100,000 to $1.5 million to DOE researchers to advance promising technologies with private-sector partners. Further, DOE's Energy I-Corps program trains researchers to commercialize new technologies and to identify industry needs and potential customers. However, DOE has not assessed how many and which types of researchers would benefit from such training. Without doing so, DOE will not have the information needed to ensure its training resources target the researchers who would benefit most. Illustration of Funding Gap for Commercializing New Technologies DOE plans and tracks the performance of its technology transfer activities by setting strategic goals and objectives and annually collecting department-wide technology transfer measures, such as the number of patented inventions and licenses. However, the department does not have objective and measurable performance goals to assess progress toward the broader strategic goals and objectives it developed. For example, without a performance goal for the number of DOE researchers involved in technology transfer activities and a measure of such involvement, DOE cannot assess the extent to which it has met its objective to encourage national laboratory personnel to pursue technology transfer activities. Internal control standards for government agencies call for management to define objectives in measurable terms, either qualitative or quantitative, so that performance toward those objectives can be assessed. Moreover, DOE has not aligned the 79 existing measures that it collects with its goals and objectives, nor has it prioritized them. Some lab stakeholders said that collecting and reporting these measures is burdensome. Prior GAO work has found that having a large number of performance measures may risk creating a confusing excess of data that will obscure rather than clarify performance issues. Researchers at DOE and its 17 national labs regularly make contributions to new energy technologies, such as more efficient batteries for electric vehicles. Technology transfer officials at the labs help these researchers license intellectual property and partner with private-sector companies to bring these technologies to market. However, several recent reports have highlighted barriers and inconsistencies in technology transfer at DOE, including a 2015 commission report that found barriers related to the costs of collaboration and low maturity level of many DOE technologies. This report examines (1) steps DOE has taken to address barriers to technology transfer and (2) the extent to which DOE plans and tracks the performance of its technology transfer and commercialization activities. GAO analyzed DOE documents on technology transfer and spoke with officials at DOE and seven national labs, as well as with representatives of universities and private-sector companies. GAO selected labs across a range of DOE activities and based on their technology transfer activities. GAO recommends that DOE assess researchers' needs for commercialization training and develop objective, quantifiable, and measurable performance goals and a limited number of related performance measures for its technology transfer efforts. DOE concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Candice Wright at (202) 512-6888 or WrightC@gao.gov.
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  • Owner of Bitcoin Exchange Sentenced to Prison for Money Laundering
    In Crime News
    A Bulgarian national who was convicted by a federal jury for his role in a transnational and multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud American victims was sentenced today to 121 months in prison.
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  • Three Additional States Ask Court To Join Justice Department Antitrust Suit Against Google
    In Crime News
    Today, the Attorneys General of Michigan and Wisconsin filed for permission to join the antitrust lawsuit filed by the United States and eleven other state Attorneys General against monopolist Google. This follows a similar recent motion by the California Attorney General to join the lawsuit on December 11, 2020.
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  • Justice Department Calls on San Francisco Mayor to End “One Congregant” Rule for Places of Worship to Comply with the Constitution
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today sent a letter to the San Francisco mayor explaining that the city’s policy of only allowing a single worshiper in places of worship regardless of their size, while allowing multiple patrons in other indoor settings including gyms, tattoo parlors, hair salons, massage studios, and daycares, is contrary to the Constitution and the nation’s best tradition of religious freedom.
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  • Two Former Louisiana Correctional Officers Sentenced for Cover Up Following Death of an Inmate
    In Crime News
    Two Louisiana women, former jail deputies, were sentenced today to over a year in prison and six months in prison respectively for their roles in covering up a civil rights violation arising out of an inmate’s death at the St. Bernard Parish Prison (SBPP).
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  • Austria Travel Advisory
    In Travel
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  • Secretary Blinkens Call with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Doctor, Clinic Owner and Staff Charged with Falsifying Clinical Trial Data
    In Crime News
    In an indictment unsealed today, a federal grand jury in Miami charged a Florida medical doctor and three others for their roles in an alleged scheme to falsify clinical trial data.
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  • Six Russian GRU Officers Charged in Connection with Worldwide Deployment of Destructive Malware and Other Disruptive Actions in Cyberspace
    In Crime News
    Defendants’ Malware [Read More…]
  • Texas Woman Charged with Fraudulently Obtaining Nearly $2 Million in COVID Relief Funds
    In Crime News
    A Texas woman has been taken into custody on allegations she fraudulently obtained more than $1.9 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas.
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