Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s Moscow Mechanism report on Belarus released on November 5 describes sustained human rights violations and abuses committed on a massive scale and with impunity by the Belarusian authorities during the fraudulent August 9 election and its aftermath. The abuses against peaceful demonstrators, opposition activists, and journalists include torture, arbitrary detention, and curtailment of the exercise of freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.
We remain inspired by the resilience and dignity of the Belarusian people. The United States continues to call on the Belarusian authorities to cease their crackdown and heed the demands of the Belarusian people for free and fair elections under independent observation.
The recommendations in this report provide the Belarusian authorities with a roadmap out of this crisis. This includes: a robust OSCE/ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) observation mission; an end to the violence against their own people and ensuring accountability for those found responsible for past abuses; the release of all those who have been unjustly detained; and engagement in meaningful national dialogue with authentic representatives of the political opposition and civil society.
- North Carolina Woman Sentenced for Production and Distribution of Child PornographyBy Sam NewsApril 27, 2021A North Carolina woman was sentenced Monday to 50 years in prison followed by 20 years of supervised release for production and distribution of child pornography.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken Introductory Remarks for Youth Speaker Xiye BastidaBy Sam NewsApril 22, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
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- Special Briefing with Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian P. McKeon, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Principal Advisor to the Administrator Mark Feierstein, and Experts On the Administration’s Budget Proposal for the Department of State and USAID for Fiscal Year 2022By Sam NewsMay 30, 2021Brian P. McKeon, Deputy [Read More…]
- Security Force Assistance: U.S. Advising of Afghan National Army Has Expanded since 2015, and the U.S. Army Has Deployed a New Advising UnitBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) has used a variety of approaches to provide advisors in Afghanistan. For example, the United States has often relied on individual personnel drawn from across the military services to advise Afghan security forces. In 2012, the Army began pulling senior leaders and other personnel with specific ranks and skills from active-duty brigades to form advisor teams. In October 2016, the U.S. Army approved the development of a new force structure to use in advising foreign security forces--the Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB). GAO found that the U.S. advising approach for the Afghan National Army (ANA) under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) mission to train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces--known as Resolute Support--has evolved since 2015 from advising the ANA primarily at the corps level, ministries, and institutions to include tactical-level advising with the ability to accompany the ANA on combat operations with certain limitations. This evolution of the advising approach since 2015 has included three key changes over time: 1. A geographic expansion of advising, and adjustment to originally planned force reductions. 2. Expansion of expeditionary advising and a related increase of U.S. forces. 3. A shift in strategy to allow U.S. forces to accompany and enable ANA tactical units. To support this expanded mission, the military services provided advisors and other personnel, with the Army providing the largest increases. For example, the U.S. Air Force continued to provide advisors from the ministerial down to the tactical level, and the U.S. Marine Corps returned to an advising role in Afghanistan in April 2017, from which it had previously departed in late 2014. The U.S. Army also provided additional personnel as part of an increase in forces approved in 2017, and in early 2018 deployed the first of its new Security Force Assistance Brigades--the 1st SFAB--as part of the over 1,700 Army personnel provided during the year to bolster the advisory mission. DOD's decision to deploy the 1st SFAB resulted in an acceleration of the new unit's planned deployment timelines by at least 8 months, which, combined with other decisions, resulted in several challenges. These challenges included issues related to manning and training the SFAB and providing sufficient enabling forces to support the SFAB's mission in Afghanistan. According to Army officials, the Army is collecting lessons learned from experiences manning, training, and deploying the 1st SFAB to inform the continued development and institutionalization of the SFAB. Why GAO Did This Study Senate Report 115-125 included a provision for GAO to review U.S. advising efforts. This report describes (1) the evolution of the U.S. approach for advising in Afghanistan under Resolute Support, and (2) actions the U.S. military services have taken and plan to take to meet the additional advisor requirements for Afghanistan, and any challenges they may be experiencing. The scope of this work focuses on U.S. efforts to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces under Resolute Support--particularly ANA conventional ground forces. GAO reviewed and analyzed military plans, guidance, and other documents; interviewed officials from DOD and across the military services; and reviewed documentation and other information pertaining to the development, training, and deployment of the SFAB.[Read More…]
- Former Supervisory Corrections Officer Sentenced for Repeatedly Tasing Restrained DetaineeBy Sam NewsNovember 20, 2020Former supervisory corrections officer Mark Bryant, 42, was sentenced today to 5 years in prison for repeatedly tasing a restrained pretrial detainee inside the Cheatham County Jail in Tennessee. In January 2020, a jury in the Middle District of Tennessee convicted Bryant of two counts of violating Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 242, for using excessive force while acting under color of law.[Read More…]
- Abusive Tax Schemes: Offshore Insurance Products and Associated Compliance RisksBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2020Federal law provides certain tax benefits for transactions involving genuine insurance products, including insurance products held offshore. While taxpayers may lawfully hold offshore insurance products, they contain features that make them vulnerable for use in abusive tax schemes. For example, offshore insurance products can be highly technical and individualized, making enforcement challenging, according to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials. Furthermore, insurance is not defined by federal statute, potentially making a determination of what constitutes genuine insurance for federal tax purposes unclear. Offshore micro-captive insurance products, which are made by small insurance companies owned by the businesses they insure, may be abused if the corporate taxpayer improperly claims deductions for payments made to a micro-captive for federal tax purposes. Courts have applied certain considerations to determine whether these deductions can be claimed. For example, one consideration is whether the insurance legitimately distributes risk across participating entities. IRS officials said they expend significant resources reviewing these schemes because of the varied ways insurance companies may work. Offshore variable life insurance products, which are insurance policies with investment components over which the insured has certain control, may be abused if the individual taxpayer fails to meet IRS reporting requirements or pay appropriate federal income taxes. Federal regulations require that taxpayers with certain foreign life insurance accounts report this information to IRS and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. The structure of life insurance products may vary and taxpayers are required to pay taxes based on the underlying type of financial product the policy represents. The figure below shows how noncompliance may occur when taxpayers use life insurance and micro-captive insurance in abusive tax schemes. Abusive Use of Micro-captive and Life Insurance When structured in abusive ways, insurance products held offshore can be designed to aid in unlawful tax evasion by U.S. taxpayers. Two products that IRS has recently warned have the potential for such abuse include micro-captive insurance and variable life insurance policies. GAO was asked to review how taxpayers may abuse offshore insurance products. This report describes (1) how offshore insurance tax shelters provide opportunities for income tax abuse; (2) how offshore micro-captive insurance is used and how it is used in abusive tax schemes; and (3) how offshore variable life insurance is used and how it is used in abusive tax schemes. GAO reviewed IRS tax and information return forms, relevant U.S. case law and IRS guidance, academic and trade publications, and applicable statutes and regulations. GAO also interviewed IRS officials and professionals in the tax preparation and insurance industries. For more information, contact Jessica Lucas-Judy at (202) 512-9110 or LucasJudyJ@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Law Firms Representing Purdue Pharma Agree to Relinquish $1 Million in Settlement with U.S. Trustee ProgramBy Sam NewsApril 29, 2021The Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program (USTP) has entered into a settlement with three law firms representing Purdue Pharma (Purdue) in its ongoing bankruptcy cases. The firms are Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP; and Dechert LLP (the Firms).[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Roula Khalaf of The Financial TimesBy Sam NewsMay 4, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- COVID-19: Federal Efforts Accelerate Vaccine and Therapeutic Development, but More Transparency Needed on Emergency Use AuthorizationsBy Sam NewsNovember 17, 2020Through Operation Warp Speed—a partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DOD)—the federal government is accelerating efforts to develop vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19. A typical vaccine development process can take approximately 10 years or longer, but efforts under Operation Warp Speed seek to greatly accelerate this process by completing key steps simultaneously (see figure). As of October 15, 2020, Operation Warp Speed publicly announced financial support for the development or manufacturing of six COVID-19 vaccine candidates totaling more than $10 billion in obligations. It has also announced financial support for the development of therapeutics, such as a $450 million award to manufacture a monoclonal antibody treatment (a treatment that uses laboratory-made antibodies, which also may be able to serve as a prevention option). Operation Warp Speed Timeline for a Potential Vaccine Candidate Note: An Emergency Use Authorization allows for emergency use of medical products without FDA approval or licensure during a declared emergency, provided certain statutory criteria are met. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may temporarily allow the use of unlicensed or unapproved COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics through emergency use authorizations (EUA), provided there is evidence that the products may be effective and that known and potential benefits outweigh known and potential risks. For vaccines, FDA issued guidance in October 2020 to provide vaccine sponsors with recommendations regarding the evidence FDA needed to support issuance of an EUA. For therapeutics, FDA has issued four EUAs as of November 9, 2020. The evidence to support FDA's COVID-19 therapeutic authorization decisions has not always been transparent, in part because FDA does not uniformly disclose its scientific review of safety and effectiveness data for EUAs, as it does for approvals for new drugs and biologics. Given the gravity of the pandemic, it is important that FDA identify ways to uniformly disclose this information to the public. By doing so, FDA could help improve the transparency of, and ensure public trust in, its EUA decisions. The U.S. had about 10.3 million cumulative reported cases of COVID-19 and about 224,000 reported deaths as of November 12, 2020. Given this catastrophic loss of life as well as the pandemic's effects on the U.S. economy, effective and safe vaccines and therapeutics are more important than ever. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines, (1) efforts of Operation Warp Speed to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutic development; and (2) FDA's use of EUAs for COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines, among other objectives. GAO reviewed federal laws and agency documents, including HHS and DOD information on vaccine and therapeutic development and EUAs as of November 2020. GAO interviewed or received written responses from HHS and DOD officials, and interviewed representatives from vaccine developers and manufacturers, as well as select public health stakeholders and provider groups covering a range of provider types. FDA should identify ways to uniformly disclose to the public the information from its scientific review of safety and effectiveness data when issuing EUAs for therapeutics and vaccines. HHS neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation, but said it shared GAO's goal of transparency and would explore approaches to achieve this goal. For more information, contact Mary Denigan-Macauley at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Alyssa M. Hundrup at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- 2021 U.S. ASPIRE CompetitionBy Sam NewsApril 23, 2021Bureau of Oceans and [Read More…]
- Houston consulting company admits to H-1B visa fraud conspiracyBy Sam NewsJune 2, 2021Cloudgen LLC has pleaded [Read More…]
- Federal Court Permanently Bars Southern Florida Tax Preparer from Preparing ReturnsBy Sam NewsJanuary 28, 2021A federal court in the Southern District of Florida has permanently enjoined a West Palm Beach tax return preparer and her business from preparing federal income tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today. According to the court’s order, it issued the injunction in response to violations of a prior order in the case that had allowed the preparer and her business to prepare returns subject to certain restrictions. In April 2017, the United States filed a complaint against Lena D. Cotton and Professional Accounting LDC, LLC, that alleged the defendants prepared returns with improper education credits, manipulated filing statuses, and improper vehicle deductions, among other issues. In November 2017, the court permanently enjoined both defendants from this and other specific conduct and required defendants to engage a “neutral monitor” to “determin[e] and/or secur[e] compliance” with injunction.[Read More…]
- Defense Logistics: Actions Needed to Improve the Marine Corps’ Equipment Reset Strategies and the Reporting of Total Reset CostsBy Sam NewsAugust 23, 2021The U.S. Marine Corps received approximately $16 billion in appropriated funds between fiscal years 2006 and 2010 for reset of aviation and ground equipment that has been degraded, damaged, and destroyed during oversees contingency operations. Reset encompasses activities for repairing, upgrading, or replacing equipment used in contingency operations. The Marine Corps continues to request funding to reset equipment used in Afghanistan. GAO initiated this review under its authority to address significant issues of broad interest to the Congress. GAO's objectives were to evaluate the extent to which the Marine Corps has made progress toward (1) developing effective reset strategies for both aviation and ground equipment used in Afghanistan and (2) providing accurate estimates of total reset costs.The Marine Corps has developed a strategic plan that addresses the reset of aviation equipment used in operations in Afghanistan and includes the elements of a comprehensive, results-oriented strategic planning framework. However, a reset strategy for ground equipment has not yet been developed. The Marine Corps is taking steps to develop such a strategy; however, the timeline for completing and issuing this strategy is uncertain. Although Marine Corps officials agreed that a reset strategy for ground equipment will be needed, they stated that they do not plan to issue a strategy until there is a better understanding of the dates for drawdown of forces from Afghanistan. While more specific drawdown information is desirable and will be needed to firm up reset plans, the President stated that troops would begin to withdraw in July 2011, working towards a transfer of all security operations to Afghan National Security Forces by 2014. Until the ground equipment reset strategy is issued, establishing firm plans for reset may be difficult for the Marine Corps Logistics Command to effectively manage the rotation of equipment to units to sustain combat operations. It is also uncertain to what extent the Marine Corps plans to align its ground equipment reset strategy with its ground equipment modernization plan. GAO found that the Iraq reset strategy for ground equipment contained no direct reference to the service's equipment modernization plans, leaving unclear the relationship between reset and modernization. A clear alignment of the ground equipment reset strategy for Afghanistan and modernization plans would help to ensure that the identification, development, and integration of warfighting capabilities also factor in equipment reset strategies so that equipment planned for modernization is not unnecessarily repaired. The total costs of reset estimated by the Marine Corps may not be accurate or consistent because of differing definitions of reset that have been used for aviation and ground equipment. These differing definitions exist because Department of Defense (DOD) has not established a single standard definition for use in DOD's budget process. Specifically, the Marine Corps does not include aviation equipment procurement costs when estimating total reset costs. According to Marine Corps officials, procurement costs are excluded because such costs are not consistent with its definition of aviation equipment reset. In contrast, the Marine Corps' definition of reset for ground equipment includes procurement costs to replace theater losses. However, GAO found that the Office of the Secretary of Defense Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation had obtained a procurement cost estimate for Marine Corps aviation equipment as part of its efforts to track reset costs for the department. DOD's Resource Management Decision 700 tasks the Office of the Secretary of Defense Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation to provide annual departmentwide reset updates. GAO recommends that the Secretary of Defense (1) establish a timeline for issuing formal reset planning guidance and a ground equipment reset strategy for equipment used in operations in Afghanistan, (2) provide linkages between the ground equipment reset strategy and the modernization plan, and (3) develop and publish a DOD definition of reset for use in the DOD overseas contingency operations budgeting process. DOD concurred with one and partially concurred with two of the recommendations.[Read More…]
- GAO Audits Involving DOD: Status of Efforts to Schedule and Hold Timely Entrance ConferencesBy Sam NewsAugust 14, 2020GAO began 42 new audits that involved the Department of Defense (DOD) in the third quarter of fiscal year 2020. Of the 42 requested entrance conferences (i.e., initial meetings between agency officials and GAO staff) for those audits, DOD scheduled 41 within 14 days of notification and held all 42 entrance conferences within 30 days of notification. Scheduling was delayed for one entrance conference, which was scheduled 21 days after notification, because DOD and GAO were working to reach agreement on the primary action officer, which is the appropriate office or component within the department that coordinates DOD's response to the audit. The entrance conference was held 8 days after it was scheduled. Entrance conferences allow GAO to communicate its audit objectives and enable agencies to assign key personnel to support the audit work. GAO's agency protocols govern GAO's relationships with audited agencies. These protocols assist GAO in scheduling entrance conferences with key agency officials within 14 days of receiving notice of a new audit. The ability of the Congress to conduct effective oversight of federal agencies is enhanced through the timely completion of GAO audits. In past years, DOD experienced difficulty meeting the protocol target for the timely facilitation of entrance conferences. In Senate Report 116-48 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, the Senate Armed Services Committee included a provision for GAO to review DOD's scheduling and holding of entrance conferences. In this report, GAO's agency protocols govern GAO's relationships with audited agencies. These protocols assist GAO in scheduling entrance conferences with key agency officials within 14 days of receiving notice of a new audit. The ability of the Congress to conduct effective oversight of federal agencies is enhanced through the timely completion of GAO audits. In past years, DOD experienced difficulty meeting the protocol target for the timely facilitation of entrance conferences. In Senate Report 116-48 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, the Senate Armed Services Committee included a provision for GAO to review DOD's scheduling and holding of entrance conferences. In this report, GAO evaluates the extent to which DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days of receiving notice of a new audit, consistent with GAO's agency protocols, and held those conferences within 30 days. This is the third of four quarterly reports that GAO will produce on this topic for fiscal year 2020. In the first two quarterly reports, GAO found that DOD had improved its ability to meet the protocol target. GAO analyzed data on GAO audits involving DOD and initiated in the third quarter of fiscal year 2020 (April 1, 2020, through June 30, 2020). Specifically, GAO identified the number of notification letters requesting entrance conferences that were sent to DOD during that time period. GAO determined the number of days between when DOD received the notification letter for each new audit and when DOD scheduled the entrance conference and assessed whether DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days of notification, which is the time frame identified in GAO's agency protocols. GAO also determined the date that each requested entrance conference was held by collecting this information from the relevant GAO team for each audit and assessed whether DOD held entrance conferences for new audits within 30 days of notification, which was the time frame identified in the mandate for this review For more information, contact Elizabeth Field at (202) 512-2775 or Fielde1@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Fiscal Year 2022 Performance PlanBy Sam NewsMay 28, 2021This report presents the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2022. In the spirit of the Government Performance and Results Act, this annual plan informs the Congress and the American people about what we expect to accomplish on their behalf in the coming fiscal year. It sets forth our plan to make progress toward achieving our strategic goals for serving the Congress and the American people. This framework not only shows the relationship between our strategic goals and strategic objectives, but also show major themes that could potentially affect our work.[Read More…]
- Major New Human Rights-Related Listings and Accompanying Sanctions on Iran By Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
- Fort Bend County home health owner charged with copying and pasting doctor signaturesBy Sam NewsMay 2, 2021A 60-year-old Richmond [Read More…]
- Former U.S. Government Employee Pleads Guilty to Sexual Abuse and Obscenity Offenses Committed Over 14 YearsBy Sam NewsJuly 23, 2021A California man pleaded guilty today to sexual abuse and admitted to the abusive sexual contact of numerous women, as well as photographing and recording dozens of nude and partially nude women without their consent during his career as a U.S. government employee[Read More…]