Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Starting on July 11, tens of thousands of Cubans in dozens of cities and towns throughout their country took to the streets to peacefully demand respect for their human rights and fundamental freedoms. In response, Cuban security forces violently repressed the protests, arresting hundreds of demonstrators simply for exercising their rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Demonstrators and human rights advocates have since been convicted in summary proceedings that lack fair trial guarantees. Some have reported physical abuse while in regime custody. Others remain incommunicado or are being held without formal charges.
Today marks the end of high-level general debate at the United Nations, where world leaders came together to address the General Assembly on the most pressing issues facing our peoples and nations today. Among these is the universal imperative to respect the human rights of all people. It is vital that the international community speak out against the repression and mass arrests of Cuban protestors; demand the release of those unjustly imprisoned there; and support the Cuban people’s desire to determine their own future. We urge the Cuban government, a member of the UN Human Rights Council, to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Cuban people, enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
Cubans deserve a chance to exercise their rights and voice their aspirations without fear of violence or imprisonment. The United States will continue to support the Cuban people, and will continue to take action to promote accountability for the Cuban government’s human rights abuses.
- Former Army Special Forces Officer Charged in Russian Espionage ConspiracyBy Sam NewsAugust 21, 2020A Gainesville, Virginia, man was arrested today for conspiring with Russian intelligence operatives to provide them with United States national defense information.[Read More…]
- U.S. Department of State Holds Cybersecurity WorkshopBy Sam NewsOctober 13, 2021
- Opening Remarks by Secretary Antony J. Blinken Before the House Committee on Foreign AffairsBy Sam NewsSeptember 13, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Hillary Clinton, “You and Me Both with Hillary Clinton” PodcastBy Sam NewsMarch 2, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Defined Contribution Plans: Federal Guidance Could Help Mitigate Cybersecurity Risks in 401(k) and Other Retirement PlansBy Sam NewsMarch 15, 2021What GAO Found In their role administering private sector employer-sponsored defined contribution (DC) retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans, plan sponsors and their service providers—record keepers, third party administrators, custodians, and payroll providers—share a variety of personally identifiable information (PII) and plan asset data among them to assist with carrying out their respective functions (see figure). The PII exchanged for DC plans typically include participant name, Social Security number, date of birth, address, username/password; plan asset data typically includes numbers for both retirement and bank accounts. The sharing and storing of this information can lead to significant cybersecurity risks for plan sponsors and their service providers, as well as plan participants. Data Sharing Among Plan Sponsors and Service Providers in Defined Contribution Plans Federal requirements and industry guidance exist that could mitigate cybersecurity risks in DC plans, such as requirements that pertain to entities that directly engage in financial activities involving DC plans. However, not all entities involved in DC plans are considered to have such direct engagement, and other cybersecurity mitigation guidance is voluntary. Federal law nevertheless requires plan fiduciaries to act prudently when administering plans. However, the Department of Labor (DOL) has not clarified fiduciary responsibility for mitigating cybersecurity risks, even though 21 of 22 stakeholders GAO interviewed expressed the view that cybersecurity is a fiduciary duty. Further, DOL has not established minimum expectations for protecting PII and plan assets. DOL officials told GAO that the agency intends to issue guidance addressing cybersecurity-related issues, but they were unsure when it would be issued. Until DOL clarifies responsibilities for fiduciaries and provides minimum cybersecurity expectations, participants' data and assets will remain at risk. Why GAO Did This Study Cyber attacks against information systems (IT) are perpetuated by individuals or groups with malicious intentions, from stealing identities to appropriating money from accounts. DC plans, which allow individuals to accumulate tax-advantaged retirement savings, increasingly rely on the internet and IT systems for their administration. Accordingly, the need to secure these systems has become paramount. Ineffective data security controls can result in significant risks to plan data and assets. In 2018, DC plans enrolled 106 million participants and held nearly $6.3 trillion in assets, according to DOL. This report examines (1) the data that sponsors and providers exchange during the administration of DC plans and their associated cybersecurity risks, and (2) efforts to assist sponsors and providers to mitigate cybersecurity risks during the administration of DC plans. GAO interviewed key entities involved with DC plans, such as sponsors and record keepers, DOL officials and industry stakeholders; and reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Indonesian Foreign Minister MarsudiBy Sam NewsFebruary 16, 2021
- Former Department of Defense Employee Charged with Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury Brought to the United States to Face ChargeBy Sam NewsOctober 18, 2021A former civilian employee of the Department of Defense arrived in the United States Friday from Germany to face a charge for assaulting a U.S. military member in the Republic of Korea last year.[Read More…]
- Two Bizarre Brown Dwarfs Found With Citizen Scientists’ HelpBy Sam NewsIn SpaceSeptember 26, 2020Data from NASA’s [Read More…]
- Operation Legend: Case of the DayBy Sam NewsSeptember 24, 2020On Aug. 27, 2020, Andrew Sheperd was charged by a federal grand jury with being a felon in possession of a firearm, with being in possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, and possessing with intent to distribute fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine .[Read More…]
- Defense Critical Infrastructure: Actions Needed to Improve the Consistency, Reliability, and Usefulness of DOD’s Tier 1 Task Critical Asset ListBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021The Department of Defense (DOD) relies on a global network of defense critical infrastructure so essential that the incapacitation, exploitation, or destruction of an asset within this network could severely affect DOD's ability to deploy, support, and sustain its forces and operations worldwide and to implement its core missions, including current missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because of its importance to DOD operations, this defense critical infrastructure could be vulnerable to attacks by adversaries, and vulnerable to natural disasters and hazards, such as hurricanes and earthquakes. Since September 2003, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs (ASD[HD&ASA]) has been responsible for developing and ensuring implementation of critical infrastructure protection policy and program guidance. To identify and help assure the availability of this mission-critical infrastructure, in August 2005 DOD established the Defense Critical Infrastructure Program (DCIP), assigning overall responsibility for the program to ASD(HD&ASA). In April 2008, DOD issued an instruction that further assigned responsibilities and prescribed procedures for the implementation of DCIP, among other things. In October 2008, DOD formalized the process for identifying and prioritizing its critical infrastructure. Since 2006, ASD(HD&ASA) has collaborated with the Joint Staff to compile a list of all DOD- and non-DOD-owned infrastructure essential to accomplish DOD's missions. To support this effort, the combatant commands and military services are to identify and place their critical assets into prioritized tiers, including Tier 1 Task Critical Assets, which are assets of such extraordinary importance that their incapacitation or destruction would have a serious, debilitating effect on the ability of one or more military services, combatant commands, or DCIP Defense Infrastructure Sector Lead Agents to execute the mission essential tasks they support. Defense Critical Assets, on the other hand, are the assets most critical for fulfilling overall DOD missions and are identified from the universe of Task Critical Assets. The Joint Staff worked with the combatant commands, military services, and Defense Infrastructure Sector Lead Agents to develop the current departmentwide list of Tier 1 Task Critical Assets. In October 2008, ASD(HD&ASA) formally accepted the Joint Staff's Defense Critical Asset nomination list as an initial list of Defense Critical Assets. In its May 2008 report on H.R. 5658, the House Committee on Armed Services addressed DOD's lack of progress in analyzing the risks of electrical power outages to critical DOD missions through DCIP and, among other things, directed that GAO continue its review of DCIP. As a result, we initiated our on-going review of the assurance of electrical power supplies to DOD's critical assets.While DOD has made some progress in developing a Tier 1 Task Critical Asset list, this progress was limited by DOD's lack of consistent criteria for identifying and prioritizing Tier 1 Task Critical Assets. When selecting and submitting their most recent lists of Tier 1 Task Critical Asset submissions to the Joint Staff, the combatant commands and the military services used disparate sets of guidance, including draft and nonbinding guidance, as their criteria. Air Force officials, however, told us they developed formal critical asset identification guidance based on DOD's draft critical asset identification manual. According to military service and combatant command officials, DOD's draft and nonbinding guidance contained unclear definitions of asset tiers, Task Critical Assets, and other key terms, such as "mission essential tasks." DOD has taken some actions toward promoting coordination among the combatant commands, military services, and Joint Staff in compiling DOD's Tier 1 Task Critical Asset list. For example, in August 2005, DOD issued DOD Directive 3020.40, which calls for coordination among the Joint Staff, combatant commands, military services, and other defense agencies for the purpose of identifying and assessing critical assets needed to implement DOD missions. However, DOD has not yet developed formal coordination responsibilities and an effective coordination mechanism within DCIP, including a forum for coordination between the military services and combatant commands when identifying critical assets. Combatant command and military service officials told us that, in considering which assets to submit to DOD's Tier 1 Task Critical Asset list, they coordinate only minimally with each other when determining which assets are critical to combatant command missions. Based on our analysis of the October 2008 manual and discussions with DCIP officials, we found that the Joint Staff, combatant commands, military services, and other DOD agencies still lack clearly defined coordination responsibilities and a mechanism for effective coordination within DCIP. As a result, the communication and coordination efforts among these key DCIP stakeholders when considering assets to nominate as Tier 1 Task Critical Assets have been insufficient and inconsistent. While DOD has developed a strategy and comprehensive management plan for DCIP, it has not fully developed some DCIP program management elements for identifying Tier 1 Task Critical Assets, which could enhance the effectiveness of the program. DOD's formal critical asset identification process manual issued in 2008 lacks some key elements necessary for sound program management, including clearly defined schedules and milestones for meeting performance goals and a formal feedback process. According to our work on sound management practices, comprehensive program schedules and formal communication strategies assist agencies in effectively implementing programs by providing relevant stakeholders with timelines to follow, performance milestones to meet, and shared expectations to guide their efforts. Because DOD lacks a formal process for submitting critical assets, including milestones and formal feedback from ASD(HD&ASA) or the Joint Staff on meeting program goals, the combatant commands and military services are limited in their ability to effectively select, compile, and validate their final nominations to DOD's Tier 1 Task Critical Asset list.[Read More…]
- Assistant Attorney General Beth A. Williams Delivers Remarks to the National Association of Attorneys General on Responsible Encryption and Lawful AccessBy Sam NewsSeptember 18, 2020Good afternoon, everyone. First, I would like to thank Amie Ely and the wonderful team at NAAG for all of their amazing work, and for hosting this event on such an important topic. Thank you as well to everyone in the audience for taking the time to join virtually for what should be a truly interesting conversation. Perhaps it’s fitting that we are having a discussion — via webcam — that highlights the importance of digital evidence.[Read More…]
- Peter Fay, One of Three Judges in Florida Who Served 50 Years, Dies at 92By Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsFebruary 4, 2021Peter T. Fay, one of three federal judges from Florida who each served more than 50 years after being confirmed the same day in 1970, died Sunday in Miami at the age of 92.[Read More…]
- Texan sentenced for attempting to smuggle over 70 people in one trailerBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsMay 12, 2021A 24-year-old Corpus [Read More…]
- Military Base Realignments and Closures: DOD Is Taking Steps to Mitigate Challenges but Is Not Fully Reporting Some Additional CostsBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round is the fifth such round undertaken by DOD since 1988 and is the biggest, most complex, and costliest BRAC round ever. With this BRAC round, the Department of Defense (DOD) plans to execute hundreds of BRAC actions affecting over 800 defense locations, relocate over 123,000 personnel, and spend over $35 billion--an unprecedented amount, given that DOD has spent nearly $26 billion to implement the four previous BRAC rounds combined when all relevant BRAC actions have been completed. As with prior BRAC rounds, DOD is required to implement the BRAC Commission's 2005 recommendations within 6 years of their approval by the President and transmittal to Congress. Unlike with prior BRAC rounds, DOD is implementing the BRAC 2005 round during a time of conflict and significant increases to the defense budget to support ongoing contingency operations. Compounding this challenge, DOD is also implementing other extensive worldwide transformation initiatives such as the permanent relocation of about 70,000 military personnel to the United States from overseas; transformation of the Army's force structure from an organization based on divisions to more rapidly deployable, combat brigade-based units; an increase in the active-duty end strength of the Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 members; and the drawdown of combat forces from Iraq while simultaneously increasing the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. All of these initiatives are exerting an unusually high demand on DOD's domestic facility infrastructure to accommodate new forces and existing forces being deployed or redeployed. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) at the outset of BRAC 2005 indicated its intent to reshape DOD's installations and realign DOD forces to meet defense needs for the next 20 years. Moreover, both DOD and the BRAC Commission reported that their primary consideration in making recommendations for the BRAC 2005 round was military value. As such, as opposed to simply closing bases, many of the BRAC 2005 recommendations involve complex realignments, such as designating where military forces returning to the United States from overseas bases would be located; establishing joint military medical centers; creating joint bases; and reconfiguring the defense supply, storage, and distribution network. The BRAC statute requires DOD to complete all BRAC 2005 closures and realignments by September 15, 2011. As we reported in January 2009, DOD expects almost half of the 800 defense locations implementing BRAC recommendations to complete their actions in 2011, with 230 of these 400 locations anticipating completion within the last 2 weeks before the statutory deadline. At the time of this report, DOD had only 14 months remaining until the The House Armed Services Committee report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 directed the Comptroller General to monitor the implementation of recommendations for the 2005 round of closures and realignments of military installations made pursuant to section 2914 of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990. We prepared this report, our fourth, in response to the mandate, to assess (1) the challenges, if any, DOD faces in implementing BRAC recommendations and (2) DOD's efforts to mitigate any challenges and the extent to which any costs related to those mitigation efforts are being reported as BRAC implementation costs.DOD is implementing 182 BRAC recommendations for this BRAC round, but several logistical, human capital, and other implementation challenges remain. First, many locations are scheduled to complete the construction, relocation, personnel, and other actions needed to implement the recommendations within months of--and, in some cases, on--the deadline leaving little or no margin for slippage to finish constructing buildings and to move or hire the needed personnel. As of March 2010, DOD had 57 construction projects scheduled to be completed within 3 months of the statutory deadline, representing about 30 recommendations. Second, some DOD locations that involve the most costly and complex recommendations have encountered delays in awarding some construction contracts as well as experienced additional delays in the expected completion of construction. Third, DOD must synchronize the relocation of approximately 123,000 personnel with the availability of about $25 billion in new construction or renovation of facilities. Fourth, delays in interdependent recommendations are likely to have a cascading effect on the timely completion of related recommendations. These challenges have continued since our last report on BRAC implementation challenges, especially contracting and construction delays, which have further squeezed an already tight time line. The potential loss of intellectual capital is complicated by various community effects of BRAC implementation growth, such as transportation, housing, schooling, and availability of medical care. DOD is mitigating some BRAC implementation challenges, which is adding to implementation costs; however, DOD is not reporting all of these additional costs. To enhance its role in managing logistical challenges that could affect DOD's ability to achieve BRAC implementation by the statutory deadline, the military services are working with their leadership to develop solutions. Further, the military services and defense agencies are providing periodic briefings for BRAC recommendations exceeding $100 million in implementation costs, or that have significant concerns such as cost overruns or construction delays to the OSD Basing Directorate. For other BRAC recommendations, DOD is still weighing options, such as moving temporarily into different buildings while construction and renovations are completed, referred to as swing space, or accelerating the pace of construction to complete permanent facilities by the deadline, potentially incurring additional expenses. The DOD Financial Management Regulation requires the services and defense agencies to accurately capture BRAC-related costs in the annual BRAC budget justification materials submitted to Congress. Since DOD's recent fiscal year 2011 BRAC budget request--which was the final annual request for funds for the BRAC account before the statutory deadline for completion of closures and realignments--has already been submitted to Congress, such additional costs in our view may have to be funded from outside the BRAC account. However, we found that DOD's reported costs funded outside the BRAC account are not complete because the Army has not reported to Congress some of these costs as BRAC costs. Thus, OSD officials do not have full visibility over the extent of these costs funded from outside the BRAC account, given that the services prepare their own BRAC budget justification material. Until the Secretary of Defense ensures that all BRAC-related costs are captured and reported to Congress, neither congressional decision makers nor those within OSD who are charged with overseeing BRAC implementation will have a complete picture of the cost of implementing the 2005 BRAC round.[Read More…]
- LymeX: Applying Health+ for Patient-Powered InnovationsBy Sam NewsApril 12, 2021April 12, 2021 By: Alex [Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Russian Foreign Minister LavrovBy Sam NewsAugust 16, 2021
- Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against Two California Doctors for Discrimination Against Patient with HIVBy Sam NewsJanuary 14, 2021The Justice Department filed lawsuits today alleging that two obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN) doctors in Bakersfield, California refused to provide routine medical care to a patient on the basis of her HIV status, in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).[Read More…]
- Thailand Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsIn TravelSeptember 26, 2020Exercise increased [Read More…]
- Luxembourg Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsIn TravelSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
- Six Charged in Connection with a $3 Million Paycheck Protection Program Fraud SchemeBy Sam NewsJanuary 28, 2021Six individuals were charged in an indictment with fraudulently obtaining approximately $1.5 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans on behalf of five businesses based in Georgia and South Carolina.[Read More…]