Secretary Antony J. Blinken on Release of the 2020 International Religious Freedom Report

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, DC

Press Briefing Room

MR PRICE:  Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us today.  I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to introduce Secretary Blinken, who will speak to the Department’s International Religious Freedom Report.  We will then hear from Office of International Religious Freedom senior official Dan Nadel, who will be happy to take your questions on this year’s report.

Without further ado, I will turn it over to Secretary Blinken.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Ned, thank you very much.  Good morning, everyone.  So let me start, first of all, by wishing everyone a good morning, and Eid Mubarak to all who are celebrating.

Before talking about the report, I want to just take a minute to discuss what is happening in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.  We’re deeply concerned about what we’re seeing there.  Images that came out overnight are harrowing and the loss of any civilian life is a tragedy.  I’ve asked Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr to go to the region immediately to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.  He will bring to bear his decades of experience and, in particular, he will urge on my behalf and on behalf of President Biden a de-escalation of violence.  We are very focused on this.

The United States remains committed to a two-state solution.  This violence takes us further away from that goal.  We fully support Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself.  We’ve condemned and I condemn again the rocket attacks in the strongest possible terms.  We believe Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live with safety and security and we’ll continue to engage with Israelis, Palestinians, and other regional partners to urge de-escalation and to bring calm.

Now, let me turn back to what brings us together this morning, and that is the report.  Today, the State Department is releasing the 2020 International Religious Freedom Report.  We’ve produced this document every year for 23 years.  It offers a comprehensive review of the state of religious freedom in nearly 200 countries and territories around the world, and it reflects the collective effort of literally hundreds of American diplomats around the world and our Office of International Religious Freedom here in Washington, led by Dan Nadel, and he’ll be taking some questions from you today on the report.

Let me just say a few words about why this report matters.  Religious freedom is a human right; in fact, it goes to the heart of what it means to be human – to think freely, to follow our conscience, to change our beliefs if our hearts and minds lead us to do so, to express those beliefs in public and in private.  This freedom is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It’s also part of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Our country’s commitment to defending freedom of religion and belief goes back centuries.  It continues today.

Religious freedom, like every human right, is universal.  All people, everywhere, are entitled to it no matter where they live, what they believe, or what they don’t believe.  Religious freedom is co-equal with other human rights because human rights are indivisible.  Religious freedom is not more or less important than the freedom to speak and assemble, to participate in the political life of one’s country, to live free from torture or slavery, or any other human right.  Indeed, they’re all interdependent.  Religious freedom can’t be fully realized unless other human rights are respected, and when governments violate their people’s right to believe and worship freely, it jeopardizes all the others.  And religious freedom is a key element of an open and stable society.  Without it, people aren’t able to make their fullest contribution to their country’s success.  And whenever human rights are denied, it ignites tension, it breeds division.

As this year’s International Religious Freedom Report indicates, for many people around the world this right is still out of reach.  In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 56 countries, encompassing a significant majority of the world’s people, have high or severe restrictions on religious freedom.

To name just a few examples from this year’s report, Iran continues to intimidate, harass, and arrest members of minority faith groups, including Baha’i, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Sunni and Sufi Muslims.

In Burma, the military coup leaders are among those responsible for ethnic cleansing and other atrocities against Rohingya, most of whom are Muslim, and other religious and ethnic minorities around the world.

In Russia, authorities continue to harass, detain, and seize property of Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as members of Muslim minority groups on the pretense of alleged extremism.

In Nigeria, courts continue to convict people of blasphemy, sentencing them to long-term imprisonment or even death.  Yet the government has still not brought anyone to justice for the military’s massacre of hundreds of Shia Muslims in 2015.

Saudi Arabia remains the only country in the world without a Christian church, though there are more than a million Christians living in Saudi Arabia.  And authorities continue to jail human rights activists like Raif Badawi, who was sentenced in 2014 to a decade in prison and a thousand lashes for speaking about his beliefs.

And China broadly criminalizes religious expression and continues to commit crimes against humanity and genocide against Muslim Uyghurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups.

Today, I’m announcing the designation of Yu Hui, former office director of the so-called Central Leading Group Preventing and Dealing with Heretical Religions, of Chengdu, for his involvement in gross violations of human rights, namely, the arbitrary detention of Falun Gong practitioners.  Yu Hui and his family are now ineligible for entry into the United States.

I could go on; the examples are far too numerous.

More broadly, we’re seeing anti-Semitism on the rise worldwide, including here in the United States as well as across Europe.  It’s a dangerous ideology that history has shown is often linked with violence.  We must vigorously oppose it wherever it occurs.

Anti-Muslim hatred is still widespread in many countries, and this, too, is a serious problem for the United States as well as in Europe.

We have work to do to ensure that people of all faiths and backgrounds are treated with equal dignity and respect.

As this report notes, some countries have taken positive steps forward, and that, too, deserves comment.  Last year, the civilian-led transitional government in Sudan repealed apostasy laws and public order laws that had been used to harass members of religious minority groups.  Uzbekistan’s government has released hundreds of people who have been imprisoned because of their beliefs.  Just this past Saturday, Turkmenistan released 16 Jehovah’s Witnesses who are conscientious objectors and refused to serve in the military.  We understand the authorities will now offer conscientious objectors alternative ways to meet national service requirements.

We want to see more progress like that, and so our promise to the world is that the Biden-Harris administration will protect and defend religious freedom around the world.  We will maintain America’s longstanding leadership on this issue.  We’re grateful for our partners, including likeminded governments, the UN Human Rights Council, and networks like the International Religious Freedom of Belief Alliance and the International Contact Group of Freedom of Religion or Belief.  We’ll continue to work closely with civil society organizations, including human rights advocates and religious communities, to combat all forms of religiously motivated hatred and discrimination around the world.

Thank you very, very much and we look forward to being able to get into the report in more detail.  I’ll take a couple of questions before I take off.

MR PRICE:  Wonderful.  Francesco?

QUESTION:  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.  It’s now clear that your calls for de-escalation haven’t been heard or at least haven’t been enough to stop it until now.  We’re now beyond an escalation.  Why are you just sticking to these calls to de-escalation and restraint?  What can you do further and to prevent a full-out, full-scale war?  And also, have you personally talked or tried to talk to the Palestinian leadership, to President Abbas or others?  And if not, why?  And who on the U.S. side has been in touch with whom on the Palestinian side?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah, thank you.  A few things that are I think very important here.  We are deeply engaged across the board – the State Department, the White House, senior officials – with the Israelis, with Palestinians, with other countries and partners in the region to call for and push for de-escalation.  To be very clear, again, we strongly condemn the rocket attacks coming out of Gaza that are targeting innocent Israeli civilians, and Israel has a right to defend itself.  Palestinians have a right to live in safety and security, and the most important thing going forward now is to take down the violence, to de-escalate, and that’s exactly what we’re working toward.

Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, has been engaged with his counterpart; I’ve talked to Foreign Minister Ashkenazi; Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary of state, has been engaged as well; and as I mentioned just a short while ago, we are sending our senior official responsible for Israeli and Palestinian affairs to the region.  We’ve been engaged with all parties, including the Palestinians, and that will continue.  But the most important thing now is for all sides to cease the violence, to de-escalate, and to try to move to calm.

MR PRICE:  Kylie.

QUESTION:  Thank you for doing this, Secretary.  Beyond engagement and calls for de-escalation, I just want to reiterate:  Is there anything more that the U.S. can do at this point?

And my second question is:  More than 50 people have been killed in Gaza, including more than a dozen children.  So given those casualties, do you think the Israeli response has been proportional?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So first, in terms of what we’re doing, the most important thing that we can do right now is exactly what we’re doing, which is to be engaged across the board and pushing on de-escalation not only with Israelis and Palestinians but also with other partners who are amplifying our voice.  And as I said, we’re sending a senior diplomat to the region to work on this, so that – I think that piece is very important and our voice, our diplomacy from senior officials across the administration, I hope will help have an impact.

There is first a very clear and absolute distinction between a terrorist organization, Hamas, that is indiscriminately raining down rockets – in fact, targeting civilians – and Israel’s response defending itself that is targeting the terrorists who are raining down rockets on Israel.  But whenever we see civilian casualties, and particularly when we see children caught in the crossfire losing their lives, that has a powerful impact.  And I think Israel has an extra burden in trying to do everything it possibly can to avoid civilian casualties, even as it is rightfully responding in defense of its people.  And as I said, the Palestinian people have the right to safety and security, and we have to I think all work in that direction.

So the single most important thing right now is de-escalation.  We will continue to carry that message to our partners and to – in Israel, to the Palestinians, and to partners in the region.  Thanks very much.

MR PRICE:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Hits: 0

News Network

  • Owner of Oil Chem Inc. Pleads Guilty to Violating the Clean Water Act
    In Crime News
    The president and owner of Oil Chem Inc. pleaded guilty in federal court in Flint, Michigan, to a criminal charge of violating the Clean Water Act stemming from illegal discharges of landfill leachate — totaling more than 47 million gallons — into the city of Flint sanitary sewer system over an eight and a half year period.
    [Read More…]
  • Pennsylvania Biofuel Company and Owners Sentenced on Environmental and Tax Crime Convictions Arising out of Renewable Fuels Fraud
    In Crime News
    Two biofuel company owners were sentenced to prison for conspiracy and making false statements to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and conspiracy to defraud the IRS and preparing a false tax claim.
    [Read More…]
  • Travel by U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Designation of Iranian Officials Due to Involvement in Gross Violations of Human Rights
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • State Department Designates Two Senior Al-Shabaab Leaders as Terrorists
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Nuclear Security Enterprise: NNSA Should Use Portfolio Management Leading Practices to Support Modernization Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has partially implemented selected leading practices to manage the work necessary to maintain and modernize the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile. GAO found that NNSA is in the early stages of initiating its portfolio management processes and has partially implemented leading practices, such as establishing a clearly defined portfolio of work. For example, NNSA officials stated that its Weapons Activities appropriations account is a portfolio of work. However, NNSA has not developed clearly defined and appropriately empowered governance roles, such as a portfolio manager, for its Weapons Activities portfolio. As NNSA continues to develop its approach to portfolio management, establishing a portfolio management framework—consistent with selected leading practices—may allow NNSA to fully implement all leading practices, better define how program offices will pursue strategic stockpile modernization objectives, and optimize portfolio performance in the event that budget trade-offs become necessary. NNSA's offices have undertaken four separate efforts to identify and assess the capabilities needed across the nuclear security enterprise to meet its stockpile maintenance and modernization mission, but NNSA has not developed a comprehensive or complete capability assessment that could support its portfolio management approach (see fig.). NNSA undertook three of these four independent efforts to identify and assess capabilities in response to different legislative direction and did not incorporate information on all elements of a capability (knowledge, human capital, and infrastructure) in any of the individual efforts. Working across the agency to conduct a comprehensive, complete capability assessment would provide NNSA with a portfolio-level view of the enterprise's capabilities and needs, allowing for planning that considers interdependencies that have been missed in the past when planning focused on individual programs or projects. Relationship between Capability Assessment and Portfolio Management Why GAO Did This Study NNSA is simultaneously modernizing the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile and the infrastructure on which weapons research and production programs depend. These efforts include multi-billion-dollar defense programs and projects that provide the capabilities needed for maintenance and modernization programs. Congress previously directed NNSA to identify its needed capabilities. The Senate report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 includes a provision for GAO to review NNSA's approach to managing its defense programs and to identifying capabilities. This report examines the extent to which NNSA (1) used selected portfolio management leading practices to manage its maintenance and modernization programs and projects and (2) developed a comprehensive and complete capability assessment to support portfolio management. GAO reviewed NNSA documentation related to portfolio management and capabilities and compared it with leading practices and legislative requirements. GAO also interviewed NNSA officials from six agency offices.
    [Read More…]
  • Indiana Man Pleads Guilty to Distributing Pesticides
    In Crime News
    An Indiana man who distributed unregistered pesticides to the tenants and managers of an apartment building he owned has pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
    [Read More…]
  • South Africa Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Health and Human Services
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 55 priority recommendations for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Since then, HHS has implemented eight of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to improve the quality of care in the Indian Health Service's federally-operated facilities and improve the accuracy and completeness of Medicaid data to expedite their use for program oversight. In addition to the eight priority recommendations HHS implemented, four recommendations are no longer open priority recommendations, primarily because they became a lower priority as a result of recent regulatory or programmatic changes. In May 2021, GAO identified 18 additional priority recommendations for HHS—including some recommendations related to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic—bringing the total number of priority recommendations to 61. These recommendations involve the following areas: COVID-19 response and other public health emergency preparedness; Public health and human services program oversight; Food and Drug Administration oversight; National efforts to prevent, respond to, and recover from drug misuse; Improper payments in Medicaid and Medicare; Medicaid program; Medicare program; Health information technology and cybersecurity; and Health insurance premium tax credit payment integrity. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for sustained attention on improving HHS's operations. Implementing our priority recommendations could help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of key federal health care programs and funding, including those relevant to the nation's ongoing response to COVID-19. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015, GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact A. Nicole Clowers at (202) 512-7114 or ClowersA@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Yemen National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Appointment of Dr. Matthew Graviss as Chief Data Officer 
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Ready-Mix Concrete Company Admits to Fixing Prices and Rigging Bids in Violation of Antitrust Laws
    In Crime News
    Argos USA LLC, a producer and seller of ready-mix concrete headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, was charged with participating in a conspiracy to fix prices, rig bids, and allocate markets for sales of ready-mix concrete in the Southern District of Georgia and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.  
    [Read More…]
  • Operation Legend: Case of the Day
    In Crime News
    An Albuquerque man was charged on Sept. 29, 2020, in federal court for possessing fentanyl, heroin, and more than a kilo of methamphetamine, as well as four firearms.
    [Read More…]
  • North Carolina Tax Preparer Sentenced to Prison for Defrauding IRS and Co-Conspirator Pleads Guilty
    In Crime News
    A North Carolina return preparer was sentenced today to 22 months in prison for conspiring to defraud the IRS and one of her co-conspirators pleaded guilty on Wednesday for her role in the scheme.
    [Read More…]
  • Ensuring a Transparent, Thorough Investigation of COVID-19’s Origin
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Brownsville man learns fate after attempting to smuggle drugs
    In Justice News
    A 35-year-old local man [Read More…]
  • Mathematics Professor and University Researcher Indicted for Grant Fraud
    In Crime News
    Today, a federal grand jury in Carbondale, Ill. returned an indictment charging a mathematics professor and researcher at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale (SIUC) with two counts of wire fraud and one count of making a false statement.
    [Read More…]
  • Small Business Loans: SBA Generally Incorporated Key Elements for Estimating Subsidy Cost of 7(a) Program
    In U.S GAO News
    The Small Business Administration (SBA) develops its subsidy cost estimates for the 7(a) loan guarantee program—that is, estimates of the program's net long-term cost to the government—using a cash flow model. The model uses historical data, econometric equations, and macroeconomic projections to estimate cash flows—such as guarantee fees, SBA purchases of defaulted loans, and recoveries on those loans—for the loans SBA expects to guarantee in the next fiscal year. The net present value of the cash flows (value in current dollars) is the subsidy cost estimate. SBA generally incorporated key elements of subsidy cost estimation into its estimates for the 7(a) program for the fiscal year 2020 budget. Specifically, GAO found that SBA's estimation process was largely consistent with eight key elements GAO previously identified that help ensure subsidy estimates are supported, reliable, and reasonable. For example, SBA generally validated historical data, documented the cash flow model and key assumptions, analyzed the sensitivity of estimates to alternative assumptions, and had documented policies and procedures. SBA made changes in its estimation process that collectively increased the 7(a) program's subsidy cost to $99 million for fiscal year 2020 (a 0.33 percent subsidy rate when expressed as the cost per dollar of credit assistance) from $0 for fiscal year 2019 (0 percent subsidy rate). Some of these changes were routine updates to data and economic assumptions used in the cash flow model, while others were revisions to the estimation process. Additionally, some individual changes increased the subsidy costs, while others decreased it. Some of the changes that had the largest impact on the subsidy rate included the following: Incorporating the President's economic assumptions for fiscal year 2020 decreased the rate by 0.27 percentage points. Updating the basis for the size and composition of the loan cohort SBA expected to guarantee in fiscal year 2020 increased the rate by 0.21 percentage points. Revising the methodology for estimating purchase amounts for defaulted loans to better reflect the outstanding loan balance at the time of purchase increased the rate by 0.21 percentage points. The 7(a) program is SBA's largest loan guarantee program for small businesses, with about $95 billion in outstanding loan principal as of the end of fiscal year 2019. Federal agencies that provide credit assistance are generally required to estimate the net long-term cost to the government—known as the subsidy cost—for each annual cohort of loans. SBA initially estimated a zero subsidy cost for each cohort from fiscal years 2014 through 2019, but estimated that the fiscal year 2020 cohort would have a positive subsidy cost and require appropriations. GAO was asked to evaluate SBA's subsidy estimation process for the 7(a) program. This report examines (1) how SBA estimates 7(a) subsidy costs, (2) the extent to which SBA incorporated key elements of subsidy cost estimation into its estimation process for the fiscal year 2020 budget, and (3) the changes SBA made in its estimation process for the fiscal year 2020 budget. GAO reviewed SBA documentation on its estimation process, including information on SBA's cash flow model, and compared SBA's process to key elements that GAO previously identified ( GAO-16-269 ). GAO also interviewed officials from SBA, the Office of Management and Budget, and outside auditors and contractors that annually review SBA's process and model. For more information, contact William B. Shear at (202) 512-8678 or shearw@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • An Information-Centric Perspective on Coherence Collaboration: Analyses of Uganda and Ecuador (Penn State)
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Bureau of Population, [Read More…]
  • North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Do not travel to North [Read More…]
  • Virginia Tax Preparer Sentenced to More Than Two Years in Prison for Preparing False Returns
    In Crime News
    A Newport News, Virginia, tax return preparer was sentenced to 27 months in prison for preparing false tax returns, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger for the Eastern District of Virginia.
    [Read More…]
  • Owner of Texas Chain of Hospice Companies Sentenced for $150 Million Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme
    In Crime News
    A corporate executive has been ordered to serve 20 years in prison after his conviction related to falsely telling thousands of patients with long-term incurable diseases, such as Alzheimers and dementia, they had less than six months to live and subsequently enrolling them in hospice programs.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken to Participate in Christchurch Call to Action Leaders’ Summit
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Close Air Support: Actions Needed to Enhance Friendly Force Tracking Capabilities and Fully Evaluate Training
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD) has made progress implementing initiatives to enhance capabilities that are used to identify friendly force locations during close air support (CAS) missions, but GAO identified additional actions that are needed to strengthen these efforts. Specifically, DOD has made limited progress in implementing 10 changes the department approved to address gaps in the interoperability of digital communications systems used to conduct CAS, hindering efforts to improve the speed and accuracy of information exchanges. DOD's efforts to assess the interoperability of digital systems used to perform CAS have been limited in scope. GAO found that DOD had formally assessed two out of 10 approved changes during joint service and multinational events, and these assessments were not conducted in a training environment that replicated capabilities of near-peer adversaries. DOD implemented a new capability in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to help identify the positions of friendly forces during CAS missions. However, GAO found that DOD did not provide adequate training for personnel who operate it or conduct an evaluation to resolve implementation challenges that have hampered its performance. DOD conducts evaluations of training programs for forces that participate in CAS missions, but GAO identified two areas where DOD can improve its efforts. First, the Army and Marine Corps have not systematically evaluated the effectiveness of periodic training for ground observers providing targeting information due to a lack of centralized systems for tracking training data and the absence of designated entities to monitor service-wide training. Second, the use of contract aircraft for training increased substantially between 2017 and 2019, but DOD has not fully evaluated the use of non-military contract aircraft to train air controllers for CAS (see fig.). GAO found that differences between U.S. military aircraft and contract aircraft (e.g., airspeed) can result in a misalignment of aircraft capabilities for certain types of training events. Without evaluating CAS training fully, DOD cannot have assurance that its forces are prepared to conduct CAS missions safely and effectively. Number of Hours Non-Military Aircraft Were Used to Train for Close Air Support for Fiscal Years 2017 through 2019 The use of ordnance delivered by aircraft to support U.S. military forces that are in close proximity to enemy forces on the ground requires detailed planning, seamless communications, and effective training. Mistakes in communications or procedures used to identify and maintain an awareness of the positions of friendly forces on the battlefield during CAS can result in the loss of U.S. military personnel. Senate Report 116-48 and House Report 116-120, accompanying bills for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, included provisions for GAO to evaluate issues related to friendly-force identification capabilities in CAS missions. Among other things, this report evaluates the extent to which DOD has (1) implemented initiatives to enhance friendly-force identification capabilities during CAS, and (2) evaluated training for forces that participate in CAS. GAO analyzed documentation and interviewed officials regarding DOD efforts to develop and implement friendly force tracking capabilities for CAS; reviewed CAS training programs; and analyzed training data, including the number of hours that DOD used non-military contract aircraft for CAS training from 2017 through 2019. GAO is making 11 recommendations to DOD, including that DOD implement and assess initiatives to improve the interoperability of digital systems used in CAS and take additional steps to evaluate the training for certain forces that participate in CAS missions. DOD concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431 or RussellC@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau Before Their Meeting
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Statement of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on the Verdict in the Chauvin Trial
    In Crime News
    U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland's statement following the verdict in the state of Minnesota's trial of Derek Chauvin:
    [Read More…]
  • Statement of Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers on the Public Release of the Department’s Findings with Respect to the 29 FISA Applications that Were the Subject of the March 2020 OIG Preliminary Report
    In Crime News
    “The Department of Justice has completed its review of the 29 FISA applications that were the subject of preliminary findings by the DOJ Inspector General (OIG) in March 2020.  We are pleased that our review of these applications concluded that all contained sufficient basis for probable cause and uncovered only two material errors, neither of which invalidated the authorizations granted by the FISA Court.   These findings, together with the more than 40 corrective actions undertaken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Division, should instill confidence in the FBI’s use of FISA authorities.  We would like to express our appreciation to the OIG for their focus on the Department’s use of its national security authority.  We remain committed to improving the FISA process to ensure that we use these tools consistent with the law and our obligations to the FISA Court.  The ability to surveil and to investigate using FISA authorities remains critical to confronting current national security threats, including election interference, Chinese espionage and terrorism.”      
    [Read More…]
  • Afghan National Arrested for 2008 Abduction of American Journalist
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced the unsealing of a federal indictment charging Haji Najibullah, a/k/a “Najibullah Naim,” a/k/a “Abu Tayeb,” a/k/a “Atiqullah” with six counts related to the 2008 kidnapping of an American journalist and two Afghan nationals. Najibullah, 44, was arrested and transferred to the United States from Ukraine to face the charges in the indictment. Najibullah will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla.
    [Read More…]
  • Readout of Roundtable Event with Attorney General Barr and Members of State and Local Law Enforcement in Cheyenne, Wyoming
    In Crime News
    On Thursday, August 13th, Attorney General William P. Barr visited Cheyenne, Wyoming to lead a roundtable discussion with over 30 Wyoming police chiefs, sheriffs and other members of state and local law enforcement. The Attorney General was joined by U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen, DEA Acting Director Tim Shea and Interim Director of Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Forrest Williams. The Attorney General in his opening remarks conveyed his gratitude for the critical work local law enforcement officers do every day to protect their communities.
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Alleges Conditions at Lowell Correctional Institution Violate the Constitution
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida today concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the conditions at Lowell Correctional Institution (Lowell) in Ocala, Florida violate the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. Specifically, the department concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that Lowell fails to protect prisoners from sexual abuse by the facility’s staff.
    [Read More…]
  • Fire Extinguisher Manufacturer Ordered to Pay $12 Million Penalty for Delay and Misrepresentations in Reporting Product Defects
    In Crime News
    A federal judge today ordered Walter Kidde Portable Equipment Inc. (Kidde) to pay a $12 million civil penalty in connection with allegations that the company failed to timely inform the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) about problems with fire extinguishers manufactured by the company, the Department of Justice announced.
    [Read More…]
  • The United States Imposes Sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong Persons for Activities Related to Supporting the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • United States Takes Action To Counter Iranian Support for al-Qa’ida
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • California Woman Pleads Guilty to Hate Crime for Threatening to Bomb Catholic Prep School
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that Sonia Tabizada, age 36, of San Jacinto, California, pleaded guilty in federal court to intentionally obstructing persons in the enjoyment of their free exercise of religious beliefs by threatening to bomb the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, D.C., in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 247. 
    [Read More…]
  • Albania National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • History, Ambition, and Technology: The Chinese Communist Party’s Challenges to U.S. Export Control Policy
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Dr. Christopher Ashley [Read More…]
  • U.S. Imposes Sanctions on People’s Republic of China Officials Engaged in Coercive Influence Activities
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Public Designation of Five Bulgarian Public Officials Due to Involvement in Significant Corruption
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken to Embassy Iceland Staff and Families
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Fourteenth Anniversary of Robert “Bob” Levinson’s Abduction
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • U.S.-Based Promoter of Foreign Cryptocurrency Companies Charged in over $11 Million Securities Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A California man was charged in a complaint unsealed today for his alleged participation in a coordinated cryptocurrency and securities fraud scheme that used purported digital currency platforms and foreign-based financial accounts.
    [Read More…]
  • 2021 Annual Report: New Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Billions in Financial Benefits
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO identified 112 new actions for Congress or executive branch agencies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government. For example: The Office of Management and Budget should improve how agencies buy common goods and services—such as medical supplies and computers—by addressing data management challenges and establishing performance metrics to help save the federal government billions of dollars over the next 5 years, as well as potentially eliminate duplicative contracts. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) could enhance third-party information reporting to increase compliance with tax laws and raise revenue. GAO has also previously suggested (1) providing IRS with authority—with appropriate safeguards—to correct math errors and to correct errors in cases where information provided by the taxpayer does not match information in government databases and (2) establishing requirements for paid tax return preparers to help improve the accuracy of tax returns they prepare. These actions could help reduce the substantial tax gap and increase revenues. The National Nuclear Security Administration could implement cost savings programs to operate more effectively at its nuclear laboratory and production sites to potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars over approximately a 5-year period. The Department of Defense's payments to privatized housing projects have lessened the financial effects of the housing allowance rate reductions for these projects, but revising the calculation for these payments could potentially result in millions of dollars of savings. Federal agencies could improve coordination of fragmented cybersecurity requirements and related assessment programs for state agencies, potentially minimizing the burden on states and saving millions of dollars in associated federal and state costs. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could improve coordination of its infectious disease modeling efforts to better identify any duplication and overlap among agencies, which could help them to better plan for and more efficiently respond to disease outbreaks. From 2011 to 2021, GAO has identified more than 1,100 actions to reduce costs, increase revenues, and improve agencies' operating effectiveness. GAO's last report in May 2020 said progress made in addressing many of the actions identified from 2011 to 2019 had resulted in approximately $429 billion in financial benefits, including $393 billion that accrued through 2019 and $36 billion that was projected to accrue in future years. Since May 2020, at least tens of billions of dollars in additional financial benefits have been achieved. For example, based on GAO's updates for spring 2021, HHS's changes to spending limit determinations for Medicaid demonstration waivers further reduced federal spending by about $30 billion in 2019. GAO estimates that tens of billions of additional dollars could be saved should Congress and executive branch agencies fully address open actions, including those that have potential financial benefits of $1 billion or more. Why GAO Did This Study The federal government has made an unprecedented financial response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the pandemic recedes and the economy substantially recovers, Congress and the administration will need to develop and swiftly implement an approach to place the government on a sustainable long-term fiscal path. In the short term, opportunities exist for achieving billions of dollars in financial savings and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of a wide range of federal programs in other areas. GAO has responded with annual reports to a statutory provision for it to identify and report on federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives—either within departments or government-wide—that have duplicative goals or activities. GAO also identifies areas that are fragmented or overlapping, as well as additional opportunities to achieve cost savings or enhance revenue collection. This report discusses the new areas identified in GAO's 2021 annual report—the 11th in this series—and examples of open actions recommended to Congress or executive branch agencies with potential financial benefits of $1 billion or more. To identify what actions exist to address these issues, GAO reviewed and updated select prior work, including matters for congressional consideration and recommendations for executive action. For more information, contact Jessica Lucas-Judy at (202) 512-6806 or lucasjudyj@gao.gov or Michelle Sager at (202) 512-6806 or sagerm@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Former Union President Sentenced for Violent Extortion
    In Crime News
    The former president of Iron Workers Local 395 was sentenced today to 42 months in prison for his role in organizing a brutal assault on a group of non-union ironworkers in Dyer, Indiana.
    [Read More…]
  • The Department of Justice Files Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Owner of Rental Properties in Elizabeth, New Jersey
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it has filed a lawsuit alleging that the owner of rental properties in Elizabeth, New Jersey violated the Fair Housing Act by subjecting tenants to sexual harassment. 
    [Read More…]
  • Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Rescinded
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Readout of Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco’s First Day
    In Crime News
    Today, Lisa O. Monaco was sworn in as the 39th Deputy Attorney General (DAG) of the United States. She returns to the Department of Justice where she first arrived as an intern 26 years ago, and went on to hold a variety of leadership roles at both the Department and the FBI. DAG Monaco held a series of meetings with DOJ staff and received briefings on the January 6th Capitol Attack investigation and on national security. In an all hands meeting with her immediate staff, DAG Monaco reiterated her commitment to reaffirming the Department’s foundational mission and core values, pursuing the Constitution’s promise of equal justice, and ensuring the safety of all who call America home. Late in the day she sent an email to the DOJ workforce thanking them for their dedication, and conveying how honored she is to serve alongside them.   
    [Read More…]
  • U.S. Policy Toward China: Deputy Secretary Biegun’s Remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Stephen Biegun, Deputy [Read More…]
  • Eight Individuals Charged With Conspiring to Act as Illegal Agents of the People’s Republic of China
    In Crime News
    A complaint and arrest warrants were unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging eight defendants with conspiring to act in the United States as illegal agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  Six defendants also face related charges of conspiring to commit interstate and international stalking.  The defendants, allegedly acting at the direction and under the control of PRC government officials, conducted surveillance of and engaged in a campaign to harass, stalk, and coerce certain residents of the United States to return to the PRC as part of a global, concerted, and extralegal repatriation effort known as “Operation Fox Hunt.” 
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with PRC Director Yang
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Medicare Severe Wound Care: Spending Declines May Reflect Site of Care Changes; Limited Information Is Available on Quality
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO's analysis of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data show that in fiscal year 2018, 287,547 Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries had inpatient stays that included care for severe wounds. These wounds include those where the base of the wound is covered by dead tissue or non-healing surgical wounds. About 73 percent of the inpatient stays occurred in acute care hospitals (ACH), and a smaller percentage of stays occurred in post-acute care facilities. Specifically, about 16 percent of stays were at skilled nursing facilities (SNF), and about 7 percent were at long-term care hospitals (LTCH). CMS data show that Medicare spending on stays for severe wound care was $2.01 billion in fiscal year 2018, representing a decline of about 2 percent from fiscal year 2016, when spending was about $2.06 billion. Spending declined as a result of decreases in both the total number of these stays, as well as spending per stay, which both decreased by about 1 percent. The decrease in per stay spending was likely driven, in part, by a change in where beneficiaries received care. CMS data show fewer severe wound care stays in LTCHs, which tend to be paid higher payment rates. At the same time, more severe wound care stays were at two other types of facilities that tend to be paid lower payment rates: ACHs and inpatient rehabilitation facilities. GAO's analysis of CMS data also show that, while the number of LTCHs that billed Medicare for severe wound care decreased by about 7 percent from fiscal years 2016 to 2018, Medicare beneficiaries continued to have access to other severe wound care providers. For example, CMS data show that most beneficiaries resided within 10 miles of an ACH or SNF that provided severe wound care in fiscal year 2018. Figure: Percentage of Medicare Fee-for-Service Beneficiaries Residing within 10 Miles of a Health Care Facility That Provided Any Severe Wound Care, by Facility Type, Fiscal Year 2018 Note: The “other” category includes facilities such as psychiatric hospitals or units. There is limited information on how or whether the decrease in LTCH care for severe wounds may have affected the quality of severe wound care Medicare beneficiaries receive. For example, CMS collects information on the percentage of patients with new or worsened pressure ulcers at post-acute care facilities, but it does not measure the quality of care they receive. Medicare beneficiaries with serious health conditions, such as strokes, are prone to developing severe wounds due to complications that often lead to immobility and prolonged pressure on the skin. These beneficiaries may require a long-term inpatient stay at an ACH or a post-acute care facility, such as an LTCH. LTCHs treat patients who require care for longer than 25 days, on average. In 2018, LTCHs represented about $4.2 billion in Medicare expenditures. Prior to fiscal year 2016, LTCHs received a higher payment rate for treating Medicare beneficiaries than ACHs. Beginning in fiscal year 2016, a dual payment system was phased in that paid LTCHs a rate similar to ACHs for some beneficiaries and a higher rate for beneficiaries that met certain criteria. As this payment system has moved from partial to full implementation, lawmakers had questions about how it may affect beneficiaries' severe wound care. The 21st Century Cures Act included a provision for GAO to review severe wound care provided to Medicare beneficiaries. This report describes facilities where Medicare beneficiaries received severe wound care, Medicare severe wound care spending, and what is known about the dual payment system's effect on access and quality. GAO analyzed Medicare severe wound care access and spending data for fiscal years 2016 and 2018 (the most recent data available); reviewed reports; and interviewed CMS officials, researchers, and national wound care stakeholders. HHS provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which were incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at (202) 512-7114 or cosgrovej@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • The United States Calls for Free, Fair, and Peaceful Elections in Uganda
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Designation of Two Ansarallah Leaders in Yemen
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Kiribati Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO)
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Navy has identified several challenges with using its regular maintenance capability (which restores ships to fully operational status) to provide battle damage repairs during a great power conflict. Challenges include—the lack of established doctrine for battle damage repair, unclear command and control roles, and a shortage of repair capacity. The Navy Process for Repairing Ships Damaged in Battle The Navy is in the early stages of determining how it will provide battle damage repair during a great power conflict. Eight organizations are responsible for the Navy's 15 battle damage repair planning efforts, however the Navy has not designated an organization to lead and oversee these efforts. Without designated leadership, the Navy may be hindered in its efforts to address the many challenges it faces in sustaining its ships during a great power conflict. The Navy develops ship vulnerability models during a ship's acquisition to estimate damage during a conflict. These models are also used to inform war games that refine operational approaches and train leaders on decision-making. However, the Navy does not update these models over a ship's decades-long service life to reflect changes to key systems that could affect model accuracy. As a result, it lacks quality data on ship mission-critical failure points to inform its analysis of battle damage repair needs. Without periodically assessing and updating its models to accurately reflect the ship's mission-critical systems, the Navy has limited its ability to assess and develop battle damage repair capabilities necessary to sustain ships in a conflict with a great power competitor. Why GAO Did This Study The ability to repair and maintain ships plays a critical role in sustaining Navy readiness. After the Cold War, the Navy divested many wartime ship repair capabilities. With the rise of great power competitors capable of producing high-end threats in warfare, the Navy must now be prepared to quickly salvage and repair damage to a modern fleet. House Report 116-120, accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, included a provision for GAO to assess the Navy's efforts to identify and mitigate challenges in repairing battle-damaged ships during a great power conflict. GAO's report (1) discusses the challenges the Navy has identified in using its regular maintenance capability for battle damage repair, and (2) evaluates the extent to which the Navy has begun developing the battle damage repair capability it requires to prevail in a great power conflict. GAO reviewed relevant guidance and assessed reports on naval war games and other documentation to identify challenges that may impede the planning and repair of battle-damaged ships and efforts to improve the repair capability for a great power conflict.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Paraguayan President Abdo Benitez
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Department of Justice Awards over $1 Million in Forensic Grants to Aid Wyoming Investigators
    In Crime News
    Attorney General William [Read More…]
  • Meet the People Behind NASA’s Perseverance Rover
    In Space
    These are the scientists [Read More…]
  • U.S. Assistance for the Palestinian People
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • On the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • The Department’s 45-Day Review Following the Revocation of Proclamations 9645 and 9983
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]