Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Johannes Langkilde of DR-TV

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Copenhagen, Denmark

Marriott Hotel

QUESTION:  First of all, thank you so much for your time.  I hope that you’re enjoying Denmark.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I am, very much.  It’s great to be here.

QUESTION:  Last year I had the privilege of interviewing Secretary Pompeo when he was in town, and you probably remember the fuss it created, because the president floated the idea prior to his visit that the U.S. should buy Greenland.  So I asked Mr. Pompeo whether he was in the market for an Arctic island, and I’m going to ask you the same thing, Mr. Secretary:  Does the U.S. still want to buy Greenland?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’m focused on looking forward, and the short answer is no.  Here’s what we are focused on:  We have a remarkable partnership with the Kingdom of Denmark, and as part of that, our relationship with Greenland is growing and deepening.  And it’s in that spirit that we are trying to strengthen the partnership.  I think there are tremendous opportunities in terms of increasing trade and investment, working on science, on technology, on education, on tourism.  All of that is in the mix and that’s what we’re focused on.

QUESTION:  Mr. Pompeo was very clear about not wanting China to get a strong foothold in Greenland.  Are your ambitions to be Denmark’s only partner, or would you welcome many others?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So look, when it comes to China, I think it’s important to have a few things in mind.  First, it’s an incredibly complex relationship for us but for many other countries as well, including Denmark.  And some aspects are cooperative, some are competitive, and some are adversarial.  Our purpose, our intent is not to try to contain China or to hold China back.  It is to uphold the rules-based order that Denmark and the United States have invested in over many years, and to make sure that China is playing by the rules and meeting the commitments it’s made.  So that’s what we’re focused on.  There’s room around the world for everyone, provided that everyone is playing by the same set of rules.

There are certain areas that are particularly sensitive when it comes to investment.  Denmark has just passed important investment screening legislation, and that’s significant because we do want to make sure that we protect our most sensitive industries and technologies and we avoid the theft of intellectual property.

QUESTION:  So China having interests in Greenland is okay as long as they play by the rules?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  There’s no per se prohibition against China or anyone else.  But play by the rules and make sure that the most sensitive industries or technologies are protected.

QUESTION:  I’d like to turn to the escalating violence in the Middle East.  You’ve been very clear in your condemnation of Hamas and their violation of international law, but at the same time, Israel for years has been expanding their settlements in the occupied territories, which is also against international law.  The U.S. is Israel’s strongest ally.  Why don’t you put more pressure on Israel?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I can tell you what we believe and what President Biden believes, and that is that the best and ultimately only way forward, really, is through two states.  And that means that, first, Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is going to have truly lasting security through two states, and the Palestinians would get the state that they’re entitled to.  That also means that any steps that anyone takes – unilateral steps that anyone takes – that make the prospect of two states even more challenging than it already is, we oppose, and we’ve also been very clear about that.

In the immediate, what we really need to see is for the violence to cease, calm to take hold, and to use that, I hope, as an opportunity to build something more positive.  And that requires, among other things, building more hope and building more opportunity for Palestinians who need both.

QUESTION:  But would you be ready to put more pressure on Israel?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  What we’re focused on – and we’re doing this across the board, starting with President Biden – is very intensive diplomacy, again, to de-escalate, to return to calm, and then to go from there.

QUESTION:  Critics would say that the Biden administration has had its focus elsewhere and may be not prioritizing Israel/Palestine enough.  Do you think you’ve done enough also in the time that President Biden has been in office?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I think we’ve been in office for, what, about four months now, and a tremendous amount of work to just get going and moving, which we’ve done.  If you look at what was done just in the first weeks of this administration in terms of returning to the Paris Climate Agreement, re-engaging with the World Health Organization, posing our candidacy for the Human Rights Council at the United Nations, and, of course, the work that’s profoundly in the interest of everyone, which is dealing effectively with COVID-19, not to mention the further leadership the President showed on climate.

We’ve done an awful lot.  And at the same time, it’s a big world and we do have responsibilities.  We’re trying to seize them.  I’ll tell you that in coming over to Denmark on the way to the Arctic Council, which was the purpose of this – of this trip, I probably spent most of my time on the plane coming over speaking to colleagues in the Middle East, working on the diplomacy, trying to help end the violence and move to a better place.  We have to be able to do everything at once; that’s the challenge.

QUESTION:  Let’s talk a bit about our two countries’ relations.  It’s no secret that we were a bit scared when President Trump floated the idea of not living up to NATO’s Article 5.  Can Denmark feel safe under President Biden?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  President Biden is at heart an Atlanticist, and I think for him, there is no doubt that NATO is the most successful alliance in the history of the world.  And he has said repeatedly – before he was President and as President – his absolute commitment to Article 5.  He believes in that principle and he knows that the only time Article 5 has been invoked by NATO was actually in defense of the United States after 9/11.  Our allies came to our defense, including Denmark, and in the intervening years they’ve lost lives, they’ve suffered injuries working with the United States and against terrorism.  So no, I think people can be very confident that President Biden is deeply committed to Article 5 and to the proposition that we’re all in this together.

QUESTION:  Also, even though we still don’t live up to the 2 percent GDP spending on defense?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, look, we want to see all allies continue to make progress toward the goal that was established and agreed to back at the – back in Wales at the summit there many, many years ago now.  But I have to say it’s also important and significant that Denmark is making significant investments in what we call domain awareness, situational awareness, making sure that in the North Atlantic and in the Arctic, we have the technology, the resources, the personnel to know what’s happening, who’s doing what at any given time.

QUESTION:  Are you going to put equal pressure on Denmark to live up to the 2 percent?  Or are you going to say it’s okay as long as you do other stuff?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  No, it’s not – look, it’s not a question of pressure.  We’re all in this alliance together.  We have a NATO summit coming up.  I think it’s going to be a very important one because a big part of the work is going to be to set NATO on course for the next 10 years, to make sure that we’ve got the right focus in the alliance and also the right resources in the alliance to deal with the challenges that we all have to face going forward.  And there, I think Denmark and the United States are closely joined in wanting to do that.  And yes, we want to see every partner step up and make the necessary investments, but we’ll work on that together.

QUESTION:  You’re on a tight schedule so I’ll conclude by saying we are honored by your visit.  Do you think the President will visit us at some point?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, look, when I get back and remind him of what remarkable friends we have here and how much extraordinary leadership we’re seeing from Denmark in so many areas – climate change being just one of them – but I think the world looks very much to Denmark for not only the ambition that you set when it comes to dealing with climate change, but also the way you’re doing it, making sure that as our economies transition, no one is left behind.  There’s a wonderful story here, a lot we can learn from Denmark, so I’m sure he’ll want to visit.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, I wish you a safe onward journey, and I thank you a lot.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.  Great to be with you.

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    Enrollment in private health insurance plans in the individual (coverage sold directly to individuals), small group (coverage offered by small employers), and large group (coverage offered by large employers) markets has historically been highly concentrated among a small number of issuers. GAO found that this pattern continued in 2017 and 2018. For example: For each market in 2018, at least 43 states (including the District of Columbia) were highly concentrated. Overall individual and small group markets have become more concentrated in recent years. The national median market share of the top three issuers increased by approximately 8 and 5 percentage points, respectively, from 2015 through 2018. With these increases, the median concentration was at least 94 percent in both markets in 2018. Number of States and District of Columbia Where the Three Largest Issuers Had at Least 80 Percent of Enrollment, by Market, 2011-2018 GAO found similar patterns of high concentration across the 39 states in 2018 that used federal infrastructure to operate individual market exchanges— marketplaces where consumers can compare and select among insurance plans sold by participating issuers—established in 2014 by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and known as federally facilitated exchanges. From 2015 through 2018, states that were already highly concentrated became even more concentrated, often because the number of issuers decreased or the existing issuers accrued the entirety of the market share within a state. In 2017 and 2018 all 39 states were highly concentrated. GAO received technical comments on a draft of this report from the Department of Health and Human Services and incorporated them as appropriate. GAO previously reported that, from 2011 through 2016, enrollment in the individual, small group, and large group health insurance markets was concentrated among a few issuers in most states (GAO-19-306). GAO considered states' markets or exchanges to be highly concentrated if three or fewer issuers held at least 80 percent of the market share. GAO also found similar concentration on the health insurance exchanges established in 2014 by PPACA. A highly concentrated health insurance market may indicate less issuer competition and could affect consumers' choice of issuers and the premiums they pay for coverage. PPACA included a provision for GAO to periodically study market concentration. This report describes changes in the concentration of enrollment among issuers in the overall individual, small group, and large group markets; and individual market federally facilitated exchanges. GAO determined market share in the overall markets using enrollment data from 2017 and 2018 that issuers are required to report annually to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). GAO determined market share in the individual market federally facilitated exchanges in 2018 using enrollment data from CMS. For all analyses, GAO used the latest data available. For more information, contact John Dicken at (202) 512-7114 or dickenj@gao.gov.
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  • Information Security and Privacy: HUD Needs a Major Effort to Protect Data Shared with External Entities
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is not effectively protecting sensitive information exchanged with external entities. Of four leading practices for such oversight, HUD did not address one practice and only minimally addressed the other three in its security and privacy policies and procedures (see table). For example, HUD minimally addressed the first leading practice because its policy required federal agencies and contractors with which it exchanges information to implement risk-based security controls; however, the department did not, among other things, establish a process or mechanism to ensure all external entities complied with security and privacy requirements when processing, storing, or sharing information outside of HUD systems. HUD's weaknesses in the four practices were due largely to a lack of priority given to updating its policies. Until HUD implements the leading practices, it is unlikely that the department will be able to mitigate risks to its programs and program participants. Extent to Which the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Policies and Procedures Address Leading Practices for Overseeing the Protection of Sensitive Information Practice Rating Require risk-based security and privacy controls ◔ Independently assess implementation of controls ◌ Identify and track corrective actions needed ◔ Monitor progress implementing controls ◔ Legend: ◔=Minimally addressed—leading practice was addressed to a limited extent; ◌=Not addressed—leading practice was not addressed. Source: GAO analysis of HUD data. | GAO-20-431 HUD was not fully able to identify external entities that process, store, or share sensitive information with its systems used to support housing, community investment, or mortgage loan programs. HUD's data were incomplete and did not provide reliable information about external entities with access to sensitive information from these systems. For example, GAO identified additional external entities in system documentation beyond what HUD reported for 23 of 32 systems. HUD was further limited in its ability to protect sensitive information because it did not track the types of personally identifiable information or other sensitive information shared with external entities that required protection. This occurred, in part, because the department did not have a comprehensive inventory of systems, to include information on external entities. Its policies and procedures also focused primarily on security and privacy for internal systems and lacked specificity about how to ensure that all types of external entities protected information collected, processed, or shared with the department. Until HUD develops sufficient, reliable information about external entities with which program information is shared and the extent to which each entity has access to personally identifiable information and other sensitive information, the department will be limited in its ability to safeguard information about its housing, community investment, and mortgage loan programs. To administer housing, community investment, and mortgage loan programs, HUD collects a vast amount of sensitive personal information and shares it with external entities, including federal agencies, contractors, and state, local, and tribal organizations. In 2016, HUD reported two incidents that compromised sensitive information. House Report 115-237, referenced by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, included a provision for GAO to evaluate HUD's information security framework for protecting information within these programs. The objectives were to (1) assess the effectiveness of HUD's policies and procedures for overseeing the security and privacy of sensitive information exchanged with external entities; and (2) determine the extent to which HUD was able to identify external entities that process, store, and share sensitive information with applicable systems. GAO compared HUD's policies and practices for systems' security and privacy to four leading practices identified in federal legislation and guidance. GAO also assessed HUD's practices for identifying external entities with access to sensitive information. GAO is making five recommendations to HUD to fully implement the four leading practices and fully identify the extent to which sensitive information is shared with external entities. HUD did not agree or disagree with the recommendations, but described actions intended to address them. For more information, contact Carol C. Harris at (202) 512-4456 or harriscc@gao.gov.
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  • OSCE Moscow Mechanism Report Details Widespread Rights Violations in Belarus
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Sanctioning Russia-linked Disinformation Network for its Involvement in Attempts to Influence U.S. Election
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Priority Open Recommendations: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified three priority recommendations for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Since then, FDIC has implemented two of those recommendations. As of April 2021, the remaining open priority recommendation for FDIC involves the following area: Collaborating with other financial regulators to communicate with banks that have third-party relationships with financial technology lenders about using alternative data in underwriting. FDIC's continued attention to this issue could improve its ability to more effectively oversee risks to consumers and the safety and soundness of the U.S. banking system. We are not adding any additional priority recommendations this year. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Daniel Garcia-Diaz at 202-512-8678 or garciadiazd@gao.gov.
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  • Special Envoy Rayburn Travel to the United Arab Emirates and Jordan
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Joel D. Rayburn, Special [Read More…]
  • Assistant Attorney General Beth A. Williams Announces Departure from the Office of Legal Policy
    In Crime News
    Assistant Attorney General Beth A. Williams of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy (OLP) announced her departure from the department, effective today.
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