United States Takes Action To Counter Iranian Support for al-Qa’ida

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Today, I revealed new information about how the Islamic Republic of Iran has given a new operational headquarters to al-Qa’ida, the terrorist network with more American blood on its hands than any other.  For al-Qa’ida, Iran is the new home base.  Tehran gives sanctuary to the terror group’s senior leaders as they plan attacks against America and our allies.  Indeed, since 2015, Tehran has allowed al-Qa’ida figures in the country to freely communicate with other al-Qa’ida members and perform many functions that were previously directed from Afghanistan and Pakistan, including authorization for attacks, propaganda, and fundraising.

In 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department identified and sanctioned three senior al-Qa’ida operatives residing in Iran and noted that Iran had knowingly permitted these al-Qa’ida members, including several of the 9/11 hijackers, to transit its territory on their way to Afghanistan for training and operational planning.

The Iran-al-Qa’ida axis poses a grave threat to the security of nations and to the American homeland itself, and we are taking action.

Today, I announced the designations of Iran-based al-Qa’ida leaders Muhammad Abbatay (also known as Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi), and Sultan Yusuf Hasan al-‘Arif as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224.  Under the same authority, I also announced the designations of Isma’il Fu’ad Rasul Ahmed, Fuad Ahmad Nuri Ali al-Shakhan, and Niamat Hama Rahim Hama Sharif as leaders of the al-Qa’ida Kurdish Battalions (AQKB), an al-Qa’ida-linked group that operates on the border between Iran and Iraq.  As a result of these designations, U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with these individuals and their property and interests in property subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked.  In addition, it is a crime to knowingly provide, or attempt or conspire to provide, material support or resources to al-Qa’ida.

The United States is also committed to seeing that al-Qa’ida’s senior leadership based in Iran faces justice.  The Department of State’s Rewards for Justice (RFJ) program is announcing a reward for up to $7 million for information leading to the location or identification of Abd-al-Rahman al-Maghrebi, an Iran-based key leader of the al-Qa’ida terrorist group.

The Department is also re-advertising previously announced reward offers on three additional senior al-Qa’ida leaders, including two operating in Iran: Sayf al-Adel and Yasin al-Suri.

Today, we are drawing attention to the nature of the Iran-al-Qa’ida relationship and are taking the actions necessary to crush al-Qa’ida and its links to Iran. We urge all nations to do the same – for the good of our nations, and of the free world.

More from: Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

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    In U.S GAO News
    This 2020 Census was taken under extraordinary circumstances. In response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and related executive branch decisions, the Bureau made a series of late changes to the design of the census. The report GAO is releasing today discusses a number of concerns regarding how late changes to the census design could affect data quality. The Bureau has numerous planned assessments and evaluations of operations which, in conjunction with its post-enumeration survey (PES)—a survey conducted independently of each census to determine how many people were missed or counted more than once—help determine the overall quality of the census and document lessons for future censuses. As the 2020 Census continues, GAO will continue to monitor the Bureau's response processing operations. GAO was asked to testify on the Census Bureau's progress to deliver apportionment counts for the 2020 Decennial Census. This testimony summarizes information contained in GAO's December 2020 report, entitled 2020 Census: Census Bureau Needs to Assess Data Quality Concerns Stemming from Recent Design Changes and discusses key quality indicators the Bureau can share, as it releases apportionment counts and redistricting data. These key indicators discussed are consistent with those recommended by the American Statistical Association and Census Scientific Advisory Committee for the Bureau. In the accompanying report being issued today, GAO is recommending that the Bureau update and implement its assessments to address data quality concerns identified in this report, as well as any operational benefits. In its comments, the Department of Commerce agreed with GAO's findings and recommendation. For more information, contact J. Christopher Mihm at (202) 512-6806 or mihmj@gao.gov.
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  • Operators of California Charity Scam Sentenced to Prison for Mail Fraud Conspiracy and Tax Evasion
    In Crime News
    Geraldine Hill and Clayton Hill, a California couple who operated a charity that purported to provide goods to the needy, were sentenced to prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and tax evasion. Geraldine Hill was sentenced to 15 months in in prison, and Clayton Hill was sentenced to 9 months in prison, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Robert S. Brewer, Jr. for the Southern District of California.
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  • Aviation Safety: Actions Needed to Evaluate Changes to FAA’s Enforcement Policy on Safety Standards
    In U.S GAO News
    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) directed individual offices to implement the Compliance Program, and FAA has increasingly used compliance actions rather than enforcement actions to address violations of safety standards since starting the Compliance Program. FAA revised agency-wide guidance in September 2015 to emphasize using compliance actions, such as counseling or changes to policies. Compliance actions are to be used when a regulated entity is willing and able to comply and enforcement action is not required or warranted, e.g., for repeated violations, according to FAA guidance. FAA then directed its offices—for example, Flight Standards Service and Drug Abatement Division—to implement the Compliance Program as appropriate, given their different responsibilities and existing processes. Under the Compliance Program, data show that selected FAA offices have made increasing use of compliance actions. Total Number of Federal Aviation Administration Enforcement Actions and Number of Compliance Actions Closed for Selected Program Offices, Fiscal Years 2012-2019 No specific FAA office or entity oversees the Compliance Program. FAA tasked a working group to lead some initial implementation efforts. However, the group no longer regularly discusses the Compliance Program, and no office or entity was then assigned oversight authority. As a result, FAA is not positioned to identify and share best practices or other valuable information across offices. FAA established goals for the Compliance Program—to promote the highest level of safety and compliance with standards and to foster an open, transparent exchange of data. FAA, however, has not taken steps to evaluate if or determine how the program accomplishes these goals. Key considerations for agency enforcement decisions state that an agency should establish an evaluation plan to determine if its enforcement policy achieves desired goals. Three of eight FAA offices have started to evaluate the effects of the Compliance Program, but two offices have not yet started. Three other offices do not plan to do so—in one case, because FAA has not told the office to. FAA officials generally believe the Compliance Program is achieving its safety goals based on examples of its use. However, without an evaluation, FAA will not know if the Compliance Program is improving safety or having other effects—intended or unintended. FAA supports the safety of the U.S. aviation system by ensuring air carriers, pilots, and other regulated entities comply with safety standards. In 2015, FAA announced a new enforcement policy with a more collaborative and problem-solving approach called the Compliance Program. Under the program, FAA emphasizes using compliance actions, for example, counseling or training, to address many violations more efficiently, according to FAA. Enforcement actions such as civil penalties are reserved for more serious violations, such as when a violation is reckless or intentional. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 included a provision that GAO review FAA's Compliance Program. This report examines (1) how FAA implemented and used the Compliance Program and (2) how FAA evaluates the effectiveness of the program. GAO analyzed FAA data on enforcement actions agency-wide and on compliance actions for three selected offices for fiscal years 2012 to 2019 (4 years before and after program start).GAO also reviewed FAA guidance and interviewed FAA officials, including those from the eight offices that oversee compliance with safety standards. GAO is making three recommendations including that FAA assign authority to oversee the Compliance Program and evaluate the effectiveness of the program in meeting goals. FAA concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or krauseh@gao.gov.
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  • Owner of Food Service Firm Operating in Government Buildings Throughout the D.C. Area Sentenced to Prison for Payroll Tax Fraud
    In Crime News
    A Potomac, Maryland, owner of companies providing food services in government buildings was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment for not paying more than $10 million in employment and sales tax, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin for the District of Columbia.
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  • Florida Man Charged with COVID Relief Fraud, Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering
    In Crime News
    A Florida man has been charged regarding allegations that he fraudulently obtained a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), and that he orchestrated a conspiracy to submit false and fraudulent claims for reimbursement to Medicare and CareCredit, and to defraud his own patients by charging them thousands of dollars for chiropractic services under false pretenses.
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  • Insitu Inc. to Pay $25 Million to Settle False Claims Act Case Alleging Knowing Overcharges on Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Contracts
    In Crime News
    Insitu Inc., headquartered in Bingen, Washington, has agreed to pay $25 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly submitting materially false cost and pricing data for contracts with the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the Department of the Navy (Navy) to supply and operate Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), the Department of Justice announced today.
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  • Facial Recognition: CBP and TSA are Taking Steps to Implement Programs, but CBP Should Address Privacy and System Performance Issues
    In U.S GAO News
    U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has made progress testing and deploying facial recognition technology (FRT) at ports of entry to create entry-exit records for foreign nationals as part of its Biometric Entry-Exit Program. As of May 2020, CBP, in partnership with airlines, had deployed FRT to 27 airports to biometrically confirm travelers' identities as they depart the United States (air exit) and was in the early stages of assessing FRT at sea and land ports of entry. Facial Recognition Technology in Use at an Airport CBP has taken steps to incorporate some privacy principles in its program, such as publishing the legislative authorities used to implement its program, but has not consistently provided complete information in privacy notices or ensured notices were posted and visible to travelers. Ensuring that privacy notices contain complete information and are consistently available would help give travelers the opportunity to decline to participate, if appropriate. Further, CBP requires its commercial partners, such as airlines, to follow CBP's privacy requirements and can audit partners to assess compliance. However, as of May 2020, CBP had audited only one of its more than 20 airline partners and did not have a plan to ensure all partners are audited. Until CBP develops and implements an audit plan, it cannot ensure that traveler information is appropriately safeguarded. CBP has assessed the accuracy and performance of air exit FRT capabilities through operational testing. Testing found that air exit exceeded its accuracy goals—for example, identifying over 90 percent of travelers correctly—but did not meet a performance goal to capture 97 percent of traveler photos because airlines did not consistently photograph all travelers. A plan to improve the photo capture rate would help CBP better fulfill the program's mission of creating biometrically confirmed traveler departure records. Further, while CBP monitors air exit's performance, officials are not alerted when performance falls short of minimum requirements. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has conducted pilot tests to assess the feasibility of using FRT but, given the limited nature of these tests, it is too early to fully assess TSA's compliance with privacy protection principles. Within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), CBP is charged with the dual mission of facilitating legitimate travel and securing U.S. borders, and TSA is responsible for protecting the nation's transportation system. For both CBP and TSA, part of their inspection and screening responsibilities includes reviewing travel identification documents and verifying traveler identities. Beginning in 1996, a series of federal laws were enacted to develop and implement an entry-exit data system, which is to integrate biographic and, since 2004, biometric records for foreign nationals. This report addresses (1) the status of CBP's deployment of FRT, (2) the extent to which CBP has incorporated privacy protection principles, (3) the extent to which CBP has assessed the accuracy and performance of its FRT, and (4) the status of TSA's testing and deployment of FRT and how TSA has incorporated privacy protection principles. GAO conducted site visits to observe CBP's and TSA's use of FRT, which were selected to include all three travel environments—air, land, and sea; reviewed program documents; and interviewed DHS officials. GAO is making five recommendations to CBP to (1) ensure privacy notices are complete, (2) ensure notices are available at locations using FRT, (3) develop and implement a plan to audit its program partners for privacy compliance, (4) develop and implement a plan to capture required traveler photos at air exit, and (5) ensure it is alerted when air exit performance falls below established thresholds. DHS concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or gamblerr@gao.gov.
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