December 10, 2022

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Three Men Plead Guilty to Conspiring to Provide Material Support to a Plot to Attack Power Grids in the United States

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Three men pleaded guilty today to crimes related to a scheme to attack power grids in the United States in furtherance of white supremacist ideology.

More from: February 23, 2022

  • Terra MISR Used to Visualize Cloud-top Heights From Tropical Storm Laura in 3D
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  • LyondellBasell Companies Agree to Reduce Harmful Air Pollution at Six U.S. Chemical Plants
    In Crime News
    Three U.S. subsidiaries of Dutch chemical giant LyondellBasell Industries N.V. (Lyondell) have agreed to make upgrades and perform compliance measures estimated to cost $50 million to resolve allegations they violated the Clean Air Act and state air pollution control laws at six petrochemical manufacturing facilities located in Channelview, Corpus Christi, and LaPorte, Texas, and Clinton, Iowa. Lyondell will also pay a $3.4 million civil penalty.

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  • Deputy Secretary McKeon to Highlight Importance of International Education, Foreign Affairs Careers at Indiana University
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Jesper Steinmetz of TV2
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  • Retirement Security: Older Women Report Facing a Financially Uncertain Future
    In U.S GAO News
    In all 14 focus groups GAO held with older women, women described some level of anxiety about financial security in retirement. Many expressed concerns about the future of Social Security and Medicare benefits, and the costs of health care and housing. Women in the groups also cited a range of experiences that hindered their retirement security, such as divorce or leaving the workforce before they planned to (see fig.). Women in all 14 focus groups said their lack of personal finance education negatively affected their ability to plan for retirement. Many shared ideas about personal finance education including the view that it should be incorporated into school curriculum starting in kindergarten and continuing through college, and should be available through all phases of life. Women Age 70 and Over by Marital Status Note: Percentages do not add up to 100 percent due to rounding. Individual women’s financial security is also linked to their household where resources may be shared among household members. According to the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, among households with older women, about 23 percent of those with white respondents and 40 percent of those with African American respondents fell short of a measure of retirement confidence, indicating their income was not sufficient to maintain their standard of living. The likelihood of a household reporting high retirement confidence rose in certain cases. For example among households of similar wealth, those with greater liquidity in their portfolio and those with defined benefit plan income were more likely to report high retirement confidence. Older adults represent a growing portion of the U.S. population and older women have a longer life expectancy, on average, than older men. Prior GAO work has found that challenges women face during their working years can affect their lifetime earnings and retirement income. For example, we found women were overrepresented in low wage professions, paid less money than their male counterparts during their careers, and were more likely to leave the workforce to care for family members. Taken together, these trends may have significant effects on women’s financial security in retirement. GAO was asked to report on the financial security of older women. This report examines (1) women retirees’ perspectives on their financial security, and (2) what is known about the financial security of older women in retirement. GAO held 14 non-generalizable focus groups with older women in both urban and rural areas in each of the four census regions. GAO also analyzed data from three nationally representative surveys—the 2019 Current Population Survey, the Health and Retirement Study (2002-2014 longitudinal data), and the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances. For more information, contact Charles Jeszeck at (202) 512-7215 or jeszeckc@gao.gov.

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  • U.S. Postal Service: Volume, Performance, and Financial Changes since the Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In 2020, the majority of which was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) experienced a 9 percent drop in total mail volume when compared to 2019. The overall drop was primarily due to a 4 percent dip in First-Class Mail and a 14 percent decline in Marketing Mail (such as advertisements). Despite a drop in total volume, 2020 package volume rose by 32 percent. A surge of election-related mail caused a temporary spike in total mail volume in September and October 2020, before falling again by year end. Overall, USPS’s nationwide on-time performance fell in 2020. Average monthly on-time performance for First-Class Mail decreased from 92 percent in 2019 to 87 percent in 2020. However, decreases were more significant in certain USPS districts at different times, and nationally in December 2020. On-time performance was 48 percent in New York in April and 61 percent in Baltimore in September—both of which were nearly 90 percent prior to the pandemic (see figure). Further, national on-time performance dipped to 69 percent in December. In February 2021, the Postmaster General stated that on-time performance was affected by employees’ decreased availability in COVID-19 hot spots and a surge in holiday package volume. 2020 Average Monthly On-Time Performance for First-Class Mail in Baltimore, Detroit, and New York Postal Districts USPS’s revenue increased in 2020 but not enough to avoid a net loss of $8.1 billion. Rapid growth and price increases for packages, resulted in a net revenue increase of $4.3 billion. However, USPS’s expenses grew by $4.4 billion, including COVID-19 related expenses, such as personal protective equipment. USPS took some cost-reduction actions in 2020 and released a new strategic plan in March 2021 that also has cost-reduction actions. In May 2020, GAO concluded that absent congressional action to transform USPS, USPS’s financial problems would worsen, putting its mission and financial solvency in greater peril. The further deterioration of USPS’s financial position since the start of the pandemic makes the need for congressional action even more urgent. Why GAO Did This Study USPS plays a critical role in the nation’s communications and commerce. However, USPS’s financial viability is not on a sustainable path and has been on GAO’s High Risk List since 2009. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the role of USPS in the nation’s economy as well as USPS’s financial difficulties. Responding to these concerns, the CARES Act, as amended in late 2020, provided USPS up to $10 billion in additional funding. The CARES Act included a provision for GAO to report on its monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines changes in USPS’s (1) mail volume, (2) on-time performance, and (3) revenue and expenses from January through December 2020. GAO analyzed USPS mail volume, on-time performance, revenue, and expense data by month for 2020, and compared these data to similar data for 2019. GAO also reviewed its prior work, including its May 2020 report. That report had three matters for congressional consideration on: (1) determining the level of postal services, (2) the extent to which those services should be financially self-sustaining, and (3) the appropriate institutional structure of USPS. GAO also reviewed reports by USPS and the USPS Inspector General. Finally, GAO interviewed USPS officials, two package delivery companies that compete with USPS, and representatives from four mailing associations whose members send the types of mail with the highest volumes in 2020. For more information, contact Jill Naamane at (202) 512-2834 or naamanej@gao.gov.

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  • The United States Designates an Oil Broker Network Supporting Qods Force
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  • Foreign Assistance: Reporting of Defense Articles and Services Provided through Drawdowns Needs to Be Improved
    In U.S GAO News
    Since 1961, the President has had special statutory authority to order the “drawdown” of defense articles–such as aircraft, vehicles, various weapons, and spare parts–and services or military education and training from Department of Defense (DOD) and military service inventories and transfer them to foreign countries or international organizations. Drawdowns give the President the ability to respond to U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives, such as counternarcotics efforts, peacekeeping needs, and unforeseen military and nonmilitary emergencies, by providing military assistance without first seeking additional legislative authority or appropriations from Congress. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s reports to Congress on the costs and delivery status of drawdowns are inaccurate and incomplete. Two principal problems contribute to the agency’s inability to meet the reporting requirements. First, its information system for recording drawdown data is outmoded and difficult to use–service drawdown reports are in different formats, and any conversion errors have to be manually corrected. Second, the services do not regularly provide updates to the agency on drawdown costs and deliveries, and available information sometimes does not get into the system. Drawdowns benefit the United States and foreign recipients primarily by providing the President the flexibility to address foreign policy and national security objectives quickly. Drawdowns also allow the President to provide defense articles and services to improve foreign recipients’ capability to conduct military and police missions in support of U.S. foreign policy. Other benefits cited include improved military-to-military relations between the U.S. military services and the foreign recipients and expanded markets for U.S. defense firms. According to U.S. and foreign military officials, the use of drawdowns presents some concerns. Because drawdowns are used to quickly address U.S. national interests and emergencies, the costs associated with a drawdown, such as refurbishment and transportation, are not budgeted for by the services and are not reimbursed.

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  • Departments of Justice and Homeland Security Release Data on Incarcerated Aliens
    In Crime News
    Today, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security released the Alien Incarceration Report for Fiscal Year 2019.  The data shows that 94 percent of confirmed aliens incarcerated in Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and United States Marshals Service (USMS) facilities were unlawfully present in the United States.  Additionally, the report found that nearly 70 percent of known or suspected aliens in BOP custody had been convicted of a non-immigration-related offense, and 39 percent of known or suspected aliens in USMS custody had committed a non-immigration-related offense.

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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Lotfullah Najafizada of TOLO News
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  • Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks Announcing a Pattern or Practice Investigation in into the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department
    In Crime News
    Good afternoon.  I am joined here today by Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke.

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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Roula Khalaf of The Financial Times
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  • Stabilizing and Rebuilding Iraq: Conditions in Iraq Are Conducive to Fraud, Waste, and Abuse
    In U.S GAO News
    This testimony discusses some of the systemic conditions in Iraq that contribute to the fraud, waste, or abuse of U.S.-provided funds. Since 2003, DOD has reported total costs of about $257.5 billion for military operations in Iraq; these have increased from about $38.8 billion in fiscal year 2003 to about $83.4 billion in fiscal year 2006. The largest increase has been in operation and maintenance expenses, including items such as support for housing, food, and services; the repair of equipment; and transportation of people, supplies and equipment. Many of the operation and maintenance expenses are for services. Other U.S. government agencies had reported obligations of $29 billion for Iraqi reconstruction and stabilization, as of October 2006. These funds have been used for, among other things, infrastructure repair of the electricity, oil, water, and health sectors; training and equipping of the Iraqi security forces; and administrative expenses. Specifically, the testimony focuses on (1) security, (2) management and reporting of the program to train and equip Iraqi security forces, (3) contracting and contract management activities, and (4) Iraqi capacity and commitment to manage and fund reconstruction and security efforts.Despite U.S. and Iraqi efforts to shift a greater share of the country’s defense on Iraqi forces, the security situation continues to deteriorate. Poor security conditions have hindered the management of the more than $29 billion that has been obligated for reconstruction and stabilization efforts since 2003. Although the State Department has reported that the number of Iraqi army and police forces that has been trained and equipped has increased from about 174,000 in July 2005 to about 323,000 in December 2006, overall security conditions in Iraq have deteriorated and grown more complex. These conditions have hindered efforts to engage with Iraqi partners and demonstrate the difficulty in making political and economic progress in the absence of adequate security conditions. GAO’s ongoing work has identified weaknesses in the $15.4 billion program to support the development and sustainment of Iraqi security forces. Sectarian divisions have eroded the dependability of many Iraqi units, and a number of Iraqi units have refused to serve outside the areas where they were recruited. Corruption and infiltration by militias and others loyal to parties other than the Iraqi government have resulted in the Iraqi security forces being part of the problem in many areas instead of the solution. While unit-level transition readiness assessments (TRA) provide important information on Iraqi security force capabilities, the aggregate reports DOD provides to Congress based on these assessments do not provide adequate information to judge the capabilities of Iraqi forces. The DOD reports do not detail the adequacy of Iraqi security forces’ manpower, equipment, logistical support, or training and may overstate the number of forces on duty. Congress will need additional information found in the TRAs to assess DOD’s supplemental request for funds to train and equip Iraqi security forces. DOD’s heavy reliance on contractors in Iraq, its long-standing contract and contract management problems, and poor security conditions provide opportunities for fraud, waste, and abuse. First, military commanders and senior DOD leaders do not have visibility over the total number of contractors who are supporting deployed forces in Iraq. As we have noted in the past, this limited visibility can unnecessarily increase costs to the government. Second, DOD lacks clear and comprehensive guidance and leadership for managing and overseeing contractors. In October 2005, DOD issued, for the first time, department-wide guidance on the use of contractors that support deployed forces. Although this guidance is a good first step, it does not address a number of problems we have repeatedly raised. Third, key contracting issues have prevented DOD from achieving successful acquisition outcomes. There has been an absence of well-defined requirements, and DOD has often entered into contract arrangements on reconstruction efforts and into contracts to support deployed forces that have posed additional risk to the government. Further, a lack of training hinders the ability of military commanders to adequately plan for the use of contractor support and inhibits the ability of contract oversight personnel to manage and oversee contracts and contractors in Iraq. Iraqi capacity and commitment to manage and fund reconstruction and security efforts remains limited. Key ministries face challenges in staffing a competent and non-partisan civil service, fighting corruption, and using modern technology. The inability of the Iraqi government to spend its 2006 capital budget also increases the uncertainty that it can sustain the rebuilding effort.

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  • Former Air Force Contractor Pleads Guilty to Illegally Taking 2,500 Pages of Classified Information
    In Crime News
    A former contractor with the U.S. Air Force pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio today to illegally taking approximately 2,500 pages of classified documents.

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  • Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s Statement on Aon and Willis Towers Watson Decision to Terminate Merger Agreement
    In Crime News
    Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today released the following statement on Aon plc’s and Willis Towers Watson’s announcement that the firms agreed to terminate their planned $30 billion merger. The Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit on June 16, 2021, to stop the merger, alleging that the combination of Aon and Willis Towers Watson, the second- and third-largest insurance brokers in the world, would reduce competition for the business of American companies, effectively consolidating the industry’s “Big Three” into a Big Two.

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