#AceNewsReport – Apr.17: He added, “Syria and many other countries have acknowledged that the states which supported and funded armed terrorist groups in Syria, particularly the United States, France, Germany and Britain, will use the Syrian chemical file and the OPCW to achieve their hostile goals against Syria.”
FM Mekdad: US, allies have turned OPCW into a tool to pursue anti-Syria objectives: BUT Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Faisal Mekdad has categorically dismissed the new report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), stating that the United States and its allies have turned the international watchdog into a tool to pursue their political goals against Damascus’
Friday, 16 April 2021 8:48 AM [ Last Update: Friday, 16 April 2021 11:42 AM ]
Mekdad noted that Syrian government forces continue to score remarkable victories in their battles against the Takfiri terrorist groups, emphasizing that the troops have never used chemical warfare even in toughest operations against the foreign-sponsored militants.
He went on to say that certain Western countries have established the OPCW’s so-called Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) in order to produce reports, which best suit their anti-Syria agenda.
“The French-Western draft resolution, which is to be presented at the 25th meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons later this year, is a new chapter in the series of conspiracies against Syria,” Mekdad pointed out.
The top Syrian diplomat finally called on the OPCW member states to support Damascus and counter the politicization of the organization’s activities by some Western countries.
A report by the OPCW’s so-called investigative arm claimed on Monday that Syria’s air force had dropped a chlorine bomb on a residential neighborhood in the terrorist-controlled Idlib region.
The report further asserted no one was killed when the cylinder of chlorine gas, delivered in a barrel bomb, hit the al-Talil neighborhood in the city of Saraqib in February 2018.
The Syrian foreign ministry, in a statement published on Wednesday, said the OPCW’s “misleading report,” written by “an illegitimate and incredible team,” fabricates “facts” to incriminate the Damascus government.
“This report has included false and fabricated conclusion which represents another scandal for the OPCW and the inquiry teams that will be added to the scandal of the reports of Douma incident in 2018, and Ltamenah in 2017,” it said.
Moscow and Damascus have on many occasions said members of the so-called White Helmets civil defense group stage gas attacks in a bid to falsely incriminate Syrian government forces and fabricate pretexts for military strikes by the US-led military coalition.
The group claims to be a humanitarian NGO but has long been accused of collaborating with anti-Damascus militants.
On April 14, 2018, the US, Britain and France carried out a string of airstrikes against Syria over a suspected chemical weapons attack on the city of Douma, located about 10 kilometers northeast of the capital Damascus.
Washington and its allies blamed Damascus for the Douma attack, a charge the Syrian government rejected.
Western governments and their allies have never stopped pointing the finger at Damascus whenever an apparent chemical attack takes place.
This is while Syria surrendered its stockpile of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the United States and the OPCW, which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry. It has consistently denied using chemical weapons.
#AceNewsReport – Apr.18: In response to the U.S. moves with Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters his country had lodged “stern representations” with the United States.
Daily Chinese incursions cause U.S. to expand ties with Taiwan: ‘Among Chinese military moves has been the almost daily air force incursions into Taiwan’s air defense zone’
Zhao Lijian noted that China urged the United States “not to play with fire on the Taiwan issue, immediately stop any form of U.S.-Taiwan official contacts..and not send wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces, so as not to subversively influence and damage Sino-U.S. relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”.
‘Discussed deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, and economic coercion toward our allies. Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability. That’s why they’re not merely internal matters and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today’
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good afternoon, and welcome. On behalf of National Security Advisor Sullivan and myself, I want to welcome Director Yang and State Councilor Wang to Alaska, and to thank you very much for making the journey to be with us.
Following the increase in hostile Chinese actions, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the United States was concerned about China’s actions with Taiwan.
In a written response to Reuters on Blinken’s remarks, China’s Foreign Ministry said the government intended to protect the country’s sovereignty.
“Don’t stand on the opposite side of 1.4 billion Chinese people,” it warned the United States.
On Tuesday, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry reported another four Chinese J-16 fighters and an anti-submarine warfare aircraft entered its defense zone.
One day earlier, Taiwan said 25 Chinese military aircraft, including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers, entered its air zone, marking the largest incursion to date.
While Washington recognizes Beijing, rather than Taipei, the United States remains Taiwan’s most important international supporter and arms seller.
Further, by law the United States is required to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has said Taiwan is an independent country and that it will defend its freedom and security.
#AceNewsReport – Apr.16: When police arrived, officers reportedly observed “an active shooting scene at the facility”, according to Indianapolis police spokesperson Genae Cook.
Indianapolis shooting leaves eight people dead at FedEx facility in US: At least eight people have been shot and killed US police have said & multiple people have injuries and the gunman has died, according to authorities.
Posted 4h ago, updated 3h ago
She said four people were transported to hospitals, one in critical condition with gunshot injuries and three others with various injuries.
Two others were treated at the facility by medical staff. Ms Cook said “multiple” others walked to hospitals in nearby areas.
She added that the gunman had died and the public is not believed to be in immediate danger.
FedEx released a statement saying it was cooperating with authorities and working to get more information.
“We are aware of the tragic shooting at our FedEx ground facility near the Indianapolis airport,” the company said.
“Safety is our top priority, and our thoughts are with all those who are affected.”
Live video from news outlets at the scene showed crime scene tape in the parking lot outside the facility.
A witness who said he works at the facility told US media he saw a man with a gun after hearing several gunshots.
“I saw a man with a submachine gun of some sort, an automatic rifle, and he was firing in the open,” Jeremiah Miller said.
Another man who told media he was a witness said his niece was sitting in her car in the driver’s seat when the gunfire erupted, and she was wounded.
“She got shot on her left arm,” Parminder Singh said.
“She’s fine, she’s in the hospital now.”
He said his niece did not know the shooter.
Family members of workers reportedly gathered at a local hotel to await word on loved ones.
Some said employees were not allowed to have their phones with them while working shifts at the facility, making it difficult to contact them.
The FedEx facility is located close to the Indianapolis International airport.
The attack is the latest in a string of mass shootings across the US in recent months.
Eight people were shot dead by a gunman at massage businesses in Atlanta, Georgia, while another gunman killed 10 people when he opened fire in a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.
This is the third mass shooting this year in Indianapolis.
Five people, including a pregnant woman, were shot and killed in January, and a man was accused of killing three adults and a child before abducting his daughter during an argument at a home in March.
#AceNewsReport – Apr.13: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers removed a convicted child molester and public safety threat from the United States to El Salvador, Apr.06:
ICE removes child molester from US to El Salvador: ‘Victor Argueta-Linares, 46, is a citizen of El Salvador who was in the United States illegally. In 1997, Argueta-Linares was convicted of both lewd or lascivious acts with a minor and sex offenses against a child, and on Oct. 22, of the same year he was ordered to be removed from the U.S. by an immigration judge’
Argueta-Linares has been removed from the U.S. to El Salvador on two previous occasions. He recently came to the attention of immigration officials, Dec 6, after he was booked on local charges at the King County Jail. ERO officers lodged an immigration detainer the same day.
ICE lodges immigration detainers on individuals, like Argueta-Linares, who have been arrested on local criminal charges and who are suspected of being removable, so that ICE can take custody of that person when he or she is released from local custody.
On Dec. 14, the South Correction Entity (SCORE) in King County, Washington declined to honor the immigration detainer and released Argueta-Linares. On Dec. 21, ERO arrested Argueta-Linares during a targeted enforcement operation.
ERO reinstated his previous order of removal and on April 6, Argueta-Linares was removed from the United States via an ICE Air Operations charter flight and transferred to the custody of Salvadoran authorities.
ICE is implementing the interim civil immigration enforcement prioritiesdirected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to focus its limited resources on threats to national security, border security and public safety. ICE continues to carry out its duty to enforce the laws of the United States in accordance with the Department’s national security and public safety mission.
#AceNewsReport – Apr.10: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers removed a convicted rapist and public safety threat, with multiple sexual assault convictions in Oregon, from the United States to Mexico, Tuesday:
ICE removes convicted rapist from US to Mexico: ‘Juan Cortez-Magdaleno, 53, is a Mexican citizen who was granted legal status in the United States in 1991. On Nov. 10, 2004, Cortez-Magdaleno, came to the attention of ERO officers following convictions for two counts of rape in the first degree, sodomy in the first degree and sexual abuse in the first degree, for which he was sentenced to 405 months in prison. ERO officers lodged an immigration detainer with the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) the same day’
ICE lodges immigration detainers on individuals, like Cortez-Magdaleno, who have been arrested on local criminal charges and who are suspected of being removable, so that ICE can take custody of that person when he or she is released from local custody.
“The immigration detainer allows ICE to take custody of individuals who are deemed public safety threats, like Cortez-Magdaleno, versus releasing them to the streets where they could potentially prey on additional children, said ICE’s acting Seattle Field Office Director Michael Melendez.”
On March 1, 2021, the Oregon DOC transferred Cortez-Magdaleno to ICE custody and on March 31, an immigration judge ordered Cortez-Magdaleno removed to Mexico.
On April 6, Cortez-Magdaleno was removed from the United States via an ICE Air Operations charter flight and transferred to the custody of Mexican authorities.
ICE is now implementing the interim civil immigration enforcement priorities directed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to focus its limited resources on threats to national security, border security and public safety. ICE continues to carry out its duty to enforce the laws of the United States in accordance with the Department’s national security and public safety mission.
#AceNewsReport – Apr.08: Khan allegedly led a global human smuggling operation that used fraudulent documents and international travel routes to facilitate the entry of unauthorized individuals into the United States,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh for the Eastern District of Virginia. “We are committed to holding accountable those who seek personal monetary gain by compromising and undermining the integrity of the immigration process.”
Pakistani National Indicted & Sanctioned for Human Smuggling Conspiracy: ‘ According to court documents, between January 2015 and December 2020, Abid Ali Khan, 40, allegedly organized, led, and worked, with others in his Pakistan-based smuggling network to facilitate the travel of undocumented individuals to the United States.
Khan allegedly disregarded the fact that the individuals did not have prior authorization to enter the United States and that their entry into the United States would be illegal. Khan also allegedly encouraged, induced, and brought undocumented individuals to the United States for commercial advantage and financial gain’
“Abid Ali Khan is alleged to have organized and led an international organization that, in exchange for monetary payment, facilitated the illegal smuggling of individuals through various countries to the United States,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “As this case demonstrates, the department continues to identify and prosecute those who seek to profit from conduct that undermines our system of legal immigration and imperils the lives of those being smuggled, often under dangerous conditions.”
Treasury Sanctions Pakistan-based Transnational Human Smuggling Organization Involved in Smuggling Migrants to the United States
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Pakistani national Abid Ali Khan and the Abid Ali Khan Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13581, “Blocking Property of Transnational Criminal Organizations,” as amended. The Abid Ali Khan TCO is a human smuggling organization based in Nowshera, Pakistan, that has facilitated the unlawful smuggling of foreign nationals, including foreign nationals who may pose a national security risk to the United States or its interests, into the United States using various travel routes through Latin America since at least 2015. Additionally, OFAC designated three individuals and one entity associated with the Abid Ali Khan TCO.
“Treasury’s designation of this human smuggling organization as a significant Transnational Criminal Organization is an important step, taken alongside our partners, towards disrupting Abid Ali Khan operations based in Pakistan and around the world,” said Andrea Gacki, Director of the Office of the Foreign Assets Control. “The Abid Ali Khan TCO should not be allowed to prey on the vulnerable and take advantage of the U.S. financial system.”
Today’s action was conducted in close coordination with Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Miami Field Office, the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, the HSI Human Smuggling Unit, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center, under the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force program, along with the U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Southern Command, and other U.S. government partners.
“Abid Ali Kahn allegedly organized and leads a widespread smuggling organization that facilitates the illegal smuggling of individuals through various countries and to the United States,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This case is another example of the department’s continued work to prosecute those who seek to profit from thwarting our system of legal immigration, jeopardizing our national security, and imperiling the lives of the persons being smuggled under dangerous conditions.”
“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami is committed to prosecuting individuals who pose a threat to national security and our critical infrastructure, including exploiting our global financial systems through their smuggling networks,” said HSI Miami Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury. “A recent HSI-led investigation revealed the Pakistani-based Abid Khan human smuggling network, operating in the Middle East and South America, is exploiting systemic vulnerabilities in order to move people with nefarious motivations into the United States and elsewhere.”
Human smuggling is a profitable business. Based on migrants’ accounts of how much they paid smugglers, media reports have estimated Latin American smuggling networks generate at least $150 million and as much as $350 million a year — not counting payments to corrupt officials, local agents, or others on the U.S.–Mexico border who exploit the desperation of migrants. For the individuals who engage in this business, the safety and security of their clients matter far less than the profit they can make, and an untold number of migrants make the dangerous decision to embark on an irregular migration journey based on smugglers’ misrepresentations about U.S. border policy.
Pakistani national Abid Ali Khan (Khan) is the leader of the Abid Ali Khan TCO, a prolific human smuggling organization based in Nowshera, Pakistan. Khan and members of his TCO operate a global network of human smugglers that are responsible for the international smuggling of migrants into the United States. Khan and members of his TCO coordinate the smuggling of foreign nationals to the United States for an average cost of approximately the equivalent of $20,000 USD per individual; this sum includes, but is not limited to, fees to procure fraudulent or counterfeit documents, make payoffs to corrupt officials, secure lodging along smuggling route, and provide payments to facilitators in various countries. Abid Ali Khan TCO often provides travelers with fraudulently obtained passports from different countries to facilitate his clients’ global movement and smuggling to the United States. The Abid Ali Khan TCO frequently utilizes a common route of travel that begins in Pakistan or Afghanistan, transiting through certain South and Central American countries before arriving at the southern border of the United States.
OFAC is also designating three Khan associates for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, or for having acted or having purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Abid Ali Khan TCO. Afghan national Redi Hussein Khal Gul serves as Khan’s secretary, performing functions that include, but are not limited to, initial contact with clients, travel facilitation, and obtaining fraudulent documents for the migrants. Pakistani national Shakeel Karim is an employee of Khan and uses Friends Travel Inn PVT LTD to coordinate travel for migrants. Pakistani national Mohammed Choudry Ikram Waraich serves as Khan’s contact in the Middle East and facilitates travel into the United States. All three individuals are linked to the procurement or use of fraudulent documents for travel or asylum applications, which can significantly impair appropriate immigration vetting processes.
In addition to the national security concerns, the practice of smuggling-for-profit and the facilitation of fraudulent documentation undermines the credibility of the U.S. asylum system, damaging public confidence in the vetting process, and jeopardizing access to protection for vulnerable persons fleeing conflict, famine, and persecution.
As a result of today’s action, all assets of Abid Ali Khan the Abid Ali Khan TCO, and the three individuals named above, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of Abid Ali Khan, the Abid Ali Khan TCO, or any other blocked or designated persons.
“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami is committed to prosecuting individuals who pose a threat to national security and our critical infrastructure, including exploiting our global financial systems through their smuggling networks,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury of HSI Miami. “A recent HSI-led investigation revealed the Pakistani-based Abid Khan human smuggling network, operating in the Middle East and southwest Asia, is allegedly exploiting systemic vulnerabilities in order to move people into the United States and elsewhere.”
“This outcome is a result of the outstanding dedication and commitment by case agents and the effective partnership between HSI and the Justice Department’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, including significant contributions made by CBP’s Counter Networks Division, members of the HSI Human Smuggling Unit and other partners,” said Chief Ramon Romo of the HSI Human Smuggling Unit. “Their collaborative efforts make our country a safer place.”
Khan allegedly accepted payment in exchange for planning and coordinating the international travel for foreign nationals to travel from Pakistan through multiple countries, to include Brazil and the United States, allegedly offered or provided false documents for foreign nationals to use for travel through multiple countries, and allegedly instructed foreign nationals that his co-conspirators would facilitate various parts of the travel between Pakistan and the United States.
In addition to the criminal charges filed against Khan, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced today that it has designated Khan, the Khan Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO), and several other members of his smuggling network in connection with their involvement in a global network of human smugglers and the smuggling of undocumented noncitizens to the United States. The Treasury Department’s sanctions require the blocking and reporting of all assets held by Khan, his associates, and the Khan TCO in the U.S., or in the possession and control of U.S. persons. The sanctions also prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons, or persons within (or transiting) the United States, that involve any property or interests of Khan, his associates or the Khan TCO.
The Department of Justice recognizes OFAC’s efforts to help stop Khan and his network from allegedly continuing to smuggle persons to the United States.
The case is being investigated by HSI Miami, with assistance from the HSI Human Smuggling Unit; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Department of Homeland Security Homeland Identities, Targeting, and Exploitation Center (HITEC); HSI Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program; HSI Attaché Panama; and HSI Attaché Brasilia.
The investigation is being conducted under the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force (ECT) program, a joint partnership between the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and HSI. The ECT program focuses on human smuggling networks that may present national security or public safety risks, or present grave humanitarian concerns. ECT has dedicated investigative, intelligence, and prosecutorial resources. ECT coordinates and receives assistance from other U.S. government agencies and foreign law enforcement authorities.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Jay A. Bauer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Walutes of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
#AceNewsReport – Mar.30: On March 25, 2021, the United States and the United Kingdom held the first meeting of the Joint Committee established under the U.S.-UK Agreement on Prudential Measures Regarding Insurance and Reinsurance (“the Agreement” hereafter). The United States and the United Kingdom signed the Agreement on December 18, 2018, and the Agreement entered into force on December 31, 2020:
The Agreement—which is a ‘covered agreement’ as defined by the Dodd-Frank Act for the United States—addresses three areas of prudential insurance oversight: (1) reinsurance, (2) group supervision, and (3) the exchange of insurance information between supervisors.
The Joint Committee meeting was conducted by video conference and attended by representatives from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Her Majesty’s Treasury, and the Prudential Regulatory Authority of the United Kingdom, as well as by U.S. state insurance commissioners and the Federal Reserve Board.
During this first Joint Committee meeting under the Agreement, participants on both sides discussed progress made toward timely implementation of the Agreement, including the removal of collateral and local presence requirements for reinsurers and the provisions on group supervision measures. In addition, the United States and the United Kingdom affirmed their commitment to the Agreement and to close coordination between the two sides as implementation continues. Consistent with the Agreement, both sides are continuing to encourage relevant authorities to refrain from taking any measures that are inconsistent with any provisions of the Agreement.
#AceNewsReport – Mar.30: DEA Special Operation Division Special Agent in Charge Wendy C. Woolcock and United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss announced today that Juan Manuel Avila Meza, a former member of the Honduran National Police, was sentenced today to 12 years in prison for conspiring to import cocaine into the United States. Avila Meza previously pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield, who imposed today’s sentence.
‘Juan Manuel Avila Meza leveraged his position in law enforcement and as an attorney to attempt to rise above the law, profiting from the reprehensible criminal activities he helped facilitate,” said Special Agent in Charge Woolcock. “Today’s sentencing reaffirms that corruption in law enforcement will never go unchecked by the United States’
The Drug Enforcement Administration, alongside our domestic and international partners, will continue working tirelessly to bring to justice all those who participate in drug trafficking.”
“Juan Manuel Avila Meza conspired to transport large shipments of cocaine into, within, and out of Honduras, including shipments bound for the U.S.,” said U.S. Attorney Strauss. “He provided sensitive law enforcement information to members of the Cachiros to enable their trafficking operations, and he brokered meetings with other corrupt officials to facilitate money laundering and cocaine trafficking. Juan Manuel Avila Meza tarnished the badge he wore by protecting drug traffickers rather than those he took an oath to protect and serve.”
According to the indictment, other court filings, and statements made during court proceedings, between at least approximately 2004 and 2014, Avila Meza worked with members of a drug trafficking organization known as the Cachiros, which was a prolific and violent criminal syndicate that relied on connections to politicians, military personnel, and law enforcement to transport cocaine to, within, and from Honduras. During that time, and while Avila Meza was purportedly enforcing the law as a police officer and, later, an attorney, Avila Meza participated in the Cachiros’ criminal enterprise by engaging in drug trafficking, money laundering, sanctions evasion, and debt collection.
Beginning in about 2004, Avila Meza provided the Cachiros with sensitive law enforcement information to facilitate the transportation of cocaine. Avila Meza also assisted the Cachiros with money laundering and evasion of U.S. sanctions. In May 2013, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control publicly identified the Cachiros as a significant foreign narcotics group pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. Nevertheless, beginning in August 2013, the defendant – as an active member of both the Honduran National Police and the Cachiros – assisted the Cachiros with an asset-based money laundering transaction related to a large piece of real estate in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
In February 2014, Avila Meza helped set up and attended a meeting between one of the leaders of the Cachirosand Juan Antonio Hernández Alvarado, aka “Tony Hernández,” another convicted major drug trafficker who is the brother of current Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández, to discuss money laundering transactions between a Cachiros front company and the Honduran government. In June 2014, Avila Meza met with six other members of the Honduran National Police, Fabio Lobo Sosa, the now-convicted son of Porfirio Lobo Sosa, the Honduran president who preceded Juan Orlando Hernández, and two DEA confidential sources purporting to be members of the Sinaloa Cartel. During the meeting, Avila Meza led a discussion of how best to rely on the Honduran National Police to secure safe passage for a large cocaine shipment:
Six other former members of the Honduran National Police, including, among others, Victor Oswaldo Lopez Flores, Ludwig Criss Zelaya Romero, Carlos Jose Zavala Velasquez, and Carlos Alberto Valladares Garcia, were convicted in this case of firearms and/or drug trafficking offenses for conspiring to import cocaine into the United States. Each of those individuals has pled guilty in federal court, along with co-conspirator Fabio Lobo. On September 5, 2017, Lobo was sentenced to 24 years in prison; on February 6, 2018, Flores was sentenced to five years in prison; on June 27, 2018, Velasquez was sentenced to 12 years in prison; and on September 27, 2018, Garcia was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Zelaya Romero is awaiting sentencing by Judge Schofield. On October 18, 2019, Hernández Alvarado was convicted at a trial before the Honorable P. Kevin Castel of cocaine importation, weapons, and false statements offenses, and he is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Castel tomorrow.
In addition to the prison term, Avila Meza, 50, was sentenced to four years of supervised release.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacob Gutwillig, Matthew Laroche, Jason A. Richman, and Elinor Tarlow are in charge of the prosecution.
#AceNewsReport – Mar.22: Secretary of State Antony Blinken laid out the thinking behind the guidance in his first major speech since entering office. It was a compelling one, underscoring the urgent need to shore up US democracy and revitalize America’s alliances and partnerships:
Who will organize the world? That’s what’s at stake in the Biden-Xi contest: ‘The Washington piece was President Joe Biden’s release of the “Interim National Security Strategic Guidance,” which is unprecedented at this stage in a new administration. Biden’s purpose was to provide early clarity about how he intends to set and execute priorities in a fast-changing world’
Kindness & Wisdom says will God take over and bring Peace & Goodwill to ALL on this Earth Amen
Who is going to organize the world? And what forces and whose interests will shape the global future?
“ Whether we like it or not, the world does not organize itself,” Blinken said. “When the U.S. pulls back, one of two things is likely to happen: either another country tries to take our place, but not in a way that advances our interests and values; or, maybe just as bad, no one steps up, and then we get chaos and all the dangers it creates. Either way, that’s not good for America.”
Relations with China, which Blinken called “the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century,” are the wrench in this organizational thinking.
Said Blinken: “China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system—all the rules, values, and relationships that make the world work the way we want it to, because it ultimately serves the interests and reflects the values of the American people.”
Biden’s biggest departure from former President Donald Trump’s approach to China is his emphasis on working with partners and allies. This week’s move by the United States and European Union to ease trade tensions, suspending a long list of tariffs related to the Airbus-Boeing dispute over government subsidies, underscores Biden’s seriousness of purpose.
China’s take on organizing the world
Unsurprisingly, Beijing is offering up a different view of the future around the second key event this past week: China’s National People’s Congress that convened Friday and will continue this coming week.
Chinese President Xi Jinping sees momentum building for Beijing in a world where “the East is rising, and the West is declining.” His argument was that China offers order, in contrast to the United States’ chaos, and effective governance, in contrast to Washington’s ineffectiveness, demonstrated by how much better it has handled the pathogen it unleashed.
Xi’s most comprehensive swipe at how China would organize the world came in late January at this year’s virtually convened World Economic Forum. The speech’s title underscored its all-embracing ambition: “Let the Torch of Multilateralism Light up Humanity’s Way Forward.”
If Biden’s vision is for the United States to create a band of reinvigorated democratic sisters and brothers, inspired by the country’s revitalization, Xi’s vision is for a world where each country’s political system, culture, and society are its own business.
In this world, America’s value judgments are passé.
The subtext for Xi is simple: How countries organize themselves internally, along with whatever authoritarian strictures and human rights violations they include—whether against the Uighur minority in Xinjiang, democracy activists in Hong Kong, or perhaps even ultimately Taiwan’s independence—just is not Washington’s business.
“Each country is unique with its own history, culture and social system, and none is superior to the other,” Xi told the virtual Davos crowd. “The best criteria are whether a country’s history, culture and social system fit its particular situation, enjoy people’s support, serve to deliver political stability …” Xi made clear this approach is meant to “avoid meddling in other countries’ internal affairs.”
By contrast, in a letter that accompanied the strategic guidance this week, President Biden wrote, “I firmly believe that democracy holds the key to freedom, prosperity, peace, and dignity… We must prove that our model isn’t a relic of history; it’s the single best way to realize the promise of our future. And if we work together with our democratic partners, with strength and confidence, we will meet every challenge and outpace every challenger.”
As democracy weakens globally, the world’s democracies must act
The context for these competing visions was this week’s release of Freedom House’s annual survey that said, “less than 20 percent of the world’s population now lives in a Free country, the smallest proportion since 1995.”
In the study, called “Democracy under Siege,” Sarah Repucci and Amy Slipowitz wrote, “as a lethal pandemic, economic and physical insecurity, and violent conflict ravaged the world in 2020, democracy’s defenders sustained heavy new losses in their struggle against authoritarian foes, shifting the international balance in favor of tyranny.”
It was the fifteenth successive year in which countries with declines in political rights and civil liberties outnumbered those with gains. The report said that nearly 75 percent of the world’s population lived in a country that faced a deterioration of democratic freedoms last year.
It may seem that this is absolutely the wrong time to expect the world’s democracies to rally to shape the global order. Yet just the opposite is true: At a time when democracy is being tested across the world, there’s no better time to work together to address these challenges and ensure that the global gains in freedom over the past seventy-five years don’t continue to erode.
Chastened by the global situation, the Biden administration knows its work must begin at home. Blinken also was modest in how the United States would go about advancing democracy.
“We will use the power of our example,” he said. “We will encourage others to make key reforms, overturn bad laws, fight corruption, and stop unjust practices. We will incentivize democratic behavior.”
What the United States won’t do is promote democracy “through costly military interventions,” said Blinken, “or by attempting to overthrow authoritarian regimes by force. We have tried these tactics in the past. However well intentioned, they haven’t worked.”
In the end, the world is not going to be organized either by Chinese or American fiat, but rather by a concert of national interests influenced by the trajectory of the world’s two leading powers.
Xi’s bet is that China’s momentum is unstoppable, that the world is sufficiently transactional, and that his economy has become indispensable to most US allies. Biden must not only shift that narrative but also work in common cause to reverse the reality of democratic weakening.
#AceNewsReport – Mar.20: The complaint, filed in October 2020 in U.S. District Court of Los Angeles, charges the defendants with one count of conspiracy to violate the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, Iranian Financial Sanctions Regulations and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The defendants are believed to be located outside of the United States. If convicted, the defendants would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
‘A federal criminal complaint unsealed today charges 10 Iranian nationals with running a nearly 20-year-long scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on the Government of Iran by disguising more than $300 million worth of transactions – including the purchase of two $25 million oil tankers – on Iran’s behalf through front companies in the San Fernando Valley, Canada, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates. In addition, a forfeiture complaint filed today seeks a money laundering penalty in the amount of $157,332,367’
“In a substantial civil forfeiture action filed by the Department, the defendants stand to lose over $157 million in funds involved in violations of the Iran sanctions,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “This is only right. Through the use of front companies, money service businesses and exchanges throughout the world, the defendants worked to disguise hundreds of millions of dollars worth of transactions on behalf of a state sponsor of terrorism. Make no mistake, the Department of Justice will continue to deploy all tools necessary to curb the Iranian regime’s ability to use the U.S. financial system to support its malign endeavors.”
“The FBI has a keen ability to track nefarious actors who use the U.S. financial system to evade sanctions,” said Alan E. Kohler, Jr., Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “Our investigation revealed over 70 front companies were used by these individuals to hide their conspiracy in support of the Iranian Governments pursuit of nuclear weapons and sponsorship of terrorism.”
“In a wide-ranging scheme spanning nearly two decades and several continents, the defendants conspired to abuse the U.S. financial system to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions on behalf of the Government of Iran,” said Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison for the Central District of California. “Today’s indictment is an example of the will of federal law enforcement to bring to justice those who violate our sanctions and laws designed to strengthen our national security.”
According to court documents, the complaint details a decades-long conspiracy to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran, a nation which the U.S. State Department has designated as a state sponsor of terrorism. During the scheme, the defendants allegedly created and used more than 70 front companies, money service businesses and exchange houses – often using the name “Persepolis” or “Rosco” – in the United States, Iran, Canada, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong. The defendants also allegedly made false representations to financial institutions to disguise more than $300 million worth of transactions on Iran’s behalf, using money wired in U.S. dollars and sent through U.S.-based banks.
The complaint alleges that the defendants were aware of U.S. sanctions on Iran throughout the conspiracy. In one email exchange, for example, defendants allegedly discussed the U.S. government’s efforts to disrupt Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s “international financial network,” an organization allegedly designed to conceal investments from the Iranian people and international regulators. In an iCloud account, one defendant saved a press report about new U.S. sanctions imposed on firms suspected of funding the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
As alleged, several defendants operated or were employed by Persepolis Financial Services Inc., an Encino-based company that facilitated the illegal transfer of U.S. dollars on Iran’s behalf from 1999 through the early 2000s. After a Persepolis Financial executive was convicted in 2003, several defendants left the country and moved to Canada and the United Arab Emirates. There, they owned, operated or were employed by additional front companies – using the names Rosco Trading, Rosco International, Persepolis and Rosco Investment – that were used for well over a decade to secretly facilitate U.S. dollar transactions on Iran’s behalf.
In addition, several defendants allegedly used a Hong Kong-based front company known as Total Excellence Ltd. to secretly buy two $25 million oil tankers on Iran’s behalf. The U.S. later sanctioned the businessman for using Iranian money to purchase oil tankers and to help Iran ship crude oil in violation of U.S. and European Union sanctions. In 2013, two defendants allegedly defrauded a financial institution in the UAE by preparing a fraudulent invoice and making false statements indicating that a transaction in U.S. dollars – processed through a New York-based bank – was undertaken on behalf of a UAE-based front company. In actuality, the true buyer was an Iranian oil and gas company, the affidavit states.
Furthermore, in 2016, several defendants allegedly conspired to wire millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system to complete a transaction with a South Korean equipment manufacturer on Iran’s behalf. During that transaction, four defendants instructed the manufacturer to not to “mention any name of Iran” in any paperwork exchanged with financial institutions processing the transaction, the affidavit alleges. In March 2017, the South Korean company sent $1 million to a front company selected by the conspirators.
Finally, in 2016, the conspirators secretly transferred thousands of dollars into Southern California on Iran’s behalf, including $66,766 that a defendant transferred to a Santa Monica-based company with a bank account held at Wells Fargo & Co., to acquire electronic equipment at the direction of a business associate at an Iran-based company, according to the affidavit.
The FBI is investigating the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys William M. Rollins of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section, Dan G. Boyle of the Asset Forfeiture Section, and Trial Attorney David Lim of the Department of Justice’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting this case.
A complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
#AceNewsReport – Mar.09: The first major move is expected over the next three weeks, officials said, with a series of clandestine actions across Russian networks that are intended to be evident to President Vladimir V. Putin and his intelligence services and military but not to the wider world:
Preparing for Retaliation Against Russia, U.S. Confronts Hacking by China: ‘Just as it plans to begin retaliating against Russia for the large-scale hacking of American government agencies and corporations discovered late last year, the Biden administration faces a new cyberattack that raises the question of whether it will have to strike back at another major adversary’
The proliferation of cyberattacks by rivals is presenting a challenge to the Biden administration as it seeks to deter intrusions on government and corporate systems.
March 7, 2021:
Taken together, the responses will start to define how President Biden fashions his new administration’s response to escalating cyberconflictand whether he can find a way to impose a steeper penalty on rivals who regularly exploit vulnerabilities in government and corporate defenses to spy, steal information and potentially damage critical components of the nation’s infrastructure.
The officials said the actions would be combined with some kind of economic sanctions — though there are few truly effective sanctions left to impose — and an executive order from Mr. Biden to accelerate the hardening of federal government networks after the Russian hacking, which went undetected for months until it was discovered by a private cybersecurity firm.
The issue has taken on added urgency at the White House, the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies in recent days after the public exposure of a major breach in Microsoft email systems used by small businesses, local governments and, by some accounts, key military contractors.
Microsoft identified the intruders as a state-sponsored Chinese group and moved quickly to issue a patch to allow users of its software to close off the vulnerability.
But that touched off a race between those responsible for patching the systems and a raft of new attackers — including multiple other Chinese hacking groups, according to Microsoft — who started using the same exploit this week.
The United States government has not made public any formal determination of who was responsible for the hacking, but at the White House and on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Wash., the fear is that espionage and theft may be a prelude to far more destructive activity, such as changing data or wiping it out.
The White House underscored the seriousness of the situation in a statement on Sunday from the National Security Council.
“The White House is undertaking a whole of government response to assess and address the impact” of the Microsoft intrusion, the statement said. It said the response was being led by Anne Neuberger, a former senior National Security Agency official who is the first occupant of a newly created post: deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies.
The statement said that national security officials were working throughout the weekend to address the hacking and that “this is an active threat still developing, and we urge network operators to take it very seriously.”
Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, said on Twitter on Thursday that the White House was “closely tracking” the reports that the vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange were being used in “potential compromises of U.S. think tanks and defense industrial base entities.”
The discovery came as Mr. Biden’s national security team, led by Mr. Sullivan and Ms. Neuberger, has moved to the top of its agenda an effort to deter attacks, whether their intent is theft, altering data or shutting down networks entirely. For the president, who promised that the Russian attack would not “go unanswered,” the administration’s reactions in the coming weeks will be a test of his ability to assert American power in an often unseen but increasingly high-stakes battle among major powers in cyberspace.
A mix of public sanctions and private actions is the most likely combination to force a “broad strategic discussion with the Russians,” Mr. Sullivan said in an interview on Thursday, before the scope of the Chinese attack was clear.
“I actually believe that a set of measures that are understood by the Russians, but may not be visible to the broader world, are actually likely to be the most effective measures in terms of clarifying what the United States believes are in bounds and out of bounds, and what we are prepared to do in response,” he added.
From the first day of the new administration, Mr. Sullivan has been reorganizing the White House to fashion such responses. The same order he issued on Jan. 20, requiring the military to advise the White House before conducting drone strikes outside war zones, contained a paragraph with separate instructions for dealing with major cyberoperations that risk escalating conflict.
The order left in place, however, a still secret document signed by President Donald J. Trump in August 2018 giving the United States Cyber Command broader authorities than it had during the Obama administration to conduct day-to-day, short-of-war skirmishes in cyberspace, often without explicit presidential authorization.
Under the new order, Cyber Command will have to bring operations of significant size and scope to the White House and allow the National Security Council to review or adjust those operations, according to officials briefed on the memo. The forthcoming operation against Russia, and any potential response to China, is likely to fall in this category.
American officials continue to try to better understand the scope and damage done by the Chinese attack, but every day since its revelation has suggested that it is bigger, and potentially more harmful, than first thought.
The initial estimates were that 30,000 or so systems were affected, mostly those operated by businesses or government agencies that use Microsoft software and run their email systems in-house. (Email and others systems run on Microsoft’s cloud were not affected.)
But the breadth of the intrusion and the identities of the victims are still unclear. And while the Chinese deployed the attack widely, they might have sought only to take information from a narrow group of targets in which they have the highest interest.
There is little doubt that the scope of the attack has American officials considering whether they will have to retaliate against China as well. That would put them in the position of engaging in a potentially escalating conflict with two countries that are also its biggest nuclear-armed adversaries.
It has become increasingly clear in recent days that the hacking that Microsoft has attributed to Beijing poses many of the same challenges as the SolarWinds attack conducted by the Russians, although the targets and the methodology are significantly different.
Like the Russians, the Chinese attackers initiated their campaign against Microsoft from computer servers — essentially cloud services — that they rented under assumed identities in the United States. Both countries know that American law prohibits intelligence agencies from looking in systems based in the United States, and they are exploiting that legal restriction.
“The Chinese actor apparently spent the time to research the legal authorities and recognized that if they could operate from inside the United States, it takes some of the government’s best threat-hunters off the field,” Tom Burt, the Microsoft executive overseeing the investigation, said on Friday.
The result was that in both the SolarWinds and the more recent Chinese hacking, American intelligence agencies appeared to have missed the evidence of what was happening until a private company saw it and alerted the authorities.
The debate preoccupying the White House is how to respond. Mr. Sullivan served as Mr. Biden’s national security adviser while he was vice president, as the Obama administration struggled to respond to a series of attacks.
In writings and talks over the past four years, Mr. Sullivan has made clear that he believes traditional sanctions alone do not sufficiently raise the cost to force powers like Russia or China to begin to talk about new rules of the road for cyberspace.
But government officials often fear that too strong a response risks escalation.
That is a particular concern in the Russian and Chinese attacks, where both countries have clearly planted “back doors” to American systems that could be used for more destructive purposes.
American officials say publicly that the current evidence suggests that the Russian intention in the SolarWinds attack was merely data theft. But several senior officials, when speaking not for attribution, said they believed the size, scope and expense of the operation suggested that the Russians might have had much broader motives.
“I’m struck by how many of these attacks undercut trust in our systems,” Mr. Burt said, “just as there are efforts to make the country distrust the voting infrastructure, which is a core component of our democracy.”
Russia broke into the Democratic National Committee and state voter-registration systems in 2016 largely by guessing or obtaining passwords. But they used a far more sophisticated method in the SolarWinds hacking, inserting code into the company’s software updates, which ushered them deep into about 18,000 systems that used the network management software. Once inside, the Russians had high-level access to the systems, with no passwords required.
Similarly, four years ago, a vast majority of Chinese government hacking was conducted via email spear-phishing campaigns. But over the past few years, China’s military hacking divisions have been consolidating into a new strategic support force, similar to the Pentagon’s Cyber Command. Some of the most important hacking operations are run by the stealthier Ministry of State Security, China’s premier intelligence agency, which maintains a satellite network of contractors.
Beijing also started hoarding so-called zero-days, flaws in code unknown to software vendors and for which a patch does not exist.
In August 2019, security researchers got their first glimpse of how these undisclosed zero-day flaws were being used: Security researchers at Google’s Project Zero and Volexity — the same company in Reston, Va., that discovered the Microsoft attack — found that Chinese hackers were using a software vulnerability to spy on anyone who visited a website read by Uighurs, an ethnic minority group whose persecution has drawn international condemnation.
For two years, until the campaign was discovered, anyone who visited the sites unwittingly downloaded Chinese implants onto their smartphones, allowing Beijing to monitor their communications.Kevin Mandia of FireEye, Sudhakar Ramakrishna of SolarWinds and Brad Smith of Microsoft testified last month in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the Russian hacking.Drew Angerer/Agence France-Presse, via Pool/Afp Via Getty Images
The Chinese attack on Microsoft’s servers used four zero-days flaws in the email software. Security experts estimated on Friday that as many as 30,000 organizations were affected by the hacking, a detail first reported by the security writer Brian Krebs. But there is some evidence that the number could be much higher.
#AceNewsReport – Mar.06: Michael Wibracht of San Antonio, Texas, the former owner of several companies in the construction industry, conspired to defraud the United States in order to obtain valuable government contracts under programs administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for which neither his nor his co-conspirators’ companies were eligible. One co-conspirator, Ruben Villarreal, also of San Antonio, pleaded guilty on Nov. 20, 2020, to participating in the same conspiracy.
Construction Company Owners Pleaded Guilty to Defrauding Federal Program Intended for Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses: ‘For many years, this conspiracy undermined the integrity of the federal procurement process,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division’ “This conduct robbed opportunities from honest businesses, especially those owned by historically disadvantaged individuals and service-disabled veterans.”
According to court documents filed in the Western District of Texas in San Antonio, Wibracht, Villareal, and other co-conspirators conspired to defraud the United States by interfering with the function of the SBA and fraudulently obtaining money from agencies of the United States as early as 2004 continuing at least through 2017. As part of this scheme, the conspirators installed Villareal, a service-disabled veteran, as the ostensible owner of a general construction company held out as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB). Wibracht and other co-conspirators, however, exercised disqualifying financial and operational control over the construction company. The conspirators concealed that control in order to secure over $250 million in government contracts that were “set aside” for SDVOSBs in order to benefit their larger, non-qualifying businesses. The SBA administers the SDVOSB program, which is designed to increase the number of government contracts awarded to small businesses owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans. To qualify as an SDVOSB, a company, among other things, must be owned and controlled by a service-disabled veteran.
“Conspiring to fraudulently gain access to federal contracts set aside for small businesses owned and operated by disadvantaged individuals or service-disabled veterans is unacceptable,” said Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware. “The guilty pleas send a strong message that those responsible will be held accountable. I want to thank the Antitrust Division and our law enforcement partners for their support and dedication to pursuing justice in this case.”
“These plea agreements showcase the unique expertise of the U.S. Army CID’s specialized unit, the Major Procurement Fraud Unit,” said Special Agent in Charge Ray A. Rayos of the Southwest Fraud Field Office of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit. “Together, with our partner agencies and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, those individuals responsible for engaging in a complex and long running scheme to defraud the United States government have been brought to justice.”
“The General Services Administration Office of Inspector General is committed to working with its law enforcement partners and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division to ensure that individuals and companies who fraudulently obtain contracts meant for legitimate small and disadvantaged businesses are investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Inspector General Carol Ochoa of the General Services Administration.
“This outcome is a testament to the commitment of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and our Law Enforcement partners in safeguarding the integrity to the DoD contracting process,” said Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Gregory P. Shilling of the DCIS Southwest Field Office. “DCIS will utilize all available resources to pursue allegations of fraud and corruption, bringing to justice those who seek to enrich themselves through the exploitation of Small Business Administration programs designed to help disadvantaged groups.”
Wibracht pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud and defraud the United States. Villarreal pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and is scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Xavier Rodriguez on June 23, 2021. Both men face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum fine for an individual may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime, or twice the loss suffered by victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The SBA Office of Inspector General, Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit, General Services Administration Office of Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, and DCIS are investigating the case, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas and the Army Audit Agency.
The Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal II Section is prosecuting the case. Special thanks are extended to Assistant U.S. Attorney William F. Lewis, Jr. of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.
In November 2019, the Department of Justice created the Procurement Collusion Strike Force, a joint law enforcement effort to combat antitrust crimes and related fraudulent schemes that impact procurement and grant and program funding at all levels of government — Federal, state, and local. For more information, visit https://www.justice.gov/procurement-collusion-strike-force.
#AceNewsReport – Dec.11: As of December 2020, the FBI, CISA, and MS-ISAC continue to receive reports from K-12 educational institutions about the disruption of distance learning efforts by cyber actors,” the alert reads. “Cyber actors likely view schools as targets of opportunity, and these types of attacks are expected to continue through the 2020/2021 academic year,” it added: But of all the attacks plaguing the K-12 sector (kindergarten through twelfth-grade schools), ransomware has been a particularly aggressive threat this year, CISA and the FBI said:
CISA has observed continuing ransomware attacks across the country and around the world: See CISA’s Awareness Briefings on Combating Ransomware, Joint Ransomware Statement, and CISA Insights – Ransomware Outbreak. Below, please find resources on CISA’s newly redesigned ransomware information page to better connect you with helpful resources and tools you and your organization need to guard against the ransomware threat.
Looking to learn more about this growing cyber threat? With industry best practices and individualized checklists, the NEW Ransomware Guide is a great place to start. The guide, released in September 2020, represents a joint effort between CISA and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC). The joint Ransomware Guide is a customer-centered, one-stop resource with best practices and ways to prevent, protect and/or respond to a ransomware attack.
In addition to reviewing the Ransomware Guide, we invite you to click on resources below to find additional Ransomware-related information. These resources are designed to help individuals and organizations prevent attacks that can severely impact business processes and leave organizations without the data they need to operate and deliver mission-critical services.
According to MS-ISAC data, the percentage of reported ransomware incidents against K-12 schools increased at the beginning of the 2020 school year,” the two agencies said. “In August and September, 57% of ransomware incidents reported to the MS-ISAC involved K-12 schools, compared to 28% of all reported ransomware incidents from January through July,” they said:
#AceNewsReport – SYRIA:July.17: British combat pilots embedded with American and Canadian coalition forces have bombed targets in Syria without democratic sanction, a Freedom of Information (FoI) request has revealed. Ministry of Defence (MoD) documents obtained by UK human rights group Reprieve on Thursday indicate that British air forces have been covertly involved in military airstrikes over Syria for some time RT Reported via Sources.
No10 spokeswoman on Syria bombing: “PM was aware that UK pilots were involved and what they were doing.”
“It is alarming that Parliament and the public have been kept in the dark about this for so long,” she added.
An extract from the MoD response to Reprieve’s FOI request says: “UK military personnel embedded with the USA, French and Canadian armed forces have been authorized to deploy with their units to participate in coalition operations against ISIL [Islamic State].
“These personnel include pilots flying ISR and Strike missions against ISIL targets using the equipment of those units. Of these three nations only the USA and Canada are operating in Syrian airspace.”
Govt to launch cross party review into future of freedom of information act. Not ideal day after an FoI confirms UK pilots bombing in Syria
The admission says that “UK Embeds operate as if they were the host nation’s personnel, under that nation’s chain of command,” bringing into question the legal basis from UK personnel’s apparently long-running involvement in airstrikes on Syria.
The revelations have created immediate dissent in the government, with Tory MP John Barron telling the BBC that Parliament had said “no to military intervention.“
“Those troops or individuals should be withdrawn from the embedded program whilst this vote holds sway, while it stills hold authority, until we vote again.”
While the UK has been involved in airstrikes against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq since September 2014, UK MPs voted against military intervention in crisis-ridden Syria in August 2013. The outcome of the vote caused considerable embarrassment to Prime Minister David Cameron, who openly backed the move.
Responding to a question put by then-Labour Leader Ed Miliband at the time, Cameron vowed to seek another vote before extending combat operations to Syria.
Following June’s terror massacre in Tunisia which left 30 British tourists dead, senior political and military figures in the UK have once again started to push for airstrikes in Syria. In 2013, Britain’s proposed military intervention in the war-torn state was aimed at overthrowing Syrian President Bashar Assad. Recent debate on UK airstrikes in the region has focused on obliterating IS militants operating there.
UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon recently said the extension of British bombing operations to Syria was a logical move. Speaking at an airpower conference held in London on Thursday, he compared IS to Nazi fascists from the 1940s.
The Labour party has called for an explanation from the MoD by Monday morning.
#AceNewsReport – UKRAINE: #MH17 July.17: On the first anniversary of downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO, a UN agency) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association uniting more than 260 airlines, have joined forces in seeking a global convention on anti-aircraft weapons, RIA reports.
My friend Zip, was kind enough to send links to me, regarding the Charleston shooter. Following through, the links provided are associated and indicates a common thread or theme. It does appear as manipulation however, the issue of any firearm, remains remote, in lieu of several factors.
Why has the states involved in shooting incidents, all, failed to bring physicians that wrote prescriptions to the numerous shooters? Big pharma never gets to answer before the Bench, either. Indications are that lobbyists, a reoccurring theme of lobbyists, stuffed cash and other items, into elected officials’ pockets. Why has big pharma been manufacturing psychotropic (Brain-Bender medication) narcotics? Many reasons, ranging from teachers unable to handle kids in class, to parents that are liberal to the point of complacency, by having doctors cope with a child’s mental condition, usually it might just be resolved by taking the child to a playground and allow them to run off their energy. That would be normal.
All the gun stuff is due to kids being in the house, watching movies and television, or, playing violent television games. Again, if the kid were running outside, or engaged in youth sports activities, a reduction of possibilities. An idle mind, is the Devil’s workshop. Idle hands are the Devil’s joy.
Another item is running around. Why have parents failed to secure and safeguard any, firearm? If a parent knows the child has any issue involving an inability to think and reason properly, why are those children allowed to be anywhere near guns? It’s not the gun, fingers point back to a complacent and weak-minded parent. External influences. Yes, it is difficult, but someone must be mindful of whom influences kids, and then, why, an influence is there. Cults. What if someone sought an individual that was a bit peculiar, to condition the subject for the commission of a crime, where the subject would commit a crime, while the influence remains covert in the shadows. Some people take Psych-101 and believe they have prowess to outsmart planet earth.
Government shifting in flavor. Absolutely. What would Ike do? A new beginning where youth would be in control and hopes were placed in President John F. Kennedy. Youth. New ideas. But somebody placed those ideas into heads. Who, and why? Sleigh of hand, while every one was looking at global issues ranging from Cuba, in Bay of Pigs, the Castro Cuban Missile Crisis, all the way to JFK sending rice to Korea for people to stem starvation, to military advisors sent to Vietnam. Something was taking place in the background, but everyone focused on what the news presented. Rotary phones. Newspapers. Ashtrays. It was a different world, where people left car keys in the ignition so the keys would not be lost, and car windows were rolled down all night long. Homes were unlocked. Businesses had no CCTV or alarm systems. Actually, it was a different culture. People visited one another. Today, it is, computers. Everyone can not see beyond the monitor screen.
Corporations. They manufacture goods. Influence the world for profit. Common good, connected to corporate profits. Don’t believe it, look at any given day’s results for the stock exchange. Global commerce. Politicians are influenced and change comes about slowly unless one is bold and liberal, then radical ideas become policy. The radical ideas need to clone, and colleges are the ideal setting to enlist the weaker minds that could be influenced in return for grades. The weak-minded leave the college and at some point, procreate. The kid has issues. Doped up by a profiteering doctor that has no love for anything beyond their bank account. Bad influences (parasite humans) find a host. The kid becomes twisted. But what would empower the kid to super human status? The gun. Results are horrific, and it is not the gun.
To blame the gun for killings, is akin to blaming pencils for misspelling words.
#AceNewsReport – WASHINGTON:June.18: Almost two and a half hundred people including doctors, nurses, pharmacy owners and patient recruiters are charged over $712 million Medicare fraud, allegedly the biggest criminal healthcare case in the country’s history.
US authorities charged 243 people for allegedly participating in a $712 million Medicare fraud, the largest criminal healthcare case in US history, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced during a press conference on Thursday.
“This is the largest takedown in the strike force’s eight year history,” Lynch said. “It is the largest criminal health takedown in the history of the Department of Justice and it adds to an already remarkable record of enforcement.”
The US Attorney’s Office said the 243 people charged are spread out in 17 federal districts across the United States.
Lynch noted 46 of the suspects are medical professionals, including doctors and nurses, but also home health care providers, pharmacy owners and patient recruiters.
They were accused of crimes ranging from conspiracy to commit health care fraud to wire fraud and money laundering, Lynch added.
She explained some of the suspects billed Medicare for equipment they did not provide to patients, for care that was not needed and for services that were not rendered.
In one instance, owners of mental health facilities in Miami, Florida received tens of millions in reimbursements for intensive psychotherapy sessions, while they only moved patients from one location to another, Lynch said.Lynch was joined at the press conference by Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Jim Comey, Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General Daniel Levinson, and other officials.
#AceNewsReport – ICELAND:June.18: After Iceland suffered a heavy hit in the 2008-2009 financial crisis, which famously resulted in convictions and jail terms for a number of top banking executives, the IMF now says the country has managed to achieve economic recovery—“without compromising its welfare model,” which includes universal healthcare and education.
In fact, Iceland is on track to become the first European country that suffered in the financial meltdown to “surpass its pre-crisis peak of economic output”—essentially proving to the U.S. that bailing out “too big to fail” banks wasn’t the way to go.
Iceland is beautifully, yet unfortunately, unique in how it chose to handle the disaster. It simply let the banks fail, which resulted in defaults totaling $85 billion—lending ample justification for the prosecution and conviction of bank executives for various fraud-related charges. The decision seemed shocking at the time, but the gamble has obviously paid off. Choosing a different route, the U.S. bailed out the banks and let executives off the hook by levying fines that ultimately ended up being paid by the corporations—meaning the executives ostensibly responsible for the mess got off scot-free.
“Why should we have a part of our society that is not being policed or without responsibility?” special prosecutor Olafur Hauksson said after Iceland’s Supreme Court upheld the convictions for three bankers—and sentenced them to between four and five and a half years each. “It is dangerous that someone is too big to investigate—it gives a sense there is a safe haven.”
Hauksson, a police officer from a small fishing village, ended up taking the role of special prosecutor after being urged to do so when the first announcement to fill the position drew no applicants. The Icelandic Parliament even aided the prosecution’s effort by loosening secrecy laws to allow investigation without the hindrance of requiring court orders.
Six of the seven convictions that ended up in Iceland’s Supreme Court have been upheld, and five cases were scheduled for the top court as of February. An additional fourteen cases appear likely to be prosecuted. By contrast, the animosity Americans felt toward their largest financial institutions after the bailout has grown bitter. After the banks pled guilty in May for manipulating global currency and interest rates, the court imposed a paltry fine of $5.7 billion—which won’t even go to the people most affected by the fraud. Iceland’s successful prosecutions and economic recovery remain the subject of envy for Americans.
Shortly, however, Iceland’s economic health will be put to the test.
Strict capital controls that were applied when banks were circling the drain six years ago will now be loosened, allowing foreign investors—whose assets have essentially been frozen since then—to take their business elsewhere. To prevent a possible repeat crisis, the finance minister announced a 39% tax for anyone choosing to do so. “The danger is capital flight and a consequent fall in the value of the krona,” explained University of Iceland economics professor, Thorolfur Matthiasson. “That would be tantamount to October 2008, bringing back bad memories for ordinary people and possibly making most businesses unsustainable due to balance-sheet problems.”
Though many are nervous, there is still cautionary optimism since Iceland has certainly weathered the storm before.
#AceNewsServices – June.14: Edward Snowden ‘Has Blood On His Hands:’ MI6 Is Forced To Pull Spies Out Of Hostile Countries — After Russia And China Decode a MILLION Encrypted Files’ — Based On His Leaks; While The Islamic State, al Qaeda, others — Have Learned How To Better Evade Western Surveillance.
Jay Akbar, writing on the June 13, 2015 DailyMailOnline, says Britain’s MI6 foreign spy agency “has pulled its spies out of ‘hostile countries;’ and, “American intelligence agencies are on high alert — after China and Russia crack encrypted files leaked by Edward Snowden. The Top Secret documents contain information that could lead to the identification of British and American [undercover] spies,” according to [senior] officials in Downing Street — the Home Office, and Security Services.”
“A senior Home Office official accused Snowden — the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor — responsible for the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history — of having “blood on his hands,” after China, Russia,” al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and others, gained access to over one million files, Mr. Akbar writes.
‘Security Services have reported ‘increasing difficulties’ in tracking terrorists and dangerous criminals via email, chat rooms, and social media — since he [Snowden] exposed Western intelligence gathering [sources and methods],” The London Sunday Times reported. Mr. Akbar adds that senior “aides to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office confirmed [to the DailyMailOnline], “the Top Secret [encrypted] material is now in the hands of China and Russia.” “it has meant agents have had to be moved; and, that knowledge of how we operate has stopped us [from] getting vitalinformation.” “A British intelligence source added……”Snowden has done incalculable damage. In some cases, agencies have been forced to intervene; and, lift their agents from operations to prevent them from being identified and killed. we know Russia and China have a access to Snowden’s material; and, will be going through it for years to come, searching for clues to identify potential targets.”
“Former GCHQ Director [NSA’s ‘sister’ agency in Britain], Sir David Omand, believes the leak represents a “huge strategic setback,” which is “harming Britain, America, and her NATO allies.” Sir David Omand added, “the leak could spark a ‘global intelligence arms race,’ adding: ‘I have no doubt whatever the programs are being launched; and, money is being spent to try and catch up. That’s probably not just true of China and Russia; but, a number of other nations who have seen some of this material to be published.”
“I am not at all surprised that people are being pulled back; and, operations where people [agents] are exposed….are having to be shut down, at least for the moment.” Robin Simcox, writing in the June 9, 2015 edition of Britain’s newspaper — The Independent, wrote “quantifying the damage has not always been easy.” “If a terrorist suspect dropped off the radar, post-June 23, 2013 [post-Snowden], “it could not always be proved,” that an individual went silent — as a result of what Edward Snowden had disclosed. “Regardless,” Mr. Simcox contends, “there are trends emerging.”