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Saturday, March 24, 2012

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA MEETS WITH NSA CYBER COMMAND

The following excerpt is from a U.S. Department of Defense e-mail:  

Panetta Visits NSA, Cyber Command Leadership

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 24, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta met today with the leader of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little.
"Today Secretary Panetta visited the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Maryland, where he met with General Keith Alexander, commander, U.S. Cyber Command, and director, National Security Agency, Central Security Service, and the organizations' leadership," Little said.

Little said Panetta observed technology demonstrations and received briefings about key issues in the cyber arena.
Panetta's "discussions focused on efforts to enhance information sharing across the Defense Department and the intelligence community," Little said.

According to Little, Panetta said he was deeply impressed by team efforts to defend America against cyber attack.
"The secretary acknowledged the critical and important work that the Cyber Command and NSA team are accomplishing, and continues to stress the importance of developing cyber capabilities to meet emerging cyber threats," Little said.

FORMER OWNER AND CEO SCOTT SALYER OF SK FOODS PLEADS GUILTY TO RACKETEERING AND PRICE FIXING IN CALIFORNIA

The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice Antitrust website: 
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Frederick Scott Salyer, 56, of Pebble Beach, Calif., pleaded guilty today to racketeering and price fixing, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced. Salyer entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton.

Between 1990 and 2009, Salyer was the CEO and owner of SK Foods LP, a grower, processor and international seller of tomato paste and other processed agricultural products with facilities in Monterey, Lemoore, Williams and Ripon, Calif. In his plea, Salyer admitted that he operated SK Foods as a racketeering organization. According to the plea agreement, from January 2004 to April 2008, Salyer encouraged food broker Randall Rahal to pay bribes and kickbacks to purchasing officers employed by SK Foods’s customers Kraft Foods, Frito-Lay and B&G Foods. The intent was to induce Kraft’s Robert Watson, Frito-Lay’s Richard Wahl and B&G’s Robert Turner to promote the interests of SK Foods over their employers’ interests. Salyer also admitted that at his direction, SK Foods routinely falsified the lab test results for its tomato paste. Salyer ordered former employees Alan Huey and Jennifer Dahlman to falsify tomato paste grading factors, and SK Foods lied about its product’s percentage of natural tomato soluble solids, mold count, production date and whether the tomato paste qualified as “organic.” Finally, Salyer admitted that he had discussed an illegal target price agreement with other sellers of tomato paste and, when another co-conspirator offered a lower price, Salyer got the co-conspirator to agree to withdraw that offer to a customer.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said: “Food grown in California’s Central Valley feeds people all over the United States; agriculture and food processing are critical to this region’s economy. This case of corporate corruption was met with the government’s full arsenal of law enforcement tools, which included grand jury process, an informant operation, wiretaps, search warrants, computer forensics and arrests. This office and its partners will continue to use these tools to attack fraud and corruption wherever it is detected in this district.”

“The Antitrust Division has made antitrust enforcement in the agriculture sector a priority,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Sharis A. Pozen in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “The division is committed to continuing to work with its law enforcement partners to crack down on illegal price fixing conspiracies that affect products used by consumers in their everyday lives.”

“Corruption in any form is despicable, but when such occurs within the food industry, it erodes public trust in products and threatens the industry as a whole,” said Herbert M. Brown, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Sacramento Field Office. “The FBI continues to tirelessly combat white collar crime that is motivated by unscrupulous greed.”

“Today’s guilty plea is the result of a combined law enforcement effort against a corrupt organization motivated by greed and profit,” said Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Assistant Special Agent in Charge Rick Goss. “These crimes touched the lives of many unsuspecting citizens and the public should know that we will hold accountable those individuals who put personal financial gain above the safety and well-being of the general public.”

“The Food and Drug Administration-Office of Criminal Investigations is fully committed to investigating and supporting the prosecution of those who defraud consumers by manufacturing and selling adulterated foods to an unsuspecting public for economic gain. We continue to look forward to working with our law enforcement partners and commend the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their diligence,” said Thomas Emerick, Special Agent in Charge, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-Office of Criminal Investigations, Los Angeles Field Office.

Salyer’s plea caps an investigative effort that began in August 2006, when federal agents executed a search warrant at the home of Anthony Manuel, an SK Foods employee who had embezzled approximately $1 million from his former employer, a competitor of SK Foods. Manuel promptly confessed to the embezzlement and later told agents about the crimes to which Salyer and others have now pleaded guilty. In 2007 and 2008, Manuel recorded conversations with SK Foods executives, including Salyer, and provided documents corroborating his account of the crimes being committed at SK Foods.  Wiretaps of Rahal telephones revealed that Rahal was discussing bribery and food mislabeling with Salyer and other senior officers of SK Foods. The wiretap also confirmed that Rahal was bribing Watson, Wahl, Turner and Safeway Inc. employee Michael Chavez. On April 18, 2008, agents of the FBI, IRS-CI and FDA Office of Criminal Investigations executed search warrants at the offices of SK Foods and at Salyer’s residence in Pebble Beach, seizing documents and copying SK Foods’s computer servers.

In 2009, the bribe recipients and many of Salyer’s subordinates at SK Foods pleaded guilty before Judge Karlton. Also that year, creditors forced SK Foods into bankruptcy. According to court documents, in late 2009, Salyer moved more than $3 million to Andorra and made a $50,000 deposit on a condominium there. Andorra is a small principality in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain and has no extradition treaty with the United States. When agents learned of Salyer’s plans, they obtained an arrest warrant for him, which was executed on Feb. 4, 2010, when Salyer made what was to have been a short visit back to the United States. Salyer was jailed as a flight risk until Sept. 3, 2010, when he was released to house arrest after posting a $6 million bond.

Salyer was indicted by a federal grand jury on Feb. 18, 2010, with a superseding indictment brought against him on April 29, 2010. According to court documents, several issues have been litigated, such as whether the evidence against Salyer had been obtained lawfully. Judge Karlton ultimately rejected Salyer’s efforts to suppress the evidence gathered by Manuel. Judge Karlton also upheld the wiretap and search warrant applications.

Salyer is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Karlton on July 10, 2012, at 9:15 a.m EDT. The maximum statutory penalty for a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) violation is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum statutory penalty for price fixing is 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. In the plea agreement, Salyer may argue for a sentence as low as four years and the government may argue for a sentence up to seven years. Salyer also agrees to forfeit to the United States all of his interest in the $3 million that he transferred to Andorra.

This is the 11th guilty plea in an extensive investigation by the FBI, IRS-CI, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations and the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The case is currently being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew D. Segal, R. Steven Lapham and Jared C. Dolan, and Antitrust Division Trial Attorneys Anna T. Pletcher and Tai Milder.


TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF HEALTH CARE REFORM BILL SIGNING



President Barack Obama reaches for a pen as he signs the health insurance reform bill in the East Room of the White House, March 23, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson).

Two years ago today
Two years ago today, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, giving hardworking, middle-class families the health care security they deserve. Health reform requires that insurance plans cover preventive services to help people stay healthy, prohibits insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get sick, billing you into bankruptcy because of annual or lifetime limits placed on care, and discriminating against children with pre-existing conditions.

By 2014 when the law is fully implemented, people will be able to purchase private insurance coverage through new state-based markets called exchanges, which will offer a way to get insurance that isn’t provided by—or tied to—an employer. Americans will have the security of knowing they don't have to worry about losing or finding coverage if they're laid off, change jobs, or are self-employed. And further patient protections will take effect: insurers won’t be able to deny care to anyone based on a pre-existing condition, or limit the amount of care they’ll cover over a person’s lifetime.
Over the last week, we’ve looked at many of the ways the new health care law is making a real difference in many people's lives:
New tax credits are helping small business owners like Mark with the cost of providing health insurance for employees
Because young adults can now stay on their parents' insurance until age 26, people like Steven, a  23-year-old, two-time cancer survivor, can continue getting the care they need, even if they are no longer in school
Parents like Vanessa, whose son was born with birth defects, and Nathan, whose sonhas hemophilia, won’t have to fight to keep their kids healthy because insurance companies are now prohibited from denying coverage for children with pre-existing conditions or placing lifetime limits on care,
Seniors like Helen are getting help with the cost of their medications, giving them peace of mind and putting more money in their pockets

Looking at the big picture also helps tell the story of how the Affordable Care Act is benefitting people around the country.

An additional 2.5 million young adults have gained coverage since September 2010 (More on the health care law and young adults)

Nearly 54 million Americans with private health insurance, including approximately20.4 million women have received preventive health services such as cancer screenings and immunizations at no additional cost (learn more about the health care law and preventive services and health care law and women)
The average senior on Medicare will save $4,200 on their health care by 2021, and more than 5.1 million people on Medicare have already saved an average of $635 each on prescription drug costs (read more on the health care law, seniors, and Medicare)

Families and small business are saving money on health care, and families who purchase private health insurance through exchanges that begin in 2014 could save up to $2,300 on their health care each year (learn more on the health care law and cost control)
The above photo and excerpt are from the White House website:

SENIOR OFFICIALS TAKE QUESTIONS ON AFGHANISTAN BEFORE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE


The following excerpt is from the Department of Defense American Forces Press e-mail:



Officials Discuss Troop Numbers, Partnership With Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 22, 2012 - Troop numbers -- both Afghan and coalition -- were among the questions posed to senior officials during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, and James N. Miller, acting undersecretary of defense for policy, told senators that training Afghan soldiers and police is going well, but it will require patience to ensure the job is done correctly.
The Afghan national security forces will surge to 352,000 later this year. But the Afghan government cannot afford to keep that many people in the security forces long-term, so that number will come down in the future, Allen said.

One study, the general said, points to a long-term force in the vicinity of 230,000.
"But there are a number of different options," he added, "and we're continuing to evaluate what those options might be, all the way from the current force, ... which will continue to exist for several years once we have fielded it, down to a force that was smaller than [230,000], which probably doesn't have the right ... combination of capabilities."

Any decision on the size of the force will be made in the future by Afghan leaders working with coalition personnel, Allen said. What's more, any reduction must be made only after a careful study of conditions on the ground. "That security environment will be ultimately the key indicator of whether that drawdown should ultimately occur, so it'll be conditions-based," the general said.
Allen submits the metrics involved with these studies every six months. The next set of statistics will include an evaluation of scenarios after December 2014.

The United States has 89,000 troops in Afghanistan today. That number will go down by 23,000 by the end of the summer fighting season. Allen told the Senate panel that once that is done he will examine the size of the force and the likely threat it will face in 2013. "My opinion is that we will need significant combat power in 2013," he said.
Allen said 68,000 U.S. troops "is a good going-in number," but he told the senators he owes the president further analysis on that issue.

Miller stressed the need for a strategic partnership with Afghanistan that will last long after Afghans take full security control of their nation by the end of 2014.

"The president has stated clearly that we have an enduring commitment to Afghanistan, and the strategic partnership will be a concrete instantiation of that," he said. "There will be a lot of work to do after that, but it's a critical milestone."

Despite the past tumultuous months, Miller said, he is encouraged by progress made in negotiating the strategic partnership.
Senators also asked the men about corruption and Pakistan. A number of programs aimed at curbing government corruption appear to be making progress, Allen said. He praised Afghan President Hamid Karzai for his "good work" on the issue.

"He has appointed a presidential executive commission, headed by Minister of Finance [Omar] Zakhilwal, to partner with ISAF and with the international community on the issues of reclaiming borders, inland customs depots, and airports," he said. "That's an important move."

The general told the senators he has not seen any change in the relationship between Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency and the Haqqani network, an issue that has contributed to strained relations between the United States and Pakistan.
Iran also is a neighbor of Afghanistan, and Iranian influence has to be taken into account as Afghan national security forces take control, the general said.
"Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so do geopolitics," he said. "And should the United States leave Afghanistan -- should ISAF, should NATO leave Afghanistan -- that would create, in my mind, for all intents and purposes, a geopolitical vacuum, ahead, however, of the [Afghan forces] being ready to take full security."

Miller stressed that a stable Afghanistan is in the interests of all nations in the region.
"While the Iranians may not be happy about an American presence there, ... nonetheless, the Afghan people desire it," he said. "And that presence ultimately works to Iran's benefit as well, because it will affect the cross-border flow of narcotics, the cross-border flow of weapons and human trafficking."
About 1.5 million Afghan refugees are in Iran, Miller noted. "They might be able to go home in a stable Afghanistan," he said.

Miller reiterated the importance of the strategic partnership. It is essential for security and also affects perceptions of the Taliban and others, including Iran, he said.
Iranian leaders have played both sides of the fence in Afghanistan, Miller said.
"They have provided some support to the Afghan government and they've provided some support to the Taliban," he told the panel. "If they see it in their interest to stir the pot and so forth, I think that ... the strategic partnership, the advancement of the [Afghan forces] and the clear expression of commitment by the United States and the coalition is going to have to cause them to recalculate. And that's essential."

U.S. PRESS STATEMENT ON UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL REGULAR SESSION


The following excerpt is from a U.S. State Department e-mail:
United Nations Human Rights Council 19th Regular Session
Press Statement Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC
March 23, 2012
The United Nations Human Rights Council’s 19th Regular Session helped spur action on a series of important human rights situations around the world, in part due to vigorous U.S. engagement. The Council took robust action to address the ongoing carnage in Syria, beginning with a high-level urgent debate during the Council’s opening week, followed by the adoption of two resolutions on Syria – one focused on humanitarian access and the second extending the international Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

Other actions included the adoption of a resolution on post-conflict reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka, and mandate renewals for the special rapporteurs on Iran, North Korea, and Burma. Council members also worked cooperatively with Libya and Yemen on resolutions to enshrine their commitments to protect and promote human rights.

The United States also reaffirmed its strong opposition to a series of anti-Israel measures that continue unnecessarily to politicize the Council’s human rights agenda. Our persistence in combating the Council’s enduring anti-Israel bias, coupled with our successful efforts to confront human rights violations around the world, underscores the importance of United States leadership and engagement at the Human Rights Council and across the UN system.

U.S. SETTLES ALLEGED MEDICARE FRAUD AND WHISTLEBLOWER CASE WITH CHICAGO COMPANY


The following excerpt is from the U.S. Department of Justice website:
Friday, March 23, 2012
United States Settles False Claims Act Allegations Against Illinois-Based Lifewatch Services Chicago-Area Firm Allegedly Improperly Billed Medicare for Ambulatory Cardiac Telemetry Services
WASHINGTON - LifeWatch Services Inc., a Rosemont, Ill.-based company, has agreed to pay the United States $18.5 million to resolve allegations that the company submitted false claims to federal health care programs, the Justice Department announced today.   The settlement resolves two lawsuits filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act.

The two complaints allege that LifeWatch improperly billed Medicare for ambulatory cardiac telemetry (ACT) services.  ACT services are a form of cardiac event monitoring that use cell phone technology to record cardiac events in real time without patient intervention.   Traditional event monitoring requires the patient to press a button when he or she notices a cardiac event to record the cardiac rhythms.   Medicare reimbursed ACT services at between $750 and $1200 and traditional event monitoring services at roughly $250 during the relevant time period.        

According to the complaints, LifeWatch was aware that ACT services were not eligible for Medicare reimbursement for patients who had experienced only mild or moderate palpitations.  The complaints allege that LifeWatch nonetheless submitted claims to Medicare for ACT services for such patients using a false diagnostic code in order to have the claims paid.   In addition, according to the complaints, LifeWatch improperly induced Medicare claims for monitoring services by providing valuable services in the form of full-time employees to several
hospitals and medical practices, without charge.  The relators (whistleblowers) in their lawsuits alleged that these services amounted to kickbacks.

“False claims on federal health care programs drive up the costs of health care for all of us,” said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice.   “Today’s settlement furthers the Department of Justice’s commitment to making sure that those who benefit from Medicare play by the rules.”

Ryan Sims, a former LifeWatch sales representative, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in December 2009.   In May 2011, Sara Collins, another former LifeWatch sales representative, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

Under provisions of the False Claims Act, individuals can bring a lawsuit on behalf of the government and receive a portion of the proceeds of any settlement or judgment that may result.     Sims and Collins together will receive approximately $3.4 million plus interest as their share of the settlement proceeds.

“The False Claims Act is a critical tool for weeding out fraud and protecting the taxpayers,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan, of the Western District of Washington.  “We must ensure tax dollars go to intended programs, not to line the pockets of those who seek to cheat the programs.”

“The settlement underscores the need for physicians to be able to make care decisions without undue influence,” said Carter M. Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.  “The settlement is also the result of close cooperation between our office, the Justice Department’s Civil Division and U.S. Attorney Durkan’s office.”

In addition to the monetary settlement, LifeWatch has entered into a comprehensive Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to ensure its continued compliance with federal health care benefit program requirements.

“The chief executive officer at LifeWatch as well as other corporate executives will be required to personally certify compliance with our five-year CIA, which includes provisions to monitor LifeWatch’s claim submission process, sales force activities and relationships with some types of business referrals,” said Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  “LifeWatch allegedly tried to boost profits at taxpayer expense, and, ultimately, paid $18.5 million back to the government.”

The claims resolved by the settlement are only alleg ations and do not constitute a determination of liability.

In addition to the efforts of attorneys from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Western District of Washington and Southern District of Ohio and the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., investigators from the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, Defense Criminal Investigative Service and Office of Inspector General for the Office of Personnel Management assisted the government’s investigation of the whistleblowers’ allegations.

This resolution is part of the government's emphasis on combating health care fraud and another step for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in May 2009.   The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.   One of the most powerful tools in that effort is the False Claims Act, which the Justice Department has used to recover nearly $6.7 billion since January 2009 in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.   The Justice Department's total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009 are over $8.9 billion.

SEC CHARGES BAY AREA INVESTMENT ADVISER FOR DEFRAUDING INVESTORS WITH BOGUS AUDIT REPORT


The following excerpt is from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website:
March 21, 2012
On March 15, 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged a San Francisco-area investment adviser with defrauding investors by giving them a bogus audit report that embellished the financial performance of the fund in which they were investing.
The SEC alleges that James Michael Murray raised more than $4.5 million from investors in his various funds including Market Neutral Trading LLC (MNT), a purported hedge fund that claimed to invest primarily in domestic equities. Murray provided MNT investors with a report purportedly prepared by independent auditor Jones, Moore & Associates (JMA). However, JMA is not a legitimate accounting firm but rather a shell company that Murray secretly created and controlled. The phony audit report misstated the financial condition and performance of MNT to investors.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California also has filed criminal charges against Murray in a complaint unsealed yesterday.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in San Francisco, Murray began raising the funds from investors in 2008. The following year, MNT distributed the phony audit report to investors claiming the audit was conducted by a legitimate third-party accounting firm. However, JMA is not registered or licensed as an accounting firm in Delaware, where it purports to do business. JMA’s website was paid for by a Murray-controlled entity and listed 12 professionals with specific degrees and licenses who supposedly work for JMA. However, at least five of these professionals do not exist, including the two named principals of the firm: “Richard Jones” and “Joseph Moore.” Murray has attempted to open brokerage accounts in the name of JMA, identified himself as JMA’s chief financial officer, and called brokerage firms falsely claiming to be the principal identified on most JMA documents.

The SEC alleges that the bogus audit report provided to investors understated the costs of MNT’s investments and thus overstated the fund’s investment gains by approximately 90 percent. The JMA audit report also overstated MNT’s income by approximately 35 percent, its member capital by approximately 18 percent, and its total assets by approximately 10 percent.

The SEC’s complaint charges Murray with violating Section 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 206(4)-8 thereunder, which prohibits fraud by investment advisers on investors in a pooled investment vehicle. The complaint seeks injunctive relief and financial penalties from Murray.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Karen Kreuzkamp and Robert S. Leach of the San Francisco Regional Office following an examination of MNT conducted by Yvette Panetta and Doreen Piccirillo of the New York Regional Office’s broker-dealer examination program. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Robert L. Mitchell of the San Francisco Regional Office. The SEC thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California and the U.S. Secret Service for their assistance in this matter.

MARS EXPLORATION ROVER OPPORTUNITY TAKES SELF-PORTRAIT



This self portrait from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows dust accumulation on the rover's solar panels as the mission approached its fifth Martian winter. The dust reduces the rover's power supply, and the rover's mobility is limited until the winter is over or wind cleans the panels. This is a mosaic of images taken by Opportunity's panoramic camera (Pancam) during the 2,111th to 2,814th Martian days, or sols, of the rover's mission (Dec. 21 to Dec. 24, 2011). The downward-looking view omits the mast on which the camera is mounted. The portrait is presented in approximate true color, the camera team's best estimate of what the scene would look like if humans were there and able to see it with their own eyes. Opportunity has worked through four Martian southern hemisphere winters since it landed in in January 2004 about 14 miles (23 kilometers) northwest of its current location. Closer to the equator than its twin rover, Spirit, Opportunity has not needed to stay on a sun-facing slope during the previous winters. Now, however, Opportunity's solar panels carry a thicker coating of dust, and the team is using a strategy employed for three winters with Spirit: staying on a sun-facing slope. The sun will pass relatively low in the northern sky from the rover's perspective for several months of shortened daylight before and after the southern Mars winter solstice on March 30, 2012. Opportunity is conducting research while located on the north-facing slope of a site called "Greeley Haven." Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.


U.S. FORCES PREFERS CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST SGT. ROBERT BALES


The following excerpt is from the U.S. Department of Defense American Forces Press Service:



U.S. Forces Afghanistan Prefers Criminal Charges Against Bales

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 23, 2012 - U.S. Forces Afghanistan formally preferred criminal charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice today against Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.

The charges, described in a statement from the command's headquarters in the Afghan capital of Kabul, allege that on March 11 Bales acted with premeditation to murder 17 Afghan civilians and assaulted and tried to murder six other civilians near Belambey in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province.
"It's the first step in this process," Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby told reporters this morning.
Bales, who is in pretrial confinement at the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
The infantryman, who Army officials say completed sniper training and held three good conduct medals, was flown from Afghanistan on March 14 to a military detention facility in Kuwait. From there, he was transferred to Kansas.

The next step in the military justice process is for the special court-martial convening authority at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to decide whether to direct an investigation of the charges under the UCMJ's Article 32. An Article 32 hearing is similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian law. No case can proceed to a general court-martial unless a command first conducts an Article 32 investigation. The investigating officer submits to the command a written report with nonbinding recommendations about the sufficiency of the charges and evidence.
The report helps the command determine an appropriate disposition of the charges.
Under the UCMJ, the maximum possible punishment for a premeditated murder conviction is a dishonorable discharge from the armed forces, reduction to the lowest enlisted grade, forfeiture of pay and allowances, and death. The minimum sentence is life imprisonment with eligibility for parole.
No disposition decision has been made yet about the preferred charges.

Preferral of charges represents an accusation of criminal misconduct only. As in U.S. civilian law, a military member accused of criminal misconduct is presumed innocent until proven guilty at a trial by court-martial.
"The investigation is ongoing," Kirby said, "and it is possible that more charges could come until the investigation is closed."

STATE DEPARTMENT REPORTS ON EGYPT TO CONGRESS


The following excerpt is from the U.S. State Department website:
U.S. Support for Egypt
Press Statement Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC
March 23, 2012
Today, Secretary Clinton has certified to Congress that Egypt is meeting its obligations under its Peace Treaty with Israel. The Secretary has also waived legislative conditions related to Egypt’s democratic transition, on the basis of America’s national security interests, allowing for the continued flow of Foreign Military Financing to Egypt. These decisions reflect America’s over-arching goal: to maintain our strategic partnership with an Egypt made stronger and more stable by a successful transition to democracy.
Egypt has made significant progress toward democracy in the last 15 months, including: free and fair parliamentary elections and the transfer of legislative authority to the new People’s Assembly, and a date announced for complete transition to civilian leadership. However, Egypt’s transition to democracy is not yet complete, and more work remains to protect universal rights and freedoms. The Egyptian people themselves have made this clear to their own leaders.

The Secretary’s decision to waive is also designed to demonstrate our strong support for Egypt’s enduring role as a security partner and leader in promoting regional stability and peace. Egypt has maintained thirty-plus years of peace with Israel. It contributes to efforts to stop proliferation and arms smuggling and facilitates missions from Afghanistan to counterterrorism in the Horn of Africa.

We are committed to supporting the Egyptian people as they strive for the dignity, opportunity, rights and freedoms for which they have already sacrificed so much. That includes protection for civil society and NGOs, which have a critical role to play in building Egypt’s democracy. We remain deeply concerned regarding the trials of civil society activists—non-Egyptians and Egyptians alike—and have raised these concerns at the highest levels, urging an end to harassment.

The political transition underway is bringing about a new, more democratic Egypt. As this process continues, we look forward to engaging with Egyptians on how we can best support and advance the interests we share. We will, of course, consult closely with the Congress about these issues.

Egyptians are living through one of the most remarkable periods of their thousands of years of history. Today we reaffirm our support for Egypt, for its historic accomplishments to date, for the democratic journey it is on and for our enduring partnership.




U.S. OFFICIAL SAYS SCIENCE DIPLOMACY IS IMPORTANT COMPONENT OF STATECRAFT


The following excerpt is from the U.S. State Department
Science Diplomacy and Twenty-First Century Statecraft
Article Robert D. Hormats
Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Science & Diplomacy
Washington, DC
March 1, 2012
Science diplomacy is a central component of America’s twenty-first century statecraft agenda. The United States must increasingly recognize the vital role science and technology can play in addressing major challenges, such as making our economy more competitive, tackling global health issues, and dealing with climate change. American leadership in global technological advances and scientific research, and the dynamism of our companies and universities in these areas, is a major source of our economic, foreign policy, and national security strength. Additionally, it is a hallmark of the success of the American system. While some seek to delegitimize scientific ideas, we believe the United States should celebrate science and see it—as was the case since the time of Benjamin Franklin—as an opportunity to advance the prosperity, health, and overall well-being of Americans and the global community.

Innovation policy is part of our science diplomacy engagement. More than ever before, modern economies are rooted in science and technology. It is estimated that America’s knowledge-based industries represent 40 percent of our economic growth and 60 percent of our exports. Sustaining a vibrant knowledge-based economy, as well as a strong commitment to educational excellence and advanced research, provides an opportunity for our citizens to prosper and enjoy upward mobility. America attracts people from all over the world—scientists, engineers, inventors, and entrepreneurs—who want the opportunity to participate in, and contribute to, our innovation economy.

At the same time, our bilateral and multilateral dialogues support science, technology, and innovation abroad by promoting improved education; research and development funding; good governance and transparent regulatory policies; markets that are open and competitive; and policies that allow researchers and companies to succeed, and, if they fail, to have the opportunity to try again. We advocate for governments to embrace and enforce an intellectual property system that allows innovators to reap the benefits of their ideas and also rewards their risk taking. Abraham Lincoln himself held a patent on an invention, a device for preventing ships from being grounded on shoals. He said in his "Second Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions" in 1859 that patents "added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius, in the discovery and production of new and useful things."

The practice of science is increasingly expanding from individuals to groups, from single disciplines to interdisciplinary, and from a national to an international scope. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that from 1985 to 2007, the number of scientific articles published by a single author decreased by 45 percent. During that same period, the number of scientific articles published with domestic co-authorship increased by 136 percent, and those with international co-authorship increased by 409 percent. The same trend holds for patents. Science collaboration is exciting because it takes advantage of expertise that exists around the country and around the globe. American researchers, innovators, and institutions, as well as their foreign counterparts, benefit through these international collaborations. Governments that restrict the flow of scientific expertise and data will find themselves isolated, cut off from the global networks that drive scientific and economic innovation.

While the scientific partnerships that the United States builds with other nations, and international ties among universities and research labs, are a means to address shared challenges, they also contribute to broadening and strengthening our diplomatic relationships. Scientific partnerships are based on disciplines and values that transcend politics, languages, borders, and cultures. Processes that define the scientific community—such as merit review, critical thinking, diversity of thought, and transparency—are fundamental values from which the global community can reap benefits.

History provides many examples of how scientific cooperation can bolster diplomatic ties and cultural exchange. American scientists collaborated with Russian and Chinese counterparts for decades, even as other aspects of our relationship proved more challenging. Similarly, the science and technology behind the agricultural "Green Revolution" of the 1960s and ‘70s was the product of American, Mexican, and Indian researchers working toward a common goal. Today, the United States has formal science and technology agreements with over fifty countries. We are committed to finding new ways to work with other countries in science and technology, to conduct mutually beneficial joint research activities, and to advance the interests of the U.S. science and technology community.

Twenty-first century statecraft also requires that we build greater people-to-people relationships. Science and technology cooperation makes that possible. For example, through the Science Envoy program, announced by President Obama in 2009 in Cairo, Egypt, eminent U.S. scientists have met with counterparts throughout Asia, Africa, and the Middle East to build relationships and identify opportunities for sustained cooperation. With over half of the world’s population under the age of thirty, we are developing new ways to inspire the next generation of science and technology leaders. Over the past five years, the Department of State’s International Fulbright Science & Technology Award has brought more than two hundred exceptional students from seventy-three different countries to the United States to pursue graduate studies. Through the Global Innovation through Science and Technology Initiative, the United States recently invited young innovators from North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia to post YouTube videos describing solutions to problems they face at home. The top submissions will receive financial support, business mentorship, and networking opportunities.

Advancing the rights of women and girls is a central focus of U.S. foreign policy and science diplomacy. As we work to empower women and girls worldwide, we must ensure that they have access to science education and are able to participate and contribute fully during every stage of their lives. Recently, we partnered with Google, Intel, Microsoft, and many other high-tech businesses to launch TechWomen, a program that brings promising women leaders from the Middle East to Silicon Valley to meet industry thought-leaders, share knowledge and experiences, and bolster cultural understanding.
Science diplomacy is not new. It is, however, broader, deeper, and more visible than ever before and its importance will continue to grow. The Department of State’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review highlights that "science, engineering, technology, and innovation are the engines of modern society and a dominant force in globalization and international economic development." These interrelated issues are priorities for the United States and, increasingly, the world.

The Department of State is committed to utilizing our capabilities in Washington, D.C. and throughout the world to connect with scientists, entrepreneurs, and innovators for the mutual benefit of all of our people. In addition to Environment, Science and Technology, and Health Officers stationed at U.S. embassies, almost fifty doctoral-level scientists and engineers work at the Department of State through the AAAS Diplomacy Fellows program and the Jefferson Science Fellows program. Through this cadre of science and foreign policy experts, the Department of State will continue to advance policies that bolster the global repertoire of scientific knowledge and further enable technological innovation.



FOUR CONVICTED FOR ROLES IN IDENTITY THEFT RING


The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Armenian Power Member and Three Armenian Power Associates Convicted in Los Angeles for Roles in Identity Theft Ring
WASHINGTON – After a five week trial, four defendants have been convicted for their roles in one of the largest bank fraud and identity theft schemes in California history, with dozens of victims in four states and millions of dollars in losses.

The convictions were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. of the Central District of California, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office Steven Martinez and Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) Joseph Beaty.

Arman Sharopetrosian, Karen Markosian, Artush Margaryan and Kristine Ogandzhanyan were found guilty of conspiring to commit bank fraud, attempted bank fraud and various counts of aggravated identity theft.  Sharopetrosian, Markosian and Ogandzhanyan waived a jury trial and consented to trial by the judge, and Margaryan proceeded with a jury trial.

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter found Ogandzhanyan, 28, of Burbank, Calif., guilty of one count of bank fraud conspiracy, two counts of attempted bank fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft.  On March 16, 2012, the judge found Sharopetrosian, 33, of Burbank, guilty of one count of bank fraud conspiracy, four counts of bank fraud and seven counts of aggravated identify theft.  On March 16, 2012, the judge also found Markosian, 39, of Glendale, Calif., guilty of one count of bank fraud conspiracy, one count of attempted bank fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft.  A jury convicted the fourth defendant, Artush Margaryan, 28, of Van Nuys, Calif., on March 16, 2012, of one count of bank fraud conspiracy, one count of attempted bank fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft.

Evidence was presented at trial that Sharopetrosian is a member of the Armenian Power organized crime group, and Margaryan, Markosian and Ogandzhanyan are Armenian Power associates.

According to evidence presented at trial, Sharopetrosian directed the massive fraud scheme along with co-defendant Angus Brown, while the two were incarcerated at Avenal State Prison.  Using cellular telephones that were smuggled into the prison, Sharopetrosian and Brown worked from behind bars to coordinate with others, including Ogandzhanyn, Markosian and Margaryan, to obtain confidential bank profile information and steal money from victim account holders.  Often targeting high-value bank accounts, the defendants used account holders’ personal identifying information – including names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth – to impersonate victims in phone calls to the bank.  The defendants gathered account information, transferred funds between victims’ accounts and placed unauthorized check orders for the accounts.  They then stole the checks, obtained the victims’ signatures from public documents and paid conspirators to cash the forged checks.  Over the course of the six-year conspiracy, the defendants and their co-conspirators caused more than $10 million dollars in losses to victims in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas.

“These defendants, including two individuals who were operating from a prison cell, perpetrated a massive fraudulent scheme on behalf of a dangerous criminal enterprise,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer.  “As members and associates of Armenian Power, they stole sensitive personal and financial information from innocent consumers and caused millions of dollars in losses.  Whether organized criminal groups traffic in drugs, commit financial fraud or wreak other havoc to keep themselves going, they must be stopped.  We are doing everything possible to shut down dangerous gangs like Armenian Power.”

“The safety and sanctity of confidential financial information is paramount in today’s society,” said U.S. Attorney Birotte.  “Identity theft is a fundamental invasion of consumer privacy that cannot be tolerated.  These convictions demonstrate that violators, whoever and wherever they may be, will be caught and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the federal law.”

“The defendants were convicted in a trial that uncovered a sophisticated and lengthy scheme that targeted victims in multiple states, and included disturbing details, such as orders made from within prison walls and assistance from bank insiders enlisted by the defendants,” said FBI Assistant Director Martinez.  “This case is also indicative of the growing trend of gang or organized crime-affiliated groups now engaging in identity theft and other financial crimes in furtherance of their enterprise.”  

These defendants are four of 20 defendants who were charged with operating the bank fraud and identity theft scheme in one of a series of federal indictments unsealed on Feb. 16, 2011.  The indictments allege various federal crimes against members and associates of the Armenian Power criminal organization.  To date, 19 of the 20 defendants charged in the bank fraud indictment have been convicted, including Brown.  One defendant, Faye Bell, was arrested earlier this year and is still awaiting trial.

Sharopetrosian, Margaryan, Markosian and Ogandzhanyan face maximum sentences of 30 years in federal prison for each count of bank fraud, 30 years for each count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and additional mandatory two year sentences for each count of aggravated identity theft.

 Sentencing for all four defendants is scheduled for Aug. 6, 2012, before Judge Carter.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Martin Estrada and Joseph McNally of the Central District of California and Trial Attorney Cristina Moreno of the Organized Crime and Gang Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  The case was investigated by the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, which includes the FBI, the USSS, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Glendale Police Department, the Burbank Police Department, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

AG PEREZ SPEAKS ON MISSISSIPPI CONVICTIONS IN RACIALLY MOTIVATED MURDER CASE


The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:
Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez Speaks at a Press Conference Regarding Guilty Pleas in Mississippi Jackson, Miss. ~ Thursday, March 22, 2012
As prepared for delivery
Today is an important day in the journey for justice for the family of James Craig Anderson, and other African American victims of senseless, racially motivated violence in Jackson.  Earlier today, the Department of Justice secured guilty pleas from three of the individuals responsible for the brutal, racially motivated murder of James Anderson.  This is the eighth case brought under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and the first involving the death of a victim.  The Shepard-Byrd Act was named in memory of James Byrd Jr., who died a horrific death in Jasper, Texas, after being dragged behind a pick-up truck on an asphalt road with his ankles bound by a chain.  Mr. Byrd’s death shocked the conscience of the nation.  Sadly, the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Anderson are a shocking reminder of how hate fueled violence manifests itself in unthinkable ways.

This is a case about a group of racist thugs who made a sport of targeting vulnerable African Americans in Jackson, and attacking them without provocation, simply because of the color of their skin.  On a number of occasions, they drove around Jackson looking for African Americans to assault.  Jackson is a venerable community.  However, for these defendants, Jackson was “Jafrica”; African Americans were subhuman, and their mission was to drive around Jackson looking for African Americans to attack.  They used many different weapons in carrying out their sport.  Beer bottles and fists were typical tools of their trade.  They took great pleasure one evening in watching one victim plead for his life after they had brutally assaulted him.

Their sport took a deadly turn on the early morning of June 26, 2011.  On that fateful morning, defendants Deryl Dedmon, Dylan Wade Butler and John Aaron Rice and others were driving around Jackson looking for African Americans to attack when they spotted James Craig Anderson, a 47-year-old African American who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.   Defendants Rice and Butler spotted Mr. Anderson and concluded that he was an inviting target, and they corralled him while Dedmon and others arrived.  After Mr. Anderson got back to his feet, defendant Dedmon and others got into what became the murder weapon, a Ford F-250 pickup truck, which weighs over a ton, and proceeded to deliberately run over Mr. Anderson.  As they drove away, one of the participants placed a call on a cell phone bragging about their accomplishment.    

Following the murder of James Byrd Jr., I travelled to Texas as part of the Justice Department’s investigation and, among other things, toured the crime scene with the case investigators.  I remember vividly reflecting on how it was possible that such a depraved act could have occurred.  I hoped that such a crime would never occur again.  Sadly, I was mistaken.  Yesterday, defendant Dedmon pleaded guilty to a state charge of depraved heart murder.  That description is a spot on characterization of this hate crime.

We would like to think that horrific crimes such as these are in the history books, not today’s headlines.  Sadly, hate crimes remain a persistent problem in our nation .  We must and will remain ever vigilant in our common humanity to root out hate and violence when it rears its ugly face.  Hate crimes such as this simply have no place in Jackson, in Mississippi or anywhere in America.  No one in our nation should live in fear being attacked because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, the God they choose to worship or whom they love.

The Justice Department will use every tool at its disposal to root out hate crimes.  The Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with its partners in the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the FBI, has aggressively focused on prosecuting hate crime cases, and our prosecutions are on the rise.  Last year, the department convicted the most defendants on hate crimes charges in over a decade.  And, over the past three fiscal years, the department has prosecuted 35 percent more hate crime cases than during the preceding three year period.  The Byrd-Shepard law is a critical new tool for combating hate crimes.  Already, 27 defendants have been charged in cases across the country.  There is an undeniable headwind of intolerance that rears its ugly head in different ways, whether it is today’s events or the arson of mosques, assaults on immigrants and brutal attacks of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.

Our work is not finished, either here in Jackson or across America.  Let me be clear about this case.  Yesterday’s state court plea and today’s guilty pleas of the three defendants mark an important milestone in this investigation.  But our work is not finished, and our investigation continues, and I fully expect additional activity.  We will not rest until every responsible individual is brought to justice.

Last year, I had the privilege of traveling to Jackson to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders historic and courageous journey for justice.  It was a memorable day here in Jackson.   Mississippi and indeed America have come a long way in the journey for equal opportunity.  Today’s guilty pleas should not obscure the progress we have made in Jackson and communities across America in ensuring equal justice under law.  At the same time, today’s guilty pleas and the horrific facts of this hate crime are another reminder that civil rights remains the unfinished business of America.

I had an opportunity to meet with some of the victim’s family members.  You have shown enormous patience and fortitude in the face of this tragedy.  Days like today are invariably bittersweet for loved ones.  Nothing we can do will bring Mr. Anderson back.  I am hopeful that yesterday’s and today’s guilty pleas bring some sense of justice for Mr. Anderson’s loving friends and family.  Again, I assure you that our work is not done.

We are grateful to our partners in this investigation and prosecution.  I’d like to personally thank United States Attorney John Dowdy and his office for their partnership; Special Agent in Charge Dan McMullen and the FBI for dedicating tremendous resources and countless man hours in this investigation, including conducting more than 200 interviews; District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith and his office for their work and cooperation in reaching global dispositions on these three defendants; and Chief Rebecca Coleman and the Jackson Police Department for their participation in the investigation.

Friday, March 23, 2012

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON ON PAKISTAN DAY


The following excerpt is from the U.S. State Department e-mail:
Pakistan Day
Press Statement Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State Washington, DC
March 23, 2012
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Pakistan as you celebrate the 65th anniversary of the signing of the Lahore Resolution, which laid the foundation for the creation of Pakistan.

From the Tarbela Dam project that has helped light Pakistan’s growing cities and power its industries, to the founding of the Lahore University of Management Sciences and Karachi’s Institute for Business Administration that have educated so many of your leaders, to the thousands of Pakistanis who were helped by U.S. and Pakistani forces after the devastating earthquake of 2005 and during the floods of 2010 and 2011, Pakistan and the United States have a rich history of cooperation. We are committed to continuing this engagement and support as both of our nations work to build peace and prosperity in Pakistan and the region.

We appreciate the work that all of you – political leaders, teachers, bloggers, Muslim and minority religious leaders, gender activists, business leaders, and journalists – are doing to promote peace and tolerance. As you celebrate this special day with family, friends and loved ones, know that the people of the United States stand with you and we look forward to strengthening our friendship even more in the years to come.




LARGE OPIUM CACHE FOUND IN AFGHANISTAN


From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release 



Coalition Force Finds Opium Cache

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 22, 2012 - A coalition security force found 1,300 pounds of opium in the Nad-e Ali district of Afghanistan's Helmand province today, military officials reported.
The security force seized a small quantity of the opium for examination and destroyed the rest, officials said.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- In the Maiwand district of Kandahar province, an Afghan-led and coalition-supported force arrested an insurgent leader who directed insurgent fighters and planted roadside bombs. The security force detained several other suspected insurgents and found bomb-making materials in the operation.

-- An Afghan-led and coalition-supported force killed an insurgent leader who fired on them in the Deh Rawood district of Uruzgan province. The insurgent leader was an IED facilitator responsible for numerous attacks on Afghan and coalition forces in the area. During the operation the insurgent leader attempted to fire on the combined force. The security force detained several suspected insurgents.

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S REMARKS AT TRANSCANADA STILLWATER PIPE YARD



President Barack Obama delivers remarks on energy at the TransCanada Stillwater Pipe Yard near Cushing, Okla., March 22, 2012. The President highlighted the Administration’s commitment to expanding domestic oil and gas production. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Cushing, Oklahoma is an oil town. It’s a major hub for connecting our nation’s crude oil supply with refineries along the Gulf Coast, and the latest stop on President Obama’s cross-country tour to discuss American energy production.

Domestic oil and gas production is the highest it’s been in eight years. We’re actually producing so much that, even though we've added enough new oil and gas pipelines to circle the Earth in the last three years, we still don’t have enough pipeline to transport it all around the country quickly enough, particularly to our nation's refineries.
And, as President Obama explained when he spoke there today, the fact that production is outpacing pipeline capacity is causing bottlenecks in places like Cushing, slowing our ability to further increase oil supplies when gas prices are high and we need it the most.
Modernizing pipeline infrastructure and expanding its ability to deliver oil to refineries and consumers around the country is a vital piece of a strategy to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and expand production of American-made energy. That’s why President Obama directed his Administration to expedite the permitting and construction process of a new pipeline that will help crude oil make its way to Gulf Coast refineries more quickly, and doing so while protecting natural resources and the health of local communities along the pipeline’s proposed path.
The above excerpt and picture are from the White House website:

LOCKHEED MARTIN SETTLES WITH U.S. OVER ALLEGED INFLATED COSTS FOR AIRCRAFT TOOLS


The following excerpt is from the U.S. Department of Justice website:
Friday, March 23, 2012
Lockheed Martin Corporation Reaches $15.85 Million Settlement with U.S. to Resolve False Claims Act AllegationsU.S. Alleges Lockheed Subcontractor Inflated Costs for Military Aircraft Tools That Were Passed on to Government
WASHINGTON – Lockheed Martin Corporation has agreed to pay $15,850,000 to settle allegations that it mischarged perishable tools used on numerous government contracts, the Department of Justice announced today.  Lockheed Martin, headquartered in Bethesda, Md., is one of the world’s largest defense contractors.

Today’s settlement resolves allegations that the government was overcharged as a result
of a seven-year pricing scheme by Tools & Metals Inc. (TMI), a subcontractor that sold perishable tools to Lockheed Martin for use on military aircraft, including the F-22 and the F-35 fighter jets.  Specifically, the government alleged that TMI inflated the costs of these tools between 1998 and 2005, and that Lockheed Martin passed these costs on to the United States under its various contracts with the government.  On Dec. 8, 2005, Todd B. Loftis, a former president of TMI, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison in connection with his role in TMI’s scheme.

The United States subsequently brought civil claims against Lockheed Martin under the False Claims Act, alleging that Lockheed Martin contributed to the inflated amounts paid by the United States in connection with TMI’s pricing scheme.  Specifically, the government alleged that Lockheed Martin acted recklessly by failing to adequately oversee TMI’s charging practices and by mishandling information revealing these practices. These allegations are the subject of today’s settlement between the United States and Lockheed Martin.

“It is troubling that a large defense contractor with long-established contractual ties with the United States failed to undertake appropriate measures to ensure the integrity and validity of the costs it submitted to the United States,” said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
“This settlement demonstrates the government’s commitment to devoting the necessary resources to protect taxpayer funds from the most complex mischarging schemes,” stated Sarah R. Saldaña, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.

Today’s settlement also settles two qui tam, or whistleblower, actions brought under the whistleblower  provisions of the False Claims Act and consolidated in the U.S. District Court in Dallas.  The case is captioned U.S. ex rel. Becker, et al. v. Tools & Metals, Inc., et al., Civil Action No. 3:05-CV-0627-L.

Under the False Claims Act, a private party can file an action on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of the recovery.  The whistleblowers in the two cases resolved by the settlement, Robert Spencer and John Becker, will split a $2 million share of the government’s recovery.

This matter was jointly handled by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the Contract Integrity Offices of the Departments of the Air Force and the Navy, the Defense Contract Management Agency, the Department of Justice's Civil Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas.

STATE DEPARTMENT PRESS RELEASE ON VIOLENCE IN SUDAN


The following excerpt is from a U.S. State Department e-mail:
On Violence in Southern Kordofan and Negotiations Between Sudan and South Sudan
Press Statement Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC
March 22, 2012
The United States is alarmed by the threat of greater violence between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-Northern Sector (SPLM-N) in Southern Kordofan State. Any such fighting will only worsen the humanitarian crisis there and lead to more civilian casualties. The conflict in Southern Kordofan and neighboring Blue Nile is also fuelling mistrust between Sudan and South Sudan and the United States is deeply concerned about the potential for a resumption of direct conflict between the North and South. Rather than risk the potential for war, both countries should prepare in good faith for the summit planned for early April between President Salva Kiir of South Sudan and President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan.

The United States urgently calls on the Government of Sudan and the SPLM-N to agree on a cessation of hostilities. We reiterate our demand that the SAF end aerial bombardments of civilian areas and immediately allow unhindered humanitarian access to civilians in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. We also demand that South Sudan end any military support for the SPLM-N and work with the Government of Sudan on ways jointly to bring peace to the border region. We hope that the upcoming summit will focus on this objective along with issues such as oil and nationalities. We strongly condemn all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and demand that those responsible be held accountable for their actions.

The renewed fighting in North Darfur among SAF, rebel groups, and paramilitary forces further deepens the crisis in that region and threatens the progress made since the signing of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur in July 2011. We are deeply concerned about the displacement of civilians from their home areas. We urge the Government of Sudan, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Mission in Darfur, and the newly established Darfur Regional Authority to address this situation urgently.

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT PRESS BRIEFING


The following excerpt is from a U.S. Department of State e-mail:
Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 22, 2012
TRANSCRIPT:
1:00 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: All right, everybody, before we start today, a warm welcome to our journalists at the back of the room who are participating in the U.S.-Pakistan journalism exchange. Welcome. All right.
Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Can we start with Mali?
MS. NULAND: We can.
QUESTION: What – first off, has the Department yet begun the process of making the legal determination of whether this is indeed a coup?
MS. NULAND: Well, first to say, as we said in our statement this morning, that the United States condemns the military seizure of power in Mali. We echo the statements of the African Union, of ECOWAS, and of other international partners in denouncing these actions. We’ve called for calm. We’ve called for restoration of the civilian government under constitutional rule without delay so that the elections can proceed as scheduled. And we stand with the legitimately elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure. Mali has been a leading democracy in West Africa, and those institutions must be respected.
Arshad, in response to your question, I think our focus and our hope and expectation is that this military action can be quickly reversed and we can get back to the issue of democratic governance in Mali, which we can all support.
QUESTION: Why is it that your expectation that it can be quickly reversed?
MS. NULAND: Well, our hope is that ECOWAS and the African Union, who we understand are sending a senior delegation in the near future, are going to be able to resolve this, and we won’t get to this issue of whether we’ve had a formal coup, if you may.
QUESTION: But that’s a hope, not an expectation?
MS. NULAND: That is a hope. That is a hope and that is something that we are supporting and working towards.
QUESTION: And is there – I realize that it takes some time to make determinations about whether something is a coup, or at least it takes the State Department some time, but is there any immediate effect in terms of ceasing cooperation with the Government in Mali, particularly on counterterrorism work?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that the United States provides significant security and economic and financial support to the Government of Mali every year, something along the order of $137- $140 million. We are meeting this afternoon. No decisions have been made to look at those assistance problems – programs and to determine what’s appropriate.
QUESTION: And particularly on counterterrorism, which – some of which I imagine is done with the military, do you think it’s possible to continue counterterrorism cooperation with the new authorities?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, our expectation and what we are supporting and working for with our ECOWAS and AU partners is that we can reverse this, that we can get back to good, solid democratic governance in Mali. And with regard to what one would do, could do, should do in this period with the assistance, we’re looking at it this afternoon. So we haven’t done any – made any decisions.
QUESTION: Why do you keep saying expectation when that was your hope? I mean, it makes me think you – there’s something you’re thinking or you know, that maybe this is in the process of being reversed. Is there anything that suggests that?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, there – our hope is that ECOWAS can get in there quickly, can negotiate a resolution of this and can get the president back in the capital and leading the country.
Please.
QUESTION: Victoria, do you have any information of the whereabouts of President Toure?
MS. NULAND: Well, there had been some misreporting that he was somehow in or near the U.S. Embassy. That is false. Our understanding is he is still in Mali, but I can’t give you any more detail than that.
QUESTION: In your statement, you did not insist on his physical safety. Does that mean that you don’t have any concern as far as his physical safety is concerned?
MS. NULAND: No, of course we do. Of course we do.
Matt – still on Mali?
QUESTION: I’m – obviously, I missed the beginning of this, so you have not made a determination under the law that you’re required to? Is that correct or --
MS. NULAND: We have not. Yeah.
QUESTION: So we’re looking at a Honduras situation here, where you guys just take your time and --
MS. NULAND: We’re looking at the whole range of issues this afternoon. This has been something that we all woke up to.
QUESTION: And when you say you’re hoping that ECOWAS is – you mean negotiators from ECOWAS; you’re not talking about Nigerian troops, are you?
MS. NULAND: No, no. Our expectation is that ECOWAS and the African Union will be sending some high-level folks in to try to negotiate this through.
QUESTION: And when you say that you’re going to be looking at this this afternoon, does that mean that you’re expecting or you think that there might be some good resolution to this --
MS. NULAND: No. What --
QUESTION: -- this afternoon?
MS. NULAND: No, no, no, no.
QUESTION: Or you’re looking at simply whether the – you have to, as you are legally bound to, apply the law?
MS. NULAND: No, the question was with regard to U.S. assistance, U.S. support for Mali. We are looking, interagency this afternoon, at the support programs that we have in Mali to make some decisions.
QUESTION: Were you asked the question of how much would be at stake?
MS. NULAND: I mentioned at the top that we annually have about $137- $140 million going to Mali.
QUESTION: Right. And that – some of that is exempted from --
MS. NULAND: Absolutely. Well, that is before you get to some of the humanitarian assistance, which is exacted. Okay?
QUESTION: Oh, okay. So the amount that would be at stake if such a determination were made would be that 130 --
MS. NULAND: About that. But again, there are a number of legal issues here, including how the different pots of money are apportioned.
QUESTION: And just to clarify, because now it’s not perfectly clear to me, is this afternoon’s meeting to discuss and make a decision on whether or not a military coup has occurred, therefore triggering the aid cutoff? Or rather, is it a – or you – are you not considering that for the time being, and it is simply to look at what you can continue to fund while you see if this can be reversed, and therefore it would not be a military coup and not trigger the cutoff?
MS. NULAND: Again, the meeting this afternoon is to look at the entire situation in Mali, what diplomatic initiatives there may be to resolve this quickly, which is what we would like to see happen, but also in the interim to look at the support that we give to Mali and what’s appropriate to give under various different scenarios.
QUESTION: Do you expect any decisions out of the meeting this afternoon?
MS. NULAND: Again, they need to sit down and have the meeting before I can predict, but I think there will be some – certainly some decisions about the kind of diplomacy that we will support and some preliminary thinking about what should be done in the short term with our assistance.
QUESTION: Can you get us a readout after the meeting, since you’ve mentioned it?
MS. NULAND: I think we’ll probably have more to say about this tomorrow because there’ll have to be some reporting up.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) personnel from UN, World Bank, and IMF, many personnel in Mali right now? Do you have any contingency plan to get them out of country, or have you received any kind of request?
MS. NULAND: You’re talking about American citizens, or you’re talking about internationals?
QUESTION: American citizens, yes. And --
MS. NULAND: We’ve done the usual alerts to official Americans, to U.S. citizens, to stay in place, to take precautionary security measures. And I think we issued a public warning to that effect.
Please.
QUESTION: Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: No, Mali.
MS. NULAND: Still on Mali, Scott? Yeah.
QUESTION: The primary flashpoint here appears to have been the military’s ability to deal with the Tuareg rebellion. Is it the view of the United States that that rebellion has been amplified, revived, by the fall of Qadhafi in Libya and the return of Tuareg fighters from Libya to both Mali and Niger?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think until we have a chance to analyze fully what has happened, I’m not going to be commenting on the causes for this. I think the Tuareg issue has been – is not a new one. Let’s put it that way, Scott. I think you’re – it’s certainly true that there has been increasing concern inside Mali about Tuareg activity over the last number of months, and particularly since the Tuaregs have had less to fight about in Libya and have moved on to Mali. But I don’t think we’re going to be analyzing the situation until we get a chance to look at it internally.
Please.
QUESTION: Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Today it was announced that the new military council in Damascus that will allow defected soldiers to have more coordinated efforts. Is this a step in the right direction? Your reaction to that? Have you heard about it?
MS. NULAND: I hadn’t heard. This is an announcement of --
QUESTION: That it’s going to be a new military council in Damascus and in the rural area.
MS. NULAND: Of the opposition?
QUESTION: Of the opposition, of the Free Syrian Army, the (inaudible).
MS. NULAND: I just can’t speak to that. I haven’t seen what they have announced.
QUESTION: But I mean, if this is the case, do you think this is – because very often, you complain that the opposition is very unorganized. And the fact that they are getting their act together, at least militarily, is this a step in the right direction?
MS. NULAND: I think what we have been calling for is for the peaceful opposition to coordinate better and to make proposals that will be attractive to all Syrians who want change from all groups within the country about how a peaceful transition can go forward.
Said.
QUESTION: Yes, Victoria. The Secretary’s statement yesterday and another statement by you and others were interpreted as toning down of the rhetoric, the anti-Assad rhetoric. Should it be interpreted that way?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think that there should be any doubt in anyone’s mind what the Secretary was saying yesterday. She was calling on Assad to accept the Kofi plan, start pulling back the weapons from the cities, start cooperating in humanitarian assistance, and allow a political transition to go forward. There’s no change in our position, so I’m not sure where those sort of analyses came from.
QUESTION: Well, it – I guess it emanates from the sort of played-down rhetoric on calling for him to step aside and that they have not heard that so emphatically as it was in the beginning. And I guess that’s maybe the cause.
MS. NULAND: Well, there’s no change in our view that a democratic, peaceful Syria cannot be led by Assad, no change in our view that he has lost legitimacy with his people.
QUESTION: So finally, one last thing.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you see that this new closeness with Russia as an impetus, perhaps, to convince Assad that he must begin immediately with what has been required of him?
MS. NULAND: I think the point here, Said, is that there was concern that Assad and his regime were taking advantage of the apparent divisions on the Security Council not to do what needed to be done. So you now have the Security Council speaking very clearly with one voice in support of the kinds of change that we’ve been calling for for months and months and months and months.
Please.
QUESTION: You stated that you --
MS. NULAND: We missed you. Where you been? You’ve been home?
QUESTION: In Syria.
MS. NULAND: In Syria? That’s where we got the beard.
QUESTION: You stated that you continue to call on Assad to step down, but the Annan mission that you are endorsing does not call Assad to step down, neither it foresees any kind of time restraint or it proposes any kind of credible threat of force, right? I mean, how both reconciled? Could you elaborate on that?
MS. NULAND: We don’t see any irreconcilable elements here. The Assad[1] six points are focused on getting an immediate ceasefire and immediate humanitarian relief process underway and an immediate political transition dialogue ongoing. That doesn’t change the fact that we don’t think that Assad is the guy that can lead his country into a democratic future.
QUESTION: But it doesn’t call specifically Assad to step down or there is no timeframe for these dialogues.
MS. NULAND: Again, these are the kinds of things that the Kofi Annan technical team that’s in Damascus is working on. But we can’t get – we have to get this started and it has to start with an end to the violence and humanitarian relief for the people.
QUESTION: Today Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu said that in addition to common message, we also have to develop a joint plan of action. And also there are some commentaries today that Foreign Minister Davutoglu, when he was here having meeting with Secretary Clinton, U.S. position was to tell Turkey not to create buffer zone or any kind of humanitarian corridor. Can you tell us that – do you have the position to oppose Turkish Government to create any kind of action inside Syria?
MS. NULAND: First of all, I’m not going to discuss the Secretary’s private diplomacy with Foreign Minister Davutoglu, except to say that the way you’ve characterized that is not the way that conversation went.
Turkey is going to host the next Friends of the Syrian People meeting, which will be quite large again. It’ll be on April 1st. From our perspective, the first meeting laid out a very clear agenda, which the Annan six points also support, talking about the importance of ending the violence, getting humanitarian going, getting a political process underway.
So we look forward to the agenda that the Turkish Government will establish to deepen and broaden the consensus about the way forward, and we expect that the UN will also be represented in those meetings.
QUESTION: Will the Secretary be at that meeting for sure?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: You say that your position hasn’t changed, but some will argue that the Syrian Government position hasn’t changed either. What indication do you have that will lead you to believe that the Syrian Government will cooperate at least on humanitarian issues and stopping the ceasefire for whatever, two hours or --
MS. NULAND: Well, this was the challenge that the Secretary put to the regime yesterday, that now that we have a united Security Council, it is important that the regime take action. And if it doesn’t, it’s going to face increasing pressure and increasing isolation.
QUESTION: What’s the alternative sanction if such regime doesn’t comply with the mission? What’s your alternative plan?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into all kinds of hypotheticals going forward. You’ve seen over these months that the economic sanctions on the regime have grown tighter and tighter, more and more countries participating. There is plenty of support still flowing to the Assad regime that could be cut off. We will continue to, using the Friends of the Syrian People and other fora that we have, encourage as many countries as possible not to trade with them, not to trade weapons, not to support him economically, and to ensure that he and his supporters face very, very tough choices.
Please, in the back.
QUESTION: Can we go to Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: We can.
QUESTION: The foreign ministry in Islamabad today said that once the parliament completes its review and comes up with an advice on future cooperation with U.S. and agreements will be in writing, Pakistan and U.S. will be cooperating only after agreements in writing, not verbal. What are your comments on that?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m going to say the same thing that we’ve been saying for weeks and months, which is that we are going to wait until the parliament has had a chance to look at all these recommendations, to debate them, and to see the outcome of that very democratic process, as the Secretary made clear yesterday. And when the Government of Pakistan is prepared to reengage with us on its conclusions as a result of that process, we stand ready to do it.
QUESTION: And also, as you quoted the Secretary yesterday, she said that it’s a good sign for Pakistan’s democratic development that a debate is taking place in the parliament, and you have counterterrorism concerns and interests there. How do you look forward? How do you look to banish those – your concerns in Pakistan’s democratic development after the review is complete?
MS. NULAND: Again, you’re asking me to preview where we’re going to go after a review is completed that is ongoing, so I think we will wait and see how our dialogue with Pakistan goes, but the Secretary, as you heard, really laid out the interests that we share yesterday.
Please.
QUESTION: Staying in the region?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, Lalit.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan, the president today said that U.S. would be giving Afghanistan four billion U.S. dollars every year for the next 10 years to support its army. Has (inaudible) engaged on this issue, or what?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that in the context of the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago, we are working with Afghanistan, we are working with all of the ISAF partners on a long-term program of support for the Afghan National Security Forces. Some of the money to support the Afghan security forces is going to come from Afghanistan. Afghanistan will support from its own budget its security forces. But I think we all expect that there will have to be sizable international contributions as well.
So Marc Grossman is in Europe now, as you know, talking to allies about what they might be able to do. We are looking, obviously, at what we might be able to do. There is money in our 2013 budget and onward budgets to look at this. But obviously, this is going to have to be a shared responsibility, which also includes Afghanistan.
QUESTION: But is the figure of $4 billion – is the U.S. contribution going to be for Afghan --
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to speak about overall numbers at the moment. It’s all being worked out.
Yeah.
QUESTION: And is Ambassador Grossman going to South Asia after the end of his visit?
MS. NULAND: He still has not made decisions about the back end of his trip. At the moment, he is focused on his European stops. He may have more to say about this tomorrow or on Saturday.
QUESTION: Can you stay in the region, Sri Lanka?
QUESTION: No, just stay on (inaudible).
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: And this – just yesterday, both the foreign minister and the Secretary were – expressed hope that the final elements of the (inaudible) on the strategic partnership deal could be done before or at the NATO Summit. And I’m just – because I can’t remember what it was with Iraq, but who actually signs those agreements? Is it heads of state or is it foreign ministers or is it – who?
MS. NULAND: On the SPD, I don’t know how we’re going to do this one. Traditionally, it would be either head of state or foreign minister, but I frankly haven’t looked into what the draft says at the moment.
Samir.
QUESTION: Last week, you said you expected the Secretary to decide this week about the aids to Egypt, to inform Congress. Any update on this?
MS. NULAND: We’re still expecting a decision this week but she hasn’t made it yet, so stay tuned.
Please.
QUESTION: On North Korea?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Evans Revere, a former State Department official, he posted an article on the Brookings Institution, and here he said he first became aware of the possibility of North Korea launching satellite on December 15th, three days – of last year, I mean – three days before the death of Kim Jong-il during his exchange with a North Korean official. And he also said, quote, that “Obama Administration had already heard similar statements from North Korean counterparts and had already delivered a strong warning” to them.
Is it true that the U.S. was told by North Korea even before Kim Jong-il’s death that they’re going to launch satellite?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to speak to the details of the discussion that we had in the three bilateral sessions from August onward with the North Koreans leading to the Leap Day deal, except to repeat what we’ve said last week, which was that the issue of whether we would consider a satellite launch a violation did come up in those talks. And we were extremely clear when that subject came up that we would consider the launch of anything using ballistic missile technology to be a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1874. So the North Koreans should not have been in any doubt before or after the death of the leader of what our position was.
QUESTION: The only remaining point here is how soon did the United States warn North Korea of the (inaudible).
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into the details of who said what to whom when during these negotiations, except to tell you that at no time should there have been any expectation on the part of the North Koreans that a satellite launch using ballistic missile technology would be acceptable to us or anybody else in the international community.
Please.
QUESTION: Are you aware of the case of Walid Abu Al-Khair, who’s a Saudi human rights activist and a lawyer who was prevented from leaving Saudi Arabia to participate in a State Department-sponsored conference that’s supposed to take place in the next few days?
MS. NULAND: And he was prohibited in some manner by?
QUESTION: By the Saudi authority from coming to the U.S.
MS. NULAND: Is this – is he the – no, he’s not the – I think I don’t have this case, Nadia, so we will --
QUESTION: Can you look up – please look into it?
MS. NULAND: -- look into it, yeah, absolutely, if you can give our guys --
QUESTION: Sure.
MS. NULAND: -- the correct spelling of the name, yeah.
Tejinder.
QUESTION: Now that you have a list of countries who are exempted from sanctions for deals with Iran, what are the next steps you’re taking against India and other countries who are still dealing with Iran?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve talked about this a couple of times this week. As you know, Tejinder, our conversations continue with all the other countries that want to talk to us who continue to have issues with the amount of Iranian crude that they import. India is one of those countries. And we are working hard with India to see if we can help with regard to reducing India’s dependence and the dependence of any of the other countries on Iranian crude, and looking at alternative sources of supply as well.
QUESTION: As it stands today, you are not contemplating any action?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to announce, and our bilateral consultations continue with a whole raft of countries that have not yet been exempted.
Please.
QUESTION: Just following on that, you said that you were in consultations with all the countries that want to talk to you about this. Are there countries among the 12 that don’t want to talk to you?
MS. NULAND: Actually, I should – the minute that formulation came out of my mouth, I thought I should check. I think we are talking to all, if not most, of the 12.
QUESTION: Can you check that?
MS. NULAND: We will.
QUESTION: Can you also tell us what those 12 countries are?
MS. NULAND: I think as we said when we – when Carlos was on the Hill and when we backgrounded on this issue, it’s pretty clearly readily available in public sources --
QUESTION: Well, actually – but it’s –
MS. NULAND: -- who has extensive Iranian crude imports.
QUESTION: It’s really not. And I don’t see why – I don’t see how difficult it is – why it would be so difficult for you all to say which countries, if you are in fact talking to all 12 of them, which ones they are.
And then my second question would be is that – do you consider them all to be countries? Because I believe Taiwan is one, and I hadn’t realized that you had changed your one China policy.
MS. NULAND: Why don’t I take the question, and we’ll get back to it with what we can.
QUESTION: I think it would be helpful to name the 12 because, as Matt suggests, there are in fact different – private-source data has different assessments of what countries imported Iranian crude oil in 2011, which I think is the benchmark that you guys are using. And it took a while to get to the bottom of this. And I think if it truly is publicly available, then I think you guys ought to be able to just say well yeah, these are the 12 even if you have to say if we learn new things, like somebody didn’t really import any or somebody else did and we find out later, that it might change. But I --
MS. NULAND: Well, why don’t I take the question. We’ll see what we can do for you.
QUESTION: Remind them – remind whoever it is you’re going to take it up with that these countries know who they are already. It’s not going to be any great breach of secrecy.
MS. NULAND: Said.
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. On the occasion of World Water Day --
MS. NULAND: Sorry. Are we still on --
QUESTION: Can I do Iran?
MS. NULAND: Well, let’s do World Water Day and then come back. Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay.
QUESTION: Very quickly, I just wanted to give you a couple of figures and see your comment. Ninety-five percent of Gaza water is unfit for drinking. Twenty-six percent of all illnesses are caused by waterborne diseases. The Israelis – because of the siege, the Israelis continue to take the majority of water in the West Bank. Forty percent of water designated for farming in the West Bank go through sewage because Israel disallows the Palestinians from repairing or introducing new pipes, and so on. The farming for the settlement is heavily subsidized, which is used for farming and recreation, while the Palestinians are charged heavy fees, and so on.
And I wonder since it’s a basic human right issue – the access to water – I wonder if the United States would make a case that Palestinian farmers and residents be allowed at least the same allocation or the same allotment as the settlements?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know, Said, that water is one of the issues that the United States works with Palestinian Authority representatives on. We also work on regional issues with Israel. So it is certainly a subject that is on our minds and part of our regular efforts with the Palestinians.
QUESTION: I have two questions on Turkey, starting from 2012 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which Turkey is cited as a Country of Particular Concern. But Turkey argues that one of the members of the commission actually did not vote for this classification. Do you have anything on this?
MS. NULAND: I had something on this on the day that it happened, which I think was on Monday.
QUESTION: Yes.
MS. NULAND: But I don’t think – I’ll have to take it and get back to you, okay?
QUESTION: Okay. On Iran, Turkey is not listed as one of the countries in the waiver list for the sanctions. And Turkish Energy Minister yesterday was saying Turkey is still hoping that it’s going to be one of the countries in the waiver list. Do you have anything on that?
MS. NULAND: Well, just to give you a version of the same answer that we had on India, that Turkey is one of the countries that we are working with to support their efforts to reduce their dependence on Iranian crude, to find alternative sources of supply, and we will continue those discussions.
QUESTION: And that’s (inaudible) exemption (inaudible) waiver (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: This is about the overall effort to try to reduce Turkey’s dependence on Iranian crude.
Please.
QUESTION: On Sri Lanka?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Now after this passing of the resolution by UNSCR, what are the options Sri Lanka has? And if it doesn’t implement those recommendations, what it’s going to face now?
MS. NULAND: Well, this is pretty straightforward. It’s not any different than what we’ve been asking for since November, which is for the Government of Sri Lanka to communicate to its own people but also to the international community what it intends to do to implement the LLRC’s recommendations. Specifically, we want to see Sri Lanka take concrete action that brings accountability and reconciliation and to put forward a formal implementation plan on the recommendations.
QUESTION: So do they have any timeline for this? Have they informed you of anything?
MS. NULAND: As soon as possible. We’ve been proposing and urging this kind of action for many months now.
QUESTION: In her statement, Secretary also mentioned that she is looking forward to meet the Sri Lankan foreign minister. Do you know when this is expected – the meeting?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think it’s been scheduled yet.
All right? Thanks everybody.