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Saturday, January 18, 2014


Obama Administration Condemns Taliban Attack on Kabul Restaurant

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2014 – The Obama administration has condemned Friday's deadly Taliban attack on a restaurant in the Afghan capital, Kabul but has commended the Afghan security forces' quick response.

A statement issued by the White House said the United States joins the international community in condemning the attack, which killed 21 civilians and injured others.  "We send condolences to all the victims of the attack and their families, and pray for a speedy recovery for those injured," a statement issued by Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

"There is no possible justification for this attack, which has killed innocent civilians, including Americans, working every day to help the Afghan people achieve a better future with higher education and economic assistance at the American University, United Nations, International Monetary Fund and other organizations," the statement added.

The United States commends the quick and skillful response of the Afghan security services in the aftermath of the attack. "We call again on the Taliban to put down their arms and begin peace talks, which is the surest way to end the conflict in a peaceful manner," the statement concludes.


Attack on Restaurant in Kabul
Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
January 18, 2014

The United States joins leaders from around the world in condemning the terrorist attack in Kabul on January 17 against Afghans and those who are there to help them. We extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this senseless violence. We wish those who were injured a full and speedy recovery.

Among those murdered in this shameful act were Wabel Abdallah, the International Monetary Fund's Resident Representative, personnel from the United Nations, and civilians from around the world, including U.S. citizens, who had come to help build a peaceful, prosperous future for Afghanistan and its people. Several Afghan citizens were also tragically killed.

With this despicable, targeted attack on innocent civilians, terrorists continue to demonstrate blatant disregard for life and for the peaceful, prosperous future Afghans want and are working so hard to achieve.

The United States and our international partners remain steadfast in our commitment to the people of Afghanistan and support their efforts toward peace, reconciliation, and a secure, stable, and prosperous nation.


Readout of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's Meeting with Japan National Security Advisor Shotaro Yachi

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby provided the following readout:

Today, Secretary Hagel met with Japan National Security Advisor Shotaro Yachi to welcome the establishment of Japan's National Security Council and discuss ways to deepen and enhance bilateral cooperation.

Secretary Hagel expressed appreciation for the Government of Japan's efforts in securing approval of the landfill permit request to construct the Futenma Replacement Facility at Camp Schwab-Henoko Bay, and endorsed a forward-looking revision of the U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines that would enable Japan to play a more active role in promoting regional peace and stability.

Secretary Hagel said the United States would continue to cooperate closely with Japan on strengthening the alliance to meet the security challenges of the 21st century.

Readout of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's Meeting with Malaysian Minister of Defense Dato' Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein

Assistant Press Secretary Carl Woog provided the following readout:

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with Malaysian Minister of Defense Dato' Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein today at the Pentagon.

Secretary Hagel underscored the U.S. commitment to deepening ties to Malaysia.  The two leaders discussed a range of international security issues, including Afghanistan, North Korea, and the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in addressing regional security challenges.

Malaysia is an important partner in Southeast Asia that is making valuable contributions to international security both on its own and in partnership with ASEAN.  Secretary Hagel praised Malaysia's leadership in Southeast Asia.
The secretary and the minister also talked about ways to enhance the defense relationship between the United States and Malaysia, including by enhancing bilateral exercise and training opportunities and exploring expanded defense trade cooperation.

The two leaders looked forward to meeting again at the upcoming U.S.-ASEAN informal meeting in Hawaii in April.


California company restores nearly $2M in pension benefits 
to 515 employees following US Labor Department investigation
Company debarred from federal contracts for three years

OAKLAND, Calif. — An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division resulted in the restoration of $1,979,779 in 401(k) pension benefits to 515 drivers working on U.S. Postal Service contracts for Lange Trucking Inc. because of violations of the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act. The company, along with its President, William A. Langenhuizen; Vice President, William H. Langenhuizen; Secretary Treasurer, Antoinette Langenhuizen; Vice President, Robert Langehuizen; and Vice President of Finance, Lisa Kulak, have been debarred from eligibility for further service contracts with any U.S. government agency for three years for their failure to pay drivers required fringe benefits.

"Contractors that do business with the federal government have an obligation to abide by the law and pay their employees the required contractual rates and benefits," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "Restoring the pension benefits of these workers and debarring this employer illustrate the department's commitment to vigorous enforcement of government contracting laws and helps level the playing field for law-abiding employers."

Wage and Hour investigators found that Lange Trucking failed to fully fund the drivers' 401(k) plan, resulting in a violation of the SCA. Wage and Hour has investigated the company several times in the past. Lange Trucking paid $500,000 of the unpaid benefits while Hoovestol Inc., which is based in Eagan, Minn., acquired the company subsequent to the violations and voluntarily agreed to fund the remaining $1.48 million in benefits. Hoovestol, which cooperated fully with the Wage and Hour Division during its investigation, has also: corrected record-keeping procedures, overhauled the plan to ensure timely payments into the plan going forward, posted wage determinations at the work site and made information about the contracts accessible to employees.

The SCA applies to every contract entered into by the United States or the District of Columbia, the principal purpose of which is to furnish services in the United States through the use of service employees. The SCA requires that contractors and subcontractors performing services on covered federal contracts in excess of $2,500 must pay their service workers no less than the wages and fringe benefits prevailing in the locality.


Secretary Vilsack Expands StrikeForce Initiative to Address Rural Poverty in Four Additional State

 Targeted efforts now operational in persistent poverty areas in 20 states, including Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia

PINEVILLE, Kentucky, January 17, 2014—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers today to announce the expansion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's StrikeForce Initiative into four additional states: Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia.

"The StrikeForce strategy of partnering public resources with local expertise is helping to grow rural economies and create jobs in persistent poverty communities," said Vilsack. "This is a strategy that is working in rural America and I am pleased that we continue to build on these efforts to bring assistance to areas that need it the most."

Vilsack also noted that the StrikeForce strategy is having concrete results in communities across the country.

Since 2010, through StrikeForce, USDA has partnered with over 400 community organizations, businesses, foundations, universities and other groups to support 80,300 projects and ushered more than $9.7 billion in investments into rural America, including:

The Farm Service Agency saw a 14 percent increase in the total direct farm loan applications received in StrikeForce areas since the beginning of the initiative.
In fiscal year (FY) 2013, the Farm Service Agency provided nearly $9.3 million to fund microloans in StrikeForce areas. Approximately 84 percent of the loans were provided to socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers.
Last year, the number of landowners applying for Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs in StrikeForce areas increased by 82 percent over the previous year.
In FY 2013, the Rural Housing Community Facilities Program obligated a total of $68 million to fund hospitals, libraries and other projects in StrikeForce areas—a 4.5 percent increase over 2012.
Between 2012 and 2013, the Food and Nutrition Service doubled the redemption of SNAP benefits at farmers markets from $2 million to over $4 million in StrikeForce states—a more than 100 percent increase.
In 2012, USDA's Food and Nutrition Service increased the number of children in StrikeForce states receiving free or reduced price school breakfasts by 7.4 percent.

"Through StrikeForce, we are able to reach people in new ways and bring resources to them directly," said Vilsack. "We are learning better ways to help communities leverage their assets and bring opportunity to their residents."

Today's expansion brings StrikeForce attention to more than 700 rural counties, parishes, boroughs, tribal reservations, and Colonias in 20 states, including Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

USDA identifies census tracts with over 20 percent poverty (according to American Community Survey data) to identify sub-county pockets of poverty. As areas of persistent poverty are identified, USDA staff work with state, local and community officials to increase awareness of USDA programs and help build program participation through intensive community outreach.

StrikeForce is part of the Administration's commitment to addressing persistent poverty across America. Last week, President Obama announced the first five of twenty Promise Zones, including one in southeastern Kentucky, that target federal resources to cities, rural areas and Tribal communities suffering the worst poverty.


Weekly Address: Making 2014 a Year of Action to Expand Opportunities for the Middle Class

WASHINGTON, DC—In this week’s address, President Obama said 2014 will be a year of action, and called on both parties to help make this a breakthrough year for the United States by bringing back more good jobs and expanding opportunities for the middle class.

Remarks of President Barack Obama

Weekly Address

The White House

January 18, 2014

Hi, everybody.  This week, I visited a company in Raleigh, North Carolina that helps make electric motors that save businesses money on energy costs and cut harmful carbon pollution.

And I stopped by N.C. State University, where engineers are set to develop the new technology that will make those motors even better.

It’s part of my push not only to make America home to more high-tech manufacturing – but to make America more attractive for the good jobs that a growing middle class requires.

And increasingly, we are.  Thanks in part to our all-of-the-above strategy for American energy, for the first time in nearly two decades, we produce more oil here at home than we buy from the rest of the world.  We generate more renewable energy than ever, and more natural gas than anybody.  Health care costs are growing at their slowest rate in 50 years – due in part to the Affordable Care Act.  And since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by more than half.

So we are primed to bring back more of the good jobs claimed by the recession, and lost to overseas competition in recent decades.  But that requires a year of action.  And I want to work with Congress this year on proven ways to create jobs, like building infrastructure and fixing our broken immigration system.

Where Congress isn’t acting, I’ll act on my own to put opportunity within reach for anyone who’s willing to work for it. That’s what I did in Raleigh by launching America’s second “manufacturing innovation institute.”  It’s a partnership between companies, colleges, and the federal government focused on making sure American businesses and American workers win the race for high-tech manufacturing and the jobs that come with it – jobs that can help people and communities willing to work hard punch their ticket into the middle class.

I firmly believe that this can be a breakthrough year for America.  But to make that happen, we’re gonna have to act – to create good jobs that pay good wages, and to offer more Americans a fair shot to get ahead.  That’s what I’m focused on every day that I have the privilege of serving as your president. That’s what I’m going to be focused on every single day of this year.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.


Remarks at the Launch of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Partnership
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Loy Henderson Auditorium
Washington, DC
January 17, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Ben, thank you very, very much. Thanks for your incredible collaboration and leadership on all of this. Mr. Vice President, thank you for being here with us today. And Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, old pal, thank you for being here and being part of this. And Roberta Jacobson, I just – her ears should be burning because I just swore in a new class of civil servants here, and I just called her “the best of the best” and a whole bunch of things, and so – look at her, she’s – (laughter). But she is doing a spectacular job. And Evan Ryan, who’s not up here, shares efforts on this, and we have a great team. And it’s really exciting to be able to be engaged in this kind of an initiative.

I know Roberta from her time as an OAS fellow in Argentina. Really found her worldview shaped through that experience. And so she comes to this with a very personal kind of early commitment that really helps us to translate this into the program that it’s becoming and going to become. And Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, likewise. I’ve watched her for years and years and years as she and I –

MS. TOWNSEND: A hundred years. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, you know. You and I – I actually knew Kathleen when she was – that puts me in a different category, and I think Senator Biden, too. So whatever happens, I’m – (laughter) – I’m way the hell ahead of you, so relax. (Laughter.)

I’m really pleased to see that Steve Vetter is here. He leads the Partners of the Americas, and that’s created opportunities across the hemisphere for more than five decades, no small accomplishment. And I’m also happy that Steve Ferst is here from NAFSA, another organization which has done so much to promote these kinds of global exchanges.

And most of all, I want to thank the fellow to my left, the Vice President of the United States, for being with us because his presence here really underscores the Administration’s priority of creating shared prosperity across the hemisphere. On official visits to Panama, Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, and throughout his five years in the White House and well before that in the 30 years or so that he was on the Foreign Relations Committee, the Vice President has helped to make this priority a reality. And because of his pragmatic and personal commitment to this kind of diplomacy, connecting young people to the future, to opportunity – which is really getting people in touch with our values and their interests, and that marriage is critical. And the Vice President is a key asset for the President of the United States in helping us to engage and reach out in this kind of a program.

He and I both believe – as does President Obama. I think if there’s any topic that the President has put sort of first among equals, if you will, it’s education. And I – we share the belief, all of us here on this podium, education is the great equalizer of the 21st century, because of the dramatic changes that have taken place in the workplace and the challenges of globalization. And the success of many of the leaders in this room is, frankly, a testament to that reality. The Costa Rican ambassador, Muni Figueres, received her BA at City College in New York. Nester Mendez, the ambassador from Belize, did graduate work right down the street at George Washington. And Jose Antonio Meade, who I met with this morning in a trilateral with our friends from Canada, he is Mexico’s foreign secretary and he received his PhD at my alma mater, Yale University.

You have no idea how many people you meet – when I go around the world representing the country and meet a foreign minister, environment minister, finance minister, prime minister, president – who with pride talk about their time in the United States at one college or another or graduate school and what it has meant to shaping their views.

All of the people I just mentioned are distinguished diplomats who come from three different nations, and they pursued very different programs of study. But for each one of them, studying abroad in the United States helped them succeed in a much more internationalized world. As President Obama said last year in Mexico, “When we study together, we learn together, we work together, and we prosper together.” And that’s why the President launched this initiative of 100,000 Strong. It’s an ambitious goal: double the two-way traffic of young people studying in our respective universities.

So I’m proud to announce today that the State Department, with our partners in the private sector, have already raised – and we’ve just begun – have already raised a total of 3.65 million to promote study abroad and cross-cultural learning across the Americas. And as I said, that’s the beginning. We’re going to continue this effort.

These investments are going to help universities develop greater capacity to support study abroad, and they will challenge and reward institutions to find innovative ways to spur greater exchanges and to encourage schools and students who haven’t traditionally participated in this to come to see its value.

I am genuinely proud that the State Department is doing this, and I want to thank Santander Bank and ExxonMobil for their contribution as members of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Founding Circle. I want to applaud Coca-Cola, Freeport McMoRan, and the Ford Foundation for being the initiative’s first contributing partners.

It’s also fitting that we host this event on that same day that Foreign Secretary Meade and I celebrated the 20th anniversary of NAFTA. And through two decades, the vast majority of North Americans have seen incredible benefits as we’ve lowered the barriers to trade, brought talent together and investments across the lines. We now trade about $1.2 trillion a year, compared to $77 billion with Brazil a year, and about $59 billion with India. So we massively, as North America, dwarf, and we haven’t paid enough attention, frankly, to building the longer-term future by creating this kind of relationship.

So I can tell you this: No matter where we’re from, every one of us shares the same basic aspiration – opportunity, security. And we all know that that better future is within reach if you have the chance to reach for the brass ring which comes from education. We are living in a world where countless countries, including this hemisphere, have vast populations under the age of 30 – 65 percent in some, 60 percent; 50 percent under the age of 21, 40 percent under the age of 18. And if those young people who are able to be wired and see what the rest of the world is getting and doing don’t have an opportunity to reach out and touch that, we’re all going to inherit the consequences of our lack of focus and inattention.

So it’s my honor now to introduce someone who has done so much in promoting these partnerships and this prosperity across our two continents, the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden. (Applause.)


Thursday, January 16, 2014
Two Men Charged in Las Vegas with Biofuels Fraud Scheme

Two men have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Las Vegas for offenses involving the federal renewable fuel program that allegedly netted them more than $37 million, announced the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, Criminal Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada.   The 57-count indictment against James Jariv, 63, of Las Vegas, and Nathan Stoliar, 64, of Australia, includes allegations of conspiracy, wire fraud, false statements under the Clean Air Act, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.

The indictment was unsealed late Wednesday following Jariv’s initial appearance in federal court in Las Vegas, which followed his arrest on Tuesday.   Stoliar resides in Australia.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 created a number of federally-funded programs that provided monetary incentives for the production of biodiesel and to encourage biodiesel use in the United States.   Biodiesel producers and importers could generate and attach credits known as “renewable identification numbers” or RINs to biodiesel they produced or imported.   Because certain companies need RINs to comply with regulatory obligations, RINs have significant market value.   In addition, in order to create an incentive for biodiesel in the United States to be used in the United States, anyone who exports biodiesel is required to obtain these valuable RINs and provide them to EPA.   The market price charged for exported biodiesel therefore includes the value an exporter is required to later spend to acquire these RINs.

The indictment alleges that beginning around June of 2009, the two defendants, James Jariv and Nathan Stoliar, operated and controlled a company -- City Farm Biofuel in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada -- that held itself out as a producer of biodiesel from “feedstocks” such as animal fat and vegetable oils.   Jariv also operated and controlled a company based in Las Vegas, Nevada, called Global E Marketing.   The government alleges that these defendants claimed to produce biodiesel at the City Farm facility, claimed to import and sell biodiesel to Global E Marketing, and then generated and sold RINs based upon this claimed production, sale and importation.   In reality, little to no biodiesel produced at City Farm was ever imported and sold to Global E Marketing as claimed.   The indictment alleges that the defendants’ scheme allowed them to generate approximately $7 million in RINs that were fraudulent, which were then sold to companies that needed to obtain them.

The indictment also alleges that, beginning around the same time period and continuing through Dec. 31, 2013, the defendants, using their company MJ Biodfuels, bought over 23 million gallons of RIN-less biodiesel that had been blended with small amounts of petroleum diesel, known as B99, from companies in the United States.   The defendants sold some of this biodiesel to purchasers in the United States, claiming it was pure biodiesel, known as B100, produced at the City Farm facility and imported into the United States.   By claiming this biodiesel was B100 and not RIN-less B99, the defendants were able to claim the fuel was eligible to be used to generate credits and incentives, and were able to sell the fuel for significantly more than they otherwise would have been able.   The defendants also exported the RIN-less B99 they bought in the United States to Canada.   The defendants then sold the biodiesel in Canada, and conspired not to acquire and provide RINs for these exports to the United States as they were required to do, but instead to keep the money they received from the sales for themselves.   The indictment alleges that, in doing so, the defendants failed to give to the United States RINs worth in excess of $30 million, keeping this money for themselves instead.

The indictment alleges that the defendants created false records and made false statements to conceal their fraudulent claims of biodiesel production, importation, sale and fraudulent RIN generation.   Finally, the indictment alleges that the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to launder the proceeds of their crimes, utilizing foreign banking institutions and complex financial transactions to conceal the illegal nature of the funds they received, and to attempt to protect these funds from government enforcement.   Today the United States also seized and restrained the assets contained in a number bank accounts utilized by the defendants, as well as several pieces of real and personal property in Las Vegas, Nevada.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt.   All defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The collaborative investigation that led to today’s arrest and seizures was the result of work by the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI, with assistance from the United States Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Wayne D. Hettenbach of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division , Assistant U.S. Attorneys Crane M. Pomerantz and Daniel D. Hollingsworth of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada, and Trial Attorney Darrin L. McCullough of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, with the assistance of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.


Remarks With Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos Before Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
January 17, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m very pleased to welcome Greek Foreign Minister Venizelos here to Washington. We have met but we have not had a chance to be able to get together like this, and it’s my pleasure to welcome him here. I want to congratulate Greece on assuming the EU presidency, and we look forward very much to working with them in that role, but also in continuing the path towards economic recovery. We know that it has been very, very difficult. Tough decisions had to be made. It is never easy politically. Those choices were made, and I think it is improving. And step by step, we want to continue to not only work on that, but on our superb cooperation with respect to counterterrorism, the Balkans, the Middle East. There are a host of issues where we share common interests.

I do want to say one word quickly about the events that took place yesterday in Ukraine. The legislation that was rammed through the Rada without transparency and accountability violates all the norms of the OSCE and the EU. We believe deeply that the people of Ukraine want to affiliate and want to be associated with Europe and they want to turn in that direction. And the steps that were taken yesterday are anti-democratic, they’re wrong, they are taking from the people of Ukraine their choice and their opportunity for the future. So we will continue to stay focused on this issue, but this kind of anti-democratic maneuver is extremely disturbing and should be a concern to every nation that wants to see the people of Ukraine be able to not only express their wish but see it executed through the political process.

Mr. Minister, thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER VENIZELOS: John, thank you very much for this kind invitation. This is a great opportunity for me to discuss directly with you a few days after the official opening of the rotating presidency of Greece in the European Union, on the Council of the European Union. This presidency, historically speaking, the fifth after the Greek accession to the European family, is a great opportunity for Greece to show the face of an ordinary European country, of a country beyond the crisis. Without doubt, the main Greek national problem is the crisis, and the national reconstruction after this very tough experience of the recession and of the unemployment.

But on the field of the foreign and security policy, Greece is always a factor of stability for our area, for the Western Balkan, for the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. And on this basis we serve the same values, the same views, and we have the possibility to organize our further cooperation as friends and allies. Thank you indeed very much for this opportunity.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very, very much. Thank you.


Statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

"A little over 50 years ago, our nation engaged in a loud, sometimes deadly and tumultuous discussion about civil rights. From coast to coast, Americans of all backgrounds and creeds stood together and demanded more from each other and our country. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was among the leaders of the day who relentlessly fought for equality in the face of monumental adversity and resistance.

"Time and time again, Dr. King led by example and challenged all of us to be our brother's keeper, fighting the loudest for those with the weakest voices. As we recognize Dr. King's birthday and his countless contributions to our world, we must remember that his fight for equality is not over. Too many students don't have equal access to a high quality education, too many families are finding college simply too expensive to pursue, and not enough of our nation's teachers reflect the diversity of this great country.

"We should honor Dr. King's legacy by continuing to fight for equity in our world and in education—along with serving others. His day of remembrance is an opportunity to take part in a meaningful community service project that will have a lasting impact on your community. Despite our varied experiences, we are all in this together and have a shared responsibility to help the most vulnerable among us—just as Dr. King did."ANUARY 17, 2014


RELEASE Friday, January 17, 2014
Miami Patient Recruiter Pleads Guilty for Role in $190 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

A patient recruiter for a fraudulent Miami-area mental health company, American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC), pleaded guilty today for her participation in a $190 million Medicare fraud scheme.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Steinbach of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Office of Investigations Miami Office made the announcement.

Miami resident Mayelin Santoyo, 28, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to receive health care kickbacks.  Sentencing has been scheduled for March 28, 2014.   On Nov. 25, 2013, co-defendant Jose Martin Olivares, 36, also a Miami resident and patient recruiter, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to receive health care kickbacks before U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham for his role in this scheme.  Olivares’s sentencing is set for Feb. 4, 2014.

According to court documents, Santoyo was a patient recruiter for the now-defunct ATC.  ATC and its management company, Medlink Professional Management Group Inc., were Florida corporations headquartered in Miami.  ATC operated purported partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness, in seven different locations throughout South Florida and Orlando.

Santoyo recruited Medicare beneficiaries to attend ATC’s PHP program in exchange for kickbacks in the form of checks and cash.  The amounts of the kickbacks were based on the number of days each recruited patient spent at ATC.  Santoyo knew that the patients she recruited for ATC were not qualified to receive PHP treatment.

ATC’s owners and operators paid millions of dollars in kickbacks to the owners and operators of various assisted living facilities and halfway houses, as well as to patient recruiters, like Santoyo, in exchange for delivering ineligible patients to ATC.  According to court documents, to obtain the cash required to support the kickbacks to recruiters such as Santoyo, the co-conspirators laundered millions of dollars of payments from Medicare.

In related cases, ATC, Medlink and various owners, managers, doctors, therapists and patient recruiters of ATC and Medlink have already pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial.   In September 2011, ATC’s owner, Lawrence Duran, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for his role in orchestrating and executing the scheme to defraud Medicare.

This case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant Chief Robert A. Zink and Trial Attorney Anne P. McNamara of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,700 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 billion.  In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Friday, January 17, 2014


Joint Press Availability With Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and Mexican Foreign Secretary Jose Antonio Meade
Press Availability
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
January 17, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning. Buenos Dias. Bonjour. Nice to be here with everybody, and I’m particularly delighted to welcome my friends and North American counterparts, Secretary Meade and Minister Baird. We’re happy to have them in Washington here today.

I have had a chance to meet bilaterally a number of times with both the secretary and the minister, but this is the first time that we’ve been able to meet all three of us, trilaterally, since I became Secretary of State, and I’m very grateful to both of them for making the trip here. And I hope, as I said to them today, to visit their countries, both of them, very, very soon.

During my years in the Senate and certainly since becoming Secretary, I’ve often found myself in absolute awe about how extraordinary this continent really is. While we often wind up traveling to trouble spots in the world, the truth is that North America is a remarkable, remarkable unity of three very important and powerful countries that share values and interests, and are operating on those values and interests every single day. We are three nations separated by peaceful borders. We are neighbors. We’re partners. And we come together to confront the full range of challenges that we face, and believe me, this is something that is not everyday everywhere in the world today.

Together, our North American nations are promoting democracy and our shared values at home and around the globe. We’re encouraging daily our cooperation on matters of international peace and security. We work together on nonproliferation, on Syria, on Middle East peace, on a host of different challenges to our security. And we’re also collaborating to address all of them more effectively than any of us could do alone. And that’s the power of North America and this relationship.

Through initiatives like the North America-Central America Security Dialogue, we’re also working to improve citizen security throughout the Western Hemisphere and beyond. And we’re reducing the impact of national disasters. We’re providing assistance in the face of health, humanitarian challenges. We’ve launched trilateral initiatives like the North American Plan for Animal and Pandemic Influenza, which was critical during the H1N1 outbreak of 2009, and remains intact today in order to help us address similar challenges, should they arise at any moment.

We’re also taking steps to support economic growth that is inclusive, shared. Just a few weeks ago, we marked the 20th anniversary of NAFTA. And I think we have learned a couple of important lessons that can help inform the vision of NAFTA. The first lesson is free trade works. In a world where economic policy is foreign policy, free trade is a key ingredient for shared prosperity, for shared growth, and shared security. Every single day, the United States does more than $3.4 billion of trade in our NAFTA partnership. And that is about a third of all the trading that we do. It is done between this partnership. More than $1 trillion of trade a year, more than $100 billion of trade a month – that is more trade that we engage in with Brazil annually, and each month we do more trade than we engage with with India annually, just to give you a sense of the vitality of this partnership.

Over the past 20 years, we have opened up a new North American marketplace. We have integrated supply chains and re-imagined entire industries, from agriculture to aerospace. Today, North America is far more than the sum of three economies. It’s the collective output of what has become a fully integrated manufacturing center. If you buy a car in Mexico, it may well have been assembled in Canada and contained Made-in-America parts. There are workers in Wichita, Kansas putting the finishing touches on aircraft that contain fuselages assembled in Mexico and engines built in Canada. This kind of economic integration is benefiting all three of our nations economically, and has also improved living standards and working conditions across the board.

I will tell you, because I was involved in the NAFTA debate in the United States Senate, I remember how intense that debate was. It divided America. And we could never really have envisioned, even in the best arguments, what has happened in those 20 years.

The second lesson that we can learn from the past couple of decades is that globalization isn’t slowing down any time soon. And no matter how much there is some dislocation, and we acknowledge there can be, the fact is that no political leader, no country can put that genie back in the bottle. When I joined my fellow senators in supporting and ultimately passing NAFTA, we didn’t do it because it was easy. We did it because we believed it was a risk worth taking, and it has proven true. NAFTA was at the vanguard of the wholly interconnected world that we face today. And as I always say, nobody has any way of transforming the realities of this desire of people everywhere to have better jobs, more jobs, more education, more opportunity that comes with that opening up.

So yes, globalization can be a challenge. But it really has meant that our countries have to be more dynamic. We have to be more competitive. We have to be more innovative. That’s not always easy. But globalization is an enormous opportunity, and if we can take advantage of it as we build on this strong partnership, we believe that it will help all of us to provide better opportunity and more security to our citizens.

If we want to compete, we actually have to make it even easier to trade, easier for people to invest in our countries. We talked about that this morning. We talked about how we can improve the trans-border movement of both goods and of people. We talked about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership could particularly have an impact on the global economy and also be enormously beneficial to each of our economies. And if our nations want to compete, the United States, Canada, and Mexico are best approaching these challenges as partners, not as competitors.

That includes on the subject of energy. I look forward to discussing with my counterparts the opportunities for energy cooperation, and we talked about that today – ways in which we can address the enormous challenge of climate change, which we all agree in our nations must be addressed, but also how we address the question of taking advantage of the vast resources we have on this continent, bring greater energy opportunity to our citizens, but do so in ways that are environmentally sustainable and responsible.

Next month, President Pena Nieto will host President Obama and Prime Minister Harper in Mexico for the North American Leaders meeting. And the lessons of the past will be at the forefront of our minds, but our focus fundamentally needs to be on the future, and that’s where it will be – on the growth of our markets, the strength of our partnership, the health and well-being of our people, and the security of our continent for years to come.

Mr. Secretary.

FOREIGN SECRETARY MEADE: Thank you and good morning to all. Thank you, Secretary Kerry. Thank you, Minister Baird. This has been, I think, a very good meeting for Mexico. It has allowed us the opportunity to talk about issues that are very relevant to the region. Just at the outset, I would like to recognize from Mexico the very long hours, the very long days of Secretary Kerry, the risks that he has taken in order to construct a better world. And I think that many of those risks have paid off, and Mexico recognizes that hard work. We had a very good meeting this morning in addressing many regional interests.

I would like to thank the members of the press.

(Via interpreter) I would also like to thank Mexican and Hispanic correspondents for their attendance.

(Inaudible) of common interest to our governments. As Secretary Kerry said, the North American (inaudible) drive the vision of 21st century North America. We will work towards becoming the most competitive and dynamic region in the world. We will be honored to host President Obama and Prime Minister Harper in Toluca in February. Today’s meeting focused on ensuring that we are on track to deliver our commitments. We discussed many topics, on how to make – how to work towards increasing our shared prosperity, our leadership, on the opportunities of international engagement, and the security of citizens in the North American region.

President Pena Nieto has said repeatedly that he believes that a 21st century North America is called on to become the most competitive and dynamic region in the world. We know that this is something that President Obama and Prime Minister Harper also share. We have many things that will support our work to make North America competitive and dynamic. As Secretary Kerry said, and I know Minister Baird believes, we have shared values, we have shared goals, we have a working partnership that has worked to the benefit of our people.

But we also are a region that enjoys an important number of competitive advantages going forward. We have as a region very competitive labor costs, we have huge transportation and logistical advantages, we have qualified and hard-working human capital, we are enjoying a new energy paradigm that people would not have envisioned some years back, we have great economies of scale due to the size and interrelation of our urban areas, and we have had a framework that has worked and that has worked well.

As we mark the NAFTA 20th anniversary, it’s important and interesting to see the size of the results. As this press conference is going on, more than $2 million of good are being traded every minute within our three economies. And behind that trade, there has been job creation and prosperity for the region. Mexico really looks forward to partaking in an effort to advance prosperity in the region that is both shared and inclusive. We know that we must seize new areas of opportunities that lie before us. We need to collaborate more on education, on science, on technology, and innovation. We have the opportunity to work together in addressing regional concerns of better engaging with Central America, the Caribbean, and the Latin American regions. We know that by working together, we can achieve more. We think that we have the regional institutions, the political framework, and the political will now in place to implement the decisions that we have taken.

The North American idea is a very good friend of Mexico and of North America because of what Pastor says – it’s stronger than ever. Mexico, the U.S., and Canada are working together to further our regional community, and that commitment was reaffirmed amongst all of us earlier this morning.

Again, thank you, Secretary Kerry. Thank you, Minister Baird, for your partnership in this endeavor.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Secretary Meade. Minister Baird.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: Thank you very much, John.

(Via interpreter) It’s a great pleasure for me to be here today and to celebrate the good partnership and the good relations between our two countries.

(Inaudible) for your hospitality, John. We had great discussions today celebrating 20 years of NAFTA and the huge and significant economic growth in trade that we’ve seen between our three countries. We also have seen the growth of our political relations with the trilateral relationship to look what we can do to work together to see more jobs, more hope, and more opportunity, what we can do to make our economies more competitive, what we can do to boost incomes, boost job creation in all three of our countries. NAFTA has been an unqualified success, and one of the great side effects is the strengthened political relationship between all three countries where, on issue after issue after issue, there is a strengthened partnership where not only are we working together, but rowing together and getting a lot farther a lot faster than any of us could have ever have hoped 20 years ago.

We had an opportunity to discuss security, border management, infrastructure. We had the opportunity to talk about regulatory cooperation, all things that can help boost job creation. And this remains a significant priority for Canada, and we look forward to the continued preparations for a successful summit. We appreciate the significant leadership from President Pena Nieto. The scale and the speed of the reforms which have taken place in his first year in office are remarkable. And we had a strong relationship with the Calderon administration and we’re very pleased with the first year of our relationship with the new administration.

I want to thank you as well, John, for the significant American leadership that we have seen from you, particularly with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I look forward to visiting Israel later today – tomorrow when I will leave, and to doing all we can to support your noble efforts to seek a resolution to one of, if not the most, intractable issue in the world. Obviously, your leadership as well, with respect to trying to bring a political solution and an end to the violence and the war by Assad against his own people, is remarkable and we will be there in Geneva to support you in those common values and efforts that we strongly support. Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, John. I think we’re – Jen will manage the questions.

MS. PSAKI: The first question will be from Michael Gordon of The New York Times.

QUESTION: A question for Secretary Kerry. Sir, after you became Secretary of State, you made the point repeatedly that it was important to change Bashar al-Assad’s calculation in order to achieve a political solution at Geneva II. Now almost a year later, it’s clear that the Assad regime believes its position is stronger than ever. In his letter to the United Nations, the Syria foreign minister, who will be leading the delegation to Geneva II, suggests that the purpose of going to Geneva is to fight terrorism, not discuss a political transition. In fact, he says some point in the invitation the Syrian Government received from the UN are “in conflict with the legal and political position of the state of Syria.”

Sir, my question is: How can you expect to make progress toward a political transition at Geneva II if the Assad government does even accept the purpose of the conference, which is what its own letter suggests. Have you been in contact with the Syrian Government over the past 24 hours to obtain an assurance that it accepts the purpose of the meeting? And doesn’t the Syrian foreign minister’s letter mean that more pressure needs to be brought to bear on the Assad government in order to make political headway? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Michael. Yesterday I addressed directly the revisionism of the Syrian regime in its effort to try to divert the purpose, which will not be successful. More than 30 nations are going to assemble, all of whom, thus far, and if there are more, will be and must be committed to the Geneva I communique. Now, you were with me in Paris the other day when Foreign Minister Lavrov stood up and reiterated that the purpose of this conference is the implementation of the Geneva I communique.

Nobody would have believed that Assad would have given up his chemical weapons. But he did. And the reason he did is that his patrons came to understand that he had to. And I believe, as we begin to get to Geneva, and begin to get into this process, that it will become clear that there is no political solution whatsoever if Assad is not discussing a transition and if he thinks he’s going to be part of that future. It’s not going to happen. The people who are the opponents of this regime will never, ever stop. There will be a low-grade insurgency at least, and worse, potentially even a civil war if it continues, because they will not stop.

Now we also are not out of options with respect to what we may be able to do to increase the pressure and further change the calculation. And I think we’ve made that clear to the Russian foreign minister and others, and nor are other players short of an ability to be able to have an impact here.

So I think they can bluster, they can protest, they can put out distortions. The bottom line is: We are going to Geneva to implement Geneva I. And if Assad doesn’t do that, he will invite greater response in various ways from various people over a period of time. So I’m not particularly surprised that he is trying to divert this. He’s been doing this for months, trying to make himself the protector of Syria against extremists, when he himself has even been funding some of those extremists – even purposely ceding some territory to them in order to make them more of a problem so he can make the argument that he is somehow the protector against them. Nobody is going to be fooled. We’re not going to be fooled by this process.

So Foreign Minister Lavrov has stated: They are supporting the Geneva I communique and the government has to come and negotiate around the communique. And since Russia is one of the primary benefactors of the Assad regime, we believe the Russians have a high stake in helping to make certain that Assad understands exactly what the parameters of this negotiation are.

MODERATOR: Second question is for (inaudible) from (inaudible) de Mexico.

QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Kerry, you mentioned that you discussed how to improve the transit of goods and people here in North America. Many people here in the U.S. have been asking the three governments to update NAFTA to take into account the new reality, for example, of the recently passed energy reform in Mexico. So I’d like to get a sense of the three of you whether your governments will be willing to update NAFTA or even reopen it formally.

And Secretary Kerry --

SECRETARY KERRY: To open what?

QUESTION: Reopen NAFTA formally to include some new recent issues such as energy reform. And Secretary Kerry, especially for you, what are your response to those who believe that at some point the U.S. should include Canada and Mexico in the TTIP negotiations, if only to avoid future conflicts between the NAFTA rules and whatever you end up agreeing with the Europeans.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me speak first, and I’d like each of our – my guests to address this also. Over the last 20 years, as I mentioned, we’ve developed this incredible network of trade agreements in the Western hemisphere. And we have long-wanted to open up those benefits. I think that stepping up, all of us, to the TPP, is a very critical component of sort of moving to the next tier, post-NAFTA. So I don’t think you have to open up NAFTA, per se, in order to achieve what we’re trying to achieve. There are plenty of ways for us in cooperative, and we discussed a lot of them this morning with respect to borders, with respect to regulations, with respect to energy cooperation, technology, innovation, investment – there are a host of things that we can move forward on that will take us to the next level without having to sort of go back and kind of reopen it. I think we’re well-engaged and looking forward to a much more robust relationship.

And what we did do today was set down a series of specific items that we will follow up on quickly, so that these can be the items that our presidents and prime minister wind up engaging on in the meeting in February. And I think today’s meeting holds out the prospect that that can be a more productive and more specific engagement as a result.

Mr. Baird.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: Now listen, we believe that NAFTA’s been an unqualified success, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, which all three of us are in, offer us the opportunity to strengthen the trilateral partnership, and we’re keen to use that opportunity to do so.

FOREIGN SECRETARY MEADE: NAFTA has worked well on many levels. In the last 20 years, trade in the region multiplied by three, foreign direct investment in the region multiplied by eight. Mexico is now the third trading partner of both the U.S. and Canada. We’re the second and the fifth market of the U.S. and Canada, respectively. Just to put in perspective, Mexico is the first market for exports of Arizona, California, and Texas. We’re the second largest export market for other 20 states. Again, to put the numbers in perspective, exports to Mexico just from the U.S. were larger than exports to China and Japan together. They were larger than the sum of exports to Germany, France, Holland, and the UK put together. And that is a platform over which we have an opportunity to build.

I agree with what Senator – with what Secretary Kerry and what Minister Baird said. We do not think it is necessary to reopen NAFTA, but we think we have to build on it to construct and revitalize the idea of a dynamic North America. North America is the single most important economic bloc today. The three economies standing here before you today explain about a third of the world economy. We explain – we are the largest exporters of most advanced industries, and we have therefore the obligation to review how the economic process is going in such a way as to remove any obstacles for trade, investment, and economic prosperity to be a reality to the citizens of all three of our countries.

The commitment that we have reached today will allow us to help develop an agenda, to follow it through, to have mechanisms that allow for the commitments that we’ve reached to be fully implemented. In terms of the trade relationship with Europe, at some point we will have three bilateral trade agreements with the European Union. It is in the interest of Mexico that those negotiations are to the benefit of the North American region. We think that that is in the best interest of Canada and the U.S. as well, and we will work to ensure that those negotiations further increase North American competitiveness, with a view, eventually, to having a more integrated perspective from North America and the European Union, rather than just a view of three bilaterals.

MODERATOR: Thank you. A question from Alex Panetta of the Canadian Press.

QUESTION: My question’s on a bilateral matter, a Canada-U.S. issue, the Keystone Pipeline. Last February, Secretary Kerry, you said you were hoping to be in a position to offer a decision on Keystone in the near future. It’s been almost a year. Since then, the Canadian Government has said it wouldn’t take no for an answer on Keystone. This week, your Canadian interlocutor is in Washington, has repeatedly asked for a decision soon because apparently the uncertainty is becoming untenable for the oil industry. So I would ask you to answer your Canadian friend.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I always answer my Canadian friend, but I have to do it according to our administrative process, and the rules and regulations under which I have to operate, and I think he understands that. We are currently engaged in the Environmental Impact Statement analysis. An analysis will be made with respect to the national interests ultimately, and we’re just not at that point yet. I haven’t received it. They haven’t finished it.

There were a lot of questions that were raised in all of the public comment period, and those comments have necessitated appropriate answers. The public has a role in this. We’re all accountable to our publics. The democratic process demands that we do that. So we are doing it, and I can promise our friends in Canada that all the appropriate effort is being put into trying to get this done effectively and rapidly. And my hope is that before long, that analysis will be available, and then my work begins.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: If I could as well respond. This is obvious, John and I have had discussions about this in the past, and we’ll be meeting bilaterally later today. Obviously, this is a tremendously important project for the future of prosperity of the Canadian economy. Twenty-six months ago, Hillary Clinton called, explained the concerns that the Administration had, particularly with the aquifer in Nebraska. We’re pleased that the proponent has worked constructively with the state, realigned the pipeline, gone through the process. We hope the final State Department report is out in short order, and that the Administration will be in a position to make a positive decision. This is a great project for the future economic prosperity of Canada. It’s a great project. It’ll create a lot of jobs here in the United States. It’s a great project which will increase the energy security of our closest friend and ally, and we obviously want to see and look forward to a positive decision to energy security, and a positive decision to job creation.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all very much. Appreciate it.


Friday, January 17, 2014
Statement from Justice Department Spokesman Regarding President Obama’s Speech on U.S. Signals Intelligence
The U.S. Justice Department released the following statement by department spokesman Brian Fallon in response to President Obama’s speech on U.S. signals intelligence:

“The Attorney General believes that the President’s reforms will further ensure that the proper balance is struck between the need to keep the nation safe and the need to safeguard our civil liberties. In the weeks ahead, the Justice Department will work closely with the intelligence community and other key administration officials to implement the President’s reforms.”


Statement by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on President Obama's Speech Friday, January 17, 2014

I fully support the reforms to signals intelligence programs that President Obama outlined today - not only as Secretary of Defense, but as former co-chair of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board and a former member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  These programs must always balance the need to defend our national security with the responsibility to preserve America's individual liberties, and the President's decisions and recommendations will do that.  They will help restore the confidence of the American people and our allies and partners.  They will preserve important capabilities that keep us safe.  And they will help the men and women of America's military continue to accomplish their missions all over the world.


Remarks by the President on Review of Signals Intelligence
Department of Justice
Washington, D.C.
11:15 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee borne out of the “The Sons of Liberty” was established in Boston.  And the group’s members included Paul Revere.  At night, they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early Patriots.

Throughout American history, intelligence has helped secure our country and our freedoms.  In the Civil War, Union balloon reconnaissance tracked the size of Confederate armies by counting the number of campfires.  In World War II, code-breakers gave us insights into Japanese war plans, and when Patton marched across Europe, intercepted communications helped save the lives of his troops.  After the war, the rise of the Iron Curtain and nuclear weapons only increased the need for sustained intelligence gathering.  And so, in the early days of the Cold War, President Truman created the National Security Agency, or NSA, to give us insights into the Soviet bloc, and provide our leaders with information they needed to confront aggression and avert catastrophe.

Throughout this evolution, we benefited from both our Constitution and our traditions of limited government.  U.S. intelligence agencies were anchored in a system of checks and balances -- with oversight from elected leaders, and protections for ordinary citizens.  Meanwhile, totalitarian states like East Germany offered a cautionary tale of what could happen when vast, unchecked surveillance turned citizens into informers, and persecuted people for what they said in the privacy of their own homes.

In fact, even the United States proved not to be immune to the abuse of surveillance.  And in the 1960s, government spied on civil rights leaders and critics of the Vietnam War.  And partly in response to these revelations, additional laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not be misused against our citizens.  In the long, twilight struggle against Communism, we had been reminded that the very liberties that we sought to preserve could not be sacrificed at the altar of national security.

If the fall of the Soviet Union left America without a competing superpower, emerging threats from terrorist groups, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction placed new and in some ways more complicated demands on our intelligence agencies.  Globalization and the Internet made these threats more acute, as technology erased borders and empowered individuals to project great violence, as well as great good.  Moreover, these new threats raised new legal and new policy questions.  For while few doubted the legitimacy of spying on hostile states, our framework of laws was not fully adapted to prevent terrorist attacks by individuals acting on their own, or acting in small, ideologically driven groups on behalf of a foreign power.

The horror of September 11th brought all these issues to the fore.  Across the political spectrum, Americans recognized that we had to adapt to a world in which a bomb could be built in a basement, and our electric grid could be shut down by operators an ocean away.  We were shaken by the signs we had missed leading up to the attacks -- how the hijackers had made phone calls to known extremists and traveled to suspicious places.  So we demanded that our intelligence community improve its capabilities, and that law enforcement change practices to focus more on preventing attacks before they happen than prosecuting terrorists after an attack.

It is hard to overstate the transformation America’s intelligence community had to go through after 9/11.  Our agencies suddenly needed to do far more than the traditional mission of monitoring hostile powers and gathering information for policymakers.  Instead, they were now asked to identify and target plotters in some of the most remote parts of the world, and to anticipate the actions of networks that, by their very nature, cannot be easily penetrated with spies or informants.

And it is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the men and women of our intelligence community that over the past decade we’ve made enormous strides in fulfilling this mission.  Today, new capabilities allow intelligence agencies to track who a terrorist is in contact with, and follow the trail of his travel or his funding.  New laws allow information to be collected and shared more quickly and effectively between federal agencies, and state and local law enforcement.  Relationships with foreign intelligence services have expanded, and our capacity to repel cyber-attacks have been strengthened.  And taken together, these efforts have prevented multiple attacks and saved innocent lives -- not just here in the United States, but around the globe.

And yet, in our rush to respond to a very real and novel set of threats, the risk of government overreach -- the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security -- also became more pronounced.  We saw, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, our government engaged in enhanced interrogation techniques that contradicted our values.  As a Senator, I was critical of several practices, such as warrantless wiretaps.  And all too often new authorities were instituted without adequate public debate.

Through a combination of action by the courts, increased congressional oversight, and adjustments by the previous administration, some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11 were curbed by the time I took office.  But a variety of factors have continued to complicate America’s efforts to both defend our nation and uphold our civil liberties.

First, the same technological advances that allow U.S. intelligence agencies to pinpoint an al Qaeda cell in Yemen or an email between two terrorists in the Sahel also mean that many routine communications around the world are within our reach.  And at a time when more and more of our lives are digital, that prospect is disquieting for all of us.

Second, the combination of increased digital information and powerful supercomputers offers intelligence agencies the possibility of sifting through massive amounts of bulk data to identify patterns or pursue leads that may thwart impending threats.  It’s a powerful tool.  But the government collection and storage of such bulk data also creates a potential for abuse.

Third, the legal safeguards that restrict surveillance against U.S. persons without a warrant do not apply to foreign persons overseas.  This is not unique to America; few, if any, spy agencies around the world constrain their activities beyond their own borders.  And the whole point of intelligence is to obtain information that is not publicly available.  But America’s capabilities are unique, and the power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do.  That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do.

And finally, intelligence agencies cannot function without secrecy, which makes their work less subject to public debate.  Yet there is an inevitable bias not only within the intelligence community, but among all of us who are responsible for national security, to collect more information about the world, not less.  So in the absence of institutional requirements for regular debate -- and oversight that is public, as well as private or classified -- the danger of government overreach becomes more acute.  And this is particularly true when surveillance technology and our reliance on digital information is evolving much faster than our laws.

For all these reasons, I maintained a healthy skepticism toward our surveillance programs after I became President.  I ordered that our programs be reviewed by my national security team and our lawyers, and in some cases I ordered changes in how we did business.  We increased oversight and auditing, including new structures aimed at compliance.  Improved rules were proposed by the government and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  And we sought to keep Congress continually updated on these activities.

What I did not do is stop these programs wholesale -- not only because I felt that they made us more secure, but also because nothing in that initial review, and nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens.

To the contrary, in an extraordinarily difficult job -- one in which actions are second-guessed, success is unreported, and failure can be catastrophic -- the men and women of the intelligence community, including the NSA, consistently follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people.  They’re not abusing authorities in order to listen to your private phone calls or read your emails.  When mistakes are made -- which is inevitable in any large and complicated human enterprise -- they correct those mistakes.  Laboring in obscurity, often unable to discuss their work even with family and friends, the men and women at the NSA know that if another 9/11 or massive cyber-attack occurs, they will be asked, by Congress and the media, why they failed to connect the dots.  What sustains those who work at NSA and our other intelligence agencies through all these pressures is the knowledge that their professionalism and dedication play a central role in the defense of our nation.

Now, to say that our intelligence community follows the law, and is staffed by patriots, is not to suggest that I or others in my administration felt complacent about the potential impact of these programs.  Those of us who hold office in America have a responsibility to our Constitution, and while I was confident in the integrity of those who lead our intelligence community, it was clear to me in observing our intelligence operations on a regular basis that changes in our technological capabilities were raising new questions about the privacy safeguards currently in place.

Moreover, after an extended review of our use of drones in the fight against terrorist networks, I believed a fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step in our effort to get off the open-ended war footing that we’ve maintained since 9/11.  And for these reasons, I indicated in a speech at the National Defense University last May that we needed a more robust public discussion about the balance between security and liberty.  Of course, what I did not know at the time is that within weeks of my speech, an avalanche of unauthorized disclosures would spark controversies at home and abroad that have continued to this day.

And given the fact of an open investigation, I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or his motivations; I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets.  If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy.  Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come.

Regardless of how we got here, though, the task before us now is greater than simply repairing the damage done to our operations or preventing more disclosures from taking place in the future.  Instead, we have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world, while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections that our ideals and our Constitution require.  We need to do so not only because it is right, but because the challenges posed by threats like terrorism and proliferation and cyber-attacks are not going away any time soon.  They are going to continue to be a major problem.  And for our intelligence community to be effective over the long haul, we must maintain the trust of the American people, and people around the world.

This effort will not be completed overnight, and given the pace of technological change, we shouldn’t expect this to be the last time America has this debate.  But I want the American people to know that the work has begun.  Over the last six months, I created an outside Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies to make recommendations for reform.  I consulted with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by Congress.  I’ve listened to foreign partners, privacy advocates, and industry leaders.  My administration has spent countless hours considering how to approach intelligence in this era of diffuse threats and technological revolution.  So before outlining specific changes that I’ve ordered, let me make a few broad observations that have emerged from this process.

First, everyone who has looked at these problems, including skeptics of existing programs, recognizes that we have real enemies and threats, and that intelligence serves a vital role in confronting them.  We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyber threats without some capability to penetrate digital communications -- whether it’s to unravel a terrorist plot; to intercept malware that targets a stock exchange; to make sure air traffic control systems are not compromised; or to ensure that hackers do not empty your bank accounts.  We are expected to protect the American people; that requires us to have capabilities in this field.

Moreover, we cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies.  There is a reason why BlackBerrys and iPhones are not allowed in the White House Situation Room.  We know that the intelligence services of other countries -- including some who feign surprise over the Snowden disclosures -- are constantly probing our government and private sector networks, and accelerating programs to listen to our conversations, and intercept our emails, and compromise our systems.  We know that.

Meanwhile, a number of countries, including some who have loudly criticized the NSA, privately acknowledge that America has special responsibilities as the world’s only superpower; that our intelligence capabilities are critical to meeting these responsibilities, and that they themselves have relied on the information we obtain to protect their own people.

Second, just as ardent civil libertarians recognize the need for robust intelligence capabilities, those with responsibilities for our national security readily acknowledge the potential for abuse as intelligence capabilities advance and more and more private information is digitized.  After all, the folks at NSA and other intelligence agencies are our neighbors.  They're our friends and family.  They’ve got electronic bank and medical records like everybody else.  They have kids on Facebook and Instagram, and they know, more than most of us, the vulnerabilities to privacy that exist in a world where transactions are recorded, and emails and text and messages are stored, and even our movements can increasingly be tracked through the GPS on our phones.

Third, there was a recognition by all who participated in these reviews that the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone.  Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes; that’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically.  But all of us understand that the standards for government surveillance must be higher.  Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say:  Trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect.  For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached.  Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power.

I make these observations to underscore that the basic values of most Americans when it comes to questions of surveillance and privacy converge a lot more than the crude characterizations that have emerged over the last several months.  Those who are troubled by our existing programs are not interested in repeating the tragedy of 9/11, and those who defend these programs are not dismissive of civil liberties.

The challenge is getting the details right, and that is not simple.  In fact, during the course of our review, I have often reminded myself I would not be where I am today were it not for the courage of dissidents like Dr. King, who were spied upon by their own government.  And as President, a President who looks at intelligence every morning, I also can’t help but be reminded that America must be vigilant in the face of threats.

Fortunately, by focusing on facts and specifics rather than speculation and hypotheticals, this review process has given me -- and hopefully the American people -- some clear direction for change.  And today, I can announce a series of concrete and substantial reforms that my administration intends to adopt administratively or will seek to codify with Congress.

First, I have approved a new presidential directive for our signals intelligence activities both at home and abroad.  This guidance will strengthen executive branch oversight of our intelligence activities.  It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances; our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of American companies; and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties.  And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by my senior national security team.

Second, we will reform programs and procedures in place to provide greater transparency to our surveillance activities, and fortify the safeguards that protect the privacy of U.S. persons.  Since we began this review, including information being released today, we have declassified over 40 opinions and orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which provides judicial review of some of our most sensitive intelligence activities -- including the Section 702 program targeting foreign individuals overseas, and the Section 215 telephone metadata program.

And going forward, I’m directing the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Attorney General, to annually review for the purposes of declassification any future opinions of the court with broad privacy implications, and to report to me and to Congress on these efforts.  To ensure that the court hears a broader range of privacy perspectives, I am also calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates from outside government to provide an independent voice in significant cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Third, we will provide additional protections for activities conducted under Section 702, which allows the government to intercept the communications of foreign targets overseas who have information that’s important for our national security.  Specifically, I am asking the Attorney General and DNI to institute reforms that place additional restrictions on government’s ability to retain, search, and use in criminal cases communications between Americans and foreign citizens incidentally collected under Section 702.

Fourth, in investigating threats, the FBI also relies on what's called national security letters, which can require companies to provide specific and limited information to the government without disclosing the orders to the subject of the investigation.  These are cases in which it's important that the subject of the investigation, such as a possible terrorist or spy, isn’t tipped off.  But we can and should be more transparent in how government uses this authority.

I have therefore directed the Attorney General to amend how we use national security letters so that this secrecy will not be indefinite, so that it will terminate within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy.  We will also enable communications providers to make public more information than ever before about the orders that they have received to provide data to the government.

This brings me to the program that has generated the most controversy these past few months -- the bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215.  Let me repeat what I said when this story first broke:  This program does not involve the content of phone calls, or the names of people making calls.  Instead, it provides a record of phone numbers and the times and lengths of calls -- metadata that can be queried if and when we have a reasonable suspicion that a particular number is linked to a terrorist organization.

Why is this necessary?  The program grew out of a desire to address a gap identified after 9/11.  One of the 9/11 hijackers -- Khalid al-Mihdhar -- made a phone call from San Diego to a known al Qaeda safe-house in Yemen.  NSA saw that call, but it could not see that the call was coming from an individual already in the United States.  The telephone metadata program under Section 215 was designed to map the communications of terrorists so we can see who they may be in contact with as quickly as possible.  And this capability could also prove valuable in a crisis.  For example, if a bomb goes off in one of our cities and law enforcement is racing to determine whether a network is poised to conduct additional attacks, time is of the essence.  Being able to quickly review phone connections to assess whether a network exists is critical to that effort.

In sum, the program does not involve the NSA examining the phone records of ordinary Americans.  Rather, it consolidates these records into a database that the government can query if it has a specific lead -- a consolidation of phone records that the companies already retained for business purposes.  The review group turned up no indication that this database has been intentionally abused.  And I believe it is important that the capability that this program is designed to meet is preserved.

Having said that, I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives, and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs in the future.  They’re also right to point out that although the telephone bulk collection program was subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and has been reauthorized repeatedly by Congress, it has never been subject to vigorous public debate.

For all these reasons, I believe we need a new approach.  I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently exists, and establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.

This will not be simple.  The review group recommended that our current approach be replaced by one in which the providers or a third party retain the bulk records, with government accessing information as needed.  Both of these options pose difficult problems.  Relying solely on the records of multiple providers, for example, could require companies to alter their procedures in ways that raise new privacy concerns.  On the other hand, any third party maintaining a single, consolidated database would be carrying out what is essentially a government function but with more expense, more legal ambiguity, potentially less accountability -- all of which would have a doubtful impact on increasing public confidence that their privacy is being protected.

During the review process, some suggested that we may also be able to preserve the capabilities we need through a combination of existing authorities, better information sharing, and recent technological advances.  But more work needs to be done to determine exactly how this system might work.

Because of the challenges involved, I’ve ordered that the transition away from the existing program will proceed in two steps.  Effective immediately, we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization instead of the current three.  And I have directed the Attorney General to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court so that during this transition period, the database can be queried only after a judicial finding or in the case of a true emergency.

Next, step two, I have instructed the intelligence community and the Attorney General to use this transition period to develop options for a new approach that can match the capabilities and fill the gaps that the Section 215 program was designed to address without the government holding this metadata itself.  They will report back to me with options for alternative approaches before the program comes up for reauthorization on March 28th.  And during this period, I will consult with the relevant committees in Congress to seek their views, and then seek congressional authorization for the new program as needed.

Now, the reforms I’m proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe.  And I recognize that there are additional issues that require further debate.  For example, some who participated in our review, as well as some members of Congress, would like to see more sweeping reforms to the use of national security letters so that we have to go to a judge each time before issuing these requests.  Here, I have concerns that we should not set a standard for terrorism investigations that is higher than those involved in investigating an ordinary crime.  But I agree that greater oversight on the use of these letters may be appropriate, and I’m prepared to work with Congress on this issue.

There are also those who would like to see different changes to the FISA Court than the ones I’ve proposed.  On all these issues, I am open to working with Congress to ensure that we build a broad consensus for how to move forward, and I’m confident that we can shape an approach that meets our security needs while upholding the civil liberties of every American.

Let me now turn to the separate set of concerns that have been raised overseas, and focus on America’s approach to intelligence collection abroad.  As I’ve indicated, the United States has unique responsibilities when it comes to intelligence collection.  Our capabilities help protect not only our nation, but our friends and our allies, as well.  But our efforts will only be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries have confidence that the United States respects their privacy, too.  And the leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to know what they think about an issue, I’ll pick up the phone and call them, rather than turning to surveillance.  In other words, just as we balance security and privacy at home, our global leadership demands that we balance our security requirements against our need to maintain the trust and cooperation among people and leaders around the world.

For that reason, the new presidential directive that I’ve issued today will clearly prescribe what we do, and do not do, when it comes to our overseas surveillance.  To begin with, the directive makes clear that the United States only uses signals intelligence for legitimate national security purposes, and not for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the emails or phone calls of ordinary folks.  I’ve also made it clear that the United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent, nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity, or race, or gender, or sexual orientation, or religious beliefs.  We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies or U.S. commercial sectors.

And in terms of our bulk collection of signals intelligence, U.S. intelligence agencies will only use such data to meet specific security requirements:  counterintelligence, counterterrorism, counter-proliferation, cybersecurity, force protection for our troops and our allies, and combating transnational crime, including sanctions evasion.

In this directive, I have taken the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have for the American people to people overseas.  I’ve directed the DNI, in consultation with the Attorney General, to develop these safeguards, which will limit the duration that we can hold personal information, while also restricting the use of this information.

The bottom line is that people around the world, regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security, and that we take their privacy concerns into account in our policies and procedures.  This applies to foreign leaders as well.  Given the understandable attention that this issue has received, I have made clear to the intelligence community that unless there is a compelling national security purpose, we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.  And I’ve instructed my national security team, as well as the intelligence community, to work with foreign counterparts to deepen our coordination and cooperation in ways that rebuild trust going forward.

Now let me be clear:  Our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments -- as opposed to ordinary citizens -- around the world, in the same way that the intelligence services of every other nation does.  We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective.  But heads of state and government with whom we work closely, and on whose cooperation we depend, should feel confident that we are treating them as real partners.  And the changes I’ve ordered do just that.

Finally, to make sure that we follow through on all these reforms, I am making some important changes to how our government is organized.  The State Department will designate a senior officer to coordinate our diplomacy on issues related to technology and signals intelligence.  We will appoint a senior official at the White House to implement the new privacy safeguards that I have announced today.  I will devote the resources to centralize and improve the process we use to handle foreign requests for legal assistance, keeping our high standards for privacy while helping foreign partners fight crime and terrorism.

I have also asked my counselor, John Podesta, to lead a comprehensive review of big data and privacy.  And this group will consist of government officials who, along with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, will reach out to privacy experts, technologists and business leaders, and look how the challenges inherent in big data are being confronted by both the public and private sectors; whether we can forge international norms on how to manage this data; and how we can continue to promote the free flow of information in ways that are consistent with both privacy and security.

For ultimately, what’s at stake in this debate goes far beyond a few months of headlines, or passing tensions in our foreign policy.  When you cut through the noise, what’s really at stake is how we remain true to who we are in a world that is remaking itself at dizzying speed.  Whether it’s the ability of individuals to communicate ideas; to access information that would have once filled every great library in every country in the world; or to forge bonds with people on other sides of the globe, technology is remaking what is possible for individuals, and for institutions, and for the international order.  So while the reforms that I have announced will point us in a new direction, I am mindful that more work will be needed in the future.

One thing I’m certain of:  This debate will make us stronger.  And I also know that in this time of change, the United States of America will have to lead.  It may seem sometimes that America is being held to a different standard.  And I'll admit the readiness of some to assume the worst motives by our government can be frustrating.  No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programs, or Russia to take privacy concerns of citizens in other places into account.  But let’s remember:  We are held to a different standard precisely because we have been at the forefront of defending personal privacy and human dignity.

As the nation that developed the Internet, the world expects us to ensure that the digital revolution works as a tool for individual empowerment, not government control.  Having faced down the dangers of totalitarianism and fascism and communism, the world expects us to stand up for the principle that every person has the right to think and write and form relationships freely -- because individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress.

Those values make us who we are.  And because of the strength of our own democracy, we should not shy away from high expectations.  For more than two centuries, our Constitution has weathered every type of change because we have been willing to defend it, and because we have been willing to question the actions that have been taken in its defense.  Today is no different.  I believe we can meet high expectations.  Together, let us chart a way forward that secures the life of our nation while preserving the liberties that make our nation worth fighting for.

Thank you.  God bless you.  May God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)