Wednesday, December 2, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military is mistaken for 'insurgents' in Iraq, Barack Obama wants more war all the time on all the channels to make up for his own miserable life, Congress examines VA care, those intended January elections may take place in February . . . or March, and more.
Last night Barack Obama gave a speech at West Point in which he flashed every last one of his War Hawk feathers. It was so outrageous that Democratic Party boot licker and professional party girl Tom Hayden insists he's taking the Obama bumper sticker off his car. (Or at least off his wife's car.) It's outrageous, fumes Pock Marks On His Soul, but not that outrageous apparently since he goes on to insist: "I'll support Obama down the road against Sarah Palin, Lou Dobbs or any of the pitchfork carriers for the pre-Obama era." The pre-Obama era. One year is now an era? Well, Tom was never smart or informed. Tom's on the prowl (women, watch out) and ready to 'organize' and 'fight' as he insists on "no bumper sticker until the withdrawal strategy is fully carried out." Then he boasts, "the fight is on." Yes, he truly is a limp dick and that's been a fortunate thing for many a woman. Kisses, Tom-Tom, kisses. Remember back in April 2008 when Doug Henwood (at ZNet) rightly pointed out of Barry O, "And despite the grand claims of enthusiasts, he doesn't really have a movmeent behind him -- he's got a fan club. How does a fan club hold a candidate accountable?" As Tom-Tom always demonstrates, they don't.
Unlike the eternal bobby-soxer Hayden, Justin Raimondo (Antiwar) doesn't feel the need to stroke Barack to climax:
Those who were hoping for some real change in our rhetoric, if not our foreign policy, with Obama in the White House are no doubt sorely disappointed right now, because George W. Bush could just as easily have spoken these very same words – and, indeed, he did utter endless variations on this identical theme when justifying our actions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the truth of the matter is that there are barely one-hundred al-Qaeda fighters in the whole of Afghanistan – so what are we doing there?
Rebecca never drank the Kool-Aid and she weighed in last night noting, "there is no difference between bush and barack. none. and that realization is making my stomach feel awful. ulcers, i'm sure." Cindy Sheehan (Cindy's Soapbox) explains, "Obama is just another coward that has risen to the highest office in the world and I am tired of having to be shoved by crazy people, chased and shot at by police, tear-gassed, arrested, called names that make even me blush, scrimping for every penny to stay afloat in this peace business, traveling and protesting to the point of exhaustion, etc. Not only did Obama condemn 30,000 troops to horror, with just one speech, he also condemned the real anti-war movement that was opposed to his policies from the beginning, to many more years of our sacrifices." Betty's very young and very pretty daughter got it, "Mommy, I'm sorry. I know it's wrong to hate but he's sending more people to die." Mike shared, "I had to get up every few minutes during the speech. He's such a damn liar. I couldn't take him for too many minutes straight. He such a liar and he revealed that tonight. Let's see who has the guts to stand up and call him out? I bet it'll be the same group of us who always have. And the usual Kool Aid drinkers will find a way to suddenly be in love with war." Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) would fall into "the same group" category since he's long exposed Barack's War Hawk nature -- on last night's speech he notes, "Barck Obama's speech, and the policies embraced in it, and the sinister implications underlying it, are all abysmally awful. They are a death warrant not only for the thousands of Afghan and Pakistani civilians who will be killed in the intensified conflict, but also for the countless thousands of innocents yet to die in the coming gnerations of a world roiled and destabilized by an out-of-control empire." Floyd references Arthur Silber's take which opens with:
To all those who repeatedly claimed that, no matter what "mistakes" he might make and regardless of the scope of the devastating effects of those errors, Obama had to represent a markedly better choice than McCain, take note: in certain respects, Obama is far more dangerous than McCain could have been. For the same reasons, Obama is also more dangerous than Bush was. I remind you that I have written numerous essays damning Bush for almost every single one of his policies. It is hardly the case that I viewed Bush in anything approaching a positive light, however remotely.
In large part, the danger represented by Obama arises from the fact that Obama's election gutted whatever effective opposition might have existed. To their eternal shame, the Democrats never opposed Bush in any way that mattered -- but at least the possibility of opposition had not been obliterated entirely. In the near term and probably for longer, that possibility now appears to have been extinguished.
Cedric's "Barry's boo-boos" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BARRY BOMBS!" had the herculian task of attempting to fact check the wily Barack who insisted April 9, 2009 that he was asking Congress for the last war supplemental but last night acknowledged he'd be asking them for another one (for at least $30 billion) and who self-stroked last night by declaring he "will close Guantanamo" -- uh, after being sworn in, he said Guantanamo would be closed by the end of this year. As of today, he has 29 days before 2009 is over. He might want to forgo yet another trip out of the country this month and instead sit his ass down and get to work. Back to Justin Rainmondo who especially found interesting Barry O's fact-free comments on the Iraq War:
"Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here. It is enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention -- and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world."
Yes, the bad thing about the Iraq war wasn't that it needlessly killed thousands -- many thousands of Iraqis, and a far lesser number of Americans. Oh no: the really really bad thing about it was that it diverted attention and resources away from the battle Obama wanted to fight, the one in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That all happened in the bad old days of Republican rule, however, before the invention of "hope":
"Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end. We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next summer, and all of our troops by the end of 2011 ... We have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people."
What a crock: we have given Iraqis eight years of utter horror, including hundreds of thousands of dead, countless wounded, a sectarian civil war that still rages, and a government just as tyrannical and unaccountable as the one we overthrew, if not more so. If that's "success," then I'd hate to see what failure looks like.
Iraq? As we noted Sunday at Third in "Editorial: Barack The Never Ending Liar," Barry O promised to pull a brigade out of Iraq each month after being sworn in. But never lived up to that promise, now did he? Trivia question: Who said this in response to Barack's promise to end the Iraq War in 2009: "But these were words worth holding the candidate to. The astonishing thing is that antiwar sentiment among Obama's base is running strongly enough to push the candidate forward to a stronger commitment."??????????? Why it's Tom-Tom Hayden. And just as soon as he gets done peeling his bumper sticker off his latest wife's car, maybe he can explain how he thinks he ever held Barack to those words? World Socialist Web Site's editorial board weighs in today on the speech:
The most glaring contradiction in a speech shot through with contradictions was Obama's attempt to disentangle the war in Afghanistan from the war in Iraq. "I opposed the war in Iraq," he said, "precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force ..." But he was unable to establish any essential difference between that criminal enterprise and his war in Afghanistan.
Obama's escalation is yet another flagrant violation of the will of the American people. In one election after another, they have gone to the polls to express their hostility to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In every case, their will has been ignored and the wars have been expanded.
Obama won the presidency by running as an opponent of the Iraq war and appealing to popular opposition to militarism. Once in office, he quickly increased the US deployment in Afghanistan by 21,000, while reneging on his promise to carry out a rapid withdrawal from Iraq. Now he is increasing the total US troop level in Afghanistan to 100,000, more than double the level under Bush.
Staying in the US, we'll move over to Congress. "I think all of us over our time of service on the committee," US House Rep Bob Filner declared today, "hear about issues that suggest that sometimes federal funds may not be flowing to the local VA facilities in the way that we had envisioned -- either efficiently or effectively -- to best serve our veterans." Filner was chairing the House Veterans Affairs Committee's hearing on VA Health Care Funding: Appropriations to Programs. Chair Filner noted that there is currently a hiring freeze at the VA medical centers in his district "which my be linked to the growing queues that our veterans face for medical health care appointments." Chair Filner represents the 51st House District in California which can be summarized as southern half of the county of San Diego and Imperial County.
US House Rep Steve Buyer is the Ranking Member. In his opening remarks he addressed the allocation process. Following the hearing, his office released the following statement which covers that topic as well as what's been done since the hearing:
Today, Ranking Member Steve Buyer said he will request an independent review of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) allocation process to help ensure that each VA medical center is able to provide timely treatment for veterans.
Buyer pointed to the need for the study during a full House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing on the resource distribution process that occurs between VA's Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) and its 153 medical centers.
Chairman Bob Filner and members on both sides of the aisle, including Subcommittee Chairs Mike Michaud and Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, and Subcommittee Ranking Members Dr. Phil Roe and Henry Brown, agreed to join Buyer in a joint letter requesting a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of the process.
Members on both sides of the aisle also expressed special concern about how the allocation process affects veterans in highly rural areas. Michaud, Herseth-Sandlin, and Roe all inquired how VISN directors ensure that facilities affiliated with medical centers, such as outpatient clinics, are afforded proper consideration in funding requests.
"Over the past twelve years, VA has relied on a decentralized funding model for the VISNs to fund their respective medical centers," Buyer said. "VA provides general guidance but permits a substantial amount of flexibility to allow for a more patient-centric process at the local level."
"I believe this requires clear delineation of responsibility, careful planning, and performance measures to gauge coordination and accountability. Therefore, it is prudent for us to ask the key questions such as whether the allocations should be formula-driven or standards based with real-time analysis."
"It has been five years since GAO has placed its eyes on VA funding allocation issues, so I will request that it perform a review of the criteria and process VA has established for VISNs, how VA ensures that VISNs comply with those criteria, and how VA centrally tracks and assesses the distribution and use of the funds at the medical center level."
"Accurate assessment of these measures is critical to VA's ability to provide timely access to quality veterans' care, and prevent delays that could be detrimental to veterans with critical conditions and those with special health care needs."
The hearing was composed of two panels. The panel was Clyde Parkis who has many credits including being a Vietnam veteran, many years with the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as the former director of Veterans Integrated Service Network. The second panel was composed of the Department of Veterans Affairs' Rita Reed and Michael S. Finegan (Finegan was accompanied by William Schoenhard and W. Paul Kearns III).
Parkis's prepared statement is posted here (if that doesn't work go to the Committee's hearings page and select it -- but I'm told the bugs have been worked out and that link will work). Chair Filner said the statement would be entered in full into the record and encourage Parkis to utilize his opening five minutes hitting additional topics. We'll note this from his opening remarks where he's speaking of his time working for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Clyde Parkis: As a Vietnam veteran, I sometimes have trust issues and it took me a long time to figure out who to -- who to trust in the process as we move through the budget cycles. I was aware that OMB liked to screen VA testimony before it came to the committees and I thought sometimes that prevented us from asking for what we thought we really needed. I was told to say, 'We don't have our budget official yet so I can't speculate on the impact of that.' That made it difficult to answer my local Congressman in terms of what was going on with the VA. And I thought some of that was actually coming from this Committee but maybe that was not the case. As I gained some trust over time, there are some things I wished I had spoken up about a little -- a little earlier.
OMB is the Office of Management and Budget and falls under the executive branch of the federal government. That statement, an important one, wasn't an issue in the questioning. Despite the fact that this committee and every other one has heard that answer repeatedly "no final budget, can't speculate." Instead, there were questions regarding the counting of veterans, US House Rep David Roe praised the VA outpatient clinics (CBOCs) and wondered how they were determined? Parkis explained, "It was a combination of where the veterans are -- you look at your demographics spread out by zip code or by county -- and in addition to that where are you experiencing the demand?"
US House Rep Harry Teague noted how, in New Mexico (his state), "the number of people who have to travel five, six hours" to a VA "is pretty large." And he also wanted to drop back to Roe's questions and know about the outpatient and how New Mexico might qualify so that "people don't have to drive five, six hours" to get care? Parkis began stressing tele-care (health care over the phone). Since many of the veterans Teague is speaking of (we speak to veterans groups in New Mexico quite often) are complaining about the lengthy drives to Alberquerque for check ups or to diagnose new issues, it's not really clear how tele-care would assist them in that.
US House Rep Ann Kirkpatrick worried that "demand" qualification might hurt rural areas where many factors effected how many veterans in an area utilized a VA facility. This includes some veterans, including Native American veterans, who do not access care because they aren't aware of the care that is available. Parkis identified Prescott, Arizona as one such area and Kirkpatrick agreed it was. He suggested outreach, "talking to the tribal leaders" and insisted that "most health care these days is actually chronic not acute." Kirkpatrick's concerns really weren't addressed by Parkis who admitted rural areas really weren't his expertise; however, Chair Filner said that in "January we're going to be concentrating on rural -- access for rural veterans because everything you say is right."
Moving to Iraq, Saturday barriers around the US base in Basra collapsed. Steven Edwards (CANWEST News Service) reports that the US military is insisting the collapse was not a result of mortar attacks or any other attack but a result of "rainfall". Because Iraq is infamous for rainfall. In fact, dust storms are a thing of the long ago past. Right? Right? (No.) In other news, Li Xianzhi (Xinhua) reports armed clashes between US forces and Iraqis "guarding their own homes" in Baquba today which resulted in the death of 1 Iraqi and three more injured. Xianzhi quotes a police source who states, "The gunmen thought the [US] soldiers approaching their homes were insurgents." Xianzhi quotes the source explaining a US helicopter was called and it "bombed a house and totally destroyed it".
Turning to some of today's other reported violence . . .
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Monday grenade attack in Kirkuk which left twenty-six people wounded.
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 civilian shot dead in Baghdad and, an hour later, 1 soldier shot dead in Baghad.
In other news, Khalid al-Ansary, Michael Christie and Matthew Jones (Reuters) report, "Iraqi politicians have 24 hours to resolve an impasse over a law needed for next year's election to take place, otherwise the country's Sunni Arab vice president will veto the legislation again, a spokesman said on Wednesday." If Tariq al-Hashemi chooses to veto the legislation, he must do so tomorrow according to Reuters. Meanwhile the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq released a statement on the elections: "UNAMI strongly supports the efforts undertaken to clarify voting for Iraqis abroad, as well as the inclusion in the law of the distribution of seats among the governorates, and the announcement of a final election date, with 27 February 2010 as a feasible option for practical and constitutional reasons." BBC News notes that the United Nations is saying February 27th is doable as an election date for the former January elections but that "Iraq's Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told the BBC that the election could be pushed back to the end of March." Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports Ayad Allawi (prime minister immediately prior to Nouri al-Maliki) says there's a call for February 27th or March 1st.
The latest Inside Iraq began airing Friday on Al Jazeera and joining Jasim al-Azzawi were Saad al-Mattalibi of Iraq's Ministry of National Dialogue and Abdelbarri Atwan, editor-in-chief of al-Quds al-Arabi. The issue was the continued conflict between the US-installed exile government and Ba'athists in Iraq. Saddam Hussein headed the Ba'ath Party. It's a political party. It had many, many members (the majority of Iraqis participating in politics). Since the exiles were installed, and with the help of Paul Bremer, Iraq has been 'de-Ba'athified'.
Jasim al-Azzawi: Saad al-Mattalibi, excluding the Ba'ahtist from running for power, to some people smacks nothing more than vengance, to others, it's a fear of a well organized party [which] given the chance, it might come back for political as well as social influence.
Saad al-Mattalibi: Many people see differ -- have a different view to that, to that introduction because the Ba'ath Party -- without talking about persons, personalities or individuals -- as a thought, as a school of thought, believes in attaining power through coups and through conspiracies. Once they're in power, they believe in excluding everybody and dictating their way or their vision upon society. This, in itself, cannot be accepted in New Iraq, where we have a multiple political ideologies and multiple political views and they can compete in a peaceful manner and allowing the voters to be the decider on who is elected and who is not.
Jasim al-Azzawi: Abdelbarri, the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has warned of upcoming Ba'athist Parliament. He said, "And I'm going to use all my constituional powers to stop them." Are these scare tactics or he is generally scared that they might come back?
Abdelbarri Atwan: You know Dr. Saad talked about exclusion and he accused the Ba'athists of excluding other ideology or other thoughts in Iraq during their rule. And al-Maliki and Dr. Saad are applying the same in democratic Iraq. So what's the difference here? I believe if you're looking for initial reconciliation, if you're looking at rebuilding the country again, I think you need everybody, you need all the color of the shade. We know some Ba'athist were dangerous -- they are locked, or executed or tried. But the rest of the Ba'athist people are Iraqis and they have the right to be part of the New Iraq like everybody else. It is true there are some side of the Ba'ath or Ba'athist ideology which is bad. For example, the dictatorship. But there are other sides which I believe are very bright. For example, secularism, the equality between men and women, the actually -- education, the scientific achievement, universities, good health service --
Jasim al-Azzawi: Let me run this by Saad, Abdelbarri
Abdelbarri Atwan: We cannot exclude all of this.
Jasim al-Azzawi: Saad, you're a practicing what Saddam Hussein practiced against other political parties. You're excluding just as much he did.
Saad al-Mattalibi: I don't think that really applies here, looking at the history of the 35 years the Ba'ath Party ruled in Iraq. We are not excluding individuals. We are trying to prevent a particular school of thought from entering and wrecking the political process. If you look at today's Iraqi Parliament, there are many Ba'athists who are actually serving today as members of Parliament. The difference is that those people believed in the national -- in the new national principles of Iraq. They believe in democracy. They believe in peaceful transition of power. They believe in elections and so on. They believe in the institutions. They believe in the freedom of the press. All these ideas that the Ba'ath Party refused generally. Now the other thing I would like to say to my, uh, good colleague, uh, Mr. Abdelbarri is that the achievement -- the scientific achievement or medical achievement in Iraq was not done by the Ba'ath Party. It was done by the individual Iraqi -- men and women and scientist. And by the way we uphold the same, aaah, values --
Jasim al-Azzawi: That particular point, Saad, let me just remind you that hundreds if not thousands of Iraqi scientists, as well as professors and even university presidents, they have fled the country. Some of them simply because they were targeted because they were Ba'athists. So there is a measure here that a brush --
Saad al-Mattalibi: That's not true
Jasim al-Azzawi: -- which has touched --
Saad al-Mattalibi: That's not true.
Jasim al-Azzawi: -- everybody.
Saad al-Mattalibi: No, no, no. That is not entirely true. What has happened is there was a vicious attack against scientific development and all walks of life really in Iraq. Many people fled the country. I mean, mechanics and simple carpenters fled the country. I mean, were they Ba'athists? No. There was a huge attack on all development in Iraq. This led a vast sector in Iraq to leave Iraq.
Abdelbarri Atwan: I'm surprised. Dr. Saad is a highly educated person and I believe he is not actually reflecting what's happening on the ground in Iraq. There are at least -- at least -- 500 scholars assassinated in the New Iraq. That middle class which is supposed to rebuild Iraq? Actually non-existent. Most of them left the country. They are working now in the Gulf or taking refuge in Europe. And you know secteraianism splitting in Iraq now. You know 4 million displaced, a million widows, about four million orphans. I think this is -- Is this the achievement of the New Iraq which the New Iraqi rulers are proud of? When we talk about accountability, who shall we actually judge here? Who shall we charge here? When the whole country dismembered under the pretext of de-Ba'athification which is a very ugly word. So I think we should -- we should admit, you know, the Ba'athists will be seen as angels in comparison what's happening in Iraq now. I've never been a Ba'athist, I will never be a Ba'athist but actually, the whole of a country dismembered, destroyed, sectarianism, women actually in a very bad situation and democracy. What kind of democracy if people cannot have water or electricity? Or education? Or they are not safe in their houses?
Saad al-Mattalibi: Well they didn't have electricity, they didn't have education. They had only war and mass graves in Saddam's time, in the Ba'athist time. What we are trying to say is that what started 35 years ago, we today pay the price for it. Democracy is not about only getting clean water and getting good health to people. Democracy, of course, include this, but also include the freedom of speech, including the right to choose our leaders. We -- I can today criticize my own government and not be punished or executed for it. And I refuse to accept everybody left Iraq is a Ba'athist. This is a very dangerous accusation. Many people, one of them is my uncle, left the country because the environment in Iraq was very dangerous. Gangs were roaming the streets in 2006, 2007, killing people. And those scientists you're talking about, many of my very, very good friends who are professors Baghdad University, they were killed and they were not Ba'athists and they were not even from that sect, they were from this sect.
Abdelbarri Atwan: Dr. Saad, you know, democracy is good governance.
Saad al-Mattalibi: Of course.
Abdelbarri Atwan: If we see the situation in Iraq, there is no good governance.
Saad al-Mattalibi: Correct.
Abdelbarri Atwan: When Iraq is the second most corrupt country on the -- on earth according to the International Transpancy Organization, it means there is no good governance. And democracy did not produce what the Iraqi were waiting for: to have a good government, to have accountability, to have actually transparancy, to have good services, to have the middle class there. Yes, when you say not everybody who left Iraq is a Ba'athist, this is affront to the new regime in Iraq because it means neither the Ba'athists or the non-Ba'athists are accepting the situation and they are deserting the country -- four million actually displaced in Iraq and it is a fact so there is nothing to be proud of to be honest. You know, I believe the new regime should admit they did not produce the good example for the Iraqi people.
In the US, Colleen Murphy searches for answers to her daughter's death. Staff Sgt Amy Tirador was serving in Iraq when she was killed at the start of last month, shot in the back of her head. Russell Goldman (ABC News) reports Murphy has many questions including, "How could this have happened on a secure American base? I don't know why they can't rule some things out. This can't be a suicide. But there are so many probabilities and prospects and guessing games. They've given me no hints, and I can't stop thinking about all the different scenarios. Am I aggravated? Absolutely. Thursday will be a month. I want the truth. I will be patient and I will wait. But I want the truth." Meanwhile Iraq War veteran Lt Col Jim Gentry was buried yesterday after dying of cancer which was most likely the result of his exposure to toxins in Iraq. Melissa Swan (WHAS11 -- link has text and video) reports on the funeral and notes, "Veterans from several wars held the stars and stripes as members of Jim Gentry's family, both by blood and by military arrived for a final, formal goodbye." Eric Bradner (Evansivlle Courier & Press) reports: "Gentry, a nonsmoker, was diagnosed in 2006 with a rare form of lung cancer. Military doctors say it most likely was caused by exposure to sodium dichromate, which contains hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen. The dustlike toxin littered the desert facility. It was yellow in some places, orange in others. It stuck to soldiers' boots and blew into their faces during Iraq's many windstorms. For months, no one wore protective gear. They were told they didn't need it." In yesterday's snapshot, we noted Senator Evan Bayh's bill to create a federal registry for US service members exposed to toxins. Brander quotes Bayh stating, "The circumstances of his death are tragic, but the quiet courage with which he lived his life, served his country and advocated for justice for those exposed at Qarmat Ali inspired everyone who knew him. I will continue to do everything in my power in the United States Senate to honor his life and improve the medical care of those who served at his side." As noted in yesterday's snapshot, that bill is currently buried in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which has no hearings (not even mark-ups) scheduled for this month. January starts a new year meaning the bill would have to be reintroduced then. None of that is meant as a criticisim of Bayh (who introduced the bill in October) but it is a criticism of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which desperately needs a new and healthy chair -- something it does not have at present.
Well close with this is from Tom Eley's "US Supreme Court suppresses torture photos" (WSWS):
The US Supreme Court on Monday nullified an appeals court order that would have obligated the Obama administration to release photographs depicting US soldiers subjecting prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq to horrific acts of torture.
In an unsigned three-sentence decision in the case, Department of Defense v. ACLU, 09-160, the Supreme Court granted an Obama administration petition vacating the order and sent the case back to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, telling the lower court it must review the case in light of a law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in October.
The law in question was written as a specific response to the circuit court's ruling in October 2008 requiring that the photos be released. Attached to an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security and signed into law by Obama, it gave Secretary of Defense Robert Gates the power to suppress the torture photos if he determines they may threaten US military operations. Gates invoked the measure on November 13.
It is now anticipated that the circuit court will side with the Obama administration and rule against the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU.)