Tuesday, May 21, 2013. Chaos and violence continue, one of the protest organizers in Anbar is assassinated, Nouri has a 'big shake up' (AFP) that amounts to nothing, Zebari puts on brave face for American TV, a public servant announces (through her attorney) she will plead the Fifth in a Congressional hearing tomorrow (IRS scandal), Congress discusses pending veterans legislation and if the White House is being fully honest about Benghazi why have they not released the State Dept's September 14th communications with NSS?
Starting with The War on the First Amendment. As disclosed I know and like Attorney General Eric Holder. We're not highlighting a radio program that can be seen as calling Holder out. We aren't highlighting it and linking to it. Not because I'm trying to cover for Eric but because if you're wrong and I know you're wrong we don't include you.
Someone billed as a journalist declared of Holder's decision to recuse himself, "He's talking about how he has regular interactions with the press and he did not think it would be appropriate for him to be the head of this investigation Yet that doesn't really make any sense . . ." No, that wouldn't make sense.
That's also not what Holder told Congress. We covered it last week with the "Iraq snapshot" and "Eric Holder's childish tantrum," Ava covered it with "Biggest embarrassment at House Judiciary hearing," Wally with "Competency tests for Congress? (Wally)," Kat with "Outstanding participant in the House Judiciary hearing?," and Marcia with "The shameful Eric Holder."
I see the 'expert' covered the hearing too. And I read over his coverage and couldn't stop groaning. It's beyond wrong. It raises issues that it never resolves (although they were resolved in the hearing) and it's just incredibly wrong. We could spend a whole snapshot on how wrong it is. We won't.
I talked to two friends who cover Justice to find out how this could be confusing? Before he testified to Congress, Holder held a press conference, the day before. During that press conference, I'm told, he stated his reasoning for recusal at the start of the press conference: It was because he faced questioning from the FBI (June 2012). Later, during that press conference he repeated that over and over and "at one point, made an offhand comment" in the press conference (one reporter, backed up by the other) about how he does interact with the press. Did either of them see that comment as a reason for recusal? No.
He told Congress why he recused himself. Our 'expert' went on the radio and left out the reason Holder gave the Congress and the reason he stated repeatedly in the press conference. If 'expert' wants to pursue that angle (Holder said he was in "frequent contact with the media" in the conference), have at it. But don't ignore the reason that Holder recused himself -- either out of your own ignorance or your inability to tell the truth. Reading the coverage the 'expert' did (it's glorified Tweeting) of the hearing last week, I can say that will not highlight that 'expert' ever again. I do not trust him. I'm not sure if he's stupid or just dishonest. But his coverage is appalling. We will pick this topic up on Saturday night.
If Holder's guilty of something, he will be called out here. I've already made a point to call him out for being partisan and hostile when appearing before Congress last week. I'm not going to play favorites. But I'm also not going to distort what Eric says or include information about him that I know to be false.
Last week, The War on the First Amendment's big revelations were that the Justice Dept had secretly seized the phone records of a 167-year-old news institution. Phone records for April and May 2012 were secretly seized. Tuesday, May 14th, Today, AP executive editor Kathleen Carroll appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe (link is video) and spoke
about this assault on the First Amendment with hosts Joe Scarborough
and Mika Brzezinski and guests journalists Carl Bernstein (of Watergate
fame) and Mike Barnicle.
Kathleen Carroll: Well obviously, we're distressed that the Justice
Dept felt the need to seize our records and not tell us about it and
certainly distressed as our CEO said in his protest to the Justice Dept
that the scope of the inquiry's so huge. More than 100 journalists for
the AP work at the places whose phone numbers and phone records were
seized by the Justice Dept.
This week's revelation is that the Justice Dept targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen. The ACLU's Gabe Rottman explains the problems that emerge with the targeting of Rosen:
In recognition of the special status of news gathering under the
First Amendment, a federal law—the Privacy Protection Act—bars federal
investigators from demanding materials from reporters unless
there is probable cause to believe that the reporter himself has
committed a crime. That's exactly what the FBI claimed here—that
"Reporter has committed or is committing a violation of [the Espionage
Act], as an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator." (The Espionage Act
is the primary statute used to target "leaks," and bars the
unauthorized disclosure of classified information if the person doing
the disclosing has reason to know disclosure could harm the United
What's astonishing here is that never before has the government
argued that simple newsgathering—that is, asking a source to comment on a
news story—is itself illegal. That would, quite literally,
make virtually any question by a reporter implicating classified
information a potential felony. The logic behind the FBI's warrant
application would extend even to a reporter asking a question at a
public press briefing at the CIA, Pentagon, or State Department. If the
question is designed to elicit the disclosure of classified information,
and prompts that disclosure, I don't see how the reporter couldn't be
held responsible under the FBI's rationale.
Additionally, the FBI was able to keep the existence of the warrant
secret from Rosen because it argued he'd committed a crime. That's
similar to what happened with the AP, where the Department of Justice
presumably invoked the exception to the notice requirement under DOJ
guidelines, which allow for delay when notice could imperil the
investigation. However, the delay provision is extremely strong
medicine, because delaying notice means that the news outlet is unable
to go to a court to challenge the request before the records are turned
over. Consequently, the delay provision opens the door to significant
abuse, as government agents have an incentive to delay notice because it
allows them to avoid going in front of a judge to justify their
Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 564 violent deaths so far this month and they have 11 more days in the month to count. Including today when Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports
a Tarmiya suicide bomber claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers (seven
more injured), a Tuk Hurmato car bombing which claimed 5 lives
(forty-three more injured), and 3 Kirkuk roadside bombings which claimed
6 lives (twenty-five more injured). Mustafa Mahmoud, Isabel Coles and Alistair Lyon (Reuters) quote
Kirkuk survivor Mahmoud Jumaa stating, "I heard the explosions, but
never thought this place would be targeted since these animals have
nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with sect, nothing to do with
ethnicity or religion." Alsumaria notes that in Ramadi a leader of the ongoing demonstrations died from a car bombing. NINA identifies him as Sheikh Malik al-Dulaimi and adds that he," along with other capable tribal chiefs of Anbar, took care of supplying tents, food and other requirements to the protestors in Ramadi." Nouri issued no statement demanding that the killers responsible for Sheikh Malik al-Dulaimi be brought to justice. Nouri issued no statement condemning the killing of al-Dulaimi. Kareem Raheem (Reuters) counts over 40 dead from violence today.
The National notes:
First to blame for the increasing bloodshed, which killed at least 86
on Monday alone and 352 so far this month, is Iraq's prime minister,
Nouri Al Maliki.
"Mr Al Maliki failed to contain the rising
sectarian tensions in the early stages, resorting instead to security
solutions and rejecting dialogue with his opponents," the editorial
Mr Al Maliki ignored the demands of residents in Anbar province, where the largest sit-ins and protests have been taking place.
Shia Muslim, Mr Al Maliki is accused by Sunnis of being biased towards
his sect in terms of official posts. The bomb and gun attacks on Monday
targeted mainly Shia areas, including in the capital Baghdad.
statement reported yesterday, the Iraqi premier said: "I assure the
Iraqi people that the [the militants] will not be able to bring us back
to sectarian conflict," pledging an overhaul at the high and middle
levels of his security apparatus following its failure to stop the
A statement like this shows how Mr Al Maliki is still "in
denial", since the crisis is about political failure, rather than
security flops, Al Quds Al Arabi argued.
AFP makes much of Nouri's 'big shake up in security command' yet all they can list is that a someone over the security in the city of Baghdad lost his post. Woah! What a shake up. All Iraq News notes that's the only position changed (Lt Gen Abdul Amir Kamel will replace Lt Gen Ahmed Hashim).
Meanwhile Abbas al-Mahmadawi flaunts ignorance. He's the Secretary
General of Iraq's Abna Al Iraq coalition. (At one point, this was a
term for Sahwa aka Sons of Iraq.) According to Press TV,
"Britain and the US are responsible for the growing number of bombings
in Iraq because of their sales of fake bomb detects to the country,
Secretary Genera of Iraq's Abna Al Iraq coaltion Abbas Al Mahmadawi
says." England did not sell the 'magic' wands. A British citizen did
and the UK put him on trial, convicted him and sentenced him.
The US government did not sale any magic wands and no US citizen was in
charge of that company. I believe it was also the US press that first
raised objections about the wands.
At the start of November 2009, Rod Nordland (New York Times) reported
on these 'bomb detectors' in use in Iraq: "The small hand-held wand, with a
telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints
in Iraq. But the device works 'on the same principle as a Ouija board'
-- the power of suggestion -- said a retired United States Air Force
officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wand as nothing more
than an explosive divining rod."
It's amazing that Abbas is too cowardly to blame Nouri al-Maliki. From yesterday's snapshot:
So in 2010, it was known that the magic wands were not working? No. It was known before that. May 11th, Alsumaria reported that new documents from the Ministry of Interior (reproduced
with the article) demonstrate that a Ministry committee said the wands
were not working and, in 2009, recommended that they not be purchased
anymore. There were calls for Nouri to appear before Parliament to
answer questions. He needs to. But he has refused all calls so far --
despite the Constitution on this issue. He continues to violate and
ignore the Constitution. Kitabat also coverd the revelations about the 2009 recommendation at length here. May 12th, Alsumaria reported Parliament's
Integrity Committee held a hearing to determine the details surrounding
the purchase of these wands and Committee Chair Bahaa al-Araji states that the
Integrity Commission appeared before the Committee and offered names of
"top officials" involved. Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reported
that even after Nouri was personally warned by a British commander
"Colonel Powell" that the devices did not work, an order was still place
and Al Mada reproduced that order -- it came from Nouri's office. Last Thursday, National Iraqi News Agency reports
that Iraqiya MP Nada al-Jubouri is calling for an emergency session of
Parliament to address yesterday's bombings, "These repeated security
breaches came as a result of the lack of a way to detect car bombs,
which claim the lives of people, in addition to the weakness of the
intelligence information." May 3rd, Ammar Karim (AFP) reported
that despite the wands being found not to work, despite the conviction
and sentencing of their seller and maker in a British court, the wands
were still being used in Baghdad.
Nouri was told they didn't work and he ordered them anyway. They're still being used -- and they don't work.
Wait, it gets better.
Al Mada reports
that Nouri held a press conference today and announced that the magic
wands work. Back when Karim reported they were being used, I noted
Nouri's plan to sue the maker just lost standing. Any chance that it
still had legal standing is now gone. Nouri stood up and Baghdad and
declared that the rip-off devices work. That's money Iraq will now
never get back. It doesn't matter that they don't work. Ignoring years
of warnings, Nouri continues to use them. It no longer matters, he's
lost standing to sue.
What an idiot. Dar Addustour has him insisting
that these 'magic' wands can detect bombs 20 to 40% of the time. No,
they can't. This was established in a court of law. What an idiot. Robert Booth (Guardian) reported May 2nd:
McCormick sold 7,000 fake bomb detectors based on useless golf ball
finders to the Iraqi government and other international agencies for
prices ranging from £1,600 per unit to £19,000.
They cost McCormick less than $50 (£32) and police believe sales to Iraq alone were worth more than £55m, buying McCormick a mansion in Bath, holiday homes abroad and a yacht.
Richard Hone told McCormick: "Your fraudulent conduct in selling so
many useless devices for simply enormous profit promoted a false sense
of security and in all probability materially contributed to causing
death and injury to innocent individuals."
Get it? They didn't work. They were never going to work. They had
nothing to do with bombs but were invented to be golf ball finders and
were useless at even that.
Why didn't Nouri appear before Parliament today? Because he has blood
on his hands and he knows it. Instead of getting honest, he's now
insisting that the magic wands work.
Christiane Amanpour (Amanpour, CNN) spoke with Iraq Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari about the situation in Iraq and he stated, "The government has its own failing. I'm not here to give you a rosy picture or to portray unrealistic picture. But the country is not crashing."
Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujafi also held a press conference. All Iraq News reports that he called out Nouri for ordering State of Law MPs not to attend today's emergency session. He calls it a violation of the Constitution. National Iraqi News Agency notes
that al-Nujaifi "added that there is no personal problem between him
and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, confirming that the problem lies in
the lack of respect from al-Maliki to the legislative authority." Alsumaria reports
State of Law is screaming for al-Nujaifi to resign. (State of Law is
Nouri's political slate. In the 2010 elections, Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya
beat State of Law.) Alsumaria notes
cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr has weighed in but their
brief report doesn't make clear on whose side. He apologizes to the
Iraqi people for what is happening and blames government officials --
Iraqiya and State of Law both? Nouri for calling for a boycott of the
emergency session? It's not clear.
Following yesterday's violence in Basra and Baghdad, the Iraq Times reports
professors and teachers belonging to the National Alliance coalition
are asking that Nouri be dismissed as prime minister as a result of the
continued violence and unstable security. Moqtada's bloc is part of the
Shi'ite National Alliance (as is Nouri's State of Law). The report
notes an MP from Moqtada's bloc said Nouri needs to resign or appear
before Parliament. He's been denounced for the way he's managed Iraqi
security. As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) has a column
on the whole matter that strives for balance and notes that the
Parliament was directly elected by the people (not true of the prime
minister) and that Nouri should show respect for democracy and for the
Meanwhile, Alsumaria reports
prisoners at a Rifai prison are on a hunger strike over conditions at
the prison and the inability of the judiciary to set court appearances.
There is no mention of average wait of these prisoners but Iraqis have
been waiting years for court appearances. This has been a complaint by
Iraqis for years now. There has been no improvement. Which is one of
the reasons Nouri's Baghdad court shouldn't have grabbed ahold of
investigating the Hawija massacre. They have enough on their plate
May 10, 2013, IRS official Lois Lerner attempted to deceive the American people. Fully aware that the Treasury Dept was about to issue an Inspector General report finding abuse, IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Division Lerner staged a fake 'honesty' session. As Glenn Kessler (Washington Post) noted in his Fact Check Sunday, Lerner asked her friend "Celia Roady, a tax attoreny [. . .] to ask her a question about the targeting" of conservative groups" at an ABA conference. Chip Reid (CBS News -- link is text and video) reported May 10th on the IRS targeting of political groups:
The IRS strongly denied the charges -- until Friday.
At a lawyers' conference in Washington, Lois Lerner, a senior IRS career employee who overseas tax exempt organizations, admitted that agency employees singled out particular groups for extra scrutiny using key words with political overtones.
Lerner staged the event, making a mockery of the ABA and the American people.
Friday, the House Ways and Means held a hearing which Action IRS Commissioner Steve Miller testified at and we covered it in Friday's "Iraq snapshot" and "IRS: 'Not corrupt, just incompetent'," while Ava reported on it in "Guacamole and the IRS (Ava)," Wally in "Big lie revealed at House Ways and Means hearing," Kat in "The other Steve Miller appears before Congress," and Marcia in "No accountability for the IRS scandal," and we roundtabled on it with Dona for "Report on Congress." A key exchange from the hearing:
US House Rep. Thomas Young: Mr. Miller I want to know why all of
this happened. You and Ms. [Lois] Lerner said over the past week that
IRS officials started targeting Americans for their political beliefs in
March of 2010. That was after observing a surge in applications for
statuses 501 (c) (4) -- so that was your rationale. To support this claim,
you both cited an increase of about 1500 in 2010 to nearly 35,000 in
2012. But data contained in the IG audit says the targeting began in
March 2010 before this uptick. In fact, the audit also says, on page 3
that the number of 501 (c) (4) applications for all of 2010 was actually
less than in 2009. Mr. Miller, you said here today that you accept the
IG's finding of facts --
Steve Miller: Mmm-hmmm.
US House Rep. Thomas Young: How do you reconcile the facts I've just
laid out showing no uptick in 501 (c) (4) applications with your stated
motivation for targeting conservative groups?
Steve Miller: So I'll have to go back and look at the numbers, sir, but I think there was an uptick. And whether --
US House Rep. Thomas Young: You've already indicated here, sir, that
you agreed with the finding of facts in the IG report. It says there
was no uptick.
Steve Miller: I don' t--
US House Rep. Thomas Young: How do you reconcile the two?
Steve Miller: I've got to look at the numbers, sir, I can't speak to that.
US House Rep. Thomas Young: So you don't agree with the IG report?
Steve Miller: I'd have to look at the IG report.
Kessler notes Lerner made the May 10th claim in her public remarks and that it is -- as US House Rep Young argued on Friday -- false.
In shocking news today, Richard Simon and Joseph Tanfani (Los Angeles Times) report that IRS official Lois Lerner, who was less than forthcoming with the Americans (to put it mildly), now intends to plead the Fifth Amendment this week when appearing before the Congress of the United States.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subjected for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
So Lerner wants to refuse to answer the questions of the people's representatives and to do so claiming that she refuses to self-incriminate herself? Which most will see as an admission of guilt -- greater guilt than what is known.
The Fifth Amendment is often invoked to protect one's self from the government. Invoked by a sitting government official? That's novel.
It gets better. She's hired an attorney, a criminal defense attorney, William W. Taylor III. Her attorney is insisting that appearing before the Committee would "embarrass or burden her." Tough. She's a government official paid by the US taxpayer. She wants to refuse to testify and invoke the 5th Amendment, she needs to do it in public. If it "embarrass"es her, that's too damn bad.
Shane Goldmacher (National Journal) reports that House Oversight and Government Reform Chair Darrell Issa "has issued a subpoena to Lerner anyway." Goldmacher notes US House "Rep. Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, has called for her to resign."
Turning to the issue of Benghazi. September 11, 2012, an attack there left four Americans dead: Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, Chris Stevens and Tyrone Woods. As revelations emerged about e-mails the White House got embarrassed. Now you have a ton of partisan prostitutes and idiots weighing in and it gets so very confusing. I actually read through every damn one of them today. Mainly because whiny Bob Somerby can't stop lying. But, please, keep it up. Independents see the administration lying on this. The more partisan prostitutes keep dismissing it, the larger the number of independents will be who break with the administration over that. Somerby's so stupid. He's attacking Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes and MSNBC's entire line up except Chris Matthews for not wasting airtime dropping grenades on Benghazi. Did it ever occur to him that MSNBC knows this is a losing battle based on the polling? That talk show hosts are using their time to defend the administration in ways they see as productive? Or that after nine months, Susan Rice is a dead issue.
She is not innocent as Bob Somerby -- who never attends Congressional hearings or reads source documents (including the e-mails released) -- maintains. As with Bully Boy Bush and his administration selling the illegal war, the occasional caveat was offered -- by that crooked administration and by Rice. The totality of their presentation was false and that's true of Susan Rice. More importantly, Susan Rice isn't liked. The American people have been polled. But Bob wants Rachel Maddow to drop everything on her show and spend the next weeks making it all about 'poor Susan Rice.' All that will do is stir up hostility towards the administration. Opinions were long ago set.
It's nonsense. All he offers is nonsense.
Today, he's enraged that the e-mails might have been paraphrased. Who does the idiot think saw the e-mails? We were at the hearing -- repeated hearings -- where House Republicans asked for the e-mails to be released. We were there when they complained to Secretary John Kerry that they weren't allowed to make copies of them. That they had to go to a room to view these non-classified documents.
Republicans leaked news of the e-mails but unless there was a Sandy Berger stuffing e-mails into his or her pants to get them out of the control room, why are you surprised that these were paraphrased e-mails?
That's right, because you come in late on the story, you've never done an honest bit of work on it, you've just read a few partisan accounts from your echo chamber, but you think you know everything.
I'm sick of the stupidity.
The White House has apparently not released some of the pertinent e-mails.
I can make that assertion because I read over those that have been released. I'm a little shocked that nobody's picked up on what Icky Vicky says in one e-mail.
Dan Pfeiffer went on the Sunday chat and chews and lied leading others to lie. He attacked Jonathan Karl's ABC report (which Bob Somerby announces he'll chew on -- Bob will never chew on how he attacked Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson because Bob is friends with Matt Cooper who was part of the outing of Valerie Plame). This led to the whopper from 'comedian' Jon Stewart on The Daily Show last night, "Now even the press is messing up. 'Hey, look, we found an e-mail where the State Dept demands talking points be edited to reflect political concerns. Oh, I'm sorry. We just looked at it again, it's a Groupon." Oh, how the monkey got laughs.
But is the below funny:
I just had a convo with [deleted] and now I understand that these are being prepared to give to Members of Congress to use with the media.
On that basis, I have serious concerns about all the parts highlighted below, and arming members of Congress to start making assertions to the media that we ourselves are not mking because we don't want to prejudice the investigation.
In the same vein, why do we want Hill to be fingering Ansar al Sharia, when we aren't doing that ourselves until we have investigation results... and the penultimate point could be abused by Members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings so why do we want to feed that either? Concerned.
Victoria Nuland sent that e-mail September 14, 7:39 pm. And "deleted" is "CIA OCA." You'll find that out as you read on through the e-mails because later copies have it written in.
"Why do we want Hill" Congress "to be fingering Ansar al-Sharia, when we aren't doing that ourselves" at the State Dept in public briefings since the attack? She's also worried about providing the truth which "could be abused by Members" of Congress "to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings so why do we want to feed that either?"
Concerned? Of course she is. Six months of warnings were ignored. She didn't want that getting out to the public.
Jon Stewart made an ass out of himself and misled the American people. The good thing is, all it did was give partisan Democrats a chuckle. The independents know better. And every time someone lies on Benghazi on behalf of the administration, the White House loses the support on this issue of more and more independents. So keep lying if your goal is to ensure that the 2014 and 2016 elections are ones where Dems lose independent voters. (I'm not a fan of Rachel Maddow. But she actually knows what she's doing in this case. Benghazi is not redeemable with independents at this point. Your best move is to cover other topics if your goal is electing Democrats.) (But how sad that so many see their goal as elections and not truth.)
Last night, Ann took on Jay Rosen's nonsense attack on Karl's reporting by noting that the point of the on the air report and the point of the report in total was Nuland. Ann established that by noting two journalist roundtables broadcast the day Karl's report came out. Six journalists in all, plus a moderator, and when Karl's reporting was cited, what was noted was Victoria Nuland's e-mails. In 2008, when they felt the Christ-child was threatened, The Cult of St. Barack would respond by demanding someone be fired. Mike noted last night when they tried to get Charlie Gibson fired from ABC following the debate Barack bombed at. Mike also pointed out that the Cult has now started a petition to get Karl fired. Because that's how they are. To protect Barack, they will destroy anyone. They will lie and they will bully. They will try to intimidate the entire press corps. Because they were able to in 2008. They think they can do it again.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked, FDR didn't say, "We're going to war and I can't tell you with who because it's the subject of an ongoing investigation." An attack on a US facility in a foreign country took place and the US government wants to pretend that the suspects could not be named because it could 'tip them off.' Next up, Eric Holder sues 7-11 for releasing video of an armed robbery at one of the stores arguing that the release has damaged efforts to catch the criminal or criminals.
Ansar al Sharia is still not declared a terrorist group by the US government, not the arm in Libya. Last October, the US government declared the Yemen arm of Ansar al Sharia a terrorist group while insisting that it was "a separate entity from Ansar al-Shari'a in Libya." All this time later, it's still not a terrorist group and all this time later there are still no arrests. Reality, Ansar al Sharia (in Libya) is among the thugs the US got in bed with in the illegal war on Libya. In an apparent surprise to a naive administration, thugs you use to take out opponents can then turn on you.
If you read the e-mails, which apparently few actually did, you come across Victoria Nuland at 9:23 PM (September 14th) writing, "These don't resolve my issues or those of us my building leadership. They are consulting with NSS."
Where are the e-mails from State to NSS?
It's worth noting that the wording is rather chilling when you compare it to her lengthy e-mails. In an e-mail chain with multiple agencies, Nuland wants changes and doesn't feel she's getting what she wants. At some point she and others at the State Dept discuss this and decide to bring in NSS to override the ongoing process/exchange. Nuland feels no need to offer, "We may involve NSS in this." She waits until after the fact to declare that because her "issues" aren't resolved, her leadership is "consulting with NSS."
This morning the House Veterans Affairs Subcomittee on Health held a hearing on pending bills. The Subcommittee Chair is Dan Benishek (who is a medical doctor) and the Ranking Member is Julia Brownley. The first panel was US House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller, US House Rep Dennis Ross and US House Rep Brett Guthrie. The second panel was Disabled American Veterans' Adrian Atizado, American Urological Association's Dr. Mark Edney, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of Ameirca's Alex Nicholson, Blinded Veterans Association's Michael O'Rourke and Paralyzed Veterans of America's Alethea Predeoux. The third panel was the VA's Dr. Robert Jesse accompanied by VA Deputy Assistant General Counsel Susan Blauert.
Subcommittee Chair Dan Benishek is working on a draft of a bill to be entitled Demanding Accountability for Veterans Act of 2013 and this was discussed.
Subcommittee Chair Dan Benishek: How do we hold the VA accountable? How do we get those people to actually produce? Mr. Nicholson, do you have any other ideas there?
I would just add, Mr. Chairman, that I think we are on the same page in terms of solutions that would actually have teeth to them. You know, I think whether it's public safety issues, IG recommendations, following through on reducing the backlog, it doesn't sort of matter what issue you look at, the VA keeps promising us progress year after year and, you know, we-we see backlogs in not only disability claims issues but, like you mentioned earlier, in following through on all these outstanding IG recommendations. So something that would add some teeth to the accountability factor I think would certainly be welcomed by us. You know, we hear from our members consistently, year after year -- we do an annual survey of our membership which is one of the largest that's done independently of Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans. And we consistently hear that while veterans are satisfied with the care they receive, they continue to be dissatisfied overall with the VA itself. [. . .] I would say from our perspective, solutions you mentioned with teeth would certainly be welcome and I think it's certainly high time that we start adding teeth into these type of bills.
Ranking Member Julia Brownley is concerned about disabled veterans being at risk of not receiving care as a result of the distance between them and the medical centers.
Ranking Member Julia Brownley: And finally, my bill, HR 1284 The Veterans Medical Access Act would provide better access for blind and severely disabled veterans who need to travel long distances to obtain care at a special rehabilitation center. Oftentimes blind and catastrophically disabled veterans choose not to travel to VA medical centers for care because they cannot afford the costs associated with the travel. Currently the VA is required to cover the costs of transportation for veterans requiring medical care for service-connected injuries. HR 1284 would extend those travel benefits to a veteran with vision impairment, a veteran with a spinal cord injury or disorder, or a veteran with double or multiple amputations whose travel is in connection with care provided through a special disabilities rehabilitation program of the VA. Our disabled veterans have already made the greatest of sacrifices and I firmly believe, as I'm sure do everyone here in this Committee hearing today, that no veteran should be denied needed medical care.
PVA, DAV and BVA support the Ranking Member's bill As feedback here and face-to-face with veterans groups has made clear, many veterans with physical injuries feel that there physical injuries are often overlooked by the media in the rush to cover the signature wounds of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars: Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress.
Suicide is a pressing issue for both VA and DoD and it arose in the hearing.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Two weeks ago yesterday, I spent the day in Atlanta, Georgia with several members of the Georgia delegation to discuss inpatient and contract mental health program mismanagement issues at the Atlanta Dept of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The visit occurred after the VA Inspector General issued two reports which found that failures in management, leadership, oversight and care coordination at the Atlanta VAMC contributed to the suicide deaths of two veteran patients and the overdose deaths of two others. Alarmingly, the IG found that approximately four-to-five thousand veteran patients fell through the cracks and were lost in the system after the Atlanta VAMC failed to adequately coordinate or monitor the care they received under VA's contracts with community mental health providers. I wish that I could say that the issues in Atlanta are an isolated aberration. Unfortunately, that would be far from the truth.
US House Rep Dennis Ross noted that "the VA has set the goal to provide an initial mental health evaluation within 14 days from the time the veteran contacts a VA medical provider to schedule a consultation. They claim -- The VA claims -- to have met this goal with a 95% success rate; however, an Inspector General report published in 2012 greatly contradicts these claims. In fact, the IG report determined that the VA met its goal only 49% of its time." He also noted Chair Jeff Miller's point that 184,000 veterans were waiting over 50 days for the initial evaluation -- "not treatment, just the initial evaluations." His bill is HR 241 Veterans Timely Access to Health Care Act.
US House Rep Brett Guthrie HR 984 To direct the Secretary of Defense to establish a task force on urotrauma. He noted that there was a 350% increase in urotrauma in the current conflicts when compared to previous ones and that, prior to deployment to war zones, DoD surgeons and nurses are not receiving special training in urotrauma.
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