6/29/2016

how stupid are we supposed to be?

chris ernesto ('counterpunch') offers:


How pathetic. Now that he said he’ll vote for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders’ idea of “political revolution” has devolved into urging his supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton and her neoconservative backers.
Wow, very revolutionary, Bernie. Thanks for encouraging people to put the neocons back in office.

How do Democrats continue to let themselves get bowled over time and time again? Wasn’t it enough to watch their own party rig the primaries against their preferred candidate, but now their guy Bernie wants them to vote for that same party and their warmongering candidate?


what's really insulting is that these people think they can tell others what to do.

they think voters are so stupid that just because bernie says 'vote for hillary' it will happen.

like we aren't smart enough to think for ourselves.

it's really insulting.

i hope bernie supporters make it clear that they will not be (mis)led into voting for hillary.

let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'



Tuesday, June 28, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, Brett McGurk dances around the Senate, Haider al-Abadi suffers a legal set-back, Tony Blair is the talk of the UK, and much more.




Today, Brett McGurk, the Special Envoy to Iraq for Barack Obama, appeared before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee where he did a song and dance and gullible members of the Committee went along with it.


We may or may not return to the hearing in other snapshots this week.

But we'll note a typical example of the bulk of the hearing.

Senator Ben Cardin had a question he wanted to ask.  However, Ranking Member Cardin quickly forgot his question.


Watch as Brett avoids the question and repositions it to a topic he wants to talk about.


Ranking Member Ben Cardin:  The Sunni civilian population is justifiably concerned to their safety as it relates to the Shia militias.  What steps are we taking to protect the civilian population in these areas that we have been able to militarily reclaim?

Special Envoy Brett McGruk:  So, Senator, thank you.  This is a really -- it's been the primary focus of ours from day one.  On the positive side, so far in Iraq, no areas that have been retaken from ISIL, that have been liberated from ISIL has ISIL been able to retake.  And that's fairly significant given how difficult things are in Iraq.  What we've done from day one -- this really goes back to the fall of 2014.  You know, we're not in the business of reconstructing Iraq, of repeating the mistakes that were made in the past.  We've tried to revolutionize how we -- how we do this. We have a Prime Minister Abadi who is a real partner in Baghdad who believes in decentralizing power as much as possible and empowering local people.  So the fundamental example of this was in Tikrit.  Tikrit is a primarily Sunni city, an iconic city, in the heart of the mixed province of Saladin Province. It was entirely depopulated by ISIL in the summer of 2014.  It was a site of mass atrocities, thousands of people killed in mass killings.  Once it was liberated, through the coalition, we were able to flood resources to-to Tirkit through a stabilization fund that we established through the coalition.  And this stabilization fund is focused on the necessities of getting people back to their homes.  And returning people to their homes, it's important to recognize, we've looked at this historically and conflicts like this are the hardest things to do in the world.  It can take years of effort.  And, in Tikrit, by empowering the governor, by empowering local leaders, by making sure the resources are there, the returnees eventually reaches a tipping point.  And now we have almost the entire city is back on the streets of Tikrit.  They're local people, Tikritis, guarding the streets --

Ranking Member Ben Cardin: How do you deal with the Shi'ite militia?  How do they deal with it?

Special Envoy Brett McGurk: Well, it's a good question. First of all, Shia militias have to act under the control of the Iraqi government, the Iraqi state, that's a fundamental principle of the government of Iraq.  We think most of the Popular Mobilization Forces operate under the control of the Iraqi state but about 15 to 20% of them actually do not.  And those groups are a fundamental problem.  The number one thing we do is try to make sure they stay out of Sunni populated areas where they did cause real problems.  So in Tikrit, for example, Shi'ite militias are not inside the streets of Tikrit that's one thing that gave the population the confidence to return.  Uh, we have a principle when we support Iraqi forces in the military campaign: We will only support military forces operating strictly under Iraqi command and control.  That means that going up from the ground up an Iraqi chain of command  into a joint operations center where we're working with Iraqi commanders.  If there's a unit that's not operating under that structure, it doesn't get any support.


Ranking Member Ben Cardin:  Are you confident in Falluja will be able to maintain the safety of Sunni civilians?

Special Envoy Brett McGurk:  So Falluja, of course, just happened -- the last neighborhood was just liberated over the weekend.  We have about 80,000 displaced people.  Uhm, I'm meeting the head of one of the UN programs later this week.  They're hopeful that all of these IDPs will be under shelter by the end of this week and to begin returns next month.  What's also somewhat encouraging about Falluja is that the destruction of the city looks to be fairly minimal compared to other operations so we're hopeful that we can get the people of Falluja back to their streets as soon as possible, that the government can lead that process.  And of course these Shi'ite militia groups that operate outside the rule of law have to be outside the city otherwise people will not return.  So absolutely.  And we have a plan with local police Falluja police -- policemen from Falluja who have  been trained really since the last year are waiting to go back to-to guard their streets.  That's what we did in Tikrit and we're going to try in Falluja.




How does that deal with Falluja?

How does that address the War Crimes that have taken place in Falluja in the last few weeks.

How does it address reports on Sunday and Monday of Shi'ite forces burning homes in Falluja?

And there's no way in the world that, by the end of the week, the IDPs from Falluja are over 80,000 -- as the BBC reported here today and the UN stated 85,000 today-- and, no, they will not be "under shelter by the end of this week."


His spin distorts reality.  He did that under Bully Boy Bush, he does it under Barack.




“The screams, the cries, the smells and the stifling heat — this must be hell on earth.






Entire families abandoned in the desert. Aid community must not turn its back on Fallujah.







  1. Iraqi Sunni Woman killed by Shia Militias without guilt or charge









Ben Mathis-Lilley (SLATE) opens another useless article with this, "House Republicans have released another report about the attack against American compounds in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11 and Sept. 12, 2012, during which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens were killed."  The article is entitled "How Long Would The House GOP Have Investigated Iraq If It Treated Iraq Like Benghazi?" which is a stupid question.

An idiotic one.


If he wants to peer into the souls of the GOP, have at it.

But what is known is that the Republicans have criticized Benghazi.

The same way Democrats once criticized the Iraq War (before Barack became president).

So the better analogy, the better question is "Why didn't the Democrats investigate Iraq the way the Republicans did Benghazi?"

But that questions means we face reality: Most Democrats in Congress never gave a damn about Iraq except as something to use against Bully Boy Bush and other Republicans at election time.

They campaigned on it to win control of both houses of Congress in 2006 but they didn't do investigations in the House, then or since.

Just like Nancy Pelosi 'took impeachment off the table.'

Why are the Democrats so damn spineless?

If anything deserved a serious inquiry, it was the illegal Iraq War.


In England, they've had inquiries.  In fact, the Iraq War Inquiry is set to release its report (finally.)

Emily Allen (TELEGRAPH OF LONDON) explains:


The Chilcot Inquiry - also known as the Iraq War Inquiry - was set up in 2009 by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown to examine the UK's involvement in Iraq.
Its remit has been to examine the way decisions were made both before and during the US-led invasion, what actions were taken, and identify what lessons can be learned.




Not everyone in the British press will be invited to take part in "the official media event."  Nick Clark (Great Britain's SOCIALIST WORKER) reports:


Socialist Worker has been blocked from reporting from the publication of the Chilcot report into the Iraq war.
A press spokesperson told Socialist Worker last week that its reporters would not be given access to the official media event.
The Chilcot report is set to be published on 6 July. It is reported to contain heavy criticism of warmonger and former Labour prime minister Tony Blair for his role in launching the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The official publication event in central London will include a media “lock-in” where journalists will get a first look at the report’s executive summary.
There will also be a statement from the report’s author John Chilcot.
Despite applying for press access several weeks ago, Socialist Worker was told its reporter would not be allowed in due to “a limited number of spaces”.
Socialist Worker has consistently opposed the war on Iraq. We have reported from inside the anti-war movement since the launch of the Stop the War Coalition in 2001.
We exposed Blair’s lies while other newspapers fell in behind the war.

Journalists from many of those newspapers will have access to the event.



Currently, War Criminal Tony Blair is in the news.  THE DAILY MIRROR reports:


 The UN inspector whose team found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq tonight blasts Tony Blair over his decision to go to war.
On the ex-Prime Minister’s evidence to back joining US President George W Bush in the 2003 invasion, Mr Blix tells BBC1’s Panorama, Iraq: The Final Judgement: “Many people bring themselves to believe something they want to believe.”

Former Labour Minister Clare Short claims Mr Blair “made up his mind” to back Mr Bush, adding: “It was a manipulation by people determined to take military action.”



 Today, the US Defense Dept announced:


Strikes in Iraq
Fighter and remotely piloted aircraft and rocket artillery conducted 12 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Bashir, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL weapons cache.

-- Near Beiji, a strike destroyed an ISIL mortar system, an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL tunnel system. And, another strike struck inoperable coalition equipment denying ISIL access of said equipment.

-- Near Fallujah, a strike struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL tactical vehicle, an ISIL front-end loader, seven ISIL vehicles, two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle bomb, and an ISIL staging area, and damaged two ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Hit, a strike destroyed an ISIL anti-aircraft gun and an ISIL weapons cache.

-- Near Kisik, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Mosul, a strike suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

-- Near Qayyarah, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed three ISIL assembly areas, an ISIL vehicle, eight ISIL rocket rails, an ISIL headquarters and an ISIL weapons cache.

-- Near Tal Afar, a strike suppressed an ISIL mortar system.


Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.



In other bombing news, the UN issued the following statement on a Monday Abu Ghraib bombing:


      
28 June 2016 – The United Nations envoy for Iraq has strongly condemned the suicide bombing yesterday that killed or wounded a number of civilians at a mosque in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, noting that the attack showed the terrorists’ total disdain for Islam.
“This cowardly attack, happening during the holy month of Ramadan and as worshippers were gathered for evening prayers, shows the terrorists’ total disdain for Islam and rejection of its values,” said Ján Kubiš, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), in a statement issued today.
Also in the statement, he expressed his condolences to the families of those killed and wishes the injured a speedy recovery.






AFP reports Iraq's high court has ruled on two things.

First, we'll note that Salim al-Juburi remains Speaker of Parliament.

Why?

It's the same reason we cited back in April -- 131 MPs does not a quorum make.

The vote to oust him did not count.

The second one is even more hurtful to the anti-democratic White House which has been encouraging Haider al-Abadi (the US-installed prime minister) to create a new Cabinet.

As we've repeatedly noted, the Constitution does not allow for him to make that decision.

But worse for him, the court found the vote their illegal.

Why?

MPs were prevented from entering the Parliament to vote and guards were sent into the Parliament.


Saif Hameed, Stephen Kalin and Dominic Evans (REUTERS) quote legal expert Tariq Harb stating, "The five ministers who were approved by parliament at the April 26th session have lost their ministerial status. The prime minister must make a new nomination for parliament to vote on."








the telegraph of london

6/25/2016

brexit explained (by gg)

that apparently 'stunning vote'?

completely expected.

as were the american howler monkeys like michael moore -- c.i. took moore down here and did so incredibly.

for an analysis of the u.k.'s decision to leave the european union, i'd recommend this by glenn greenwald:


THE DECISION BY UK VOTERS to leave the EU is such a glaring repudiation of the wisdom and relevance of elite political and media institutions that – for once – their failures have become a prominent part of the storyline. Media reaction to the Brexit vote falls into two general categories: (1) earnest, candid attempts to understand what motivated voters to make this choice, even if that means indicting one’s own establishment circles, and (2) petulant, self-serving, simple-minded attacks on disobedient pro-leave voters for being primitive, xenophobic bigots (and stupid to boot), all to evade any reckoning with their own responsibility. Virtually every reaction that falls into the former category emphasizes the profound failures of western establishment factions; these institutions have spawned pervasive misery and inequality, only to spew condescending scorn at their victims when they object.
The Los Angeles Times‘ Vincent Bevins, in an outstanding and concise analysis, wrote that “both Brexit and Trumpism are the very, very wrong answers to legitimate questions that urban elites have refused to ask for thirty years”; in particular, “since the 1980s the elites in rich countries have overplayed their hand, taking all the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anyone else talks, and now they are watching in horror as voters revolt.” The British journalist Tom Ewing, in a comprehensive Brexit explanation, said the same dynamic driving the UK vote prevails in Europe and North America as well: “the arrogance of neoliberal elites in constructing a politics designed to sideline and work around democracy while leaving democracy formally intact.”

or, as carly simon once sang, 'and you can't treat people like meat without getting brought down to your knees now and then, baby.'


let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'



Saturday, June 25, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, the persecution of journalists in Iraq, continue, the persecution of Sunnis continue, Barack Obama's VA continues to be inept, there is still no seamless, electronic record for US service members, and much more.



US President Barack Obama backed Haider al-Abadi to become the new prime minister of Iraq.


How's that working out?


Not to well.

In the latest setback, Iraqi journalist Abdul Aziz has been arrested

. . . for reporting

. . . the truth.




After reporting Shia militias looting and burning houses in Fallujah, Iraqi journalist is arrested by gov.







Iraqi journalist arrested by ISF after reporting militias' crimes in Fallujah.







Abdul Aziz is only the latest journalist to be attacked in Iraq for reporting the truth.


Adnan Abu Zeed (AL-MONITOR) notes some previous attacks:


Alhadath daily newspaper reported April 5 that Baghdad-based journalist Diyaa Hussein was beaten by an unknown armed group after he exposed corruption involving the Iraqi Police Sports Club.
On Feb. 4, journalist Hadi al-Anbak accused businessman Salem Abdel Ayman Zaher of threatening to kill him because the reporter exposed alleged corruption in agricultural land investment projects in which Zaher is involved.
On May 20, 2015, Egypt Today reported that Kirkuk-based journalist Mohammad Mowaffaq told authorities he had received death threats, and unknown armed men had stopped him in his car and threatened to cut out his tongue if he didn't quit journalism. The threats followed his investigative report on illegal arms trade.
On April 15, 2015, the Iraq Journalists Syndicate (IJS) reported TV journalist Ahmad al-Jassem was threatened, assaulted and detained for hours by some members of security forces in Babil province, south of Baghdad. He had recently reported on the lack of services in the country.
On April 11, 2015, Reuters reported its bureau chief in Baghdad was threatened on Facebook and was also criticized by an Iraqi TV channel because of his April 4 report on unlawful executions and looting in Tikrit by the Popular Mobilization Units fighting alongside the Iraqi army against the Islamic State. The reporter left the country because of the threats.


The REUTERS bureau chief in Baghdad was Ned Parker.
Not only did Haider not protect Ned, he thought the whole thing was a joke and tried to turn it into a laughing matter when he visited the US last year.  From the April 16, 2015 snapshot:

Barbara Slavin: And also, one of our colleagues, Ned Parker, recently has left because of threats against Reuters for reporting what happened in Tikrit.  Will you issue a statement in Arabic protecting journalists for reporting what goes on in Iraq.  Thank you.

Haider al-Abadi: As with Mr. Parker, Ned Parker, I've known him for many years.  I heard this story while he was still in Baghdad.  My natural fact, a spokesman for my office has given me a message and he told me Ned Parker feels threatened and asked what sort of threats he had received? We want more information so that I can take action about these people who have threatened him.  I haven't received anything on that, to be honest with you. I asked for protection of his office -- to increase protection of his office -- and we did.  But all of the sudden, I'd heard he left. I know he sent a message he wants to meet me in Washington but unfortunately my program is, uh -- I didn't even have time to talk to my wife yesterday. [Begins chuckling.]  So I don't think I would talk to Ned instead of my wife.
As for that statement in Arabic?
"I-I think my office issued a statement. In English?  Okay, we translate."
As we noted then:

What followed was an embarrassing and shameful round of laughter.

This isn't a laughing matter.

When the guffaws finally died down, the next question returned to the topic but with less 'jolly' and 'funnin'.'

Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory: [. . .] But piggy backing on the last question about Ned Parker, I was just wondering if you could briefly comment as to your take on the current state of press freedom within Iraq?  And also, in terms of going and taking action in response to Parker's being chased out of the country, what steps are you planning -- or are there any steps planned to institute protections for international press covering your country?  During your address, you said, and I quote, "A free society needs a free press."  And so I was just wondering if that would extend to foreign press as well?

Haider al-Abadi: Well I think if you look at the Iraqi press first, I think they're free to criticize.  I think that number one   institution which is being criticized in Iraq is the government.  We don't even reply to them.  We don't do anything. I drop charges against all-all media.  But I ask the media to have their own self-discipline.  That's important.  The media shouldn't be free to accuse others falsely.  They should respect freedom of others.  Freedom of speech is there but -- We need facts. But I refuse so far -- and I hope I continue on that -- you never know what office does.  Office usually corrupts people, right?  But I hope it doesn't corrupt me.  We keep on respecting the freedom of the press, we keep on protecting it.  As to the foreign press, as far as I know, there's no limitation on them, no restrictions.  They're free even to go to our --within our military unit.  I think we went to that extent to allow free reporting from the fronts.  I remember when the US army was there in 2003 [that's when Haider returned to Iraq after decades of exile in England], they had embedded journalists and they were restricted to what they were reporting.  I very much respect that.  I hope I can have that power to do that but unfortunately I cannot do it now.  It's so free, the situation in Iraq.  Now I'm not sure if Mr. Parker, why he has left.  To be honest with you, I didn't have the story from him.  He wrote something to me.  I cannot see why he left.  Was he really threatened?  Or he felt he was threatened?  I know some -- some Facebook thing and social media has mentioned him in a bad way but the-the thing I've seen -- in actual fact, they were condemning the government in the first place, not him.  They were condemning me as the prime minister to do something about it -- rather than him.  I know some of these, they want to use these things to just criticize the government in the same way when they accuse the coalition of dropping help to Da'ash or accuse the coalition of killing Iraqis falsely.  In actual fact, what they're trying to do -- trying to criticize the government for its policies. They don't want the government to seek the help of the coalition -- international coalition or to work with the US.  But to -- I think me, as prime minister, the safety of the Iraqi people, the interests of the Iraqi people is number one [. . .]



And now another journalist is targeted in Iraq for reporting the truth.
Will the White House ignore this again?
At what point do they demand that the puppet regimes they back up recognize basic human rights?
Never.
Obviously, the answer is never.
But the White House can bomb Iraq daily -- can and does.
Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Attack, bomber, fighter, remotely piloted aircraft and rocket artillery conducted 20 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Baghdadi, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL weapons cache.

-- Near Huwayjah, a strike destroyed three ISIL vehicle bomb factories, an ISIL vehicle bomb, an ISIL weapons cache and an ISIL bunker and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Beiji, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position, three ISIL vehicles, an ISIL rocket rail and an ISIL front-end loader.

-- Near Fallujah, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL boat and two ISIL light machine guns.

-- Near Kisik, a strike destroyed an ISIL weapons cache and an ISIL mortar system.

-- Near Mosul, six strikes struck four separate ISIL tactical units and an ISIL vehicle bomb factory and destroyed four ISIL vehicles and an ISIL mortar system.

-- Near Qayyarah, four strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit; destroyed an ISIL boat and four ISIL assembly areas; suppressed two separate ISIL tactical units and three separate ISIL mortar positions; and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Ramadi, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed 10 ISIL boats, an ISIL staging area and an ISIL weapons cache.

-- Near Sinjar, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL mortar system.

Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.


The White House can also support War Crimes -- can and does.

Pamela Engel (YAHOO! FINANCE BUSINESS INSIDER) reports:

The US has been leaning heavily on militias in its fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and while these forces have proved very effective on the ground, some have been accused of committing atrocities akin to their enemies.

A new Human Rights Watch report details allegations of torture and abuse at the hands of Shia militias in Iraq, which have been instrumental in aiding Iraqi Security Forces in seizing territory back from ISIS [. . .]


"We continue to ask what happened to the money and where are the results?"

That's Senator Mazie Hirono offering a to the point observation.

She could have been speaking about Iraq but was instead speaking of another disaster -- VA management.

Thursday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing.  It was not good news.


This despite the fact that VA witnesses David Shulkin, LaVerne Council, Laura Eskenazi and Ron Burke tried to spin happy and even enlist the GAO's Valerie Melvin in their spin (Melvin refused to play along).

The Committee Chair is Johnny Isakson and the Ranking Member is Richard Blumenthal.


We'll note this exchange:



Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  I'd like to ask about the impact of lack of cooperation between Department of Defense and VA.  As I mentioned in my opening statement, we've been reassured repeatedly that both agencies are cooperating with each other -- which somehow defies credibility because, if that's so, there would have been interoperability or the issues would have been solved long ago. So let me ask you, Ms. Melvin, who bears the responsibility here?  And what's happening?

Valerie Melvin: Actually, I place the responsibility on both departments and primarily on the leadership of those departments in terms of being able to really, uh, establish upfront what it is that the departments want to achieve in the way of interoperability.  A long standing concern that we've had with interoperability is in terms with is interoperability supposed to be.  Uh, we have not  been able, really, over the years, to get from either agency what they mean in terms of full interoperability, what that end state is supposed to be in the way of the technology that exists and how that technology is used.  So, uh, as we -- as we've looked at this over the years, we've had a lot of discussions with both VA and with the DoD, we've had a lot of assurances along the way that that was being taken care of but what we consistently see is a lack of -- really a lack of the clear planning and the definition of what it is and then how they plan to implement measures and goals to get there.


Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  What can -- what would you recommend that we do on this Committee and the United States Senate generally to make sure that there is interoperability?

Valerie Melvin:  I think in the immediate -- right now, I would say that there are a lot of -- we've made a lot of recommendations to both VA and DoD.  We're still following up to see where they are in the process of addressing those. But we also know that they're in the midst of a number of changes to the approach that they are taking.  We've had a lot of concerns and questions relative to the fact that both departments are essentially going down separate tracks with their modernization efforts on this step for the Dept of Veteran Affairs and the alter system within DoD.  We know that the intent to have interoperability.  I think from the standpoint of-of your role in this process is continued oversight, continued pressing for answers and explicit discussions and details relative to what the plans are, how interoperability is to be defined at its fullest and how the agencies intend to progress and measure their progress towards getting there.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  Ms. Council, my information is -- well actually, it is the VA's monthly information, Security Report for April 2016, about 2556 veterans were effected by incidents of data breach.  That number is about six times the number reported by the VA a year before that in March 2015.  What accounts for the increase?


LaVerne Council: I'd have to look at the data you have.  What I do know is that about 24% of any of the mishandlings that we have mismailings -- which is letters, data that has gone out in the wrong envelope to a-a person who shouldn't have received those and 41% of those are mishandling or mismailing.  The other part of the situation is things that we look at like privacy violations, policy violations, unencrypted devices, those are where we really, really take a very diligent look and ensure that we are tidying up any kind of access to the veterans information.  So, to date, for FY16, that's what we're basically seeing which is actually about 20% lower than it was the year before.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  What is 20% lower?

LaVerne Council:  The-the number mismailings and misappropriation, mishandling of veterans --

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  Well, we're not really talking about mismailings, we're talking about data breaches --

LaVerne Council:  The actually --

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  And I understand that a mismailing can cause a data breach --

LaVerne Council: It's considered a data breach, yes, sir.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal (Con't): If something is sent to the wrong address.  How can that happen?  Don't you -- how can you send a letter to the wrong address.

LaVerne Council: That is actually a process within the business.  It's not an IT process.  But because I am the CIO I'm responsible for all data and any data that is misused or mismanaged or moved to the wrong place -- and also have a responsibility for privacy.  It falls with us but I am not --

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  I understand that.  Here is my question: You've got records --

LaVerne Council:  Mm-hmm.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  You do mailings, communications to veterans over a period of years.  It's not like somebody sits down for that letter and [acts out physically hand writing] scribbles out something.  It comes from a system that has been mailing consistently.  How does it all of the sudden get the address wrong?

LaVerne Council:  Generally the system is not doing the mailing, there is a manual interface with human error --

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  So you are saying that somebody is sitting there and actually typing out an address on an envelope?


LaVerne Council: I am saying that envelopes come together and the paper is put into an envelope by a human being.  And sent away.   Yes.  It is not mechanized --

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  This sounds like a very low tech --

LaVerne Council: Very low tech.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  Eminently addressable and correctable.


LaVerne Council:  Yes, sir.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  What's being done?

LaVerne Council: One of the things we're looking at with the VBS team -- and working with them, and I'll refer to Mr. [VBA Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Field Operations Ron] Burke on this change in their process because right now when it occurs it's not something that IT itself created it but we feel we're responsible to correct it.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  Well these kind of data breaches -- and if they're rising six-fold over a fiscal year -- have to be addressed right away.  And we're not talking here about some sophisticated hacking operation.


LaVerne Council:  Mmm-uhh.  No.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  But it's equally dangerous and damaging to privacy.



There has been no significant progress at the VA under Barack Obama's two terms as US President thus far.

Doubt it?

The above should have reminded you of one thing.

And, thankfully, there was one senator on the Committee not afraid to speak of the elephant in the room.


Senator Jon Tester:  So let me ask, and I hesitate to ask this question, you probably know the answer and I don't, is the DoD and the VA -- is their medical records streamlined?  And can they go back and forth without any problems?
Dr. David Shulkin:  I wouldn't go that far.

He then spoke of a joint-viewer.


The seamless transition.

That record that was going to be electronic and move right over to VA from DoD when a service member transitioned to veteran.

Remember it?

The issue was highlighted before Barack became president in January of 2009.

It was something he was going to take care of -- in his first term.

It still hasn't been taken care of.



April 11, 2013, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on the budget and took testimony from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, among others.  For coverage, see that day's snapshotAva 's "Shinseki tries to present 134% increase as a gift for women,"  Wally's "How the VA and DoD waste your tax dollars (Wally)"  and Kat's "DAV calls for Congress to reject 'chained CPI'."




US House Rep Phil Roe:  Another question I have is the integration between DoD and VA on the eletronic health records and the benefits. Should we have a joint meeting between VA and DoD -- and I realize that Senator -- that Defense Secretary Hagel has a lot on his plate with North Korea and the Middle East right now. 

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Yep.

US House Rep Phil Roe:  But this is one of my concerns when we changed was the fact that this would get a backburner again.  And are we going to be sitting here -- and you and I have spoken about this and that was a private conversation and it will remain that way but are we going to be sitting here a year from now or two years or three years because it's not a resources -- putting of money -- to be able to integrate these systems.  I mean, it's really become very frustrating to me to sit here year after year and, unless the voters have a different idea, I plan to be here in 2015 and see if we complete these things we say we're going to do.  Is it there.

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Again, Congressman, Secretary Hagel and I have discussed this on at least two and maybe three occassions.  He is, again, putting into place, his system to assure the way ahead for him to make this decision and be the partner that we need here.  Uhm, he is committed to a, uh, integrated electronic health record between the two departments.  We are -- VA has made its decision on what the core  and we're prepared to move forward.

US House Rep Phil Roe:  Somebody has to blink. Obviously, we can't integrate them, so it's going to have to be one system or the other.  And I think what I heard you say was you've decided the VA is going to stay with the system it has.  That means that he's going to have to blink.

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Uh, I would say the VA system is government owned, government operated.  We have put VISTA into the  open architecture trade space so that anyone who wants to use it can use it. It's used in other countries.  I believe it is, uh, a powerful system and, uh, I'm just awaiting, uh, a discussion with Secretary Hagel. 




The VA keeps coming before Congress and offering excuses for not doing their job.

Repeatedly.

The seamless electronic record was supposed to have been place years ago.

Despite all the money thrown at the problem, it is not in place.

A functioning president would be demanding that VA and DoD get this problem working out in a matter of weeks.

Instead, it has been allowed to drag on.

Repeatedly.







npr