Saturday, June 25, 2016
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.
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.
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 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
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
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
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.
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.
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 snapshot
's "Shinseki tries to present 134% increase as a gift for women
'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
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.
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.
Posted at 06:17 pm by thecommonills