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Iraq snapshot - August 1, 2012


August 1, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, July is the deadliest month for Iraq in two years, the State Dept issues a statement on Camp Ashraf, Out-FM addresses Bradley Manning, the VA blows off two members of Congress (and veterans), and more...Today was the first of the month, meaning deaths in Iraq got a little media attention. Iraq Body Count tabulates 436 people were killed from violence in Iraq for the month of July. W.G. Dunlop (AFP) notes that the 'official' count from Nouri's ministries is 325 people dead and 697 injured. Alsumaria adds the government's 325 toll would make July the deadliest month since August 2010. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "The killing continued August 1, when five Iraqi police officers were killed and three others were wounded in separate attacks against two Iraqi police checkpoints, police officials said."...


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Iraq snapshot - August 1, 2012

The Common Ills

Wednesday, August 1, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, July is the deadliest month for Iraq in two years, the State Dept issues a statement on Camp Ashraf, Out-FM addresses Bradley Manning, the VA blows off two members of Congress (and veterans), and more.
 
Chair Ann Marie Buerkle:  As our veterans so eloquently described in May, prosthetic care is unlike any other care that VA provides and, when we make the mistake of treating it as such, no less than the daily and ongoing functioning and quality of limb of our veterans is at stake.  I was very troubled to hear our veterans voice such strong opposition to the proposed procurement reforms, arguing forcefully that they would lead to substantial delays in care for veterans with amputations and clinical judgments regarding veterans needs being overridden by individuals with little to no experience in prosthetic care.  In mid-June -- following our hearing -- I sent a letter, along with Ranking Member Michaud, to the Secretary [of VA] requesting that the Department respond to a number of questions and provide certain materials regarding the strategy, plans and criteria used to consider, develop, design, implement and evaluate the proposed reforms and the pilot programs that preceded them.  Our goal was to understand the analysis VA employed to develop the reforms and what was behind the decision that this was the best idea for our veterans, especially those who have experienced loss of life as a result of service to our country.  Sadly, the Department's response -- which came a week after the deadline requested in our letter -- did not provide the information or the level of detail we ased for and did nothing to assure me that the plan would be effective or that our veterans concers were unfounded.
 
When the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health's Chair Buerkle and Ranking Member Mike Michaud are blown off -- and the Veteran Affairs Dept did blow them off -- it's not just insulting to Congress.  It's also an insult to veterans.  Buerkle and Michaud aren't looking for pen pals.  They're busy and have a great deal to do.  Their staff is very busy.  So when they're asking about something, when they're trying to provide the oversight and ensure that the veterans are being served, they shouldn't be blown off.  The May hearing [May 16th, covered in the May 16th and May 17th snapshots] was rather intense.  That questions would arise from that hearing is not surprising.  It is surprising that the VA would (a) respond late and (b) offer a non-response as a response.
 
 
It's insulting.  And it's very sad that at the conclusion of the hearing, Chair Buerkle had to ask for a copy of the plan that the hearing was about, a plan discussed throughout the hearing, to be submitted to the Subcommittee and the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  That should have been supplied some time ago.  As she noted, they needed to see that plan to make sure that "the veterans best interests are" being served.
 
 
Yesterday afternoon, the Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on prosthetics.  They heard from one panel which was the VA's Dr. Robert Petzel with Philip Martovsky, Dr. Lucille Beck and C. Ford Heard (all of the VA).  Two terms to know before we go further.  "VSO" refers to Veterans Service Organizations -- like the VFW, the American Legion, etc. "VISN" is the Veterans Integrated Service Network -- medical care facilities.
 
We're going to emphasize two exchanges early on.  I don't care for Dr. Petzel because I find him to be rude and he tries to run out the clock on his answers.  And he may be wonderful and just come off uncaring.  But as you'll see in the first excerpt, even when he's given the heads up that he's coming off poorly, he doesn't alter his language, he doesn't try to speak in a professional manner that shows care for the veterans.  This is not a new thing with him, this happens every time.
 
 
Committee Chair Ann Marie Buerkle: When I hear words like "equipment" and "pharmaceuticals" and then development possibly of a catalog, what you are talking about in those instances are so very different from the testimony we heard in the last hearing regarding the personal nature of a prosthetic.  Amoxicilliin is Amoxicilliin.  A thermometer is a thermometer.  But a prosthetic is unique to that person and to his needs or her needs.  That's my concern with this.  That you -- That this process will become just as any other procurement.  This is a very different process and I think it's what concerns the VSOs and what concerns the veterans.  This is uniquely personal service that we have to give to that veteran and what I'm hearing here when you talk about cataloging purchases concerns me greatly.
 
 
Dr. Robert Petzel: Uhm, Madam Chairwoman, we absolutely agree with you.  This -- this is the most personal of work VA does -- crafting and fitting a prosthetic limb to an individual that's lost an arm or a leg is a very personal process.  The reforms that we're talking about in terms of uh procurement will not interfere with that process.  The physician orders the prosthetic and that order can be very specific.  The prosthesist  works with the patient to determine where the best place is to purchase that.  As you know, we have 600 contracts in the private sector and most of our procurement not all but most of our procurement occurs in the private sector. In the process of transitioning during the pilot, we audited the orders that the physician had written, we audited the purchasing contract -- the way the contract --  what was actually purchased. We looked at the timeliness between when that order was actually placed and when that order was purchased.  And we looked at the satisfaction -- particularly at the processes in the physicians as to whether or not the needs of that veteran's as they described them were met.  And, In the pilots, we found that that was true -- that that worked very well. The only misjudgment that we made in the pilots was that we expected a higher level of productivity from the contracting officers than we actually found and we had to revise the number of contracting officers that we felt we needed because we felt that the contracts per day that they originally were going to perform was more than was doable  -- that 2.5 is a better example. But otherwise the pilots indicated that things went very well.
 
Chair Ann Marie Buerkle:  Can you talk to us about the pilots?  How many pilots were done? How long?  Over what period of time were the pilots conducted?  What areas, which VISINs were included and how you -- What were the various pilots?  How many were there?
 
Dr. Robert Petzel: Yes, Madam Chairman, we can.  And I'd like to turn to Mr. Matovsky to give you some of the details about the pilots.  Thank you.
 
Philip Matovsky:  Thank you, sir.  We conducted three pilots.  One of them in VISIN 6 -- I'm sorry, VISIN 6 which is  North Carolina, parts of Virginia, parts of West Virginia.  VISN 11 which is Indiana -- I'm going to test my geography here --  parts of Michigan as well.  VISN 20 which is the upper north west on into Alaska. We selected them because they were a uh-uh broad representation -- some of them highly rural, some of them very large and growing. We also ran them from the period of January through the end of March -- for three months.  I believe one of them scooted into April.  We tested two different processes.  One process utilized fully the ECMS our Electronic Contract Management System to place the order and another one in VISN 6.  a slightly different process.  That's the basis for it.  We tested the onboarding of our staff, the training of our staff, the communication, the collaboration with the prosthesis, the prosthetic purchasing agent and then the contracting management agent staff.  As Dr. Petzel just indicated, we did conduct some audits.  For example, we looked at the technical appropriateness of the contracting action but more importantly we looked at what percentage of the time did the contracting officer adhere to the physician's prescription?  100% of the time, the contracting officer adhered to the prescription.
 
Petzel's saying he agrees with the Chair but he makes no attempt to use language that demonstrates he really does agree.  He comes off in hearing after hearing as someone who does not care.  He doesn't want to be informed.  If he's given a chance to correct and impression, he doesn't want to be bothered. 
 
If I have breakfast with you on a regular basis and your name is Charlie but I keep calling you Carl, that says something.  Especially if it's not a joke between us but it's that I've never cared enough to learn your name.  I bring that up for a reason as we jump into the next excerpt.
 
 
 
Ranking Member Mike Michaud: [. . .] We are alarmed by the possible negative impact on patient care including substantial delays in clinical judgments regarding veterans needs being overridden by individuals with little or no working knowledge of prosthetic care.  And we sent a bipartisan letter to the secretary outlining our concerns and soliciting answers to several of our questions.  And this is the third hearing in an handful of months on this particular issue.  And I remain committed to working with the very dedicated staff at the Dept of Veterans Affairs and the advocacy community to ensure that our veterans are getting the best care that we can deliver in the timely way in this joint-effort and joint-challenges that this Subcommittee stands ready to help. And I read through your testimony and I have a few questions, if I might.  In your testiomny, you said, We believe that many of our reform efforts are acceptable to all concerned parties."  When you say "we believe," have you worked with the VSOs and the veterans to find out whether or not they do take in their -- their concerns?
 
 
Dr. Robert Petzel: Excuse me, Congressman Michaud, we have.  Since the May hearing, there have been multiple hearings with the -- the service office -- service officers representatives.  I have a breakfast monthly, uhm, with the six of the largest service organizations. We made a presentation and a discussion at that breakfast earlier in July and then just  a day ago on Monday at a conference call with the service organizations.  I'll just quickly [picks up a list in front of him and reads from it] with American Legion, VFW, PPA, the DAV, AmVet and the Blind Veterans of America to discuss [puts list down] what we want to do.  And I can say, that there was no, uh, objection.
 
Really?  Not even from the Blind Veterans of America.  Anybody else questioning that?  I've attended a ton of hearings, I write checks to  many organizations helping the wounded.  But I'm pulling a blank on Blind Veterans of America.  Maybe he meant Blinded Amercian Veterans?  Maybe he didn't. Maybe he meant the Blinded Veterans Association?  Maybe he didn't.   But what he said, reading from his list, was "the Blind Veterans of America."  Most of the time, those who get the name wrong mean Blinded Veterans Association.  Usually Dr. Thomas Zampieri is their spokesperson at Congressional hearings and he just nods when their name is stated wrongly and then, in his testimony, he'll note that they are the Blinded Veterans Association.  My guess is that Petzel meant the Blinded Veterans Association.  It's a shame people can't get the organization's name right in a hearing when they're speaking off the top of their heads.  But Petzel wasn't doing that.  He pulled out a list and read from the list.  And that means he most likely has breakfast with Zampieri and others and wrongly calls them the "Blind Veterans of America."
 
Again, he comes off as someone who just doesn't give a damn.  He meets with this group monthly but he doesn't know their name?  Even when reading off a prepared list, he can't get the name right?  You have to wonder how VA lets stuff that happen.  It's not as if they're image is so sparkling that they can afford to take a few hits from Petzel. 
 
US House Rep Phil Roe is also Dr. Phil Roe, a medical doctor.  He established a few levels in his questioning.  Before a program goes widespread, the VA always swears it's going to work perfect and this person and that person will benefit and there are never any problems with these program that aren't running yet.  Then they start up and, wow, there are problems.  I think Dr. Roe did a very good job establishing what the goals of this transformation are.  If the new standardization is successful, a year from now we should be able to go through the markers Dr. Roe established.
 
 
 
US House Rep Phil Roe:  Just a couple of very quick questions.  The idea, the reason for doing this was back to what the IG -- is that right, Dr. Petzel, trying to standardize the procedures not only in this but in other areas of contracting that the VA does?  Am I right on that?
.
Dr. Robert Petzel:  We have to standardize procurement.  Not procedures per se.  But to professionalize and standardize the way we, uh, procure material.  We have been, as I said, criticized in the past by important groups of people including some Congressional Committees on our procurement stratigies. And this system-wide effort was to try and professionalize that, yes.
 
 
US House Rep Phil Roe: Okay, so I guess in what the Chairwoman said is correct and there's obviously a prosthesist sitting right to your left.  That's a very individualized therapy and I know as a physician not everything -- I mean, this has to be tailored per person.  I'm sure there's some standardization to it but  it has to be.  And this is not in any way going to slow the process down. Or make that process not as effective or available to our veterans.  Am I correct on that?
 
Dr. Robert Petzel:  Yes, sir, you are correct.
 
US House Rep Phil Roe:  And so they'll be able to come -- a patient will be able to come into the clinic and that patient won't know the difference.  The time won't make any difference.  There's not going to be a difference in timeliness.  The fact that it costs more than $3000, that's not going to affect the time that that veteran that comes in that needs a limb or needs a prosthetic device is going to get that device?
 
Dr. Robert Petzel: Yes, sir, that's correct.
 
 
US House Rep Phil Roe:  Okay, so I think that's extremely important.  And, secondly, once you've catalogued this, is there a way to go outside?  In other words, here's what's in our catalogue.  If the doctor and the prosthetist look at this patient and say, "This is what they need.  It's not right in this little book right here."  Can they get that?  Because this technology is changing faster than cardiac stents are changing.  I mean, it's amazing now the technology in prosthesis.  So as that new technology occurs, it's like these things right here [holds up a cell phone]. As soon as you buy it, it's out of date. And so I see the same thing in prosthesis.  People are doing things -- amazing things -- with this.  So is it once it goes in the Sears & Roebuck catalogue that Sears has, that VA has, can that person get something from the new catalogue? Or something brand new that happened? 
 
Dr. Robert Petzel:  Dr. Roe, absolutely.  One of the nice things about the VA and the procurement regulations  is 8123 which basically says that, uh, with the proper justification, we do not have to do competative buying.  That we can buy specifically what  the doctor has ordered.  So while we may have a catalogue of things that are appropriate in certain kinds of circumstances, the important part in all of this is a doctor writes an order and we will procure for that patient what the doctor has ordered.
 
US House Rep Phil Roe:  So this is not going to negate new technology as it occurs?
 
Dr. Robert Petzel:  Absolutely not.
 
US House Rep Phil Roe:  So our veterans can get the cutting edge?  They're not going to get stuck with it's not in the book, you can't have it?
 
Dr. Robert Petzel:  Absolutely not, Congressman.  Just to give an example, there are two relatively new knees that were jointly developed by the VA and the Dept of Defense.  The 2X or X2  and the Genium.  Is that how you pronounce that? Those are absolutely cutting edge techonology for artifical knee.  They're available to any veteran that needs and wants that kind of a prosthesis.
 
US House Rep Phil Roe:  So it's not going to be -- I mean, it's one thing to have all the colonoscopes looking exactly alike.  That was one of the issues when I first got here.  We had that issue that came up.
 
Dr. Robert Petzel:  Yes.
 
US House Rep Phil Roe:  This is a little different than that.  And I guess the other question that I had -- and then I'll have no more -- is that you said that you don't believe that the veterans will be negatively impacted.  Well will they be postively impacted by this?  Will this improve?  I know the VA feels like it will be postively impacted  but will the veteran be positively impacted by this?
 
Dr. Robert Petzel:  Well first of all I think --
 
US House Rep Phil Roe:   Or will they even know the difference? 
 
Dr. Robert Petzel: I think first they -- First of all, Congressman, they should not know a difference.  This should be absolutely transparent to them.  But there are things -- a couple of things that I think will happen that will -- even if they don't notice it -- improve prospects.  I expect that once we get this up and running and under our belt that we're going to cut down on the procurement time on average.  That's one.  Number two is that any money that might be saved by getting a fair price -- and that's not our intention but if that should happen -- is money that can be put back into the system to provide more care to more veterans.
 
US House Rep Phil Roe:  One quick question, when will we know that?  When will you evaluate the system and it's up and running?  A year from now or two years from now?
 
Dr. Robert Petzel: Congressman, I think there's going to be two different kinds of evaluation.  One is that, in an ongoing fashion, we have to monitor the things that we described before: timeliness; was a physician's order actually followed 100% of the time; was there a level of satisfaction that was appropriate on the part of the patient, the provider, the doctor and the contracting officer; and certain other technical things about the contract?  That's going to be an ongoing process.  When we have been into this for say a year or six months, we will have to look -- and we will look -- at the overall process and see what it has accomplished?  And see if indeed we're doing overall a better job of purchasing than we were doing before?  So there will be two levels of evaluation.
 
Let's stay with the Genium X2 prosthetic knee for a moment.  KSTP has a video report here of Iraq War veteran Luke Schmitz after he got the prosthetic knee.  He stated, "As I'm walking, I don't have to think about it and it's doing everything for me." It has a microprocessor in it.   Orange Coast Prosthetics has photos and videos of the Genium/X2 here and explains, "The Genium hydraulic knee joint system functions through the use of simulated physiologic rule sets run by a miscroprocessor, with auto-adaptive swing and stand phase control predicted by multi-modal proprioceptive input.  The system also provides flexed-knee loading to traverse obstacles and ascend stairs, and dynamic stability control for intuititve standing and transitional gait.  After purchasing the Genium Microprocessor Knee, the practitioner manufactures a custom-fabricated prosthesis incorporating the component."  If you click here, you can view a video report by WHIO on Air Force member Chris Trobaugh who got the Genium and explains, "I can run on it.  And I can hike on it.  Play basketball, golf.  Those are all my goals.  All the things I want to do."
 
 
Chair Ann Marie Buerkle noted that  she was concerned about the length of the pilot program.  "three months is a very short period of time."  She was concerned that Dr. Lucille Beck had a number of duties already and could not provide sole supervision of this new program.  She made Dr. Petzel go on the record with the fact that a doctor's order would be followed, that a contracting officer (whom she summed up as someone with a Bachelors of Science and a few hours in business courses) would not be allowed to override a doctor's order.  Petzel insisted that was not the case and that the doctor's order would always be followed.  That's something to remember when the first complaints on the program start coming in.  Buerkle was also concerned that the VSOs and veterans were not being properly and/or fully included in the process.  We'll note some of her concluding remarks.
 
 
Chair Ann Marie Buerkle:  I think it's very important that we get as many Veterans Services Organizations involved in this discussion, as many perspectives.  You know, what you've mentioned, with all due respect, is great but I think we've got additional Veterans Service Organizations that need to be included in this discussion. And to make sure -- there's nothing more important than the veterans -- and to make sure that when they come home without a limb because they've served this nation, that they have what they need, that they're not dealing with some contracting officer who's got some discretion to give him less of a device than he deserves. So that's all of our concern here that we get our veterans exactly what they need. We heard the last time from veterans.  We're talking about the ability of someone to walk his daughter down the aisle. We're talking about intensely personal prosthetics and intensely personal segment of the care that our veterans need. So there's nothing more important.  And while we are all concerned with regards to cost, that we make sure that our veterans who have served this nation get exactly what they need so that they can return to their maximum potential after they've sacrificed so much for this nation.
 
 
 
        
Today was the first of the month, meaning deaths in Iraq got a little media attention.   Iraq Body Count tabulates 436 people were killed from violence in Iraq for the month of July. W.G. Dunlop (AFP) notes that the 'official' count from Nouri's ministries is 325 people dead and 697 injured.   Alsumaria adds the government's 325 toll would make July the deadliest month since August 2010.   Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "The killing continued August 1, when five Iraqi police officers were killed and three others were wounded in separate attacks against two Iraqi police checkpoints, police officials said."
 
 In other news Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports the provincial law election (the UN wants elections held March 2013) is stalled due to a lack of agreement between State of Law and Iraqiya.  Disagreements last week had been over the issues of quotas and representation.  This seems to be different and the draft law isn't even being read aloud due to the disagreement.  Citing non-specified differences between the political blocs, Alsumaria reports that a vote on a judicial bill has been postponed to tomorrow.   Mohammad Akef Jamal (Gulf News) explores the political crisis noting:


After the central stage struggle and differences between Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and Ayad Alawi, Chairman of the Al Iraqiya List since the elections of 2010, the importance of this struggle dropped to second place in a more profound clash that is threatening the future and unity of the country.
Today, the axis of conflict between Al Maliki and Masoud Barzani, the President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, has become more important. However, the clashes and differences are not between the Kurdish Alliance and the Iraqi National Alliance, as all the counterparts of both these alliances are fragmented and in a certain degree of disagreement amongst themselves over this issue or that.
The conflict interfaces are numerous, such as Al Maliki's dictatorship inclinations, the oil and gas law, the Constitution's item 140, the disputed lands, arming the Iraqi forces, arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, the region's budget, and the region's right to export oil to Turkey, to mention only a few as the list extends further.
The hawks of this conflict are many especially in the media; however the two prominent and central figures are Al Maliki and Barzani themselves. Moreover, both men are no longer keen on hiding their sentiments towards one another in a diplomatic manner.

Yesterday Total entered into a deal with the KRG -- as had Chevron and ExxonMobil previously.  The Baghdad-based government was furious.  Trade Arabia notes, "Total, which is following US rivals into the area, was warned by Baghdad on Tuesday it faced "severe" consequences for buying the stakes in the Harir and Safen blocks from US peer Marathon Oil without the government's consent." Al Rafidayn notes the Ministry of Oil's Director of Contracts and Licenses Abdul-Mehdi al-Amidi is stating that they are looking into repealing the deal.
 But Peter Mulvany (Middle East Confidential) states that "Total maintains that they kept the Baghdad authorities aware of their intentions. It also claims that contractual conditions are more favorable in the autonomous region than anywhere in the country as the company struggles to meets its annual objectives. The Harir field was drilled on Monday and drilling will begin next year on the Safen one."  Proactive Investors UK attempts to navigate the legal issues:
 

Under the Iraq constitution of 2005, the federal government has exclusive responsibility in a number of areas, including foreign policy and defence.  In other areas responsibility falls to the regions.

Also, the constitution suggests that the federal government does not have exclusive power over matters to do with oil and gas. 

It recognises that oil and gas resources belong to all the people of Iraq but that management of the resource is shared with the regions. 

It also requires federal government and the regions to agree strategic policies to develop oil and gas to the highest benefit of the Iraqi people.  If there is a conflict between regional and federal laws under the constitution then the regional law prevails.

The 2005 constitution identifies the concept of "present fields", meaning those already in production at the time the constitution was agreed. 

Oil and gas already extracted from these fields should be jointly managed by the federal government and regional governments, with fair distribution of revenues to be regulated by law.

However, for non-producing and future fields, the federal government has no right to play a part in management and there is no requirement for a federally regulated distribution of revenues. 

 

And you know Nouri's really pissed because Al Mada reports State of Law's whispering that they're going to call Hoshyar Zebari before Parliament for questioning.  Foreign Minister Zebari is one of the highest ranking Kurds in the government. He has been Foreign Minister since 2006 and has an international reputation.  That reputation might be why he's being targeted.  The Kurds have become very vocal in asking/suggesting that the US government attempt to broker a resolution to the ongoing political crisis. 
 
The US State Dept issued a statement on Camp Ashraf residents today:
 
Press Statement
Patrick Ventrell
Acting Deputy Spokesperson, Office of Press Relations
Washington, DC
August 1, 2012
 
The United States is concerned by the Government of Iraq's reference on July 31 to the possible closure of Camp Ashraf by involuntary relocation of its residents. We urge the Government of Iraq to remain patient and flexible in seeking a voluntary arrangement for continued relocations, as only a peaceful resolution to the situation at Camp Ashraf is acceptable. This requires that continued dialogue be pursued in place of forcible measures and that all sides act in accordance with the December 25, 2011 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Iraqi Government and the United Nations.
We also call on the Ashraf leadership to immediately resume cooperation with the relocation of residents to Camp Hurriya, especially following the Iraqi Government's delivery of a cargo convoy of goods as demanded by the residents on July 15. Allegations of dire humanitarian conditions at Hurriya are inconsistent with observations made by U.S. Government officials who have visited Hurriya, as well as reporting from UN monitors. Based on these reports, and other information, it is clear that the quality of life at Hurriya exceeds accepted humanitarian standards. The continued intransigence of the residents' leadership in placing preconditions and making demands prior to any agreement to relocate further Ashraf residents is unacceptable and puts in danger protections established in the MOU.
The process established by the MOU has resulted in the safe relocation of nearly 2,000 residents from Camp Ashraf, almost two-thirds of its estimated population. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq's (UNAMI) "Roadmap" provides a peaceful way forward for Ashraf's closure, and the United States urges adherence to this process to finally and peacefully close Camp Ashraf. Ashraf's closure will allow UNAMI, the United States, and our partners to focus attention and efforts on a durable solution for the residents' relocation outside of Iraq.
 
 
It's interesting that now they're concerned.  Before they weren't.  And their indifference and outright hostility sent a message to Nouri al-Maliki and he acted accordingly.  That's what happened and that's what the State Dept's trying to walk back now.
 
Moving over to the US where Bradley Manning's court-martial is scheduled to begin September 21st.  Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December.  At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial.  Bradley has yet to enter a plea and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it.
 
On this week's Out-FM (Tuesday nights, seven p.m. EST, WBAI), John Riley and Bob Lederer covered Bradley by speaking with two reporters covering the case.  Excerpt.
 
 
Bob Lederer:  We're here at Fort Meade, Maryland and today we've just finished the sixth hearing in the court-marital of accused whistle blower Bradley Manning, the openly gay Army intelligence analyst who is facing 22 charges from his alleged disclosure of nearly 3/4 of a million documents and videos to WikiLeaks.  Some of these materials show evidence of War Crimes and other inappropriate conduct by the US government and its allies. The pre-trial hearings have been presided over by military Judge Denise Lind.  The actual court-martial trial -- over which she will also preside -- is not expected to begin until sometime next year.  Joining us to explain the significance of developments at this four day hearing are two guests.  Kevin Gosztola [. . .] blogs for Firedoglake.com.  Adm Klasfeld is a reporter for the Courthouse News Service.  And he's based in New York City. Both of them have covered many of the hearings to date in the Bradley Manning case.  And thank you for joining us on Out-FM and, Kevin, since you literally wrote the book on the case, let me start with you.  Why don't you summarize the 22 charges that Private Manning is facing and what's the maximum sentence he could be looking at?
 
 
Kevin Gostola:  So the most significant charge is the aiding the enemy charge that says he gave intelligence to the enemy through WikiLeaks. So he aided them indirectly.  And that could mean he would be put in prison for life without parole.  That's the max, I would think, he could get.  And then the other charges have to do with violating -- or prejudicing the good order and discipline and dignity of the military.  And those charges are -- there's many charges.  There's more then ten charges that are like that.  And then -- And each of those have about ten years I think that carry with those.  And then there are charges to have to do with whether he exceeded authorized access on his computer.  And I think that those are all ten years as well.  
 
Bob Lederer:  And Adam Klasfeld, how do you see kind of the overall importance of the charges against Bradley Manning?
 
Adam Klasfeld:  Well I think both parties have said -- since the court- martial -- started this is a unique case.  This will help determine the way the military deals with when someone discloses information on the internet.  How will the country handle it?  The repercussions will be felt all over the world?  How freely will people be able to access information?  What restrictions will there be?  It has enormous consequences.  Well, to me, one thing that really stuck out to me, every time we see this, a hearing on this case, someone says -- whether it's the judge or whether it's Bradley Manning's lawyers -- they constantly get back to the fact that it's a completely unique case.  No one has ever dealt with this case before.  Bradley Manning is charged under the Espionage Act yet the government doesn't accuse him of spying.  There wasn't anything on any particular nation.  And if you read Bradley Manning's chat logs which, you know, the authenticity has been disputed by the defense but if you read his words, he says that he did this for public knowledge, not for a country, not for any particular nation.  So it's its own unique thing.  Obviously WikiLeaks has had an enormous influence on global policy and this case will help determine the future of the press, the future of how we access information, what will happen?  It has huge ramifications to the way we think about the nature of information, the way we think about national security, the way we think about all of these issues and what will happen to those who do step forward and-and share information that someone determines to be classified or sensitive or anything like that.
 
Bob Lederer:  This week's hearing gave the prosecution and the defense a chance to argue and the judge to rule on several rules about the conduct of Manning's court-martial as well as what documents the prosecution should be required to turn over to the defense so they can prepare their case.  Kevin Gosztola, what do you think was the most important ruling made by Judge Lind this week and why?
 
Kevin Gosztola: Well the most important ruling was the ruling that found in favor of the government that the defense could be prevented from raising evidence that showed actual damage or harm was caused by WikiLeaks or that it was caused by Manning releasing this information allegedly to WikiLeaks. And this is very significant for the fact that it appears David Coombs, Manning's defense lawyer, built a lot of his case around being able to discuss this evidence.  But now the judge has -- she's been won over by this idea presented by the prosecutors that it is not part of the charges and that the defense should not be able to raise this evidence when they discuss it in court.  And, going forward, what this means is that any discussion about damage from both the government and the defense is going to be entirely hypothetical.  So this ruling is good for the government.  It's good for the government agencies that don't want any attention on what actually happened as a result of the leaks because members of the public who have seen headlines probably know numerous government officials said that there were -- there was damage, national security was placed at risk.  And the whole story, people might be wondering, what exactly did happen?  Well in this trial we're not likely to get too much information about what did happen anymore.  Up to this point, we've gotten some details actually.  In fact, State Dept witnesses testified in June about actual damage to an extent, it came up in testimony.  And now it's all hypothetical.  So when the government talks, they'll be saying, 'Could cause damage.'  And they'll just be talking about the evidence as if it could cause damage.  And the same with the defense, I guess.
 


:: Article nr. 90038 sent on 02-aug-2012 23:44 ECT

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Link: thecommonills.blogspot.it/2012/08/iraq-snapshot.html



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