Tuesday, July 16, 2013

'Fired' State Department staff still drawing paychecks

I was at the Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight which held a hearing today.  I went with C.I. who had told me there was a good chance Benghazi might come up.

It did.

September 11, 2012, the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya was attacked and four Americans were killed: Sean Smith, Chris Stevens, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.  There were also some people injured but those names -- or even how many injured -- have never been released to the public.

Ambassador Chris Stevens was noting how dangerous Benghazi was becoming and there had been requests for more security support.

With that in mind, I am noting this exchange from today's hearing.  This is Senator Ron Johnson who is Ranking Member on the Subcommittee and the State Department's Patrick Kennedy.

Ranking Member Ron Johnson:  Mr. Kennedy, talk about accountability.  Prior to September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, did you at any time review the March 28, 2012 or July 9, 2012 cables from Ambassador Kratz and Stevens requesting additional security?  Did you review those cables?

Patrick Kennedy: [not on mike]

Ranking Member Ron Johnson:  You read those?  Okay. Did you discuss those with anyone?  Particularly, did you discuss those with Secretary Clinton, Cheryl Mills, Deputy Secretary Nightes or Deputy Secretary Burns? Sir, those cables and that request for information stopped with you.

They . . . I guess.

They went no further.

Patrick Johnson: They, uh, reviewed them, Senator.  I always have extensive discussions with my colleagues in the diplomatic security office.  If matters rise to the point that we feel we cannot mitigate the risk based upon the intelligence that is available to us, we act.  So --

Ranking Member Ron Johnson:  But again, you took that responsibility yourself to deny those requests for additional security even though we know that the security situation was deteriorating

Patrick Kennedy: First of all, Senator, the request in several of those cables, if my recollection is correct -- again, I don't have them in front of me -- we're talking about security in Trippoli -- in Trippoli -- not in Benghazi.  We reviewed the situation very carefully and as I said if we cannot mitigate the risk-- just as we did in Damascus, Syria -- we will close the post and move on.  I will be glad to pull those cables as soon as I get back to my ofice and

Ranking Member Ron Johnson:  We have them, and we'll submit them for the record.  On April 19, 2012, the State Department responded to those requests.  This cables informed Trippoli that the department would continue to withdraw security despite the ambassador's request.  Did you at any time review or approve that cable? The April 19 cable that, by the way, bore Secretary Clinton's signature?

Patrick Kennedy:  Again, Senator, that cable, if my recollection is correct, regards Trippoli, our embassy in Trippoli not the temporary mission facility in Benghazi.

Ranking Member Ron Johnson:  In addition to the December 11th memo which basically said that the State Department did want to maintain a presence in Benghazi, did you at any time review or authorize the deployment or redeployment of security agents in Libya prior to the September 11th terrorist attack?

Patrick Kennedy:  Uhm . .  Did I . . . No, sir, I did not withdraw any diplomatic -- I never directed the withdrawal of any diplomatic security agents.

Ranking Member Ron Johnson: Did you at any time communicate or confirm to the Defense Department that the State Department would not be needing the SST after August 2012 and, if so, when?

Patrick Kennedy: I did, sir.  The SST was a Trippoli based detachment that had been sent into Trippoli when we went into Trippoli.  It consisted of eight shooters, in effect, plus explosive ordinance detection people, aviation experts, communications experts, medical experts.  Over the course of our standing up the embassy in Trippoli -- no relation at all to Benghazi -- and the process of standing up our embassy in Tripoli, the State Department replaced those individuals with State Department personnel.  We had sent our own medical personnel, we had sent in our own --

Ranking Member Ron Johnson:  And we'll talk about why we're using State Department personnel and not military personnel in those situations.  What is the current status of the employees named in the accountability review board's report?  Specifically, Eric Bsowell, Scott Bultrowicz, Charlene Lamb and Raymond Maxwell?

Patrick Kennedy:  They are on administrative leave.

Ranking Member Ron Johnson:  And being paid.

Patrick Kennedy: Yes, sir.

Ranking Member Ron Johnson: Do we know what their next assignments are going to be?

Patrick Kennedy:  No, sir, we do not.

These four were presented to the public as "terminated."  They were fired and we were told this was the accountability and proof of accountability.

The fact that they remain on the payroll, all this time later, makes it clear there has been no accountability.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Kirkuk contemplates a moat, Ed Snowden applies for temporary asylum in Russia, the State Dept continues to act as if they are the Justice Dept providing updates on Snowden (and their focus on Snowden may go a long way towards explaining why the State Dept appears to be accomplishing so little currently), a new lawsuit is filed against the government for the NSA spying, Congress holds a hearing on wartime contracting,  veterans speak out, and more.

Starting with NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden. Eyder Peralta (NPR) reports, "Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked a cache of classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs, officially filed for temporary asylum in Russia on Tuesday, a human rights lawyer and WikiLeaks say."  Why temporary?  He may be planning on leaving Russia shortly.  Or he may be wanting a quick answer.  The process for temporary asylum is much quicker than if he would apply for permanent asylum.  If granted, it would provide him with a one-year temporary asylum which would give him the same standing -- during that year -- as a citizen of Russia. At the end of that year, he could apply for an extension or he could apply for permanent asylum.  That information is from a State Dept friend and goes a bit beyond what is offered by attorney Anatoly Kucherena who spoke with RIA Novosti today:

The lawyer said Snowden had chosen to apply for temporary asylum in Russia because he was tired, having been in the airport transit zone for about a month now. He added that if the leaker’s application for asylum is successful, he will get refugee status for one year, which will allow him to work and move around freely, and that status can be prolonged indefinitely.
Snowden would also need legal status in Russia in order to secure eventual passage to Latin American countries that have offered him asylum.

 The UK Register notes, "Russian president Vladimir Putin has described NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as an unwanted 'Christman present' from America."  Putin wouldn't have a formal voice in temporary asylum.  In fact, he should have no role in the decision.  Again, that's per State Dept friend, however, that's how the process is supposed to work and government processes don't always work as they are supposed to.

At today's US State Dept press briefing by Patrick Ventrell, the topic of Ed Snowden came up.

QUESTION: Patrick, new topic. Snowden?


QUESTION: So the U.S. has exhausted all options with Snowden and Russia with the extradition? Right?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, we don’t have an extradition treaty with Russia. Broadly speaking, our policy remains the same, that we’d like him returned based on previous law enforcement cooperation we’ve had with Russia. We think there’s a basis to do that, and we’d like to see him come home to face justice. He should have the courage to come home to the United States and face the criminal charges against him.

QUESTION: But I mean, what’s left? How are you going to convince the Russians that he should come home?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we’ll continue to make, through law enforcement and diplomatic channels, our policy well known, and we have done so with the Russians, including up to the level of President Obama. So we’ll continue to make that case.

QUESTION: The Chinese got a kind of a free pass when they let him leave, go to Russia. We didn’t do anything and now what’s to say --

MR. VENTRELL: We expressed our very deep concern and I refer you to some of the remarks we made, indeed, during the S&ED about our deep concern about what the Chinese did. But --

QUESTION: But outside of a deep concern, what can the U.S. do to get Snowden back, besides asking?

MR. VENTRELL: I mean, again, we look toward Russia – look to Russia for law enforcement cooperation based on some of the excellent law enforcement cooperation we’ve had in the past.

QUESTION: Is there any indication that they’re going to be cooperative in the future?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I don’t have any public readout of their thinking. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

QUESTION: But are – is the U.S. satisfied with the kind of cooperation it is getting from the Russians on the issue of Snowden?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I --

QUESTION: Are you dissatisfied with them?

MR. VENTRELL: The sooner we can get him home to face justice, the better.

QUESTION: Do you know about a lawyer, a Russian lawyer today – we saw him last week – saying that he has applied – requested temporary asylum in Russia. Do you have any confirmation?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I don’t have any confirmation on that one way or another. But we’ve said that he should come home and have the courage to come face the charges against him.

QUESTION: What would the U.S. response be if Russia does accept Snowden’s asylum request?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I don’t want to get into a hypothetical, but I think the Russians know how strongly we feel on this case and how important it is for him to come home and face justice from our vantage point.

QUESTION: And what would they do if they didn’t accept it?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I’m not going to get into a hypothetical.

While the State Dept and the White House and much of the US Congress works overtime to trash Ed Snowden, RT reports former US Senator Gordon Humphrey (New Hampshire, Republican) had e-mailed Snowden to pass on, "you have done the right thing in exposing what I regard as massive violation of the United States Constitution."  When Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) contacted Humphrey to verify he had sent the earlier e-mail to Ed Snowden, he got a reply noting:

Yes. It was I who sent the email message to Edward Snowden, thanking him for exposing astonishing violations of the US Constitution and encouraging him to persevere in the search for asylum,” Humphrey wrote Greenwald. To my knowledge, Mr. Snowden has disclosed only the existence of a program and not details that would place any person in harm's way. I regard him as a courageous whistleblower,” he continued.
I object to the monumentally disproportionate campaign being waged by the US government against Edward Snowden, while no effort is being made to identify, remove from office and bring to justice those officials who have abused power, seriously and repeatedly violating the Constitution of the United States and the rights of millions of unsuspecting citizens.”
Americans concerned about the growing arrogance of our government and its increasingly menacing nature should be working to help Mr. Snowden find asylum. Former Members of Congress, especially, should step forward and speak out,” he concluded.

It's good to see people standing up for Ed.  He is under attack.  Mike observed last night, "I'm getting really tired of the people who can't focus on Ed Snowden.  They can't support him, they can't realize he was trying to help all of us. If you're not interested in Ed Snowden and you're on the left, it feels like, to me, you're not interested in saving yourself."  Melissa Harris Lacewell-Perry-for-now used her low rated MSNBC talk show to attack Ed (but she did get his name right, to her credit) with an embarrassing hectoring she passed off as an "open letter."

Fits of madness, pools of grief
Fevers of desire
How peculiar these remain
Salvaged from the fire

For some I crumpled
Some I burned
Some I tore to shreds
Lifetimes later, here they are
The ones I saved instead
Letters never sent to you
Letters never sent to you
Letters I never sent
Letters never sent to you

-- "Letters Never Sent," lyrics by Carly Simon and Jacob Brackman, music by Carly, first appears on Carly's Letters Never Sent album

Gary Leupp (CounterPunch) responds to Melissa's open letter with one of his own (this is his third open letter to Melissa) and his response includes:

Do you not understand that, in the first few days following his revelations, the spin-doctors incensed at his whistle-blowing, searching around in their fevered minds, opted to portray this very low-key guy as an ego-driven publicity seeker?
I mean, you seem to be asking, by default: why else would a person in a position to know about what you yourself call “information…about surveillance [that] raises serious issues about the behaviors of our leaders and how they justify and hide those practices from the public” reveal that information, other than to draw attention to himself?
Is there no such thing as old-fashioned morality? And selfless attention to what’s right? And in this case, doing the right thing at colossal personal cost?
You’re not making sense, Melissa. All you’re doing is swearing a loyalty oath to people who do not deserve your loyalty. You’re known for fighting against harmful stereotypes of black women that make it difficult for them to assert their political rights. (Bravo.) But you are using your own rights and privileged access to the camera to promote the character assassination of a young man whose sole crime has been to offend “your” president—the one who has now eight times invoked the World War One-era “espionage” act to punish whistle-blowers.
You’re the bully here. Snowden’s not picking on you; you’re picking on him, and apparently relishing it. Feels so good, doesn’t it, standing up for the system like that, being so safe?

Last night, Ann noted Norman Solomon's latest column and she offered:

We can only do so much when the MSNBC whores who pretend to be left make a point of attacking him.  The airwaves are filled with attacks on Ed. So we need to make part of our effort in exposing these hypocrites like Melissa Harris Perry. She -- and people like her -- are ensuring that no real movement is going to take place.  Now or ever. These people need to be exposed for the frauds they are.

So let's again note that (Rebecca noted this) that Vanity Fair calls Ed Snowden a "turncoat" and that In These Times published Louis Nayman's crap ("In Defense of PRISM") which argues, as all the politically closeted must, that to call out Blessed Barack is to do the work of the Republicans.  In other words, there are whores and then are used up, worn out whores like Louis Nayman.  In These Times readers need to seriously consider whether the rag is worth anything anymore. 
Melissa also felt the need to attack Glenn Greenwald:

We could be talking about whether accessing and monitoring citizen information and communications is constitutional, or whether we should continue to allow a secret court to authorize secret warrants using secret legal opinions. But we’re not. We’re talking about you! And flight paths between Moscow and Venezuela, and how much of a jerk Glenn Greenwald is.

We could also be talking about what kind of a mother Melissa Harris-Lacewell-Perry is.  That makes about as much sense, right?  Understand,  Ava and I were very kind at Third:

Melissa, especially needs stability.  Her family life is falling apart and if she doesn't like that being known she might ask her daughter not to talk so much at school about what goes on in the house.  We'll be really kind and leave it at that.

If Melissa wants to start a bitch-fest, we don't have to be kind and, warning to Lie Face Melissa, we will always out bitch her.  We've already sent her packing from Princeton does she really want us bending the ear of her MSNBC boss as well?

In fact, Lie Face Melissa probably shouldn't go after Glenn or anyone because she inhabits the ultimate glass house.  She began working on Barack's campaign in 2007 but went on Democracy Now! in January 2008 as an 'independent analyst' who 'forgot' to disclose that she was working on a campaign.  You're required to disclose.  In March 2008, she went on Charlie Rose to participate in a 'journalist' panel and all the other journalists weren't backing anyone -- only Melissa was working for a campaign -- a fact she 'forgot' to disclose -- and she also attacked Tavis Smiley and insisted to Charlie that people were attacking him -- forgetting to disclose that 'people' was Melissa with her bad blog post and her myriad of sock puppets. 

She may think Glenn's "a jerk" and she's entitled to her opinion but if she wants to express it, she should realize that her unethical behavior has already cost her and she's damn lucky that for three years only Ava and I were calling her out.  Not on opinion, calling her out for ethical violations (we also shared with Princeton her public remarks about the students she was teaching -- her insulting public remarks about the students she was teaching). 

I don't doubt that Glenn can have his "jerk" moments.  (I have mine and worse.  Most of us do.)  But that's really not an issue.  The issue is he broke the story that still stays in the news cycle all these weeks later.  Brendan Sasso (The Hill) reports, "A Unitarian church, a gun rights group and a host of other activist organizations on Tuesday sued to end the National Security Agency's massive phone record collection program."  The Electronic Freedom Foundation issued the following:

San Francisco - Nineteen organizations including Unitarian church groups, gun ownership advocates, and a broad coalition of membership and political advocacy organizations filed suit against the National Security Agency (NSA) today for violating their First Amendment right of association by illegally collecting their call records. The coalition is represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a group with years of experience fighting illegal government surveillance in the courts.
"The First Amendment protects the freedom to associate and express political views as a group, but the NSA's mass, untargeted collection of Americans' phone records violates that right by giving the government a dramatically detailed picture into our associational ties," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Who we call, how often we call them, and how long we speak shows the government what groups we belong to or associate with, which political issues concern us, and our religious affiliation. Exposing this information – especially in a massive, untargeted way over a long period of time – violates the Constitution and the basic First Amendment tests that have been in place for over 50 years."
At the heart of First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA is the bulk telephone records collection program that was confirmed by last month's publication of an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) further confirmed that this formerly secret document was legitimate, and part of a broader program to collect all major telecommunications customers' call histories. The order demands wholesale collection of every call made, the location of the phone, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other "identifying information" for every phone and call for all customers of Verizon for a period of three months. Government officials further confirmed that this was just one of series of orders issued on a rolling basis since at least 2006.
"People who hold controversial views – whether it's about gun ownership policies, drug legalization, or immigration – often must express views as a group in order to act and advocate effectively," said Cohn. "But fear of individual exposure when participating in political debates over high-stakes issues can dissuade people from taking part. That's why the Supreme Court ruled in 1958 that membership lists of groups have strong First Amendment protection. Telephone records, especially complete records collected over many years, are even more invasive than membership lists, since they show casual or repeated inquiries as well as full membership."
"The First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles has a proud history of working for justice and protecting people in jeopardy for expressing their political views," said Rev. Rick Hoyt. "In the 1950s, we resisted the McCarthy hysteria and supported blacklisted Hollywood writers and actors, and we fought California's 'loyalty oaths' all the way to the Supreme Court. And in the 1980s, we gave sanctuary to refugees from civil wars in Central America. The principles of our faith often require our church to take bold stands on controversial issues. We joined this lawsuit to stop the illegal surveillance of our members and the people we serve. Our church members and our neighbors who come to us for help should not fear that their participation in the church might have consequences for themselves or their families. This spying makes people afraid to belong to our church community."
In addition to the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, the full list of plaintiffs in this case includes the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Calguns Foundation, Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch, People for the American Way, and TechFreedom.
EFF also represents the plaintiffs in Jewel v. NSA, a class action case filed on behalf of individuals in 2008 aimed at ending the NSA's dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans. Last week, a federal court judge rejected the U.S. government's latest attempt to dismiss the case, allowing the allegations at the heart of the suit to move forward under the supervision of a public federal court.
For the full complaint in First Unitarian v. NSA:

Rebecca Jeschke
   Media Relations Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Dave Maass
   Media Relations Coordinator
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Had Congress -- Senator Dianne Feinstein, to name but one -- done their jobs, provided oversight, maybe the spying on Americans wouldn't have happened.  Certainly, if they'd respected the oaths to uphold the Constitution, the spying never would have happened.  Congress attempted to provide oversight today.

Chair Clair McCaskill:  It is hard to believe that I've been at this for over six years -- working on wartime contracting.  It has been, in many ways, a roller coaster ride.  There have been days that I thought that there was no hope and then there are other days when we were able to get so many of these provisions into law that I thought we were really rounding the corner.  And today we are here to find out if in fact we are rounding a corner of if we still have a lot of work to do.  We're going to today review the implementation of the wartime contracting reforms mandated in last year's National Defense Authorization Act and to address a couple of current contracting issues that have come up.

Senator Claire McCaskill is the Chair of  Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight which held a hearing today.  The hearing mainly served to underscore how frustrating attempting oversight can be.  Appearing before the Subcomittee were DoD's Richard Ginman, the State Dept's Patrick Kennedy and USAID's Aman Djahanbani.  Each managed to play dumb in their own way.

As per usual, Patrick Kennedy spent the hearing hedging on everything as though he were a student who had stumbled into the classroom to discover a pop test as opposed to an official who was summoned before a committee to testify on set topics.  Under questioning from Senator Kelly Ayotte (about funds ending up in the hands of terrorists), Kennedy was able to give one firm answer: He was against terrorism.  What a relief! (That was sarcasm.)

All the witnesses were disappointing, in fact.  Let's note this exchange.

Senator Kelly Ayotte:  Well do you vet  existing contractors and existing subcontractors? USAID?

Aman Djahanbani:  We do in Afghanistan.

Senator Kelly Ayotte:  And do you compare it to known intelligence with insurgents?

Aman Djahanbani: Uh,  there's a very vigorous process that we go through, Senator.

Senator Kelly Ayotte:  Well if it's so rigorous and you have the authorities that you think you have now then why did the Commission on Wartime Contracting that Afghan subcontractors on a USAID community project in Kunar Province were paying up to 20% of their total subcontractor value to insurgents for "protection" and that USAID Inspector General estimated over $5 million of program funding was at risk of falling into insurgents' hands?  In fact, one of the recommendations that comes from the Wartime Commission on Contracting is that there be greater authorities given -- not only has DoD requested but this also applies across the State Dept and USAID.  So I find it hard to believe you have the authorities you need right now to address this problem.

He went on to babble about wait and see and fears of impact blah, blah, blah.  But if he has the power he thinks he has (as Ayotte put it), why hasn't he addressed the issues raised already?

Even more importantly, USAID is spending vast sums of money in Iraq.

Senator Kelly Ayotte:  Well do you vet  existing contractors and existing subcontractors? USAID?

Aman Djahanbani:  We do in Afghanistan.

 And in Iraq?

As always a question that there will be no rush to answer (or ask).

Chair McCaskill voiced her concerns to the Pentagon's Richard Ginman that audits were not being read and that, as with the failed Afghanistan project, there was a feeling of "it's only 34 million dollars."  A very unconvincing reply was issued.  Ranking Member Ron Johnson observed, "What we have is a basic lack of accountability in government."

Senator McCaskill's office issued the following after the hearing:

July 16, 2013 WASHINGTON - Six months after passage of her historic wartime contracting reforms, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today chaired a hearing to evaluate the progress of federal agencies in implementing the legislation.
McCaskill also used the hearing to question federal officials on a recent report finding that the U.S. government constructed a new 64,000-square-foot military headquarters worth $34 million in Afghanistan, even after commanders in the area insisted that they did not need the building. The facility has never been occupied and may have to be destroyed by the U.S. government during the drawdown of American troops.
"How in the world did this thing get built when the people on the ground were saying ‘stop, stop, don't do this-we don't need it and it won't be used,'" asked McCaskill, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight.
"I don't have an explanation," said Richard Ginman, the Director for Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy. "It's very difficult to sit here and say, as it's been reported, that we now have a building that we do not know how it will be disposed of."
"I think you know this without me saying it, but I'm not going to stop on this until I know who it was that authorized this contract," McCaskill concluded.
Today's hearing included representatives from the U.S. Defense Department, State Department, and U.S. Agency for International Development.
Today's hearing also allowed McCaskill-a former Missouri State Auditor-to assess the progress of her wartime contracting provisions that were adopted by Congress and signed into law by the President as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The provisions build upon recommendations issued by the U.S. Commission on Wartime Contracting-a panel created through legislation by McCaskill and former Senator Jim Webb of Virginia-which identified at least $60 billion in waste of taxpayer dollars.
The federal officials testified that, while they are still "ironing out" challenges, their respective agencies are making headway implementing McCaskill's reforms-progress that McCaskill highlighted.
"It is much better than it was in 2007 in every single one of your agencies," McCaskill said. "Everyone is making progress."
Read more about McCaskill's fight for stronger accountability in Washington, HERE.

Ruth was at the hearing today and she'll be covering it at her site tonight with regards to Benghazi.

Tomorrow is the National Day of Iraq. Possibly to note this, CNN provides a few 'fast facts' about politician (and former prime minister) Ibrahim al-Jaafari.  al-Jaafari was the Iraqi Parliament's choice for prime minister in 2006 but the White House wouldn't allow it and instead insisted Nouri al-Maliki be named prime minister.   In 2010, the White House would again insist upon Nouri as prime minister -- despite the fact that Iraqiya (not Nouri's State of Law) came in first in the elections.

The Daily Star reports, "Iraq's cabinet sent a draft law to parliament on Tuesday that would bar top government officials and officers in the security forces from holding dual citizenship, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's spokesman said."   If Nouri really cared about this, he could start by refusing to nominate people for his Cabinet if they held dual citizenship. 

Through Monday, Iraq Body Count count 452 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  Today, National Iraqi News Agency reports the corpse of a 10-year-old child was discovered 2 weeks after the child was kidnapped, Nouri's forces killed 1 man in Tikrit,  a Mosul bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left two more injured, a mortar attack on military headquarters outside of Mosul left 1 civilian dead and seven more injured, a Basra cafe bombing left two people injured, 1 military officer was shot dead outside of Kirkuk, a Muqdadiya bombing claimed 3 lives and left eleven injured, 1 government employee was shot dead in Basra, and 2 police officers were shot dead in Mosul.  Meanwhile Alsumaria reports a fire has broken out in the Ministry of Industry and Minerals.

We don't generally include fires in the violence section but this is a government building.  It's said to be resulting from 'electrical issues' and that may well be true.  But government buildings should be up to code and if Nouri has failed at something even that basic . . .  Nouri has repeatedly ignored basic public service issues.  In contrast, All Iraq News reports that the Kurdistan Regional Government has allocated 9 billion dollars to address the water problems.

Nouri lives in denial and apparently cultivates it within State of Law.  All Iraq News quotes State of Law MP Sadiq al-Labban declaring that there will not be another crisis between Baghdad and Erbil.  Not only have the for-show meetings not ended the current crises between Baghdad and Erbil, but there are emerging problems.  NINA notes that Kurdistan Alliance MP Vian Dekeel is objecting to the push to pass "important and disputed laws in the House of Representatives in one basket deal." That puts them in direct opposition to State of Law.

On the violence, ABC News Radio quotes Baghdad University professor Nabil Mohammed stating, "People can’t say that things are getting better or are going to be better in the near future.  People are just looking for something to help them survive."

Hence the return of the proposed 'moats.'  This time the 'protective trench' would be around dispute Kirkuk.  Yerevan Saeed (Rudaw) reports:

Two months ago Kirkuk’s Provincial Council decided in a majority vote to dig a 58-kilometer security trench around the city, in a controversial decision to control entrance into the oil-rich and violence-wracked area which is at the center of a dispute between Iraq’s different ethnic and religious groups.
This plan would leave the city with four main entrances, which are to be monitored by surveillance cameras. The trench itself is to be reinforced with barbed wire and regular police patrols.
Hassan Turhan, a Turkmen official in Kirkuk’s provincial council, first proposed a security trench in 2012. But Kirkuk officials only put the plan into action this year, particularly after a series of deadly bombings that killed dozens and wounded hundreds.

Nouri began proposing the idea of a moat around Baghdad to protect the city.  That idea never took off.  Whether or not it will take off this time remains to be seen.    World Bulletin notes:

Iraqi Turkmens are the third-largest ethnic group in Iraq and live primarily in Kirkuk and Tuzhurmatu. Kirkuk Province is a historically diverse area; in addition to ethnic Turkmens, there are also many Arabs and Kurds. Friday's blast in the city took place in an area of previous ethnic, sectarian and political clashes.
Mehmet Tütüncü, the general director of the İstanbul-based Iraqi Turks Culture and Mutual Aid Society (ITKYD), told Today's Zaman that there is a bomb blast every day of the week in Iraq and pointed out that there are many more attacks occurring in predominately Turkmen areas as compared to other ethnic groups in Iraq.
“It is very hard to say who is behind the attack in Kirkuk, but I can easily say that there are many attacks directed at areas where Turkmens live,” Tütüncü said, underlining the fact that the Turkmen community is the only unarmed ethnic group in Iraq.

Today on Breakfast with Jacquie Mackay (Australia's ABC, link is audio), Iraq War veteran Vince Emanuele talked about how he went from serving in Iraq to becoming part of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War.  Excerpt.

Vince Emanuele:  Well it was two-fold.  Some was anecdotal some of these things I had testified to Congress about in 2008 so yeah this ranged from torturing prisoners such as we saw with Abu Ghraib, the indiscriminate shooting of women, children, men and so forth.  You know, we had Marines who took it upon themselves to take pictures with dead bodies, mutilated, dead bodies, all of these grotesque sort of things.  And, none the less, the combination of that and all the experiences on the ground speaking with the people of Iraq and them telling us that "we don't want you here, go home."  For me, it became blatantly clear that we shouldn't be occupying the country anymore.  And then I came home and tried to contextualize that experience, reading about American foreign policy -- particularly in the region, the Middle East but even more specifically in Iraq.  So through both of those experiences, being on the ground and experiencing those things and then also coming home and researching, reflecting and reading, I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to deploy for the third deployment and so I refused to deploy for a third time.  I told my command that I was putting down my weapon and that I was no longer fighting and they administratively discharged me.

And Vince Emanuele wasn't the only veteran speaking out today,  Iraq War veteran Brandon M. Toy announced his resignation from the military in a letter at Common Dreams which includes:

At the time of my enlistment, I believed in the cause. I was ignorant, naïve, and misled. The narrative, professed by the state, and echoed by the mainstream press, has proven false and criminal. We have become what I thought we were fighting against.
Recent revelations by fearless journalists of war crimes including counterinsurgency “dirty” wars, drone terrorism, the suspension of due process, torture, mass surveillance, and widespread regulatory capture have shed light on the true nature of the current US Government. I encourage you to read more about these topics at the links I have provided below.