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Army Apologizes for Handling of Chemical Weapon Exposure Cases

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And yet no officer will suffer any sort of accountability, I am sure. C.J. Chivers reports in the NY Times:

The under secretary of the Army on Wednesday apologized for the military’s treatment of American service members exposed to chemical weapons in Iraq, and announced new steps to provide medical support to those with lingering health effects and to recognize veterans who had been denied awards.

Under Secretary Brad R. Carson acknowledged that the military had not followed its own policies for caring for troops exposed to old and abandoned chemical munitions that had been scattered around Iraq, and vowed improvement. He also said that the Army had reversed a previous decision and approved a Purple Heart medal for a soldier burned by sulfur mustard agent, and that he expected more medals would be issued to other veterans after further review.

To me the scandal is that we had protocols in place and the medical community knew what they were, and yet we failed in some cases to implement this across the theater,” he said. “That was a mistake, and I apologize for that. I apologize for past actions and am going to fix it going forward.”

Mr. Carson was appointed last fall by Chuck Hagel, then the defense secretary, to lead a Pentagon working group to identify service members who had been exposed to chemical weapons and offer them medical screening and other support. The effort was in response to an investigation in The New York Times that revealed that the American military had secretly recovered thousands of old and often discarded chemical munitions in Iraq.

The report found that insurgents had used some of the weapons in roadside bombs, that most of the episodes had never been publicly acknowledged and that many troops who had been wounded by the blister or nerve agents had received substandard medical care and denied military awards.

Mr. Carson said the working group’s new instructions, which were distributed to the military services in recent days, would ensure that hundreds of veterans identified by the services, or who have called a hotline set up at Mr. Hagel’s order, would be screened and properly treated. The steps, Mr. Carson said, would also cover troops exposed to chlorine, which insurgents repeatedly used as a makeshift chemical weapon.

“My ambition, and what I am committed to, is to make sure that any person who was exposed to a weaponized chemical or a chemical weapon is addressed through this process,” he said. . . .

Continue reading.

Bottom line: The Army did everything in its power to cover up the problem and to let the victims simply suffer on their own, offering no help, but when the story began to get out, the Army (VERY belatedly) responded and said it would help. This is what the military means by “honor”: cover up problems and let the troops suffer, but if you’re about to get caught apologize. No one will be punished.

Related coverage, with links in the sidebar of the main article.

The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons   OCT. 14, 2014

More Than 600 Reported Chemical Exposure in Iraq, Pentagon Acknowledges  NOV. 6, 2014

A Veteran’s Chemical Burns Expanded Military Doctors’ Knowledge, but His Care Faltered  DEC. 30, 2014

Thousands of Iraq Chemical Weapons Destroyed in Open Air, Watchdog Says   NOV. 22, 2014

Reporters’ Notebook: Examining a Rare Nerve-Agent Shell That Wounded American Troops in Iraq   DEC. 4, 2014

C.I.A. Is Said to Have Bought and Destroyed Iraqi Chemical Weapons FEB. 15, 2015

Written by LeisureGuy

25 March 2015 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Army, Medical, Military

Jailed US Army officer brings back memories of SS officers

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It’s notable that the officer has no support from the men in his own platoon. Whatever the cause, his actions and words are strongly reminiscent of what we know of SS officers in WWII. Dave Philipps writes in the NY Times:

Nearly two dozen soldiers from an Army platoon were on patrol in a dangerous valley in southern Afghanistan when a motorcycle sped toward them, ignoring commands to stop.

As he tells it, First Lt. Clint Lorance, the platoon leader, ordered his men to fire just seconds before the motorcycle bore down on them that July day in 2012. But the Afghans were unarmed, and two died. The next year, Lieutenant Lorance was found guilty at a court-martial of second-degree murder, one of the few times an American soldier has been convicted of a crime for actions in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. He is serving a 19-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

But the case is far from over. Mr. Lorance, who was dismissed from the Army, has become a cause célèbre for conservative commentators, including Sean Hannity of Fox News, who say the Obama administration punished a soldier for trying to defend his troops. Three Republican representatives — Duncan Hunter of California, Matt Salmon of Arizona and Ryan Zinke of Montana — have asked the secretary of the Army to review the case. And more than 124,000 people have signed a petition to the White House demanding a pardon.

“The warfighter doesn’t always have the benefit of time, given lives are always at risk in a war zone,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter, sent in January, saying the case “deserves a high level of attention and scrutiny.”

That chorus of supporters, however, is notable for what it lacks: members of the platoon itself.

Though many members of the platoon have never publicly expressed their views of the case, nine came forward to testify against Mr. Lorance at his trial, and in interviews several of those soldiers have contradicted Mr. Lorance’s account of a split-second decision to protect his troops. The picture those soldiers paint is of a young lieutenant who, during just three days in command, ordered soldiers to fire repeatedly on unarmed Afghans, tried to falsify reports in order to cover up his actions and so alienated and outraged his troops that they refused to follow orders and turned him in.

“War is hard, there is collateral damage. I get that — I’ve got my own stories,” Staff Sgt. Daniel Williams said in an interview. But Sergeant Williams, who was on his third tour in Afghanistan and was a squad leader in the platoon, added, “That’s not what this was; this was straight murder.”

Mr. Lorance’s lawyers have cast doubt on the platoon members’ accounts, noting that the nine soldiers who testified against him were granted immunity. The lawyers also point to newly uncovered evidence suggesting that the men on the motorcycle may have had ties to enemy bomb makers — a detail that was not revealed to the defense before the trial.

“If the entire evidence had been turned over, this case would be decided differently,” said John Maher, Mr. Lorance’s lawyer. He is appealing the conviction and asking the Army to grant clemency.

Mr. Lorance is barred by the Army from speaking to reporters. But he denied any wrongdoing in an August 2014 letter to the general presiding over his court-martial, saying, “My sole purpose during my tenure as a platoon leader was to bring my men home safely.”

The events of that day continue to haunt many members of the platoon. Some, stalked by anger and regret, say they have trouble sleeping. One cried while talking about how the episode tore apart the platoon. One recently checked into a clinic for post-traumatic stress disorder, saying the calls to free Mr. Lorance had revived disturbing memories.

In 2012, the platoon — part of the Fourth Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment — was based in an outpost overlooking a mud-brick village amid fields of grapes in Kandahar Province. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2015 at 7:44 pm

Posted in Army, Law, Military

Finally! Good riddance to bad rubbish…

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Megan McCloskey reports for ProPublica:

The longtime scientific director of the problem-ridden Pentagon agency charged with identifying the remains of service members missing from past wars is out of a job.

At a recent Korean War family update meeting in Washington, Tom Holland announced he would soon be leaving as head of the laboratory at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, or J-PAC.

“You’ve heard about the reorganization, and I found out last week that I’m not a part of the reorganization,” Holland told the group in August.

Holland’s impending departure is the first leadership change to come to light as part of the major overhaul of the mission announced by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel last spring in response to increasing criticism. J-PAC and a second agency involved in the effort will be consolidated starting Jan. 1 in an effort to streamline the inefficient process. An investigation by ProPublica and NPR in March found the agency’s efforts to be rife with outdated science, duplicative bureaucracy and poor leadership.

Holland, who led the lab for nearly 20 years, was the focus of ProPublica’s story, which found he served as an arbiter of identifications and established procedures that set an exceedingly slow pace at the lab. With 9,400 service members still buried as unknowns around the world, his restrictive policies were seen as overly cautious.  Under his leadership, only one out of every 10 cases considered was ever approved for disinterment to attempt identification.

Pentagon spokeswoman Cmdr. Amy Derrick-Frost wouldn’t comment on personnel moves. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2014 at 3:22 pm

Oh, wow: the Medal of Honor scandal just took a turn decidedly for the worse

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You can search this blog on “medal of honor” and find previous stories. Basically, what seems to have happened was that a command decision was made that this Medal of Honor was for the Marines to get, and so the Army nominee’s paperwork was destroyed and they (quite successfully) pushed him aside, until news started to leak. I would imagine that there remains a cadre of officers to whom such conduct seem dishonorable and unbecoming, and I imagine some of those contacted McClatchy. As the publicity mounted, the stalled paperwork was found and, much later, Cpt. Swenson gets the MoH: an honor but the toll opretty much wrecked his life. At any rate, now we get more information from McClathcy in a report by Jonathan Landay (who surely must be going to write a book on this), including video:

In his memoir of the 2009 battle in Afghanistan that brought him the Medal of Honor, Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer describes how he reflexively switched from his machine gun to his rifle and back to his machine gun as he mowed down a swarm of charging Taliban from the vehicle’s turret.

“My mind was completely blank. I fired so many thousands of rounds I didn’t think what I was doing,” Meyer, then a corporal, wrote in his 2012 book, “Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War.”

But videos shot by Army medevac helicopter crewmen show no Taliban in that vicinity or anywhere else on the floor of the Ganjgal Valley at the time and location of the “swarm.” The videos also conflict with the version of the incident in Marine Corps and White House accounts of how Meyer, now 25, of Columbia, Ky., came to be awarded the nation’s highest military decoration for gallantry.

The videos add to the findings of an ongoing McClatchy investigation that determined that crucial parts of Meyer’s memoir were untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated, as were the Marine Corps and White House accounts of how he helped extract casualties from the valley under fire. The White House and Marine Corps have defended the accuracy of their accounts of Meyer’s actions. The Marine Corps declined to comment on the videos.

Army National Guard Sgt. Kevin Duerst, the helicopter crew chief whose helmet camera recorded one of the videos, confirmed the absence of insurgents on the valley floor as the aircraft flew in on a first run to retrieve casualties.

“We totally flew over everything. . . . There was nothing going on down there,” Duerst said in a telephone interview Friday. “There was no serious gunfight going on.”

Former Army Capt. William Swenson, who’s to receive a Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama on Tuesday for gallantry in the same battle, declined in an interview Sunday to directly address questions about the purported swarming of Meyer’s vehicle. . .

Continue reading.

UPDATE: Ah, here’s why Swenson was the target of such underhanded treatment. From later in the story:

A nearby U.S. base failed to provide air support or adequate artillery cover to the Afghan and U.S. forces for 90 minutes. Two Army officers later received career-ending reprimands, while Swenson – in an interview with military investigators – accused senior U.S. commanders of imposing politically driven rules of engagement that were getting U.S. troops killed.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 October 2013 at 5:17 pm

Investigation into why Medal of Honor recommendation was “lost” in processing

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I’ve blogged about how it appears some unethical (and illegal) steps were taken to “lose” a recommendation for a Medal of Honor. This earlier post describes what was known about this time last year, and it contains links to a couple of earlier posts on the incident. Jonathan Landay has a current report in McClatchy:

 A Pentagon investigation into how a Medal of Honor nomination was “lost” – possibly because of an improper effort to kill the award – is focused on its mishandling by members of the chain of command that included retired Army Gen. David Petraeus and other senior U.S. commanders.

The investigation is being conducted by the Directorate for Investigations of Senior Officials, a division of the Defense Department Office of Inspector General that handles cases involving top military and civilian defense officials.

“Specifically, officials within the Directorate for Investigations of Senior Officials are conducting an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the lost recommendation,” the inspector general’s office wrote in a Sept. 3 letter to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who pressed for the probe.

The review is the latest turn in the convoluted history of the Medal of Honor nomination of former Army Capt. William Swenson, who was recommended for the nation’s highest military decoration for valor for his actions on Sept. 8, 2009, in one of the most extraordinary battles of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The Seattle native is scheduled to receive the medal from President Barack Obama on Oct. 15, nearly four years after he was first nominated and more than a year after his papers reached the White House.

The inspector general’s “investigation is looking at the approval process for Capt. Swenson’s award, specifically how the chain of command mishandled his nomination,” said Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Hunter.

Bridget Serchak, a spokeswoman for the inspector general’s office, declined to comment on the matter, saying she could not discuss any ongoing case.

The consequences of the investigation are unclear. Typically, the inspector general’s office refers cases in which allegations of regulation violations are substantiated to the secretary of defense or the service secretaries for further action. Cases in which evidence of crimes is found are sent to the Defense Criminal Investigative Service for further investigation, often in conjunction with the Department of Justice.

Swenson, 34, will be the first living U.S. Army officer to receive the medal in more than 40 years. He was recommended for his role in extracting a small group of American military advisers trapped in an eastern Afghanistan valley by a Taliban ambush and then leading U.S. and Afghan forces on repeated forays back into the valley to recover casualties while under vicious enemy fire.

Four U.S. servicemen, nine Afghan security forces and a translator died in the six-hour clash outside the village of Ganjgal. A fifth U.S. soldier, who was among some two dozen American and Afghan wounded, died two months later.

A slew of decorations were awarded to survivors of the battle, including a Medal of Honor for Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, and two Navy Crosses. Moreover, two Army officers were reprimanded for dereliction of duty for failing to provide air and artillery support for the Afghan troops and their American military advisers.

A chain of U.S. officers and senior officials – beginning in the field and ending with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta – were required to recommend approval or disapproval for Swenson’s nomination.

Petraeus, based in Kabul, commanded the U.S.-led international force in Afghanistan in the summer of 2010, when Swenson’s original Medal of Honor packet – the telephone book-size package of sworn witness statements, maps and other documents supporting the nomination – went missing. Every electronic copy of the packet also disappeared from U.S. military computer systems, except for an incomplete version that was found on a classified network.

A duplicate file was assembled in July 2011 and sent up the chain of command. At the time, U.S. military spokesmen asserted that an internal investigation found that Swenson’s original packet was “lost” through bureaucratic bungling because of a high staff turnover rate at USFOR-A, the headquarters of the U.S. military contingent serving in Afghanistan.

But according to an Aug. 4, 2011, Memorandum of Record obtained by McClatchy, the “informal” investigation failed to pinpoint the reason why Swenson’s paperwork disappeared. Moreover, the probe was closed despite uncovering evidence of a possible attempt to kill Swenson’s award through an improper downgrade to a Distinguished Service Cross.

Under Defense Department and Army regulations, only the president of the United States has the authority to downgrade a Medal of Honor nomination to a lower award.

The memorandum – a report on the results of the internal investigation – said the probe “did not reveal any suspected criminal activity.”

It mirrored a U.S. military letter outlining those findings that McClatchy reported in August 2012. The memorandum, however, contains details that were not in the first document.

Petraeus, while serving as the CIA director, told McClatchy last year that he had “no recollection of seeing” Swenson’s packet. The memorandum noted that Petraeus signed Swenson’s packet on July 28, 2010. Petraeus didn’t respond to several email requests for a telephone call to discuss the discrepancy.

Another new detail: Briefing slides tracking the status of military award nominations in eastern Afghanistan showed that Swenson’s packet was one of two Medal of Honor nominations sent to USFOR-A on the same day, May 19, 2010.

The second nomination was from a separate battle, and the identity of the nominee was redacted. But both packets were processed concurrently, according to the memorandum. Yet while the second proceeded through the system, Swenson’s Medal of Honor packet disappeared.

The second packet “was logged and tracked through the same process,” said the memorandum. “It is reasonable to assume that had both . . . MoH packets been submitted at the same time, as indicated by the slides, both would have been tracked and processed in the same manner.”

A footnote on an Aug. 21, 2010, briefing slide uncovered by the internal investigation provided a clue to what happened to Swenson’s Medal of Honor packet. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2013 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Army, Military

You know already that they will find a lot more, if they are forced to look

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Things have come to a pretty pass when we already know that the details of the full email correspondence between Jill Kelly and Gen. Allen have been covered up? That the investigation was a whitewash job? That the entire aim was to exculpate all military personnel?

At any rate, Jillian Rayfield reports at Salon:

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., has called for a renewed investigation into potentially inappropriate emails exchanged between socialite Jill Kelley and Gen. John Allen.

“The fact that they didn’t even pursue accessing the private e-mails is very disturbing to me,” Speier said of the Pentagon’s inspector general report on the matter, in an interview with USA Today. “Because it would suggest that it was an incomplete investigation at the very least. At the worst: [they were] intentionally not pursuing an investigation into whether or not there was an inappropriate relationship, secrecy, national-security breaches. Classified information.”

The emails in question were the  thousands of exchanges between Gen. Allen and Kelley. Kelley was pulled into the spotlight when she complained to the FBI about harassing emails, eventually revealed to have been sent by David Petraeus’ biographer Paula Broadwell, which eventually led to revelations that Petraeus and Broadwell were having an affair.

From USA Today:

The FBI initially looked at Allen’s case and referred it to the Pentagon for further review. The inspector general told Speier that Allen and Kelley exchanged 3,000 e-mails from July 2010 to July 2012 on his government account. Allen served at Central Command from 2008 until July 2011 when he became the top commander in Afghanistan. Of those e-mails, 41 were reviewed more thoroughly, Speier was told.

“So that’s two years, 1,500 e-mails a year,” Speier, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said. ”I don’t think I communicate with my husband by e-mail more than 150 times a year. That’s a lot of e-mails. This is a four-star general in the middle of a war zone. The most disturbing part of my discussion with them was that they requested access to his private e-mail and were denied access and took it no further.”

Since the Petraeus scandal broke, Kelley has sued the Pentagon and the FBI, alleging . . .

Continue reading. We live in rather too interesting times.

I clicked the category “NSA” because of course NSA knew all about it—they were reading the emails, for Christ’s sake—in real time! And they tapped away, everthing read by NSA. In real time.

Talk about cover-ups! NSA knows all the scandals—even the ones we’ve not heard about and those we never will—and it’s just sitting on the data? Pull the other one.

Look: the one thing we do know is that the NSA has clearly lied, and in fact is still lying (vide the web site alterations, Clapper’s considered statement (he had a day to think it over) to Congress, et al.), and thus, we can reliably predict, will continue to lie. I think that we have to consider every statement from the Administration and the NSA and the intelligence community—including a lot of government sources who seem quite ready to leak classified information with some weird assurance that they can transgress the same law without penalty? Doesn’t that strike you as very Soviet-Unionish? That the intelligence agency whose activities are being exposed is able to break classification restrictions with impunity while accusing the whistleblower of breaking classification restrictions? Doesn’t that show a total moral imbalance? That Snowden will be imprisoned for life (most likely) for the very same crime that they committed with no accountability whatsoever? Something is enormously wrong with this picture.

The sci-fi-horror-fantasy analogue: Something foul has come to life in the bowels of government, and it’s taking over everything. I think that’s it, more or less.

UPDATE: Read through this short piece by David Sirota:

“James Clapper Is Still Lying”: That would be a more honest headline for yesterday’s big Washington Post article about the director of national intelligence’s letter to the U.S. Senate.

Clapper, you may recall, unequivocally said “no, sir” in response to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asking him: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper’s response was shown to be a lie by Snowden’s disclosures, as well as by reports from the Guardianthe Washington Postthe Associated Press and Bloomberg News (among others). This is particularly significant, considering lying before Congress prevents the legislative branch from performing oversight and is therefore a felony.

Upon Snowden’s disclosures, Clapper initially explained his lie by insisting that his answer was carefully and deliberately calculated to be the “least most untruthful”response to a question about classified information. Left unmentioned was the fact that he could have simply given the same truthful answer that Alberto Gonzales gave the committee in 2006.

Now, though, Clapper is wholly changing his story, insisting that his answer wasn’t a deliberate, carefully calibrated “least most untruthful” response; it was instead just a spur-of-the-moment accident based on an innocent misunderstanding. Indeed, as the Post reports, “Clapper sent a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 21 saying that he had misunderstood the question he had been asked” and adding that “he thought Wyden was referring to NSA surveillance of e-mail traffic involving overseas targets, not the separate program in which the agency is authorized to collect records of Americans’ phone calls.” In his letter, Clapper says, “My response was clearly erroneous — for which I apologize,” and added that “mistakes will happen, and when I make one, I correct it.”]

So Clapper first says it was a calculated move, and now he’s saying it was just an innocuous misunderstanding and an inadvertent error. With that, the public — and the Obama administration prosecutors who aggressively pursue perjurers — are all supposed to now breathe a sigh of relief and chalk it all up to a forgivable screw-up. It’s all just an innocent mistake, right?

Wrong, because in this crime, as Clapper’s changing story suggests, there remains a smoking gun.

Notice this statement from Sen. Wyden about Snowden’s disclosures — a statement, mind you, that the Post didn’t reference in its story yesterday (emphasis added): . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 July 2013 at 2:03 pm

Army restricts access to the Guardian

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It is important, apparently, that our soldiery be kept in ignorance of what the country is doing—because they would not be so willing to fight for it? Hmm. Phillip Molnar reports in our local paper:

The Army admitted Thursday to not only restricting access to The Guardian news website at the Presidio of Monterey, as reported in Thursday’s Herald, but Armywide.

Presidio employees said the site had been blocked since The Guardian broke stories on data collection by the National Security Agency.

Gordon Van Vleet, an Arizona-based spokesman for the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, or NETCOM, said in an email the Army is filtering “some access to press coverage and online content about the NSA leaks.”

He wrote it is routine for the Department of Defense to take preventative “network hygiene” measures to mitigate unauthorized disclosures of classified information.

“We make every effort to balance the need to preserve information access with operational security,” he wrote, “however, there are strict policies and directives in place regarding protecting and handling classified information.”

In a later phone call, Van Vleet said the filter of classified information on public websites was “Armywide” and did not originate at the Presidio.

Presidio employees described how they could access the U.S. site, www.guardiannews.com, but were blocked from articles, such as those about the NSA, that redirected to the British site.

Sources at the Presidio said Jose Campos, the post’s information assurance security officer, sent an email to employees early Thursday saying The Guardian’s website was blocked by Army Cyber Command “in order to prevent an unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”

NETCOM is a subordinate to the Army Cyber Command, based in Fort Belvoir, Va., said its website.

Continue reading.

As you see, it’s merely the nitwit bureaucratic mind at work: even though the entire world knows, the information is (technically) still classified—it’s like those rules in the Manhattan Project, in which a foreign-born physicist was drafted to work on the bomb, but since he could not get security clearance, each page that he wrote was taken from him as soon as he finished and he was not allowed to see it again (because it was classified, you see: there’s a type of mind to which this makes perfect sense—avoid those people at all costs).

Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2013 at 11:26 am

Posted in Army

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