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American Resistance To Empire

Does Saudi Immunity For 911 Somehow Transfer Guilt To Iran?

[SEE:  Saudi Royals Request Removal From 911 Lawsuit ]

Michael D. Goldhaber, The Am Law Daily

Photo by Sander Lamme via Wikimedia Commons

Victims of September 11, who seek to hold funders of the 2001 terror attacks accountable in court, came to Manhattan federal court in Foley Square on Thursday with serious evidence that Saudi Arabia supported the al Qaeda bombers. U.S. District Judge George Daniels promised to decide within 90 days whether to put the Kingdom on trial.

Saudi Arabia chided the 9/11 families that this hearing was “not a political seminar.” It was, however, a seminar on history and epistemology. After 12 years of halting progress against Saudi charities, the 9/11 plaintiffs have revived a powerful claim against the Kingdom. But the quest for historical truth threatens to founder on the judge’s futile desire for direct knowledge of espionage.

Much of the day turned on what exactly we know about a February 2000 chat between alleged Saudi spies Omar al Bayoumi and Fahad al Thumairy. Judge Daniels had no time for Saudi’s contention that it didn’t “technically” employ Bayoumi when it paid his salary for a no-show cover job. But at the heart of the Saudi spy plot posited by the 9/11 families, the judge seemed to struggle with the obvious.

“You don’t have any evidence as to what conversations [Thumairy] had with Bayoumi,” said Daniels. “What’s the factual basis for you to allege that when he met with Bayoumi he said, ‘Give lodging to the hijackers, assist them and give financial support to the hijackers so that they can carry out the 9/11 attacks?’”

What one spy said to the other can be inferred from the full circumstantial evidence, replied 9/11 attorney Sean Carter of Cozen O’Connor—and must be. Consider the timing and sequence of these events, as laid out by the plaintiffs.

Osama bin Laden sent the 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar to Los Angeles in mid-January 2000 knowing that they didn’t speak a word of English and would be helpless on their own. Two weeks later, the Saudi spy Bayoumi met with the Islamist diplomat-imam Thumairy at the Saudi consul’s Islamic Affairs section, which the FBI knew to serve as Saudi Arabia’s radical Islamist fifth column.

Bayoumi drove straight from this not-so-mysterious chat to meet the two hijackers at Thumairy’s mosque. Three days later, Bayoumi moved the two hijackers into his own family apartment in San Diego. Bayoumi proceeded to open bank accounts and rent new apartments for the hijackers with his own money. Bayoumi connected the hijackers with another alleged Saudi agent who procured them fake IDs and admission to language and flight school. Bayoumi’s wife allegedly channeled $150,000 in support payments from a Saudi princess to the hijackers. In early 2000 Bayoumi received a promotion at his no-show cover job, and a significant raise in the salary and stipend covered by the Kingdom. Over the same three months, he talked repeatedly by phone with Saudi diplomats in L.A. and D.C., not to mention the hijackers’ San Diego imam Anwar Aulaqi, who went on to become a senior al Qaeda leader.

When questioned by the 9/11 Commission under the watchful eye of the Saudi secret police, Thumairy clumsily denied knowing Bayoumi, and Bayoumi pretended to be surprised that Thumairy worked at the consulate.

Add it all up, and the two spies in L.A. were not chatting about the traffic on the Santa Monica Freeway. The judge must understand that historical intelligence doesn’t get any stronger. We go to war with Iraq over yellowcake, and we won’t go to a jury with two bad guys twirling their mustaches at Wahhabi central?

According to the complaint, a top FBI official has stated that “We [the FBI] firmly believed that he [Bayoumi] had knowledge [of the 9/11 plot], and that his meeting with them [Hazmi and Mihdhar] that day was more than coincidence.” It’s “implausible,” adds 9/11 commissioner John Lehman, “that the broad spectrum of evidence developed by the 9/11 Commission concerning the relationships among Omar al Bayoumi, Fahad al Thumairy, the Islamic Affairs Department of Saudi diplomatic missions, and 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar can be explained away as merely coincidental.”

To 9/11 victims like Matthew T. Sellito, who flew in for the hearing from Florida, the evidence is clear. Sellitto, whose 23 year-old son Matthew C. of Cantor Fitzgerald was the youngest victim of the twin towers, said it pained him that the U.S. held the wrong country accountable in the Iraq War.

What about the 9/11 Commission itself? According to Carter, the staffers who studied the evidence concluded that Saudi Arabia was implicated—but that conclusion was removed from the 9/11 Report at the eleventh hour because senior staff wanted 100 percent certainty for such politically explosive allegations.

Michael Kellogg of Kellogg Huber Hansen Todd Evans & Figel, arguing for the defense, prefers the final draft of the 9/11 Report. Even after 12 years, he says the 9/11 families can’t meet the high standard of evidence required by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. He also argued that the case against Saudi Arabia and the Saudi High Comission for Relief of Bosnia & Herzegovina must be dismissed because they do not satisfy the “whole tort” exception, the “discretionary functions” clause, or the causation requirement of the FSIA. Those legal arguments are likely to be resolved at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit—unless Congress steps in to resolve them first. But this case ain’t going to trial against Saudi unless Judge Daniels is willing to connect the dots.

The irony is that Judge Daniels already entered a $6 billion default judgment against Iran on far weaker evidence. The allegations that Iran helped Hezbollah to cooperate with al-Qaeda, and let al-Qaeda terrorists pass through Iran, would seem to fail the test that the whole tort occurred on U.S. soil.

Yet after 3 hours of agonizing over the Saudi spy evidence, the judge treated the contention that Iran is liable for another $150 billion as an afterthought.

At the end of Thursday’s hearing, James Kreindler of Kreindler & Kreindler announced that the 857 members of his 9/11 plaintiff group, headlined by the Ashton family, had a claim against Iran. And therefore, they were entitled to the same default judgment received in 2011 by the 47 members of the plaintiff group headlined by the Havlish family. Kreindler said that the $6 billion awarded in Havlish implied damages of $150 billion for the Ashton plaintiffs . But for fear of disrupting diplomacy, Kreindler said he was only seeking a finding of liability—to stake a claim in the political settlement likely to resolve Iranian terror claims. The judge said he’d hold a Jan. 14 conference and “see where we are.”

In the meantime here’s free advice from The Global Lawyer. Iran should show up in court before a mega-judgment jeopardizes its historic deal. And Judge Daniels should let a jury see the evidence against the nation that actually bears blame for 9/11. We owe it to Matthew T. and Matthew C. Sellitto.

Turkey Feigns Fight Against ISIS, Just As We Pretend To Fight “Al-Qaeda”

“Nobody ever knew what really happened. How many fighters or civilians killed to what effect…nobody knew any facts. In other words, it all seemed like theater for public consumption.”

[Is the quotation above about Turkish airstrikes or American drone strikes?  How do we know that any “legitimate media” war report is true?]

Instead Of Fighting ISIS, Erdogan Pushes Turkey Toward Chaos And Despotism
forbes


Untitled Melik Kaylan

I cover conflicts, frontiers and upheavals mired in history.

In Turkey, an ISIS suicide bomb kills 30 and wounds many more in the Kurdish area town of Suruc. The Kurdish insurgent terrorists, the PKK, then start killing Turkish policemen and soldiers while ISIS attacks a Turkish military border post. Peace demonstrations ensue in some cities which police put down with the, by now, familiar methods of severity against civilians. Ankara and Washington reach an agreement allowing the US to use its bases inside Turkey against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Erdogan’s spokesmen announce that Turkey’s air force has conducted raids against both PKK and ISIS targets across the border. Turkish authorities arrest some 900 people nationwide, mostly Kurds, for allegedly belonging to terror networks. Turkish tanks shell Kurdish villages in Syrian borderlands near Kobani. Meanwhile, news leaks that the US has solid evidence of Turkish collusion with ISIS in months past. Let us pause here and dispel some of the fog.

First, let us remember that Turkey conducted a national election on June 7 and still hasn’t formed a government. All these decisions in a time of crisis are being taken by somebody. Someone’s running the country. We’ll get to the full implications later but initiatives are being taken, orders given. The air raids for instance. Worth a little scrutiny. For example, you have to wonder, since the Turkish air force knew of PKK targets in Iraq, so quickly and easily neutralized, why didn’t it act before? And why attack Syrian Kurds near Kobani who, after all, are busy fighting off ISIS? Especially if you’ve declared ISIS the enemy because it has killed 30 people in a suicide bomb inside Turkey.

On the ISIS front, it’s worth viewing the video put out by Ankara of the air strikes against several sites by F-16s using laser-guided munitions. All the targets seem to have one thing in common: they’re each at a safe distance from residential complexes in ISIS territory. They’re set apart in open fields. They betray no marks of military activity. Now, humanitarian though this might seem – which itself begs the question – you still have to wonder. Does ISIS keep strategic targets clear of population centers? And, if so, why were such targets still so manifestly available. The US has waged its air war against ISIS since last September. They left a few for the Turks? The skeptic might ask if these were meaningful targets at all.

I remember during the Iraq war that Ankara would announce with fanfare various bombing sorties to hit PKK camps nestled in the Zagros mountains in retaliation against one or other PKK atrocity inside Turkey. Nobody ever knew what really happened. How many fighters or civilians killed to what effect? The PKK never slowed down. Barzani grumbled about territorial integrity. The White House mumbled about Turkey’s right to self-defense. I queried Kurds from Iraqi Kurdistan, from both Suleymaniah and Erbil, during those years about any publicly mooted information about those recurrent air strikes. While they expressed outrage at territorial violation by Turks, nobody knew any facts. In other words, it all seemed like theater for public consumption in Turkey.

Let’s keep firmly in mind the overarching attribute of Turkey’s AKP leaders throughout the last decade: they’re invariably long on demagogy and short on solutions. The goal always is to stay in power, mute criticism, corrupt all necessary institutions, suppress dissent, play the populist card. And play it so unscrupulously that the country polarizes step by step. Protestors are terrorists. Critical journalists are atheists. Gulenists serve a foreign power. Kurdish politicians are fronting for the PKK. The mayor of Ankara, a top Erdoganista, sued a journalist for accusing him of – wait for it – being Armenian!

Much of the time nobody knows what’s really going on after any eruption of internal conflict first gets reported – they only get exposed to propaganda and polemics. The media gets muzzled and social media suspended. It happened after two gas cylinder bombs exploded at a HDP Kurdish party rally ahead of the elections killing two and wounding over 100.

It has happened after the Suruc horror by ISIS. Erdogan’s main objective, to befog with theater when he can’t hide the reality, hasn’t wavered. Hence the display of signing the Incirlik Airbase deal with the White House. Hence the bombing runs against ISIS. These add up to a manifest U-turn as he and his party have publicly abetted ISIS in myriad snide ways, even giving cover to its foremost vociferous advocate in Turkey, the noisy and sinister Halis Bayancuk whom they’ve just re-arrested. Previously arrested in 2014, he was released by the authorities while the prosecutor and judge who had moved against him were demoted. The government then defended him publicly as a victim of the ‘deep state’ conspiracy, one of Erdogan’s favorite polemical bogeys.

Meanwhile, as many domestic commentators now say, Turkey is hovering on the brink. Similarly, others are pointing out that the country now faces total crisis not accidentally but in line with Erdogan’s plan to monopolize power, become the indispensible figure amid chaos. In the old days, when fractured elections led to paralysis and conflict, the military would step in and tidy up the mess, acting as last-chance custodians of the Republic. These days their role resides, democratically, with the President. Alas, the ‘honest-broker’ is also a dishonest protagonist in the fray, namely Erdogan himself. The office of the Presidency requires him to stand above politics. He hasn’t – even though the country voted away his party’s parliamentary majority for that reason, as a rebuttal of his ambition to make the Presidency paramount. He planned to re-enact the Putin/Medvedev tango, Turkish-style, moving between the position of PM and President to avoid term limits.

As I wrote here after the election produced no winner six weeks ago, Turkey has never fared well with coalitions. In this case, the coalition didn’t even materialize. While the various parties continue to negotiate on forming a government, they’ve left Erdogan in charge by default. What I warned then, is coming to pass (even quicker than expected) when I said, “and here’s the most scary part: as things deteriorate it will be up to the President to impose order by one means or another” and “a fundamental player in the equation (Erdogan) has no interest but to let things get very bad indeed”.

And so here we are. For Erdogan it’s even better that there’s no government. He rules by diktat. To do so, he needs crises. He’s busy creating them. Stoking the Kurdish conflict simply polarizes the country further, catalyzes civil war Assad-style. He will call a sudden election when things are bad enough. There’s some chance he might have miscued though. After all, he has no coalition to blame. Instead of seeing him as the indispensable strongman, the country might hold him responsible for all the chaos. If there is still a country by then.

UN Capitulation To Saudi Demands Equals Partnership In Ethnic-Cleansing of Middle East

“the U.N. de facto institutionalized aid segregation by allowing humanitarian relief to be conditional to certain criteria: political affiliation and religious orientation.

With Yemen set as a precedent, who’s to say that a similar setup will not be replicated in other countries in the region — mainly, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Libya?”

source

[This is the standard by which Middle Eastern human beings will be granted the right to eat by the Royal Saudi Caliphate.  Anyone who can’t see the real “Sunni Caliphate” by now has not been paying attention to Saudi aggression in the region.  War-mongering king Salman has been arrogantly open about his intentions to cleanse the Middle East of Shiites and other religious apostates (this would include Christians, obviously). even whike he pretends to be fighting against the Caliphate of ISIS.  The Saudi royals and their Gulf subordinates have been creating a Saudi Caliphate, right before our eyes.  The fact that the world’s only hope for humanitarianism, the United Nations, would allow a tribal Arab king to enforce Draconian standards on simple aid intended to keep civilians alive (amidst a hot, desert war), is proof that human compassion is just another commodity that can be bought and sold like anything else. 

Such is the human condition, when laid bare before us. 
Where is God in this equation?]

Saudi Arabia opened its checkbook in response to a U.N. appeal for funds to cover the most urgent humanitarian aid to Yemen. But that aid would come at a steep price and with more than a few strings attached.

A Yemeni man looks at a World Food Program ship at the port of Aden, Yemen, Tuesday, July 21, 2015. The WFP ship carrying badly needed aid arrived in Yemen's war-torn southern city of Aden on Tuesday, the first vessel chartered by the U.N. agency to berth there since Saudi-led airstrikes on Shiite rebels in the country began in March. (AP Photo/Ahmed Sameer)

SANAA, Yemen — Five months have passed since Saudi Arabia declared war on Yemen, and for all its might, political resolve and military arsenal, the kingdom has yet to bring the poorest nation on the Arabian Peninsula to heel.

Its institutions in tatters, its military apparatus reduced to rubbles, and with no economy to speak of, Yemen’s imminent collapse has been foretold time and time again by experts and state officials. Yet these predictions have not quite come to fruition.

In its match against Goliath, David is resisting. In rallies, demonstrations and even an open letter signed by 18 Yemen scholars and experts living in the United States and Britain, tens of thousands of Yemenis and others around the world have decried Riyadh’s actions, calling for an end to all violence.

Yet this dedication to opposing Riyadh’s actions doesn’t mean Yemenis aren’t suffering. The World Health Organization issued a statement in June, warning that a “major health crisis is unfolding in Yemen, where hospitals have been destroyed, health workers killed and critical shortages of food, medical supplies and fuel are causing large-scale suffering.”

In early July, the United Nations declared the situation in Yemen to be the highest level of humanitarian emergency. According to a U.N. report published July 7, over 1,500 civilians have been killed, 3,600 have been injured, and over a million have been displaced in the ongoing conflict.

A “major health crisis is unfolding in Yemen, where hospitals have been destroyed, health workers killed and critical shortages of food, medical supplies and fuel are causing large-scale suffering.”

-World Health Organization

By U.N. estimates, about 80 percent of all Yemenis — more than 20 million people — are in need of humanitarian aid.

In late March, Amnesty International confirmed the deaths of at least six children under the age of 10 during a Saudi-led air raid that killed 25 people. The report read: “The organization spoke to medical personnel at four different hospitals where the dead were taken after being pulled from the rubble of 14 houses that were hit in a residential neighbourhood near the city’s international airport.”

Already the poorest and most vulnerable population in the Peninsula and arguably the Greater Middle East, Yemenis have seen their livelihoods and freedom of movement disintegrate under Saudi Arabia’s war momentum. In late April, Saudi Arabia bombed Sanaa International Airport, effectively trapping civilians within Yemen’s borders.

Despite mounting evidence of abuses and war crimes, it would take the international rights community several months to stand up to the oil giant. On July 27, Human Rights Watch unequivocally slammed Saudi Arabia for a litany of human rights violations. The report reads:

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes that killed at least 65 civilians, including 10 children, and wounded dozens in the Yemeni port city of Mokha on July 24, 2015, are an apparent war crime. Starting between 9:30 and 10 p.m., coalition airplanes repeatedly struck two residential compounds of the Mokha Steam Power Plant, which housed plant workers and their family members.”

With fierce battles raging across Yemen, and as warplanes continue to rain lead onto heavily populated areas, Saudi Arabia has been looking for innovative ways to exert pressure onto the resistance movement. It is now withholding humanitarian aid to Yemen’s civilians to tame the growing insurrection movement against its rule and thus secure victory in the face of international law — all under the guise of the United Nations.

The kingdom is holding hostage not just Yemen but to some extent the international community, using the United Nations’ humanitarian institutions to wage war. It’s using institutions meant to offer relief as a means of weaponizing aid.

Hassan Jayache, a senior leader of the Houthi movement, which took control of Yemen earlier this year, told MintPress News that local NGOs have found themselves caught in a political web, forced to surrender their neutrality to secure not just funding but access to areas where aid is needed.

“The Saudis have exerted political pressures onto local NGOs and international aid organizations, demanding that aid be restricted to pre-approved segments of the population, based on political affiliations and according to religious criteria,” Jayache said.

“In other words, Al Saud has decided to starve the Shias of Yemen, hoping to break the Houthis’ momentum.”

Turning aid agencies into weapons of war

Mohammed Al-Emad, a Yemen-based journalist and political commentator, says Saudi Arabia called on several media organizations in the Middle East, the United States and Europe, demanding that “coverage on Yemen be sanitized and in keeping with Riyadh’s chosen political narrative.”

Wikileaks Comic While Al-Emad’s claims could be considered bias, WikiLeaks published a series of confidential cables pointing to systematic media/PR manipulation on the part of the Saudis.

But if the international community had been standing silent before Saudi Arabia’s war crimes, exploiting what Al-Emad describes as a convenient media blackout to avoid addressing some sticky legal points, Riyadh’s move against the U.N. might prove one indiscretion too many for anyone to ignore.

The work of King Salman and his allies to sabotage U.N.-organized aid to Yemen started on April 17 in the wake of a U.N. emergency flash appeal for $274 million to respond to the most pressing humanitarian needs over the following three months.

Speaking on Yemenis’ hardship, Humanitarian Coordinator Johannes Van Der Klaauw stressed:

“The devastating conflict in Yemen takes place against the backdrop of an existing humanitarian crisis that was already one of the largest and most complex in the world … Thousands of families have now fled their homes as a result of the fighting and airstrikes. Ordinary families are struggling to access health care, water, food and fuel – basic requirements for their survival.”

Saudi Arabia immediately volunteered the exact amount requested. But the aid would come with strings attached.

Vice News reported in June that Saudi officials leaned on U.N. officials to sabotage aid deliveries, threatening to close the kingdom’s checkbook should U.N. agencies deny Riyadh’s requests.

Based on a U.N. memo obtained by Vice, the media outlet reported that the Saudi government imposed unprecedented conditions on aid agencies, demanding that assistance be limited to Saudi-approved areas and confined to strictly Sunni civilian populations.

A Yemeni volunteer carries bags of rice to displaced people

“If such despicable logic can somehow be expected from a power which has wielded sectarianism to sow discord and from chaos rise a tyrant, what of the UN, an institution which claims itself impartial and fair?” Hasan Sufyani, a leading political analyst at the Sana’a Institute for Arabic Studies, asked MintPress.

He added:

If humanitarian organizations are to be subjected to the rules of realpolitik then truly the world has reached a dark chapter in its history and reverted back to organized barbarism.

Still, no well-thinking Western powers has thought to challenge Saudi Arabia’s war crimes in Yemen. In a world system where capitalism reigns king, the rich and haughty stand above the pettiness of the rule of law.”

As a rule of thumb, and to avoid political entanglements, humanitarian organizations tend to shy away from donations which come with strings attached, especially when they fall under the umbrella of the OCHA.

Meant as a supranational institution, OCHA was never intended to be manipulated as an instrument of pressure, legal absolution or, in the case of Yemen, a weapon of war.

$244M, split nine ways

Playing aid as both a military tactic and a PR exercise to redeem its atrocious human rights record and whitewash its war crimes in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has held the U.N. hostage to its policies.

Such shadowing and lobbying on the part of Saudi Arabia had Yemeni officials waving the political red flag.

Ali al-Bukhaiti, a prominent member of the Houthis’ political arm, told MintPress his office has vehemently denounced Riyadh’s attempts to “buy the U.N. out to better corner Sana’a government and foil the resistance movement.”

Yet it appears the train was already far too out of the station for anyone to hit the brakes.

By late June, amid reports of a worsening humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, the Saudi government finally announced that out of its initial pledge of $274 million, $244 million would be divided among nine U.N. agencies.

On the heels of this announcement Stephen O’Brien, the U.N. undersecretary for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, sent a letter to the Interagency Standing Committee, a global humanitarian coordinating body, which includes both U.N. humanitarian agencies and outside NGOs.

Vice News confirmed the letter was attached to a Saudi press release announcing the nine-way cut, explaining how the funds would go through the recently created King Salman Center for Relief Humanitarian Works (KSC).

“Having agreed to the overall envelopes, however, the KSC would like to negotiate individual Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with each recipient agency,” O’Brien told Vice, openly admitting to Riyadh’s lobby.

Boys carry relief supplies to their families who fled fighting in the southern city of Aden, during a food distribution effort by Yemeni volunteers, in Taiz, Yemen.

“Interestingly few media outlets picked up on this Orwellian development! After unilaterally and, let’s be frank, after illegally declaring war on Yemen, the Saudi government wants also to dictate how humanitarian relief is distributed in the very country it is attacking,” Sheikh al-Matari, the head of Yemen’s Rasoul Akram Foundation, an aid organization, told MintPress.

Vice News quoted a U.N. aid official in Yemen as saying: “The UN has punted and handed off the problems to these agencies. I’ve never seen that before.”

The official continued:

“The charitable way of saying it is this is a compromise — the less charitable way of saying it is that they folded. It’s really unusual for a single donor to have any substantive role once they contribute funds, let alone negotiate individual MoU’s with agencies.”

When asked about this very public U.N. capitulation before Al Saud’s millions, O’Brien attempted to rationalize the situation by arguing a massive deficit funding gap.

O’Brien wrote: “With regard to NGOs, I am aware that there are sensitivities in receiving funding directly from the KSC and we therefore must work actively to mobilize additional funds to be allocated directly, or via the Pooled Fund, to our front-line partners.”

Yet, as al-Matari noted:

“That’s only half of the story. What O’Brien is not telling is that by accepting Saudi Arabia’s conditions on aid distribution and aid funding in relation to Yemen, the U.N. de facto institutionalized aid segregation by allowing humanitarian relief to be conditional to certain criteria: political affiliation and religious orientation.

With Yemen set as a precedent, who’s to say that a similar setup will not be replicated in other countries in the region — mainly, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Libya?”

‘Institutionalizing war crimes’

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, left, meets with King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, right

“From the onset of this conflict King Salman has walked outside international law. There is nothing remotely legal about attacking a sovereign nation. The argument Saudi Arabia aimed to preemptively strike Yemen in order to stop the so-called ‘Shia crescent’ from further strengthening its hold on the region is both legally erroneous and redundant. What is troubling is the speed at which the kingdom is institutionalizing war crimes,” Al-Emad, the journalist and political commentator based in Yemen, told MintPress.

Al-Emad added: “It is one thing to declare war against a country and another to select a segment of population for annihilation. How long before Saudi Arabia’s ill intentions against all Zaidis and Shias in Yemen are understood for what they are? Genocidal.”

Although no legal action has been taken against Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s humanitarian and human rights violations in Yemen have come to define the very nature of its war on the tiny, impoverished nation.

Even the sectarian aspect of Riyadh‘s wrath has transpired in official reports, giving weight to Yemenis’ mounting accusations of ethnic cleansing. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights raised concerns in this area, as well, as a U.N. report issued in July notes: “The UN rights office is also acutely worried about increasing attacks against places of worship, pointing to the targeting of five Zaydi mosques with car bombs over the past few weeks as an alarming trend to create sectarian divisions.”

Additionally, Cécile Pouilly, spokesperson for the OHCHR, confirmed mounting abuses against civilians when she explained: “Since 17 June, there has been further destruction of civilian infrastructure, with at least 36 buildings, including hospitals, schools, court houses, power generation facilities and communications institutions partially or totally damaged in the governorates of Sana’a, Aden, Taiz, Al-Jawf, Al-Mahwit, and Hajjah.”

The Saudis have not been alone in violating international law, though. The Houthis have also committed their share of war crimes. In May, for example, Human Rights Watch accused pro-Houthi forces of killing civilians and holding aid workers hostage in the southern seaport of Aden. But it is the sectarian intent and systematicity behind Riyadh’s military campaign which has rights activists ringing the alarm.

Speaking to MintPress, Hussain Abu Salem, a human rights activist based in Saada, a northern province of Yemen, located south of Saudi Arabia, who personally documented Saudi air raids against identified Zaidi-targets in northern Yemen, compared Riyadh’s actions against Yemen’s Zaidi community to Israel’s attacks against Palestinians:

“Saudi Arabia knowingly and willingly targets Zaidi villages and Zaidi monuments. It seeks the destruction of Yemen Zaidi heritage. It wants to surgically remove all Zaidi Yemenis from political, religious, economic and social life. The kingdom is following in the footsteps of Israel in all impunity. It is exactly the same logic, the same methods and of course the same justifications.”

“This is the thing about right violations,” he added, “when the world does nothing to impose the law, when the powerful can oppress the weak, then injustice becomes the rule of law.”

imagine a ‘nuclear war’ of information

Russia vs. US: Total War is the Obliteration of Reality

fort russ blog
By: Joaquin Flores
When the methods of Information War in Fourth Generation Warfare are used in Total War, it results in a war upon the psyche, a war upon cognition, a war upon our very conception and understanding of reality.  This will be an increasing feature of our relationship with reality.
As global conflict increases qualitatively and quantitatively, it is important to understand the new methods of warfare in which the conflict in Ukraine serves as an excellent case study.  Understanding these methods, in combination with a syncretic approach to various competing schools and across several otherwise or previously unrelated fields, has been the key to our ability to accurately forecast any number of events and dynamics in the situation in Ukraine.
The struggle between the Atlanticist and Eurasianist spheres not only acquires forms in the traditional areas of diplomacy, trade, intelligence, and military strength – but also in the increasingly dominating realm of synthetic, manufactured hyper-reality.  These are important elements of fourth generation warfare (4GW) in the realm of information war and also what is termed ‘hybrid warfare’ – a feature of 4GW which blurs the lines between civilian and military groups, and allows power groups to dissemble the reality of their role in support.  This creates the element of plausible deniability, that power groups are not involved when in fact they are.
Following the various media reports and statements from the various official spokespeople of the groups involved in the Ukrainian conflict, it is problematic to take these at face value and equate statements about their role or position as being the actual role or position.
In a manner similar to ISIS or Al Qaeda – which are largely US-Saudi-Israeli joint projects, it is typical to hear statements from the Pravy Sektor that they oppose NATO, imperialism (whether US or Russian), and propose instead other elements of platform which confuse the discourse and disguise their actual supporters.  Of course, like with ISIS and the like, most all of the commanders and all of the rank and file supporters and fighters completely believe they are opposed to the very power groups which support them.  It only requires one or two decision makers at the very top to align the actual activities with US control or influence.
Naturally like ISIS, Pravy Sektor and similar are also developed to be self-sustaining projects to a large extent, can subsist for long periods of time using the standard methods of apparent self-funding, including organized crime or the seizure of businesses and enterprises. They can also, as we have written previously, be used and swayed by other actors not including the US, and in certain moments may act – willingly or unwillingly – against the US’s actual interests (not just stated interests).  This may occur for reasons which are complex but imaginable.
US and Russian approaches to the conflict in Ukraine are based in discernible desired positions, but the strategies change in various stages based upon real-world changes and results, push-back, and the actions of the other players. Thus, strategies are employed in relation to changes, and tactics evolve in real-time.   This is why many contingency plans are built into general planning.  Indeed, the various and even contradictory contingencies themselves should be considered ‘the plan’.
The US exerts degrees of control and influence upon several distinct power groups in Ukraine, such as various volunteer battalions, the government itself, mainstreamed opposition to that government, and Pravy Sektor related groups up to and including Yarosh himself.  These wane and wax in relation either to the US’s need or to the US’s ability to exert its power.  These are not unidirectional; US attempts to exert influence or control do not necessarily result in a success in that endeavor: the targets of influence and control may be compelled to act – either in an instance or in a general pivot – contrary to the needs of the US for reasons of their own survival, and/or as a result of Russian successes to exert influence and control.
Difficulties in assessing the situation then arise from this: an established method in 4GW as it works through media and new-media (information war) is to dissemble actual reality, and to manufacture a new reality.  The US can exert fluctuating degrees of influence and control over its proxies.
It is difficult to use language to describe reality because words have definitions which often exclude that which they are contrasted with. Reality on the other hand is fluid and real situations can be simultaneously described by more than one word, even if such words when counterpoised to each other may seem to have opposite meanings.  Reality can morph into conditions that are better described by some words, only to shift at any time later into a condition which is better described otherwise.  Thus, without special care, a syllogistic or axiomatic approach will usually fail.
**
In October of 2014, we wrote:
“From the syncretic work we have produced on this subject, drawing from numerous schools such as Baudrillard’s post-structuralism and Kuhn’s theory of the structure of scientific revolutions […] we have attempted to explain both some features of the information war and how the present schema or paradigm is constructed, and how that construct contains certain features which can be manipulated and exploited through the use of simulacrum and hyper-reality.”
“More to the point, we have based much of our understanding on the premise that societies composed of managers and the managed must create a paradigm which has exploitable features for the purpose of social control.  The Ukraine civil war is the first war in history in which both actual sides (US and Russia) struggle for supremacy using similarly derived theories of new media and their connection to 4GW.  While the use of proxies has long been a feature of war, that both sides use proxies in the sense of 4GW doctrines, and that the ‘stories’ being told extend from new media, is a new phenomenon.”
“There are some problems, however, for both the US and Russian information and reality managers.  Being able to create hyper-reality does not, in the first place, require having a solid footing in the actual reality.  In many ways, ‘actual reality’ may be an ever-elusive thing which can never fully be grasped.  We are, as human beings, a species which is already born into a reality comprised of the previous generation’s interwoven combination of actual reality and hyper-reality.”
“Our society, a social construct, is an outgrowth of our genetic potential.  The creation of various primitive forms of hyper-reality is as natural to humanity as the bird constructing its nest.  But just as the invention of the train or automobile changed forever our relationship with distance, and even the relative size of the earth, the invention of new media has changed our relationship with actual reality and the kinds of reality and hyper-reality we construct. “
“It is not difficult, then, for even the agent of social control, working at the think tank, to lose sight of reality itself.  What was that individual’s origin point?  Everyone working today on these projects was already born into a world of machines, production of the means of creation and destruction, automated wars, electricity, and mass media.”
“From an analytic point of view, this creates a conundrum.  Analysis, discourse, map-drawing etc. are themselves a form of hyper-reality creation.  Analysis is done in the mind of the analyst, and is drawn from, at best primary sources, but are generally not the primary source itself.  It must go through the medium of language and contrived/presented imagery (photos, etc.) before it gets to the analyst.  Additionally, even when the analyst is the witness percipient, their interpretations and written or spoken analysis reflect their prior biases, beliefs, prejudices, and thought processes; which in short can be described as defective by way of their subjectivity.”
“Thus from the analyst:  all words, language; things signifying and signified; which pertain to actual reality, are themselves indistinguishable from hyper-reality.  Analysis based on interpreting actual reality and analysis based in interpreting the simulacrum are both, in many ways, hyper-real presentations.  The map is not the terrain.”
“To problematize ‘objective’ reporting and analysis, is really to lay-out the problems with the concept of objectivity, which leaves us with only a remaining intersubjective agreement [20].  Therefore we can see the power of new-media (which is based on the echoing of information through many subjects, peer to peer), and the transformation of the simulacrum from being a distinct hyper-reality unto itself, into a totalizing entity which subsumes, devours, and overtakes reality into itself.  It becomes, then, within the liberal, emotional state, of the Popperian ‘critical rationalist’ paradigm, most appropriate and ‘reasonable’ to uphold the hyper-reality as the actual reality [21]. “
**
In conclusion, we might imagine a ‘nuclear war’ of information. The fall-out also contaminates information managers and builders.  In an increasing way, even the reality and information managers themselves are suffering from the ‘radiation poisoning’ of information war; they can no longer distinguish between the reality they are creating, or that was created by their opponent, from the reality which they began to work from.  It increasingly becomes one and the same.
If this is true for them, who have access to much more real information than we do, then it is even more true for us; we who have all along been working largely with information which by definition is manufactured and itself is a social construct.
Understanding the world then becomes increasingly difficult and creates very real epistemic problems.
Liberalism and its sub-ideology of pragmatism is steeped in anti-intellectualism and a misuse of Ockham’s razor or lex parsimoniae (law of parsimony).  It is wrongly used as an arbiter between two theories, in which the simplest theory is viewed as more accurate even when not accounting for all the information, as opposed to a heuristic technique in the development of a model.
It is an attractive idea that the complexities of war and strategy can be explained away as being the product of random accidents; that the divergence between stated aims and actual results are a product of blunder and incompetence and not intrigue and dissemblance.
Analyzing the motives of conscious actors is not like observing other phenomena in a few important ways; conscious actors may have a strong motivation to conceal their real aims or methods, whereas basic physical, chemical, or biological processes can be observed empirically and claims made about these are falsifiable.
Rather, we must look at circumstantial and other non-physical evidence; known theories, past practice, the body of scholarly work on the subject, and instead approach the questions from a prosecutorial perspective.
To understand one epistemic dilemma in the use of Ockham’s Razor to describe phenomena, let us look at these well known quotes about this heuristic tool.
“Entities should not be multiplied without necessity.” (William of Ockham)
“Nature operates in the shortest way possible.” (Aristotle)
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” (Albert Einstein)
Warfare does not generally operate on the basis of ‘nature’ in the sense that Aristotle describes – as there are consciously acting players being observed who do not want to be accurately observed, nor upon the economy of modeling that Ockham proposes.
In warfare, most entities should be multiplied and made as complex as possible for a number of reasons.  One radar tower may cover an entire area, but many radar towers for a single area are preferable because then radar coverage is not lost when the opponent successfully neutralizes one of them.
Likewise in strategy:  a simple strategy may at first seem preferable in terms of viability and execution,  but in the context of a conscious opponent, the complexity of a strategy will aid tremendously in keeping it from being understood and unraveled.  In that sense, as with the radar example, more layers are better.
The science of economy and efficiency takes on entirely different applications in the context of a struggle between strategic players.  One aspect of victory in a war is production, but not only physical production of soldiers and hardware, but in the production of complex strategy, relying on more virtual resources, theories, etc.  The side which can afford more inefficiencies has a strategic advantage in any number of scenarios.
We must not approach reality at face value, but as a consciously created illusion itself which is constructed specifically with the aim of pursuing a long-term strategic objective, one that includes both the accidental and intentional creation of a false, distorted, manufactured hyper-reality built upon layers of both real and hyper-real foundations.
**
Joaquin Flores is a Mexican-American expat based in Belgrade. He is a full-time analyst and director at the Center for Syncretic Studies, a public geostrategic think-tank and consultancy firm, as well as the co-editor of Fort Russ news service, and President of the Berlin based Independent Journalist Association for Peace. His expertise encompasses Eastern Europe, Eurasia, and he has a strong proficiency in Middle East affairs. Flores is particularly adept at analyzing ideology and the role of mass psychology, as well as the methods of the information war in the context of 4GW and New Media. He is a political scientist educated at California State University. In the US, he worked for a number of years as a labor union organizer, chief negotiator, and strategist for a major trade union federation.

Obama Capitalizes Upon Suruç Bombing Reactions To Seal Erdogan’s Free Syrian Army Enclave/NO FLY ZONE

“In cutting the deal, Barack Obama chose his moment well.”

[After Turkey drew its Mare-Jarablus line, and brainwashed ISIS-affiliated Turkish-Kurdish boys were used to bomb Kurds in Suruç, and Turkish forces began to bomb ISIS positions in Syria, Obama knew that Erdogan had begun to soften.  This is the moment O has been waiting for, implicating the CIA in the Suruç attack.]

Turkey was already preparing to carve-out a piece of Northern Syria, before the Suruç bombing.  The alleged ISIS attack facilitated that move.

[The following shot from Google Maps shows the new Mare-Jarablus line, a.k.a., the southern boundary of Erdogan’s shrunken Free Syrian Army enclave (SEE:  Partial no-fly zone included in US-Turkey consensus: Turkish sources).]


Mare-Jarablus line

[One question remains…what will Assad do, whenever the Syrian Air Force is targeted?]

Turkey says west of Euphrates ‘red line’ in northern Syria

TRT WORLD

Turkey to consider any incursion west of Euphrates River in northern Syria by PKK affiliate Democratic Union Party as violation of ‘red line’ set by governmentTurkey will consider any incursion west of the Euphrates River in northern Syria along the Turkish border by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), as well as any attack north of Idlib by Syrian regime forces, as violation of a “red line.” The government made the decision  at a National Security Council (MGK) meeting on June 29, media reports say.The MGK released a statement saying that “developments in Syria were comprehensively discussed, possible threats were evaluated, and possible additional security measures were stressed,” following the meeting.The Turkish government aims to convey a strong message to both the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) and the PYD. Any move by these groups west of the Euphrates River, where the city of Jarablus is located, was declared a red line by Turkey because the river has become a natural border between ISIS and its nemesis PYD in northern Syria after Tal Abyad was captured by the Kurdish militia from ISIS on June 15.

The PYD is considered by Turkey to be the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). Both ISIS and the PKK are recognised as terrorist groups by Turkey.

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin stated that, “It is not healthy to interpret the necessary measures which aim to ensure our border security as ‘Turkey is entering a war’,” speaking on Tuesday  at a press conference in Ankara.

Kalin also emphasised that Turkey has never used the terminology of a “buffer zone,” but spoke about a need to establish a no-fly zone and a safe zone in the area for civilians. Turkey’s stance on this issue remains unchanged and these possible moves are continuing to be discussed with its allies, he added.

The Turkish government has been alarmed by both ISIS’ moves near the Syrian towns of Azaz and Mare and the enlargement of northern Kurdish enclaves under the control of the PYD along its long border line with Syria.

ISIS reportedly recently attacked an area between Azaz and Mare, which are situated in northwestern Syria, which controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA). This move by ISIS came after it lost Tal Abyad to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the militant wing of the PYD, which was able to join the Kobane and Jazira “cantons,” along the Turkish border by capturing the district.

ISIS already controls a zone between Jarablus and Mare, also along the Turkish border.

In the worst case scenario for Turkey, as it becomes further threatened by ISIS between Azaz and Mare, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) could ask for assistance from the YPG in order to protect the areas of northwestern Syria they hold. This might then allow the Kurdish group to extend its reach to Afrin, another isolated Kurdish “canton” declared by the PYD in the far west of Syria.

The PYD needs to overrun Jarablus and pass west of the Euphrates to reach the Azaz-Mare region if this scenario is to be realised. Then, the PYD might take full control of the Turkish-Syrian border, leading to fears in Turkey that it might end up neighbouring a hostile Kurdish state which could use its control of the border to undermine Turkey’s internal security.

These are reasons, Turkey has laid down a red line regarding advances by either ISIS or the PYD west of the Euphrates. According to the Turkish daily Milliyet, if the PYD undertakes  any operation past this point the Turkish Armed Forces will carry out a cross border operation without providing notice.

If ISIS captures the area it will able to take control of the Oncupinar border crossing with Turkey, and could get closer to reaching another border crossing at Cilvegozu. Therefore, Turkey would virtually lose control of its border to two hostile militant groups.

In addition, the fighting involved in capturing the crossings as well as any ethnic cleansing or massacres by the two groups could lead to a new wave of refugees from Syria to Turkey, another concern which is also behind Turkey’s decision to issue the second red line regarding any attack by the Assad regime attack north of Idlib, the Milliyet report said.

It is feared that if the Syrian regime launches an attack north of Idlib there will be another huge flow of refugees into Turkey, which already hosts more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees who fled the violence in their country after the escalation of the civil war there.

Turkey and the US-led anti-ISIS coalition forces appear to have differences in terms of priorities in northern Syria, despite mostly sharing the same interests. Turkey is concerned by the PYD’s activities in northern Syria along the Turkish border as much as it is concerned with the actions of ISIS and the Assad regime.

However, the US-led coalition is highly supportive of the PYD’s activities against ISIS, which has been heavily bombarded by the coalition in coordination with attacks by the PYD.

US State Department Spokesman John Kirby at  Washington’s daily press briefing on June 30 reacted to Turkish demands by saying that, “The Defense Department has made it clear that they don’t believe there’s a need for that at this time, and that the use of coalition military assets in trying to effect a zone like that would entail an awful lot in terms of logistics, time, resources, and effort.”

When asked about the difference between a buffer zone and a safe haven Kirby stated that, “In military terms, I’m not sure that there’s technical definitions for either one. I think it depends on the context in which you’re using it. I don’t know that there’s much – it depends on how you define it and how you want that area defended and protected.”

However, he also said, “They would have to decide how they would both make the decision, defend the decision, and implement it. That’s a national decision that they would have to speak to.”

 

Source: TRT World and agencies

The Frustration of American War Hawks

[SEE:  ‘Winning the Cold War with propaganda’: New Dutch-Polish ‘content factory’ to challenge Russia]

рус.jpg

American war hawks are angry over the fact that RussiaToday is much better at getting “NEWS” out than “Radio Free Europe.”  RT is being condemned for serving the same purpose in Russia that AlJazeera served in the wars on Libya and Syria.  AlJazeera served as a tool of American “public diplomacy” in the propaganda war in the Middle East, just as RT serves Russian diplomacy in Russia and Eastern Europe.  RT doesn’t spread disinformation, it spreads NEWS that the Western powers actively suppress.  Radio Liberty and RFE do spread Western disinformation, instead of news.  Because people are able to understand this, they turn away from these NEWS sources.  War Hawks hate this (they hate everything).

RussiaToday helps Russians to avoid Western traps laid for them.  Russian and Moldavian crowds are harder to incite to violence because of RT.  This really pisses-off the hawks.  What makes them even madder, is that Americans cannot be agitated with war fever without first seeing mobs of civilians getting mowed-down by guns or tanks.

Against the background of the aggressive anti-Russian rhetoric of many leaders of NATO member states, voters in these countries are not ready to support such a policy.  In particular, this contradiction between the official position and public opinion is most noticeable in Germany.”–Russian Information Agency

The majority of Americans have grown weary of war.  Most doubt the reasons given for prolonging our wars or for starting new ones.  No American with any measure of sense wants to go to war against Russia.  We have spent most of our lives dreading accidental war against Russia, so why would we support a decision to fight another European war?

“Russia’s aim, though, is not so much to accumulate its own “soft power” as to undermine the west’s ability to act against it.”–Guardian

The information war is needed to neutralize Russia’s ability to ignore and evade American provocations, without having to resort to violence to pacify seditious mobs.  Russian “propaganda” is really defensive, in nature, helping Putin’s govt defuse planned disruptions and social actions.  John McCain, Barack Obama, and other politicians of the American war party, are offended that Russia has cultivated this capability to defend itself against planned military aggression, using only the “NEWS” as its “soft” defensive weapon.  All Putin has to do to defeat war plans, which are based entirely upon lies, is to broadcast the truth.

Western Propaganda organs plan to fight this truth using only lies and half-truths as offensive weapons.  The first lie is that RussiaToday and others only broadcast disinformation.  The truth that comes from RT becomes “disinformation,” simply because American sources say so.  America’s information war is not fought to be won, but only until a path to war between Europe and Russia is opened-up.

The John McCains are pissed-off that they can no longer force new wars upon the American people without endangering their political immunity.  People like McCain, who claim to be “war heroes,” due to no action of their own (other than enlisting), are molded into leading politicians by the people who have laid all of that money at their feet.   Mad dogs like McCain get red-faced, fighting mad, whenever the American people dare to cross their war plans.

Pompous windbags cannot accept the fact that they have no authority of any kind, over other nations.

peter.chamberlin@yahoo.com

 

 

Obama To Disarm Disabled SS Recipients with “Representative Payees” As “Mental Defectives”

Obama pushes to extend gun background checks to Social Security

latimes

US-POLITICS-CONGRESS-GUN VIOLENCERelatives of gun violence victims and gun control advocates held a news conference in Washington on Dec. 10, 2014, two years after the Sandy Hook shooting, to urge lawmakers to expand background checks. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)
By Alan Zarembo

 

Seeking tighter controls over firearm purchases, the Obama administration is pushing to ban Social Security beneficiaries from owning guns if they lack the mental capacity to manage their own affairs, a move that could affect millions whose monthly disability payments are handled by others.

The push is intended to bring the Social Security Administration in line with laws regulating who gets reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, which is used to prevent gun sales to felons, drug addicts, immigrants in the country illegally and others.

A potentially large group within Social Security are people who, in the language of federal gun laws, are unable to manage their own affairs due to “marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease.”There is no simple way to identify that group, but a strategy used by the Department of Veterans Affairs since the creation of the background check system is reporting anyone who has been declared incompetent to manage pension or disability payments and assigned a fiduciary.

If Social Security, which has never participated in the background check system, uses the same standard as the VA, millions of its beneficiaries would be affected. About 4.2 million adults receive monthly benefits that are managed by “representative payees.”

The move is part of a concerted effort by the Obama administration after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., to strengthen gun control, including by plugging holes in the background check system.

But critics — including gun rights activists, mental health experts and advocates for the disabled — say that expanding the list of prohibited gun owners based on financial competence is wrongheaded.

Though such a ban would keep at least some people who pose a danger to themselves or others from owning guns, the strategy undoubtedly would also include numerous people who may just have a bad memory or difficulty balancing a checkbook, the critics argue.

“Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe,” said Dr. Marc Rosen, a Yale psychiatrist who has studied how veterans with mental health problems manage their money. “They are very different determinations.”

Steven Overman, a 30-year-old former Marine who lives in Virginia, said his case demonstrates the flaws of judging gun safety through financial competence.
State police lead students from Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., after a shooting. The Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at the school left 26 people, including 20 children, dead. (Shannon Hicks / Newtown Bee)

After his Humvee hit a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury that weakened his memory and cognitive ability.

The VA eventually deemed him 100% disabled and after reviewing his case in 2012 declared him incompetent, making his wife his fiduciary.

Upon being notified that he was being reported to the background check system, he gave his guns to his mother and began working with a lawyer to get them back.

Overman grew up hunting in Wisconsin. After his return from Iraq, he found solace in target shooting. “It’s relaxing to me,” he said. “It’s a break from day-to-day life. It calms me down.”

Though his wife had managed their financial affairs since his deployment, Overman said he has never felt like he was a danger to himself or others.

“I didn’t know the VA could take away your guns,” he said.

The background check system was created in 1993 by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, named after White House Press Secretary James Brady, who was partially paralyzed after being shot in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan.

The law requires gun stores to run the names of prospective buyers through the computerized system before every sale.

The system’s databases contain more than 13 million records, which include the names of felons, immigrants in the U.S. illegally, fugitives, dishonorably discharged service members, drug addicts and domestic abusers.

State agencies, local police and federal agencies are required to enter names into the databases, but the system has been hampered by loopholes and inconsistent reporting since its launch.

The shortcomings became clear in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, in which Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people. Cho had been declared mentally ill by a court and ordered to undergo outpatient treatment, but at the time the law did not require that he be added to the databases.

Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe. They are very different determinations. – Dr. Marc Rosen, Yale psychiatrist

Congress expanded the reporting requirements, but Social Security determined it was not required to submit records, according to LaVenia LaVelle, an agency spokeswoman.

After 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, 20 children and six school staffers in Newtown in 2012, President Obama vowed to make gun control a central issue of his second term.

The effort fell flat. Congress ultimately rejected his proposals for new gun control legislation.

But among 23 executive orders on the issue was one to the Department of Justice to ensure that federal agencies were complying with the existing law on reporting to the background check system.

One baseline for other agencies is the VA, which has been entering names into the system since the beginning. About 177,000 veterans and survivors of veterans are in the system, according to VA figures.

The VA reports names under a category in gun control regulations known as “adjudicated as a mental defective,” terminology that derives from decades-old laws. Its only criterion is whether somebody has been appointed a fiduciary.

More than half of the names on the VA list are of people 80 or older, often suffering from dementia, a reasonable criterion for prohibiting gun ownership.

But the category also includes anybody found by a “court, board, commission or other lawful authority” to be lacking “the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs” for a wide variety of reasons.

The agency’s efforts have been criticized by a variety of groups.

Rosen, the Yale psychiatrist, said some veterans may avoid seeking help for mental health problems out of fear that they would be required to give up their guns.

Conservative groups have denounced the policy as an excuse to strip veterans of their gun rights.

Republicans have introduced legislation in the last several sessions of Congress to change the policy. The Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act, now under consideration in the House, would require a court to determine that somebody poses a danger before being reported to the background check system.

Social Security would generally report names under the same “mental defective” category. The agency is still figuring out how that definition should be applied, LaVelle said.

About 2.7 million people are now receiving disability payments from Social Security for mental health problems, a potentially higher risk category for gun ownership. An addition 1.5 million have their finances handled by others for a variety of reasons.

The agency has been drafting its policy outside of public view. Even the National Rifle Assn. was unaware of it.

Told about the initiative, the NRA issued a statement from its chief lobbyist, Chris W. Cox, saying: “If the Obama administration attempts to deny millions of law-abiding citizens their constitutional rights by executive fiat, the NRA stands ready to pursue all available avenues to stop them in their tracks.”

Gun rights advocates are unlikely to be the only opponents.

Ari Ne’eman, a member of the National Council on Disability, said the independent federal agency would oppose any policy that used assignment of a representative payee as a basis to take any fundamental right from people with disabilities.

“The rep payee is an extraordinarily broad brush,” he said.

Since 2008, VA beneficiaries have been able to get off the list by filing an appeal and demonstrating that they pose no danger to themselves or others.

But as of April, just nine of 298 appeals have been granted, according to data provided by the VA. Thirteen others were pending, and 44 were withdrawn after the VA overturned its determination of financial incompetence.

Overman is one of the few who decided to appeal.

He is irritable and antisocial, he said, but not dangerous. “I’ve never been suicidal,” he said. “To me that solves nothing.”

More than a year and a half after Overman filed his challenge, the VA lifted its incompetence ruling, allowing his removal from the background check system before the VA ever had to determine whether he should be trusted with a gun.

Overman, who hasn’t worked since leaving the military, said he and a friend are now thinking of opening a gunsmith business.

alan.zarembo@latimes.com

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