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Author: TriSec    Date: 04/11/2017 10:06:23

Good Morning.

Let's dive right in, shall we? We'll start this morning in Washington, where the Secretary of Defence is making flowery claims that the recent pinprick strike on a previously-alerted airfield actually destroyed 20% of Syria's aircraft. Whether these were armed and ready to strike, or were merely abandoned relics in the desert was not made clear.



(CNN)The US airstrike on Syria's Shayrat airbase Friday destroyed about 20% of the Syrian government's operational aircraft, Secretary of Defense James Mattis claimed in a statement Monday.

"The Syrian government has lost the ability to refuel or rearm aircraft at Shayrat airfield and at this point, use of the runway is of idle military interest," Mattis said, describing the strike as a "measured response."

The updated assessment was released after US President Trump asked Mattis for more information on the extent of the damage to the airbase, according to a senior administration official.

The US fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Syrian airbase after more than 80 people were killed, including children, in chemical weapons attack in Idlib province.
"The Syrian government would be ill-advised ever again to use chemical weapons," Mattis said.

The US blames Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the carnage, but the Syrian military denies responsibility for the attack.

US officials originally said 58 of the 59 missiles fired Friday had "severely degraded or destroyed" their original target, including 20 planes which they said were taken out in the strike. On Friday, Russia's Defense Ministry said in a statement only 23 of the US missiles made it to the airbase, blowing up just six MiG-23 planes.

Military flights from the Shayrat airbase resumed over the weekend, according to both Syrian state media outlets and an opposition group.

Defense analysts IHS Jane's estimate the Syrian airforce has about 262 strike aircraft, although the company admits this may be an imperfect number due to the ongoing war.


Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, we continue to take swings at the hornet's nest that is North Korea. Eventually, we're going to make contact and they will react as everyone expects them to do.


North Korea warned Tuesday it will take the "toughest" military action against Washington following the U.S. Navy’s deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group to the Korean Peninsula.

A spokesman of the North Korean Foreign Ministry said through the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that it will hold the United States “wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences entailed by its outrageous actions,” adding that Pyongyang is “ready to react to any mode of war.”

The spokesman went on to warn that such actions by Washington justify increasing “its military capabilities for self-defense” or a “pre-emptive attack with a nuclear force.” He added the North will take the “toughest counteraction” against anyone who provokes it and defend itself by a “powerful force of arms.”

Pyongyang's saber-rattling reflected heightened tensions amid the possibility of a sixth nuclear test or a ballistic missile launch by the North this month to coincide with major military and political events. U.S. President Donald Trump recently ordered his National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to prepare for “a full range of options,” leading to renewed concerns of a possible pre-emptive strike or military action by Washington.

Trump’s decision to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base last week during a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping underscored his administration’s willingness to use military action to send a political message.

Pyongyang’s official Rodong Sinmun warned Washington against a pre-emptive strike in a commentary, emphasizing the regime is “ready to counter any type of an aggression war.”

The North’s bellicose remarks came after the U.S. Pacific Command on Saturday diverted the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group from a planned visit to Australia to move closer to the Korean Peninsula.

The aircraft carrier group, deployed from San Diego in January, was in the region less than a month ago for joint drills with the South Korean Navy, and its redeployment so soon was seen as a show of force by Washington in the region.


Moving on to our vets today, remember a few weeks back when the Secretary of Veteran's Affairs made a pithy statement that the VA was "On a path to recovery?"

Well, they have apparently decided that along the way, they should silence dissent, crush opposition, and infringe upon the constitutional rights (and whistleblower protections) of those that would oppose such 'progress'.


The Department of Veterans Affairs has concocted a new scheme to silence whistleblowers who publicly disclose certain whistleblower retaliation facts.

The new scheme involves penalizing whistleblowers who publicly disclose the identity of anyone who is engaged in harassing them for being a whistleblower. VA is now treating such statements as a violation of the privacy rights of the alleged wrongdoer and while infringing on the free speech rights of the victim.

PHOENIX VA ANTI-FREE SPEECH

The practice involves none other than Phoenix VA and its assault against Kuauhtemoc Rodriguez, a whistleblower who disclosed the facility is still engaged in wait list type treatment of veterans.

After Rodriguez disclosed the continued practice to the press, he began being harassed by facility supervision.

He then disclosed the identity of one of the VA employees who engaged in the harassment to his contact in the press. It was this latter act that resulted in VA threatening to terminate Rodriguez employment.

VA SECRECY

“The Department of Veterans Affairs is obligated to ensure the confidentiality of its beneficiaries’ and employees’ personal identifying information,” the VA said in a statement regarding Rodriguez’s pending discipline. “Employees are expected to act in a manner that is consistent with VA’s core values of Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence. Leadership should take action to ensure the safety of our patients and staff and preserve the integrity of our mission within applicable laws and regulations.”

What does punishing a whistleblower who acknowledges information about the person who is harassing him to a member of the press?

FIRST AMENDMENT COALITION

VA has long asserted VA employees have a right to privacy in their name, but at least one First Amendment advocacy group believes the use of the privacy act in this manner is overly broad.

David Snyder, executive director of The First Amendment Coalition, said, “To threaten discipline up to and included firing seems at the very least heavy-handed; it’s not like the Social Security or bank account numbers were released.”

“Is the mere existence of an employee’s name secret or to be withheld from the public? Certainly not,” Snyder said. “The mere existence of a name isn’t something they are entitled to redact” in document requests.

VA treats its activities in a manner consistent with that of the NSA – everything is secret unless the agency chooses to disclose the matter. It is this level of unwarranted secrecy that has prevented the agency from the reforms necessary to turn around the corrupt culture rotting away in facilities like Phoenix VA.


Finally this morning, the executive board of this column has decided just now to start covering America's war with itself as part of our weekly combat and military reporting.

A student shot yesterday in San Bernadino has died overnight.



 

44 comments (Latest Comment: 04/11/2017 22:02:33 by TriSec)
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