Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Tuesday that he is demanding that the Pentagon’s inspector general answer questions and update Congress on its ongoing investigation into the highly secretive office that provided more than a million dollars in questionable contracts to an FBI informant critically involved in the now debunked probe into President Donald Trump’s alleged connections to Russia.
Grassley, now Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, had sent a letter in January to the Department of Defense’s ONA director requesting detailed information on contracts provided to FBI informant Stefan Halper, who was spying on three of President Trump’s campaign aides during the 2016 election probe.
The expansive nature of Grassley’s investigation is significant and he is now asking ONA, which sources have told me is used as a cover for classified contracts and investigations, to “determine why it failed to perform a formal net assessment since 2007 and whether its purpose is still necessary in light of its wayward performance.”
“I appreciate your efforts; however, generalized evaluations such as the one you plan to perform will do no good for the taxpayer unless you perform an aggressive evaluation of ONA’s contract activities and compliance with both law and regulation,” said Grassley in a letter to the Pentagon’s Acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell. “The failure to do so will result in work product less than what the taxpayer deserves.”
Grassley is demanding answers to the following questions:
|1.Why has ONA failed to perform net assessments since 2007?|
2.Are other offices within DoD performing net assessments separate from ONA?
3.If so, please provide a complete list of those offices and the total cost of those assessments for each office for each of the past five years.
4.Are other offices within DoD performing generic research as described in the new DoD Directive 5111.11?
5. If so, please provide a complete list of those offices and the total cost of that research for each office for each of the past five years.
6. Since ONA no longer performs net assessments, is ONA’s existence duplicative and wasteful in light of other DoD offices performing the same work? A description and assessment of the extent to which ONA has failed to comply with laws and regulations in contracting for research projects during the five-year period ending on September 30, 2020.
7. An assessment to determine whether all supporting documentation for ONA’s contracting comports with the Statement of Work agreed to between the contractors and DoD during the five-year period ending on September 30, 2020.
8. The steps ONA must take to ensure that all contract documents are collected and recorded as required by all relevant law and regulation.What is the total cost to perform an annual net assessment?
9. An analysis as to whether or not an annual net assessment can be performed by ONA at a cost less than $10,000,000.
Moreover, ONA is an office that is originally “tasked with researching and comparing trends in military capabilities to identify future threats and opportunities.” However, its evaluations are long overdue and its opaque contracting practices raise questions about whether it is appropriately and efficiently using taxpayer dollars. In October, the DoD inspector general announced it would examine whether ONA had necessary procedures in place to conduct its mission.”
Grassley’s office told me in January that its investigation is focused on the ONA’s “contract compliance after reviewing troubling documents related to contracts awarded to Professor Stefan Halper.”
Grassely’s team of investigators were calling into question documents of ONA’s stewardship of taxpayer dollars, “as well as its contract management and internal controls,” the office stated.
This is where Halper’s role with ONA “becomes highly suspicious and his contracts coincide with his spying on the Trump campaign,” said one former government official in January, who was familiar with the matter.
Halper was an integral part of the FBI’s investigation in 2016 into short-term Trump campaign volunteer, Carter Page and George Papadopolous. Halper’s Cambridge Intelligence Seminar was also connected to Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, when in April, 2014 Flynn, who was then head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was invited as a guest to London, England. Flynn would later be at the center of false stories accusing him of being a Russian asset and wrapping Russian born British academic Svetlana Lokhova into the false stories.
In 2016, Bill Gertz, a Washington Times investigative Columnist, published the concern mounting regarding the DOD’s office and its failure to produce a Net Assessment as directed by its mandate.
“Instead, the office, whose director reports directly to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, has focused its $20 million annual budget mainly on producing outside research projects, some of them of questionable value, according to critics.
Net assessments are very secret, in-depth analyses that compare U.S. weapons, forces and policies with those of other countries. The assessments, usually running 100 pages or more, also seek to forecast military and strategic trends.”Bill Gertz, The Washington Times
Grassley’s committee, as well as his former Senate Judiciary Committee, has been investigating Halper and the ONA since 2019. The main focus of those investigations are concerning the large sum of money the ONA paid to Halper for questionable contracts and reports.
“Halper has been identified as a confidential human source tasked by U.S. authorities to surreptitiously record members of President Trump’s 2016 election campaign for the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation,” states Grassely’s press release.
Grassley’s letter follows exchanges with the Director of the Office of Net Assessment regarding its contracting practices and Halper’s questionable work for the office. In July, ONA Director James Baker provided responses to Grassley’s inquiries from June of this year. Text of Grassley’s letter to the DoD inspector general follows:Grassley’s press release
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REPORT: China uses psychiatric institutions to suppress dissent
China has a vast network of psychiatric institutions that it uses to suppress dissent, according to a recent report by Safeguard Defenders, an NGO that focuses on human rights violations in China and other Asian countries. The report compiled data found on 99 victims involved in 144 instances on involuntary hospitalizations in 109 institutions from 2015 through 2021. Of the 99 victims in the report, 80 were petitioners [i.e., those who file complaints against officials] and 14 were activists.
But this is hardly a new phenomenon. “China’s regime has been torturing, maiming, and killing dissidents and others in psychiatric facilities for seven decades,” said Gordon G. Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China and The Great U.S.-China Tech War. “The only way to end the horrific abuse is to end the rule of the Communist Party.”
The report detailed especially harsh treatments, which include: forced medication (in 77 percent of cases), physical restraints on the bed (60 percent), beatings by staff or other patients (25 percent) and electroshock therapy (14 percent). Otherwise normally healthy people were given anti-psychotic and psychotropic medications, causing severe side effects like memory loss, insomnia and tremors. Electroshock therapy was often administered to the victims as they were fully conscious, rather than under anesthesia in small doses as would be clinically appropriate for certain patients. According to the report, “[Electroshock therapy] without anesthesia is not only unimaginably painful and frightening for the patient but carries serious side effects, including the risk of bone fractures, joint dislocation, muscle tears, disruption of the heart beat and lung damage.”
Family and friends are often used as weapons against the victims. They were not permitted to call or visit the victims in 76 percent of cases, which essentially makes these cases “enforced disappearances.” 11 percent of cases were committed with the assistance of family (either voluntarily or coerced by authorities). Family and friends who petition for the victim’s release are often faced with persecution, and involuntarily commitment themselves.
The peak of psychiatric detentions occurred from 2015 through 2016, which was around the same time as China’s “709 Crackdown” where the government persecuted hundreds of human rights lawyers.
Some of the detentions are rather draconian. As a petitioner who called for local authorities to investigate a robbery in his house, Zeng Jiping was detained for almost two years. For “live tweeting herself splashing paint over a portrait of Xi Jinping,” Dong Yaoqiong received 1 year, 4 months detention. Twenty-nine out of the 99 victims in the report were hospitalized more than once. In two-thirds of cases where data was known, the authorities did not perform a psychiatric evaluation, in direct violation of China’s Mental Health Law.
The report also gives the example of Andy Li, a member of the “Hong Kong 12” pro-democracy protestors, as falling victim to involuntary detention in Hong Kong’ Siu Lam Psychiatric Center in 2021. The report noted that, as Li’s family didn’t know about his detention, “Li’s cases appears to be a worrying sign that the political abuse of psychiatry practiced on the mainland is now being exported into Hong Kong…”
Those who are finally released from their involuntary committals face lasting physical and phycological pain, and stigma within their communities. People seeking damages for their treatment are often faced with doctors and attorneys who do not want to assist them for fear of retaliation from the government.
According to the report, China is using “peace and health asylums” and other healthcare institutions to “punish and remove activists and petitioners from society without the trouble of going through a trial.” While the report details various Chinese laws that are supposed to protect citizens from such involuntary hospitalizations, in reality Chinese authorities do not abide by these laws and the citizens are not protected. The policy of involuntary hospitalizations show the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party will go to suppress dissent.
You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic
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