VA Regains Access to Medical Records

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Defense Department is once again permitting Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to get full medical records they say they need to treat severely injured troops arriving at VA hospitals from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pentagon officials cut off VA's access on Jan. 23, concluding that privacy concerns and federal regulations barred the department from using the military's Joint Patient Tracking Application system without a formal data-sharing agreement.

VA physicians, who handle troops with brain and other serious injuries at four trauma centers, strongly protested the cutoff, saying that they rely on the tracking system to help them determine the best treatment for the wounded.

Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, and ranking Republican Larry E. Craig (Idaho) wrote Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel David S.C. Chu on Feb. 6 that they were "deep[ly] concerned" the VA doctors had been cut off.

The Pentagon on Thursday declined to comment on the situation when we called, and the senators had received no response.

On Friday, VA officials notified the senators that access to the tracking system had been restored. Akaka and Craig said they were pleased the problem had been resolved. So, most likely, is everyone else.

GOP Supporter Faces Terrorism Charges

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) said yesterday that it will donate to charity the $15,000 it received in recent years from Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari if Alishtari is convicted of assisting terrorists.

Alishtari, a.k.a. Michael Mixon, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Manhattan on Friday to charges of terrorism financing, material support of terrorism and money laundering, among other things.

Alishtari, on a Web résumé he apparently posted this year, says he was named to the NRCC's "White House Business Advisory Committee" and was named the NRCC's New York state businessman of the year in 2002 and 2003.

He was indicted in a plan to send $152,000 to Pakistan and Afghanistan to support a terrorist training camp, the Associated Press reported. And he was accused of funneling $25,000 from a bank account in New York to an account in Montreal, allegedly to support terrorists.

"We are extremely concerned and disturbed by these charges," NRCC communications director Jessica Boulanger said in a statement -- or understatement -- "but we need to be careful not to rush to judgment as the judicial process moves forward." He's a businessman in New York, after all, not some guy in Guantanamo. "If the individual in question is found guilty of a crime," Boulanger said, "it is our intent to donate the money to charity."

In most cases, political contributions from controversial sources are often returned to donors, but obviously it wouldn't do to return the money to someone charged with helping fund terrorists. Never know where the money might end up.

Author, Author!

Seems Robert Andrews, deputy undersecretary of defense for counterintelligence, former Green Beret and former CIA officer, has his own after-hours job. Andrews, it turns out, is a novelist and, we're reliably informed, an excellent one.

None other than publisher Otto Penzler, owner of the Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan and the first and last word on American mystery books, last week notified Andrews that his short story "Solomon's Alley" had been picked for inclusion in the 11th volume of Houghton Mifflin's Best American Mystery Stories 2007, to be published in October.

Penzler says he picked about 50 stories from around 1,500 submitted. All were published in 2006. Then Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen, mega-best-selling author of some of the funniest novels ever written, selected the final 20.

Andrews is the author of four novels dealing with the spy business and three detective mystery stories set in the District. One involves the murder of a Washington Post diplomatic reporter.

Will Bolton Tell All?

Speaking of authors, John Bolton's tell-all book on his days at the State Department and as ambassador to the United Nations could be coming out as early as the end of this year.

All right, maybe not a classic "tell-all" -- perhaps just a "tell-some" -- but top folks in Foggy Bottom and at the United Nations are most surely not going to be happy when this one comes out. The buzz is that it's going to focus mostly on Bolton's work at the United Nations, where he's said to be still upset at his inability to lop off 10 of the building's 38 floors that he had said were expendable. The book is likely to rank the floors in order of those most expendable.

Unclear how Bolton will treat his most recent bosses, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. His view of Rice may have altered a bit after last week's agreement with North Korea on its nuclear program, an agreement Bolton and other conservatives have criticized as "a bad deal." There are others at State sure to come in for their share of abuse.

No working title yet and no publisher, although several have expressed interest. But if this is to come out before Christmas, he'd better get typing.

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