Click to see preamble.


MAY 3, 2015



Islamic Extremism

Our guest hour 1: Ambassador Francis Rooney
                   hour 2: Kristen Ruell
                                                        www.FRANCISROONEY.COM  WE THE PEOPLE RADIO
Francis Rooney served as United States Ambassador to the Holy See under George W. Bush from 2005–2008. He is Chief Executive Officer of Rooney Holdings, Inc.

In his new book, THE GLOBAL VATICAN, Ambassador Rooney provides an unprecedented inside look at the Catholic Church, its role in world politics and diplomacy, and the extraordinary relationship between the United States and the Holy See.

Ambassador Rooney serves as a member of the Advisory Board of the Panama Canal Authority, a member of the Council of    American Ambassadors, and a Trustee of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and Georgetown University Law Center. He also has Honorary Degrees from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Dallas.
From the centuries-long prejudices against Catholics in America, to the efforts of Fascism, Communism and modern terrorist organizations to “break the cross and spill the wine,” this book brings to life the Catholic Church’s role in world history, particularly in the realm of diplomacy. Former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See Francis Rooney provides a comprehensive guide to the remarkable path the Vatican has navigated to the present day, and a first-person account of what that path looks and feels like from an American diplomat whose experience lent him the ultimate insider’s perspective. Part memoir, part historical lesson, The Global Vatican captures the braided nature of religious and political power and the complexities, battles, and future prospects for the relationship between the Holy See and the United States as both face challenges old and new.
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ISIS, Islamic Extremism, and the Long War  
By Ambassador Francis Rooney
Regardless of various opinions about the United States’ military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, I would argue that President Bush’s words to a joint session of Congress on 20 September of that year ring just as true and valuable now: “We are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom” against an onslaught by terrorists practicing “a fringe form of Islamic extremism”.

Recent unconscionable acts of violence by Islamic militants, including beheadings and burnings alive not heard of for hundreds of years, demand broad and possibly unique means of response and concerted action by the modern world. Certainly the “overseas contingency operation” with which the Obama Administration replaced the “Global War on Terror” in May 2009 has failed to accomplish the task. Now ISIS leaders openly threaten to “conquer your Rome, break your crosses and enslave your women.”

Not since the Communist state of Stalin, or perhaps the Third Reich, have we faced such a potential, or at least self-proclaimed, existential threat to the modern world. It required a half century of containment to mutate the former and a brutal world war to eradicate the latter.

The religious inspiration behind ISIS, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and affiliated groups add a different face to the movements which call for responses broader than purely military activity. Recalling President Truman’s unsuccessful effort to draw the world’s religions into the fight against communism, we need to draw religious leaders from all traditions—especially the vast majority of Muslims who do not align themselves with the medieval barbarism of the terrorists—into open and concerted action in opposition to the threat posed here.

In the early 1950s, Truman found only one group, the Catholic Church, willing to broadly and openly attack communism. In 2006, it was Pope Benedict XVI who spoke out more clearly and aggressively against the evil of using religion to inspire hatred and violence—and of the fundamental incompatibility of the Prophet’s command to “spread the word by the sword” with the way of life in the modern 21st century. He urged the Islamic world to reconcile the Koran with modernity, to bring reason to its interpretations just as the Enlightenment did for theocratic monarchies in the 18th century. He made it clear that moderate Muslims must take responsibility for their own religion.

And while there have been some encouraging comments, inter-religious dialogues, and op-eds to this effect, we are still in the early stages of a protracted struggle for the minds of heretofore not radicalized muslims. The “soft power” of religious opinion makers is an important factor. In fact, some have argued as Ambassador Charles Freeman (USFS, Ret.) has that “only a coalition with a strong Muslim identity can hope to contain” the terrorists. He argues that the doctrines of ISIS cannot be successfully refuted by non-Muslims because the U.S. “lacks the religious credentials to refute” Islamic terrorist groups as “a moral perversion of Islam.”

The lack of cultural integration in different nations’ societies also presents a major challenge. Whether it is European “multiculturalism,” or an affirmative prejudice, the lack of alignment of many Muslim groups with the national identities and cultures of their countries has created a breeding ground for radicalization. Here is where our unique American “exceptionalism” can show the light. Our “melting pot” tradition of assimilation of diverse peoples has created—despite some bumps in the road—a uniquely broad and culturally tolerant society. And the related concept of citizenship based on residence and personal actions rather than blood and lineage can serve as a powerful model.

As the world gropes for solutions, it has become clear that concerted action by the modern world, akin to the Allied Powers’ collaborative actions to confront the Axis, is absolutely necessary. Spain and France recently passed bi-partisan laws granting expansive powers to the authorities to monitor and interdict internet connectivity with radical Islamic sites, to isolate and track down “lone wolf” terrorists, and to restrict and contain travel to and from places of known terrorist activities. Modifying the Schengen visa program and putting in place tightened border security are issues to consider as means of improving tracking of known terrorist suspects.

Lastly, we should consider a “containment” and isolation program to ring fence the terrorist geographies, turn them onto themselves and limit their capacity to export murder beyond their borders. In so doing, perhaps we can help assure that their neighbors who are our allies in all this (especially Jordan) are reinforced and protected. Turkey has a powerful role to play both because of their long land border with Syria and Iraq, and due to the complexities presented by the PKK in Turkey and the evolution of Kurdistan and its Peshmerga, which are capable fighters and allies of the West. Only a comprehensive strategy can turn the tide and lead us to ultimate victory in the Long War.

—Francis Rooney served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under George W. Bush from 2005 to 2008, and is author of the book, The Global Vatican.
Our guest hour 2: Kristen Ruell
APPEARANCES:   MAY 3, 2015   MAY 10, 2015   AUG 9, 2015  FEB 14, 2016
Philadelphia VA Whistleblower WE THE PEOPLE RADIO

April 22, 2015 House Veterans Affairs Committee


My name is Kristen Ruell. I am an authorization quality review specialist at the Philadelphia Regional Office.  My primary job duty includes performing quality reviews on the accuracy of benefit payments paid out from the VA to its beneficiaries.  This August will mark my 8th year of employment with the Philadelphia Regional Office at the United States Department of Veteran Affairs.  The agency has potential to be the greatest place to work in the entire country.  The feeling of being able to give back to the American citizens that served our country is truly satisfying. 

Earlier this month, the OIG’s report on the Philadelphia Regional Office was released.  The report confirms what whistleblowers have alleged for years, that the managers at the Philadelphia Regional Office lack the ability to appropriately govern and oversee the wide-range of benefits and services for which it is responsible.  To date, the VA has failed to hold any management official accountable for the many deficiencies cited in the report.  The VA has stated that 95% of the problems cited in the report have been fixed.  I strongly disagree for the following reasons:

  1. The Philadelphia RO has a large number of EEO complaints against various members of management. A large amount of taxpayer monies have been spent on administrative costs, attorney fees, and settlements. For every case settled, a new one is filed. Without removing the officials making the bad decisions, the number of claims filed will not decline. When the evidence clearly indicates that the same decision makers are not making the right decisions, they should no longer be in decision making positions.

  2. I have personally reported erroneous and duplicate payments since 2010.In 2012, I reported the erroneous payments to the IRS, Department of Justice, OIG, OSC, and the VA Secretary. The duplicate payment problem has never been fixed. Unless the computer is programmed to prevent a duplicate payment, they will continue to occur. The VA has stated that they have no way to identify and prevent duplicate payments, aside from a duplicate payment report, which Philadelphia RO employees admitted they were unaware the reports existed. Stopping an award that is paying twice is not correcting the underlying problem, which is wasting millions of taxpayer dollars. The VA also did not keep a list of people that were paid duplicate awards, and many were sent letters in which the erroneous award was stopped without processing and noting the overpayment. Creating a ledger of the overpayments at this point would be virtually impossible due to the lack of record keeping regarding these payments.

  3. Although Fast Letter 13-10 was rescinded, there is evidence that data manipulation continues. The data manipulation will continue until the performance standards are amended. The current standards are unreasonable and cause an employee to do things to save their job that in turn can harm the Veteran. It is not fair to place an employee in that situation.It is even less fair to the Veteran whose claim may be effected.

  4. An Administrative Investigative Board, has been charged with making a determination on certain issues regarding the misapplication of Fast letter 13-10, which pertains to dates assigned to claims filed by Veterans and their survivors. The Administrative Investigative Board consists of VA employees who determine whether there is intentional wrongdoing. The OIG just finished their investigation on this issue. It is confusing to me why the OIG suggested an AIB rather than an outside investigation. An outside agency should be assigned to eliminate bias. Philadelphia RO Director Diana Rubens used to be in charge of 57 field offices and most likely knows most management officials chosen to investigate on behalf of her Regional Office. The VA should not be trusted to investigate itself until it proves it is complying with the VA Core Values.

  5. Employees are expecting management to be accountable for the deficiencies cited in the recent OIG report regarding the Philadelphia Regional Office. The typical VA solution for most every problem is training, committees, and meetings, which do not fix managers who lack morals and integrity.

The Philadelphia Regional Office needs new leadership.  Employees have lost trust in their managers and do not trust the broken chain of command.  I have lost trust in VA management at all levels.  I stopped sending emails to the VACO because I was informed that my and other employee’s emails were being rerouted to the RO and were in the hands of the people we reported.  The only way to rebuild trust at the Philadelphia Regional Office is to hold those accountable that were responsible for the many issues cited in the OIG report.  Congress and the American people need whistleblowers so they are informed as to what happens inside the walls of the Federal Agencies.  Without accountability, in my office and at the VA, there will be far fewer whistleblowers, if any.  

Thank you for the invitation to be part of this hearing today.  I will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding my experiences in the Philadelphia Regional Office.


Philadelphia and Oakland: Systemic Failures and Mismanagement

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs | 334 Cannon House Office Building Washington , DC 20515 | Apr 22, 2015 10:30am


Hearing may be viewed in two parts at the following links:



Rhetoric v. Reality: Investigating the Continued Failures of the Philadelphia VA Regional Office


Double Payments Bedevil Veterans’ Pension System


PHILADELPHIA — In July 2010, a Department of Veterans Affairs employee named Kristen Ruell was updating a benefit claim when she noticed something odd. What should have been an increase of about $2,000 in a monthly payment to the widow of a veteran showed up on her computer screen as $21,000.

Puzzled, she set the claim aside and began digging into computer files for an answer. What she found surprised and worried her: the department’s database contained duplicate records for the widow, and the system was trying to pay her twice. It was also recommending a retroactive payment dating back months — though the widow had already been paid for that period.

After seeing the same problem in other claims, Ms. Ruell, who works on a quality review team at a veterans pension management center in Philadelphia, says she raised red flags with her bosses. If she, one of scores of payment authorizers nationwide, was just noticing the duplicate payments, was it not likely that the department had inadvertently overpaid many other people for years?


Ryan Cease, left, Kristen Ruell and Ken Crandall are among the workers who have raised questions about duplicate payments in the Department of Veterans Affairs pension system. Credit Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times

Two years later, that concern has not been resolved, Ms. Ruell and several other pension management workers say. CLICK HERE to read more



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