A special Veterans Affairs office created in 2017 to protect whistleblowers and punish incompetent or corrupt VA employees has been a colossal failure, according to a blistering investigation released Thursday by the VA's inspector general.

The report comes as the VA district that includes Georgia replaced top leadership last month and the main regional hospital in Decatur for military veterans undergoes an investigation of medical practices amid widespread problems. Regional VA employees lodged close to 300 complaints with the inspector general in the last two years, ranging from retaliation against employees by superiors to abuse of authority.

The inspector general said the nationwide Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) failed from top to bottom. Investigations were incompetently carried out and biased. The office also failed to protect whistleblowers' identities and allowed their information to get back to the people or offices being investigated, letting whistleblowers become the subjects of retaliatory investigations.

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Joel Marrable (Laquna Ross via CNN)

Dawn Brys got an early taste of the crisis unfolding at the largest Veterans Affairs hospital in the Southeast.

The Air Force vet said she went to the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur last year for surgery on a broken foot. But the doctor called it off because the surgical instruments hadn't been properly sterilized.

"The tools had condensation on them," recalled Brys, a 50-year-old Marietta resident. The doctor rescheduled it for the next day.

Now the 400-plus-bed hospital on Clairmont Road that serves about 120,000 military veterans is in a state of emergency. It suspended routine surgeries in late September after a string of incidents that exposed mismanagement and dangerous practices. It hopes to resume normal operations by early November as it struggles to retrain staff and hire new nurses.

The partial shutdown came about two weeks after Joel Marrable, a cancer patient in the same VA complex, was found covered with more than 100 ant bites by his daughter. Also in September, the hospital's canteen was temporarily closed for a pest investigation.

The mounting problems triggered a leadership shakeup Sept. 17, when regional director Leslie Wiggins was put on administrative leave. Dr. Arjay K. Dhawan, the regional medical director, was moved to administrative duties pending an investigation. Seven staff members were reassigned to non-patient care.

The only question for some military veterans and staff is why the VA waited so long. They say problems existed for years under Wiggins' leadership, but little was done.

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Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

If you thought the chaos descending on Washington was anywhere close to clearing up, I have bad news for you: A second whistleblower has come forward.

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A New York Times report published on Thursday outed the anonymous intelligence community whistleblower at the center of a presidential impeachment inquiry as a CIA officer and provided clues to his identity that will likely make it easier for The White House and other observers to identify him.

Three people familiar with the officer's identity told the Times he is a CIA officer who was detailed to work at The White House and has since returned to the CIA. The report added that, based on the newly-released whistleblower complaint, he "was an analyst by training" who was "steeped in details of American foreign policy toward Europe, demonstrating a sophisticated understanding of Ukrainian politics and at least some knowledge of the law."

As the Times notes, CIA officers routinely work in The White House, often working on the National Security Council or managing secure communications with foreign leaders. But this officer didn't work on the communications team, the Times reported.

That level of detail spurred widespread criticism of the Times from lawyers, intelligence professionals, former government officials, journalists, and others.

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'We Kill People Based on Metadata'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who in 2013 leaked secret documents about U.S. telephone and Internet surveillance, saying his new book violates non-disclosure agreements.

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The Topeka Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Public domain)

The Kansas City VA Medical Center is still dealing with the fallout of a violent confrontation last year between one of its police officers and a patient, with the Kansas City Police Department launching a homicide investigation.

And now Topeka's VA hospital is dealing with an internal dispute between leaders of its Veterans Affairs police force that raises new questions about how the agency nationwide treats patients — and the officers who report misconduct by colleagues.

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