Recently, Liberty Change was given an opportunity to interview longtime civil rights attorney and founder of United States Justice Foundation (USJF), Michael Connelly. The USJF is a nonprofit public interest, legal action organization dedicated to instruct, inform and educate the public on, and to litigate, significant legal issues confronting America (www.usjf.net). Connelly made headlines two years ago when he published scanned letters sent from the VA to veterans declaring them mentally incompetent, and as a result, denying them of their right to own firearms, all without due process. Even though Connelly provided the scanned documents, which can be seen below, the story was attacked by conspiracy theorists and government apologists alike who claimed that no such incident could have occurred and that it was beyond the VA’s capabilities to unilaterally strip veterans of their 2nd Amendment rights without fair trial. Of course, that is what we are all to believe, but the letters are real and Connelly is now aware of the legal precedent that the VA and DoJ are citing to justify this mass veteran disarmament campaign based on documents that he’s received from Freedom of Information Act litigation.
Because of the controversy surrounding the claims and the total mainstream media blackout on the story, Liberty Change sought out Mr. Connelly personally and was granted an in-depth interview on the background of the case and the current progress of the USJF’s FOIA lawsuits against the federal government. According to Connelly, the USJF began receiving numerous letters from veterans who were being declared mentally unfit by the VA for the purposes of owning firearms and placed in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database without proper adjudication. Typically, if a person is suspected to be without the mental capacity required for safely owning a firearm, they are still entitled due process in which they have a chance to defend themselves with proper legal representation if they feel that the accusation is misplaced. Perhaps what’s most egregious about the case of the veterans is, as you can see in the letter, they are placed in the NICS database beforehand and told that they may request a hearing with the VA accompanied by a veterans’ service representative after the fact.
Since when has the federal government been allowed to explicitly deny someone of one of their fundamental, constitutionally guaranteed rights without access to a trial? Apparently, since 2009 says Connelly. He says the broader application of this pre-existing law began when Eric Holder took the seat of Attorney General. Based on all of the cases that Connelly has observed, he believes that nearly every one of the declarations of mental incompetency has been completely unjust. Some of the veterans have sought legal action following receipt of these letters and have been able to overturn the ruling in court, but Connelly says that the federal government still refuses to remove them from the national background check system denying them the ability to lawfully purchase any firearm.
He believes that these letters are part of a larger agenda to not only strip veterans of their firearms but to shut down anyone who tries to raise awareness about the issue. Shortly before we contacted Mr. Connelly, he was a victim of what can only be described as an intimidation attempt by some unknown perpetrator reminiscent of the type experienced by Gary Webb during the Dark Alliance story. Last summer, Connelly mailed Freedom of Information Act requests to several agencies requesting the exact criteria that they have been using to declare these veterans mentally unfit. When the agencies refused to provide this information, Connelly sent his partner to his office to obtain return receipts from the FOIA requests in order to prepare a legal filing. His partner discovered that all of the files were missing, and the related computer files had been deleted from the desktop. However, the strangest part of the whole episode was that there was no sign of a break in and nothing else had been stolen. Connelly said of the incident:
He went to his office on Saturday to mail the info to me, and the file where it was kept was completely empty. He searched the office and everything was gone that would allow us to prove that the agencies received the requests. In addition, the letters containing the requests were deleted from his office computer. There was no sign of forced entry and nothing else was missing from the office. This was obviously done by professionals and the FOIA requests information was the sole target.
This whole thing is bizarre but we will send out new requests. Obviously, this was done to try and intimidate us and delay our filing of a suit to get the requested information. We hit a nerve with something in one or more of the requests. It certainly generated an attempt to sabotage our efforts to protect our veterans (‘A Case of Sabotage’ http://michaelconnelly.jigsy.com/entries/general/a-case-of-sabotage).