Just two weeks after disrupting the confirmation hearing of John Brennan, the activist organization CODEPINK paid a visit to the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee. In the Atrium of the Senate Hart Office Building, CODEPINK demonstrators donned black robes and ghoulish masks to dramatize the alleged killing of civilians in drone bombing attacks by the U.S. in the Middle East. Under heavy escort by Capitol Police, they delivered a petition to the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) requesting public hearings into drone casualties.
CODEPINK founder Medea Benjamin hung placards bearing the names of people they claim are civilian victims of drone bombings around the necks of her fellow demonstrators, while she herself carried a sign saying, “200 children killed by drones.” CODEPINK believes that civilian casualties have numbered at least a thousand.
Aides in Senator Feinstein’s office didn’t respond to CODEPINK’s request for public hearings, except to say that the Senator believes that civilian casualties from drone bombings are few.
Benjamin is skeptical that Feinstein and others on the Foreign Intelligence Committee can rely on the information they are getting from the CIA and the Pentagon.
“How are we to know?” asks Benjamin. “We know that the Justice Department doesn’t even give the Intelligence Committee the nine legal memos that they have that provide the legal basis for the extrajudicial killing of Americans. So if they can’t even get that, why should we think that the CIA is giving them the information?”
Without transparency, Benjamin thinks the oversight process is broken. “The public is kept totally in the dark.” And, she says, Congress isn’t doing its job holding the Obama administration accountable. “I would say that they’re literally letting President Obama get away with murder.”
Capitol Police were well-prepared for CODEPINK, especially after their members had disrupted both the Kerry and Brennan nomination hearings, when officers removed them from the gallery and in some cases made arrests. Inspector Wesley Mahr told Benjamin she was “pushing it” when she still held a sign after he had delivered a third warning threatening arrest. A planned banner drop within the building was abandoned after it was clear Capitol Police had gotten wind of it. Demonstrations are not allowed in the Senate Hart Office Building.
Senator Feinstein, who did not see the protestors today, was visibly irritated with CODEPINK at the Brennan hearing, as activists one by one disrupted the proceedings. Feinstein then cleared the room. Progressives have objected to Brennan’s nomination to the head of the CIA due to his alleged complicity with Bush-era detention and torture practices. As the White House’s counterterrorism advisor, he’s pegged as an architect of the drone program.
The vote on Brennan’s confirmation, scheduled for last week, was postponed, although Democrats are confident that he will in fact be confirmed. In a new set of written answers for the Intelligence Committee, Brennan said only: “This Administration has not carried out drone strikes inside the United States and has no intention of doing so.”
Photos from the Senate Hart Office Building are here.
UPDATE: Senator Feinstein’s office hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
- Code Pink activists shown the red card at John Brennan Senate hearing (guardian.co.uk)
- Code Pink flash mobs Union Station (coolrevolution.net)
- Code Pink activist disrupts Kerry nomination hearing, demands end to military aid to Israel (coolrevolution.net)