CODEPINK alleges mass civilian casualties from drone bombings, asks Senator Feinstein for investigation

CODEPINK activists outside Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office

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.

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CODEPINK activist disrupts Kerry nomination hearing, demands end to military aid to Israel

Guards remove Code Pink intern Lachelle Roddy from the Kerry hearing in a screen grab from CNN Photograph: CNN

[UPDATE below: Lachelle Roddy comments on her reasons for speaking out during Senate Foreign Relations hearing.]

CODEPINK intern and college student Lachelle Roddy disrupted Senator John Kerry’s nomination hearing for Secretary of State today. [VIDEO below] From the gallery of the Senate chamber, Roddy voiced her objection to U.S. military aid to Israel:

We’re killing thousands of people in the Middle East who are not a threat to us. When is it going to be enough? When are enough people going to be killed? I’m tired of my friends in the Middle East not knowing if they’re going to live to see the next day!

CODEPINK is an activist group which opposes U.S. military aggression abroad, including military aid to Israel, which it believes is being used to oppress Palestinians.

Video of Roddy disrupting the hearing:

Update:

Roddy commented on her reasons for speaking out during the Senate hearing, which she says was a spontaneous outburst and not a planned action:

I stood in the back listening as they continued to reference how big of a threat the Middle East is to America and how America needs to be a global leader, as if we are not already occupying enough countries. I had had enough when they mentioned economic sanctions on Iran. I could not stay silent any longer, and decided to speak up.

Activist Lachelle Roddy, left, participates in CODEPINK Flash Mob at Union Station on January 19, 2013.

The effect of U.S. foreign policy on the lives of her friends from the Middle East also motivated her:

I live in a global village in Roanoke while in school [at Hollins University], and there are many women there from the Middle East including Afghanistan and Palestine. They never know whether their families will be alive the next day because of U.S. drones as well as U.S. funding of Israeli war crimes.

It’s very difficult for them to go to school here when they have so much hardship back at home because of our nation’s foreign policy, especially when they can not speak up out of fear of being labeled a terrorist.

Roddy was charged with unlawful conduct and interrupting Congress.

Update:

In response to Roddy’s outburst, Senator John Kerry retained his composure and recalled his activism following his military service in Vietnam:

When I first came to Washington and testified, I obviously was testifying as part of the group of people who came here to have their voices heard. And that is, above all, what this place is about. So I respect, I think, the woman who was voicing her concerns about that part of the world, and maybe one of you have traveled there. Some of you were there recently. Senator McCain, you were just there, you were in a refugee camp, and I know you heard this kind of thing. People measure what we do.

Code Pink flash mobs Union Station

Code Pink descended on Washington, DC’s Union Station today to deliver a message about stopping the spread of weapons and reducing U.S. militarism abroad. Sporting funky pink costumes, Code Pink activists sang and danced in the main hall of Union Station, even more crowded than usual with travelers arriving for Inauguration Day. Security was also at the max.

While entertaining the crowd, Code Pink interspersed antics like dancing a can-can with a serious message. “End gun violence now, end drone violence now,” they chanted. Many of the songs and remarks were addressed to President Obama. “It’s been 10 years, it’s time to leave Afghanistan and end the war on terror,” said Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin.

On the morning of Inauguration Day, Code Pink will join a coalition of progressive organizations in a rally at Malcolm X Park, then march down 14th Street.

More photos of the flash mob are here.

And video highlights by @organizerx: