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CODEPINK Outraged Over Brennan Confirmation, Activists Press for Public Hearings and Access to Legal Opinions

CODEPINK activists voice their concerns about John Brennan’s role in the lethal drone program at his hearing in February

The CODEPINK team expresses its deepest regrets that the Senate Intelligence Committee has proceeded to confirm John Brennan as the next director of the CIA today, given that he has been the mastermind of lethal drone warfare that has led to many civilian deaths and undermined the US reputation around the world. We applaud the successful efforts of the committee to gain access to the legal opinions regarding the targeted killing of Americans overseas for their own review, but we believe these opinions should also released to all Congressional representatives and most importantly, to the public.

CODEPINK has been vocal both on the streets and inside Senate offices, calling for public access to information regarding the CIA’s use of drone warfare. CODEPINK delivered over 5,000 signatures to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Leahy (D-VT), Attorney General Eric Holder and Chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). We believe that the public is clamoring for access to the government’s legal justifications for the targeted killing of American citizens.

CODEPINK also urges the Committee to continue to hold John Brennan, the CIA and President Obama accountable not only for the strikes targeting U.S. citizens, but also those resulting in civilian casualties globally. Brennan remarked in his confirmation hearing that “American citizens by definition are due much greater due process than anybody else by dint of their citizenship.” CODEPINK believes that the Committee must not accept this reasoning as an excuse to ignore the killing of non-American civilians by drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, among other countries. While Brennan said in the hearing that the US government should publicly acknowledge when it kills civilians by mistake, he has refused to do so.

Another reason CODEPINK has opposed John Brennan’s confirmation is that he has overseen the expansion of the drone program to include drone bases throughout the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, and now Africa. Bases in countries like Saudi Arabia antagonize the Muslim community and could lead to another attack on US soil.

John Brennan’s nomination will soon go to the entire Senate for confirmation. “The confirmation of John Brennan will ensure that the US drone program—in the hands of the unaccountable CIA–will continue to wreak havoc on the lives of many innocent people overseas, recruit more extremists and foster more anti-American sentiment,” said CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin.

For Immediate Release

February 7, 2013

CODEPINK and other activists arrested during Confirmation Hearing as they call on Senate to Reject Brennan as head of the CIA

During the Thursday Senate Intelligence Committee hearing where Senators questioned John Brennan, CODEPINK peace activists derailed the hearing by speaking out in opposition to the nomination. The activists highlighted Brennan’s atrocious record when it comes to the deadly drones, kill lists, torture and rendition. They held up red-painted hands to symbolize the blood Brennan has on his hands and signs calling for his nomination to be rejected. Brennan was forced to stop speaking several times as activists were carried out of the room by Capitol Hill police. The 8 arrestees include Toby Blome, Ann Wright, David Barrows, JoAnn Lingle, Alli McCracken, Eve Tetaz, Joan Nicholson, and Jonathan Tucker, 4 of whom had recently returned from a trip to Pakistan to meet with drone victims. Immediately after the arrests, Chairman Dianne Feinstein called for the clearing of the room, ordering everyone out of the hearing room and not allowing any protesters to return. Protesters chanted “Reject John Brennan” as police led them out of the hearing.

Alli McCracken, a 24-year-old who was a part of the delegation to Pakistan, spoke out when Brennan entered the hearing room and admonished him for his direct role in the deaths of so many innocent Pakistanis. “John Brennan has blood on his hands. He terrorizes children and families throughout the world,” McCracken said, holding a sign that read “Drones Create Enemies.”  “My generation has been at war for half my life. We deserve better!”

CODEPINK member Toby Blome, who held up bloodied hands and a rag doll representing children killed in drone strikes, flew into Washington DC from San Francisco just for this hearing. “John Brennan is responsible for the death of many innocent people and should not be rewarded for these crimes,” says Blome, “It is our responsibility to speak up and reject him, even if our elected representatives will not.”

“Brennan is unfit for office because he’s the architect of the unconstitutional and secret predator drone killings that violate due process and our moral sensibilities,” says CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin, author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

CODEPINK held a demonstration outside the Senate, with an 8-foot cardboard cutout of John Brennan and a large drone replica. Members of many different peace organizations attended to speak out about the loss of innocent lives at the hands of Brennan’s deadly drone program. Photos are available on the CODEPINK Flickr site.

Also rejecting Brennan is a list of 100 religious leaders, human rights attorneys, and veterans’ groups.

CODEPINK members will be available for interview before and after the hearing.

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Watch the video of Radack speaking here

The Government Accountability Project supports human and civil rights and, as such, stands against anyone who seeks to violate those rights or suppress rights of individuals to speak out about any such abuses.

John Brennan is responsible for the biggest atrocities of two different administrations.  He was considered for the same position – CIA Director – in 2009, but eventually withdrew his name from consideration following uproar over his support of the use of torture after 9/11.  The fact that there is significantly less controversy surrounding Brennan’s nomination this time around suggests that the public – and Congress – have been quick to forget the atrocities that have occurred over the past decade.  If anything, Brennan’s record has only gotten worse over the past few years.

To begin with, the passage of four years since Brennan was first considered for the position does not change the fact that he played an extremely troubling role in the Bush administration’s torture policies.
Brennan served as the CIA’s Deputy Executive Director from 2001 until 2003.  Many of his colleagues say – and email traffic shows – he was well aware of the torture techniques used by the agency at that time.

If we have truly accounted for our past, then at the very least, an individual who either approved of the torture – or even tacitly condoned the torture – is certainly not someone that we should allow to now lead the agency.  Meanwhile, my client, John Kiriakou, is the only CIA officer to go to jail in connection with the torture program, and he blew the whistle on it.  In fact, I am convinced that if John had actually tortured someone, he would not be going to jail. Read More

A Call from former Military Personnel and Government Officials to Reject Nomination of John Brennan as Director of the CIA

As former military personnel and government officials, we are deeply concerned about the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA. As President Obama’s current counterterrorism advisor, Brennan has been the mastermind behind the administration’s lethal drone program, which is killing innocent civilians abroad and sowing strong anti-American sentiment throughout the world.

Retired General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, recently said that the resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes is much greater than the average American appreciates. “They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one,” he warned. This is dangerous for our national security. Just look at the case of Pakistan, where the CIA’s profligate use of drone strikes has led 3 out of 4 Pakistanis to believe that the United States is their enemy. Unfortunately, drone strikes now serve as the primary recruiting tool for anti-American militants.

We are particularly concerned about drones in the hands of the CIA. While the military has rules of engagement, more open procedures for the use of force, and a chain of command that is supposed to ensure accountability, the CIA does not. It is a civilian organization that, with its own fleet of drones, has been engaged in lethal actions veiled in secrecy and devoid of accountability.

We urge you to use the occasion of this nomination to not only question Brennan’s qualifications for this job, but to also conduct a serious evaluation of the CIA’s drone program. The CIA should revert back to being an intelligence-gathering organization and we need a CIA director who is committed to overseeing this transition.

Signed,

Iraq Veterans Against the War
Ray McGovern, veteran Army Intelligence officer and CIA analyst
Ann Wright, US Army Colonel
Leah Bolger, CDR, USN (Ret)
Mark Foreman, PO3, USN (Ret)
Tarak Kauff, USA
Nate Goldshlag, PFC, USA
Mike Madden, Member of Veterans For Peace, Chapter 27, St. Paul, MN

Natasha Lennard | Salon

John Brennan, President Barack Obama's choice for CIA director (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s choice for CIA director (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

This month a federal judge defended the Obama administration’s right to keep secret the legal justifications for targeted drone killings. But a cadre of senators is pushing the issue again. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., wrote a letter to John Brennan — nominee for CIA director, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, and central architect of U.S. drone warfare — asking to see the legal opinions and rules behind the targeted killing of U.S. citizens in counterterrorism efforts and demanding a list of countries where America is conducting shadow wars. Wyden wrote:

Senior intelligence officials have said publicly that they have to authority to knowingly use lethal force against Americans in the course of counterterrorism operations, and have indicated that there are secret legal opinions issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and explain the basis of this authority. I have asked repeatedly to see these opinions, and I have been provided some relevant information on the topic, but I have yet to see the opinions themselves.

… Second, as you may be aware, my staff and I have been asking for over a year for the complete list of countries in which the intelligence community has used its lethal counterterrorism authorities. To my surprise and dismay, the intelligence community has declined to provide me with the complete list.

Wyden’s letter highlights the obfuscation surrounding intelligence decisions on assassinations, such that members of the Senate have struggled for more than a year just to learn about the reach of U.S. drone attacks. Wyden stresses in his letter that a “pattern is forming in which the executive branch is evading congressional oversight by simply not responding to congressional requests for information.” Read More

Greg Miller | The Washington Post

People hold a banner as they shout slogans during a protest against a U.S drone attack.

People hold a banner as they shout slogans during a protest against a U.S drone attack.

The CIA has opened the year with a flurry of drone strikes in Pakistan, pounding Taliban targets along the country’s tribal belt at a time when the Obama administration is preparing to disclose its plans for pulling most U.S. forces out of neighboring Afghanistan.

A strike Thursday in North Waziristan was the seventh in 10 days, marking a major escalation in the pace of attacks. Drone attacks had slipped in frequency to fewer than one per week last year.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials attributed the increased tempo to a sense of urgency surrounding expectations that President Obama will soon order a drawdown that could leave Afghanistan with fewer than 6,000 U.S. troops after 2014. The strikes are seen as a way to weaken adversaries of the Afghan government before the withdrawal and serve notice that the United States will still be able to launch attacks. Read More

Ray McGovern | Consortium News

CIA Director-designee John Brennan, currently deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism.

CIA Director-designee John Brennan, currently deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism.

As Washington’s pundit class sees it, Defense Secretary-designee Chuck Hagel deserves a tough grilling over his hesitancy to go to war with Iran and his controversial detection of a pro-Israel lobby operating in the U.S. capital, but prospective CIA Director John Brennan should get only a few polite queries about his role helping to create and sustain Dick Cheney’s “dark side.”

During the upcoming confirmation hearings of these two nominees for President Barack Obama’s national security team, we all may get a revealing look into the upside-down world of Washington’s moral and geopolitical priorities, where too much skepticism about rushing to war is disqualifying and complicity in war crimes is okay, maybe even expected.

CIA Director-designee John Brennan, currently deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism.

Still, there is at least a hope that Brennan’s confirmation hearing might provide an opening for the Senate Intelligence Committee to force out the secret legal justifications and the operational procedures for the lethal drone program that has expanded under Obama, including successfully targeting for death U.S. citizen and al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.

Over the past few years, senior administration officials have praised the rigorous standards applied to these life-or-death decisions by Brennan and his counterterrorism team, but have refused to release the constitutional rationales for the President exerting these extraordinary powers or to explain exactly the methodology of selecting targets. Read More

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