The US Senate Intelligence Committee briefly postponed the confirmation hearing for CIA director nominee John Brennan after demonstrators disrupted the proceedings.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), chairperson for the committee, ordered Thursday afternoon’s confirmation hearing to be halted after she stopped several times to order the removal of protesters from the Hart Office Building on Capitol Hill.
The protesters, who were eventually led out of the hearing, opposed President Barack Obama’s choice for CIA director. As his counterterrorism advisor, Brennan has been instrumental in President Obama’s overseas drone wars.
“Brennan killing civilians with drones,” one sign held up by a protester read. Others took turns jeering, “torture is always wrong” and “you are a traitor to democracy.” Another attempted to call attention to the number of civilian casualties caused by US drones.
After Sen. Feinstein ordered the removal of a third demonstrator, she threatened postponing the hearing pending any future outbursts.
“The next time, we’re going to clear the chamber and bring people back in one by one,” she said. “This witness is entitled to be heard, ladies and gentlemen, so please give him that opportunity.”
When protesters continue to speak up after her remarks, Sen. Feinstein ordered the room to be emptied. Moments later, she reconvened the hearing, first ensuring that all demonstrators were barred from the proceedings.
At least one of the protesters was affiliated with Code Pink, an anti-war advocacy group that has been critical of Pres. Obama’s covert overseas drone war. Before pausing the proceedings, Sen. Feinstein ordered, "Code Pink associates be not permitted" back into the hearing room.
Mr. Brennan, who currently serves as counterterrorism adviser under the president, will be sworn in as chief of the CIA pending the results of Thursday’s hearing.
Anti-war activist and author David Swanson told RT that the protesters had a point in their outrage over Brennan's apparent complicity in the drone strikes. Brennan was blocked as Obama's pick for CIA chief in 2009 due his alleged involvement in torture, but today it seems as though he won't face any problems despite his involvement in the American murders of innocent people in numerous drone strikes abroad.
Brennan's confirmation as CIA boss "would mean that someone who was unacceptable four years previous because of his involvement in torture and rendition … is now acceptable because he engages in a program of murder," Swanson said, adding that in the minds of America's political class, "the goodness of the murder outweighs the badness of the torture. This is actually how people think and how they talk – that murdering people is more legal, more acceptable, more moral and just and good than capturing them and torturing them."
Ahmed Quraishi, president of political lobbying group PakNationalists Forum, had a similar take on Brennan's nomination and potential confirmation. "The Obama administration, by confirming John Brennan as CIA director, is basically taking us back to the same destructive policies that actually led to the near American defeat in Afghanistan," Quraishi tod RT. "The United States administration is basically [saying], ‘I will continue to do and pursue policies unilaterally, and these policies will be quite similar to many of the ones that antagonized US allies in the region.' So we are basically looking ahead at another phase of increased instability."