Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern was physically thrown out of a Senate confirmation hearing for CIA director Gina Haspel for politely demanding answers on U.S. torture and Ms. Haspel’s role. The police state is alive and well when a 78-year-old man whose spent his life in public service is slammed to the ground, handcuffed, and physically assaulted for asking questions.
By Dave Gahary
If someone served their country by enlisting in the United States Army as an infantry and intelligence officer, and then followed that up by further serving that same country for nearly three more decades as a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst, one might think that such an individual would be accorded a modicum of respect when voicing his opinion at a Senate confirmation hearing for the nomination of the CIA director.
Well, maybe there was a time in this once-great nation’s history when any citizen could voice their opinion in “the People’s House,” but those days are long gone. This was painfully illustrated on May 9 when 78-year-old Raymond L. “Ray” McGovern attempted to have his voice heard at the confirmation hearing for Gina Cheri Haspel, President Donald Trump’s choice to head the CIA, and was manhandled by the tools of the current police state.
Haspel courts much controversy, mostly due to her ties to a CIA “black site” in Thailand—“Detention Site Green,” or “Cat’s Eye,” located inside a Royal Thai Air Force base—used to torture “war on terror” detainees. Holding prisoners in U.S. military custody requires informing the International Committee for the Red Cross, hence the desire for black sites.
According to Wikipedia, a “black site,” or secret prison, is a location where a “black project” is conducted, “a highly classified military or defense project publicly unacknowledged by government, military personnel, and contractors.” It is suspected that black sites have been located on all seven continents of the Earth.
McGovern, who served under seven presidents, from JFK forward, attended the televised confirmation hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building, and spoke to this reporter about his latest encounter with “democracy.”
“I sat in the audience not knowing exactly what I might do but fearing that it might be really hard to take. And it was,” he said. “The discussion was pretty appalling,” he explained. “The chair, who was pretty much hand-in-glove with the intelligence community that he’s supposed to be supervising, appraised [Haspel] up and down as not only moral but ethical.”
The hearing was broadcast on C-SPAN and ran for 153 minutes, and around 74 minutes into the hearing, it was Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore.) turn to grill the nominee. McGovern explained how the questioning went.
“ ‘You were in charge of the base there in Thailand, the black site, when [Abd al Rahim] al Nashiri was there,’” McGovern recounted Wyden’s testimony. “ ‘Did you supervise his waterboarding, yes or no, please?’ And Ms. Haspel said, ‘Senator, that’s classified. I wish I could tell you, but it’s classified.’ And Wyden had run out of time.
“Now I’m seething there,” McGovern said, “because the next question that Wyden would’ve asked was, of course, ‘Well, Ms. Haspel, could you tell us who classified that?’ And she would’ve had to say, ‘Well, I did, senator. I classified all the incriminating material that might prevent me from being approved as the next head of the CIA.’ ”
McGovern continued: “With Wyden out of time, I waited for the chair to come in and say, ‘Now, Ms. Haspel, it’s a yes or no question. We actually know the answer, and so do you. Would you let the American people who are tuned in now, would you let them know what the answer is?’ And, of course, she would’ve had to say, ‘Well, yes, Mr. Chairman, the answer is yes.’ ”
The former CIA analyst told AFP, “There’s a war crime, pure and simple. Now, she was allowed to defer that into executive session, and so the American people were deprived of the opportunity to hear that she was directly responsible for the waterboarding and other extreme techniques administered to al Nashiri in Thailand in 2002.”
McGovern, dressed smartly in suit and tie, could contain himself no longer, and at 131 minutes into the hearing, he made his move.
“There was a great, big policeman standing between me and Haspel,” McGovern said. “And so, I waited for him to go to the bathroom and went up there and interrupted one of the senators, and said, ‘I’m sorry to interrupt here, but, Senator Wyden, you deserve a direct answer to your question. It really is a yes or no, and she was guilty of supervising of waterboarding, and no legal opinion can make waterboarding. . . .’ ”
McGovern was quickly surrounded by four Capitol policemen, who took nearly 40 seconds to manhandle him out the door. “And then, of course, these very large Capitol Police descended on me [to prevent me] from saying anything else,” he explained. “Anytime I tried to say something else, they shouted out, as they’re instructed to, ‘Stop resisting, stop resisting!’ I suppose manufacturing evidence that I was resisting when in reality I was not under my own power, as soon as the four lifted me up and dragged me out.”
C-SPAN cameras were not in the hallway, but other video captured the way this almost octogenarian was dealt with for simply speaking his mind. A woman attending the hearing began filming and followed McGovern and the thugs out the doors.
“The saving grace was that there was a very gutsy, young woman with an iPhone filming the whole thing,” explained McGovern, “and even as I was dragged out of the place, lifted out, she followed, she got the whole thing on videotape. When she saw what they were doing to me and they took me down, she said, ‘Don’t hurt him. You’re hurting him.’ ”
The police smashed McGovern to the floor and continued to manhandle him even after he pleaded to them about the chronic dislocation of his left shoulder. In fact, in the video, you can hear an audible pop.
“I didn’t know she was there; thank God she was there,” said McGovern. “But if you’re gonna risk this kind of treatment at the hands of people who are just following orders, then it’s a good thing to have someone who will capture it on film, because number one, then it is on film, and number two, when the cops in charge see it, they have a choice whether they’re going to brutalize yet another person on film, or whether they’re going to stop the brutalization.”
McGovern was transported out of the building to spend 27 hours in a D.C. cellblock, not a pleasant position to be in. He explained why he exposed himself to these conditions.
“When we see this torture that [Haspel] was clearly responsible for,” he explained, “and we see the whitewash done by a committee—many of whose members were approving of those steps—now too embarrassed to backtrack and do the right thing, well, those are violations of the Constitution of the United States, international law, the UN Convention against Torture. And so, what are we to do? We’re to stand up and honor our oath. Now, does that oath that we took—I took it first when I got my commission in 1961—does it have an expiration date, like, ‘Warning, don’t consume this oath after 50 years’? No, there is no expiration date.”
Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, prevailed in a suit brought by the New York Stock Exchange in an attempt to silence him. Dave is the producer of an upcoming film about the attack on the USS Liberty. See the website erasingtheliberty.com for more information.