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Ex-CIA Analyst Ray McGovern Beaten, Arrested for Silent Protest at Clinton Speech

StoryFebruary 18, 2011
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This week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a major address calling for internet freedom around the world. As Clinton condemned the Egyptian and Iranian governments for arresting and beating protesters, former U.S. Army and CIA officer Ray McGovern was violently ejected from the audience and arrested after he stood up and turned his back in a silent protest of America’s foreign policy. Ray McGovern joins us from Washington, D.C. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a major address calling for internet freedom around the world. Speaking at George Washington University, Clinton condemned the Egyptian and Iranian governments for arresting and beating protesters.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: What happened in Egypt and what happened in Iran, which this week is once again using violence against protesters seeking basic freedoms, was about a great deal more than the internet. In each case, people protested because of deep frustrations with the political and economic conditions of their lives. They stood and marched and chanted, and the authorities tracked and blocked and arrested them.

AMY GOODMAN: Just moments before Hillary Clinton spoke those words, a 71-year-old man was violently ejected from Clinton’s own event and arrested for turning his back on the Secretary of State. TV cameras caught part of what happened.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: Then the government pulled the plug. Cell phone service was cut off. TV satellite signals were jammed, and internet access was blocked for nearly the entire population.

RAY McGOVERN: So, this is America! This is America! Who are you? I’m standing there quietly! You’re breaking my arm!

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: The government did not want the people to communicate with each other, and it did not want the press to communicate with the public.

JUAN GONZALEZ: The voice you heard screaming was that of Ray McGovern as he was dragged away by security guards who left him bruised and bloodied. He was then arrested. McGovern is a former Army intelligence officer and a 27-year veteran of the CIA. He was one of the CIA’s daily briefers for President George H.W. Bush. He has since become a vocal critic of U.S. foreign policy.

AMY GOODMAN: Ray McGovern joins us now in Washington, D.C. Ray, you were seriously hurt. Tell us what happened.

RAY McGOVERN: Well, I was pounced upon. I was blindsided, really. I was looking straight to the back, minding my own business, the only offense being standing up when everyone else was sitting down. And without any warning, I was pounced upon by and what I call large-manhandled by a fellow who looked like an NFL football player in plain dress. I don’t know who he was. That’s why you hear me screaming, “Who are you? Who are you?” I never did get the answer to that. So it was really quite abrupt, quite violent.

And the supreme irony, of course, is — and it sounds like something right out of Franz Kafka — four paragraphs later, Hillary Clinton is saying what you just quoted her as saying. You know, one has to keep one’s sense of humor in all this, especially when one bears these kinds of bruises, and I can’t show you the ones down below. I was listening on the way in. I tuned in a little late to your show. And what I heard Hillary Clinton say, that little clip, “We strongly oppose the use of violence” — this is yesterday. “We have deep concern over the actions of security forces.” And I’m saying, “Yes! Oh, she’s going to apologize like my Veterans for Peace colleagues asked her to do.” But then I realized, she’s talking about Bahrain. Straight out of Kafka.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you were seriously hurt. What parts of your body? What did they do to you?

RAY McGOVERN: Well, they put two sets of handcuffs on me very roughly. They were the iron or the steel handcuffs. They dug into my wrists. Well, you could see some of the stuff right here. And they put it behind my back, of course, and I started bleeding profusely over my pants. We have the pants; they’re full of blood. When somebody said, “Is that his blood?” one of the cops said, “No, no, I pricked my finger.” Right. The whole back seat of the pants is suffused with blood. They threw me — well, they didn’t throw me. They placed me in a patrol car — I try not to exaggerate here — I was taken up to one of the police headquarters in D.C., mugshotted, fingerprinted to a fare-thee-well, and put in a little cell of the size that Bradley Manning now occupies in Quantico, kept there for three-and-a-half hours.

AMY GOODMAN: Ray, we only have a minute, but why were you there? Why did — were you standing up?

RAY McGOVERN: I was standing up in silent witness to the fact that Hillary Clinton is responsible, partly responsible, for countless thousands of Iraqis, Americans, Afghans and, God help us, Iranians — I hope not — and that she should not get the idea that everybody is going to sit down and applaud politely when there are so many of us that are usually excluded from these sessions who are feeling very, very, very sad and very angry at the foreign policy of our government. Very seldom do you have a chance to express that. I thought that I expressed that in a most nonviolent way by simply standing quietly with my back to her with a T-shirt that said “Veterans for Peace.”

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ray McGovern, we want to thank you for being with us, a former top briefer of Vice President George H.W. Bush. Ray worked for the CIA for more than a quarter of a century.

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