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Panetta on Drones, Assassination ad nauseum
Leon Panetta Questioned on Drone Use, Calls Secret Service on Questioner

Submitted by davidswanson on Sat, 2009-10-24 10:36. By David Swanson
[video below]
Here are excerpts of a report from Susan Harman late Friday night:
Leon Panetta spoke today at the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, in the very fancy Mark Hopkins Hotel, on the top of Nob Hill. La di da. John got us 2nd row seats. John wore a pink shirt and I wore my CodePink t-shirt and nobody stopped us or commented.
Panetta described his work as director of central intelligence:
He said trust was essential: between the people and the government, between the branches of goverment, and between the parties. His swipe at accountability was a quote from Churchill: "If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we will lose the future." He said "We conduct covert actions at the direction of the President." What about Congress?
... He explained away going into Iraq as a failure to prioritize the quality of intelligence, and took great pride in his 3-level system. i.e., Bush should have been told the the WMD info was "low reliability." In Iraq, we are planning our "postwar footprint"—"as the military draws down, there will be no intelligence drawdown." That is, the CIA wil remain in Iraq forever.
... We are concerned about attacks on our power grid, transportation system, or finance system. He joked that the audience had better be careful what we say in our emails and phone calls. Ha ha.
Then came the questioning:
John and I had handed in about a dozen question cards, fully convinced that they'd pick none of them. The first few questions were tame and boring: how much time do you spend with the President, do you have money problems, to which he said, "To be frank, the intelligence budget has done pretty well since 9/ll. We have more than adequate resources." But he added that the country as a whole can't continue to run a $2 trillion deficit. I was sitting right behind the timekeeper, and I saw her flip her chart that said 4 minutes left. I whispered to John that we had very litte time to do something, since there'd be applause, and they'd asked that we stay seated, so they could whisk him out. I was afraid we'd come for nothing.
But then the nice lady, who'd been sorting the cards throughout the talk, outplayed Leon at his candor game. To our surprise, she read this question from John: “'Wired' magazine reported that the CIA not-for-profit branch, In-Q-Tel, invested in the internet data-mining software company, Visible Technologies; will the CIA use data-mining domestically?" Panetta rambled on about technology and said something about being "chartered" for international surveillance. He never denied the facts in the question.
Then, to our astonishment (I think we both gasped), she said "One last question. There are many cards about drones," and she read several of ours!
“Since proliferation of drone technology is a low-cost alternative to missile delivery – are DC insiders prepared to hear drones overhead?”
"You've flown a drone a week to Pakistan since taking office. You've killed 538 Pakistani civilians. Are we at war with Pakistan?"
"In 2001 George Tenet said it would be a 'terrible mistake' to use drones as weapons. Why are you?"
"Six of the 41 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan were on AlQuaeda. Who were the rest on?"
"In May 09 you said "Predators are the only game in town. Are we really just playing a video game there?"
He began answering by saying that of course he couldn't talk about Pakistan.
So I started asking questions out loud. He kept claiming that “we didn’t kill that many civilians … there are others who use drones." And that it's not just drones that have killed people.
He said he knew where I got the number, 500 murdered civilians (I turned slightly and told the audience, "Jane Mayer, current New Yorker"), and that it wasn't accurate.
"Right, we have to trust you," I said.
Quibbling over how many we've murdered is an admission that we've murdered some, although the entire CIA drone program in Pak is supposed to be secret.
By now the 4 Secret Servce personnel had warned me to be quiet, and now they said I'd be arrested if I didn't leave, so I left, escorted by all of them and a couple of cops. I reminded the audience that we've killed 500 innocent Pakistanis so far.
John stayed. The Secret Service woman came over to him, stuck her face in his, and said “If you say anything, the same thing will happen to you.”
He asked her to go sit down, since she was disrupting the remainder of the talk. Thankfully she didn’t take it as an invitation!
All 6 SS formed a spaced line between the exiting Panetta and the audience. Meanwhile, the director of security for the Hopkins, a small, beetley man, told me I could leave and never darken their door again, or be arrested. I agreed to leave.
How tragic that I can never go to the Mark Hopkins again! As usual, the San Francisco cops were calm, polite, and not at all rough; I thanked them. On the other hand, I had to tell the SS woman not to touch me several times.
John's summary: Such fear, protected cover, evasion & denial of visible fact … America is hated … America is running scared! But at least he admitted we can’t afford to continue for much longer.
Susan's question: Was it worth it? Does it change anything—in the audience or in him? Who knows... Our actions are based more on the faith that war criminals should not be allowed to act like normal—and even respected—citizens. Is that enough?
Embedded video at link

[And he actually laughed at the question?]
"Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"

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