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On Friday, April 1, Philadelphia organizers, brought together by Penn SDS, shut down CIA Director John Brennan’s speech at the Penn Museum. To explain why we did this, we must give our analysis of the CIA and its violation of human rights.

One of our banners read “CIA = TERRORIST ORGANIZATION.” Our analysis is that the CIA’s primary purpose is to expand and secure U.S. influence and control around the globe. Under the Obama administration, CIA drone strikes have targeted Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia. In the first six years, drones claimed over 2,400 lives, including campaigns that hit unintended targets 90 percent of the time. These attacks include killing 150 innocent Somalians, killing children and bombing weddings, aligning with the United States’ long history of bombing civilian facilities. The CIA also makes use of methods of torture including sleep deprivation, stress positions, waterboarding, shutting detainees inside coffins and forced anal feeding of detainees on hunger strike. The release of the torture report revealed that the CIA had been underreporting use of torture and outright lying about its practices and their effectiveness.

A primary purpose of the CIA is to prop up governments that align with U.S. interests, and to subvert those that don’t. The CIA has backed several notorious military dictatorships, overthrown at least seven sovereign governments, supported drug traffickers and right-wing paramilitary groups in at least 35 countries and covertly supported regime change of countries at odds with U.S. interests countless times. The CIA has poured millions of dollars into funding the destruction of Yugoslavia, and famously backed the cocaine-trafficking Nicaraguan Contras. In fact, Osama bin Laden and the mujahideen, precursors of al-Qaeda, were funded and trained by the CIA to subvert the Afghan government. The CIA continues to funnel money to al-Qaeda.

The CIA also has its hands in Syria. Many would agree that ISIS/ISIL arose out of conditions of instability in the region, no doubt exacerbated by U.S. intervention. Beyond that, it is well documented that the CIA has covertly armed proxy forces that consistently join the ranks of ISIL. A 2012 declassified U.S. intelligence document indicates that the CIA knowingly facilitated the rise of ISIL. Although the relationship between the United States, its allies and ISIL is vacillating, all contribute to destabilization in Syria, leading to the displacement of 11 million of the 22 million citizens of Syria.

Brennan was quick to provide rationales for these heinous acts, primarily through the framing of “national security concerns.” This is Brennan’s deceit: By framing the conversation around “national security,” he is able to rationalize his war crimes. It’s worth noting that Western wars have killed four million Muslims since 1990, with the United States killing 2.9 million Iraqis between 1991 and the present. 1.3 million people have been left dead in total in the War on Terror started under the Bush administration. U.S. imperialism, with its covert wing in the CIA, should take primary blame for this staggering death and destruction. This violence instills terror in countries that are victims of the United States, creating more terrorism rather than putting an end to it.

We’ve been asked why we chanted “Black Lives Matter.” The terror the CIA carries out abroad and the police terror black people face at home are both parts of the same system. So, when we chant “Drones Kill Kids” and “Black Lives Matter” in the same breath, we’re linking up two struggles with a common goal. Does “Black Lives Matter” not include the black and brown lives taken by NATO warfare in Libya? We believe it does.

Brennan, as head of the CIA, is responsible for its war crimes. It is well documented that he supports the use of torture. On these grounds, we shut down Brennan’s talk. Students expressed concerns about free speech and discussion. This talk was not a discourse; it was about perpetuating the narrative that the United States is a benevolent force, and that its war crimes are simply in the interest of “national security.” After we disrupted him for the first time, he was asked about drones, and responded by downplaying their destruction. If their “target” is any brown person, I suppose he’s correct to note their accuracy. (The Obama administration defines “militants” as “all military-age males in a strike zone”)

John Brennan has incredible access to free speech. When his speech is cut short, after talking for nearly an hour, he is not being silenced in any real sense.

Brennan has opportunities to support his narrative that we do not have to support ours. He was not there to debate issues of American intelligence policies; with the blood he has on his hands, it is his job to rationalize and defend his war crimes. We disrupted him, but is CIA undermining of sovereign states not disruption? Was the drone strike that hit a wedding in Yemen, killing innocent people, not a disruption?

As an organization that stands with victims of CIA warmongering and promotes peace and democracy, we felt an obligation to challenge Brennan’s narrative. For these reasons, we believe that criminals like John Brennan do not deserve a warm welcome. They must be made uncomfortable, and their war crimes must be exposed.

Lucas Lipatti is a Engineering junior, and a member of Students for a Democratic Society.

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