Shahid Buttar, a constitutional lawyer and executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), was arrested by Capitol police at the end of a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in which Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified.
In video posted by the peace group, CODEPINK, Buttar shouts a question about NSA surveillance at Clapper as he is leaving. An officer is already nearby, which suggests he had already tried to get Clapper’s attention prior to the first question heard in the video.
“In March 2013, you misled the Senate Intelligence Committee about the scope of NSA surveillance. What do you have to say to communities of color that are so hyper-policed that we’re subjected to extrajudicial assassination for selling loose cigarettes, when you can get away with perjury before the Senate?”
The officer standing in front of Buttar informs him this is his only warning. “If you continue, you will be placed under arrest.”
Buttar continues to ask his questions and, no more than ten seconds later, he is arrested. Two Capitol police officers place him in handcuffs and arrest him.
However, Buttar does not stop posing his questions. Senators and staff in attendance exit the room while Buttar says loudly:
Why is your agency above the law, sir?…Why can you lie to the Senate about mass surveillance presuming the entire globe to be subject to pervasive collection, twisting the meaning of the terms in violations of the statutes in the Constitution restraining your agency?
Why are you above the law for perjury and why is the NSA above the law for mass surveillance, even violating the contours that the authors of the Patriot Act intended to authorize in 2001?…[A]nd Senators, why won’t you do your job? You’re charged with oversight of these officials.
When Buttar is being taken out of the room, he is asked why he spoke out against Clapper just now. “Because the Director of National Intelligence committed perjury before the Senate in March 2013, about the scope of mass surveillance, domestic mass surveillance,” he declares.
The Capitol police arrested him for visibly “demonstrating,” a charge Buttar disagrees with because he was just trying get Clapper’s attention while he was in earshot.
Later, Buttar reacted to his arrest, “I asked a simple question of a public official in a public setting that no elected member of Congress has had the independence to ask: how can you lie to Congress and get away with it? It’s a disturbing sign of our draconian times that posing that question is an alleged crime while Clapper’s lies to Congress remain unpunished and tacitly rewarded. Welcome to America!”
Buttar was there with CODEPINK activists, who protested during the hearing.