Is disrespect for authority now a crime?

Ray McGovern, then 71, stood up and turned his back on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she was making a speech at George Washington University in 2011.

Ray McGovern after his arrest

Ray McGovern after arrest

He was grabbed, handcuffed and roughed up by university police, taken to a District of Columbia jail and charged with disorderly conduct (this was later dropped) and put on a State Department Be On the Lookout (BOLO) watch list.

Being on the BOLO list means that he was considered a threat to the Secretary of State, and State Department Diplomatic Police were ordered detain and question him any time he got within the Secretary’s vicinity.   The information also was sent to other law enforcement agencies so McGovern could be put in their terror watch lists.

McGovern is a former Army officer and was an analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency from 1963 to 1990.  From 1981 to 1985, he prepared the daily National Intelligence Briefing for the Vice President, Secretaries of State and Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Security Adviser.  He was given the Intelligence Commendation Medal when he retired in 1990.

Ray McGovern's BOLO poster

McGovern’s BOLO

What did he do to be considered a threat?  Engage in “political activism, primarily anti-war.”

He founded Veteran Intelligence Officers for Sanity in 2003, in protest against the way intelligence reports were distorted to justify the invasion of Iraq.   He returned his CIA medal in 2006 in protest against CIA involvement in torture.

The George Washington University incident had a happy ending.  With the help of the Partnership for Civil Justice, a civil liberties organization that works without fee, he sued the State Department and got an injunction against his BOLO listing.  But the list continues.

Anonymous officials have the power to put people on such lists, often without their knowledge and regardless of whether they have committed a crime or have probable cause to think they may have committed a crime.

The most striking thing to me about the incident is how the university police treated an act of disrespect as if it were a crime.  There is no reason to think that Hillary Clinton ordered them to do this.  It  just reflects a prevailing attitude that powerful people are entitled to the same kind of deference as kings and nobles in former eras.


Ray McGovern’s Blog | War Is a Crime.

Important victory in case of Ray McGovern’s brutal arrest by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.

Watchlists and the Fourth Amendment by Peter Van Buren on his We Meant Well web log.

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2 Responses to “Is disrespect for authority now a crime?”

  1. whungerford Says:


  2. philebersole Says:


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