FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Nuclear Security Unmasked

by JOHN LaFORGE

Three nuclear weapons abolitionists, including one from Duluth, Minnesota, who snuck into the not-so-high-security Y-12 nuclear weapons site in Oak Ridge, Tenn. in July, — after merely snipping their way through chain-link fences — have humiliated the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The militarized NNSA is supposed to keep all uninvited persons away from the extremely dangerous and highly volatile uranium-235, uranium-238, beryllium, lithium deuteride and other deadly materials that are machined by Y-12 workers into thermonuclear or hydrogen bombs — what the White House and presidential hopefuls call “options” always “on the table.”

On July 28, these muscular security teams and state-of-the-art barricades couldn’t even keep out an 82-year old nun, Sr. Megan Rice of New York City, and her two late-middle-aged pacifist accomplices, Michael Walli, 63, of Washington, DC, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, of Duluth.

The daring occupation and “naming with blood” of the H-bomb factory by the three, who called their action Transformation Now Plowshares, has inspired international headlines after first being ignored by all but the local press.

One reason for news coverage stretching from Toronto, Ontario to Sydney, Australia, is that Y-12’s managers decided in their embarrassment to shut down their sociopathic operations for a week. At an Aug. 2 federal court hearing in Knoxville, Assistant U.S. District Attorney Melissa Kirby said, “They caused Y12 to be suspended for several days.” Y-12 authorities also ordered their “security” staff to take a refresher course.

Another reason for all the critical attention — something our nuclear war mafia hates as much as vampires hate daylight — is that the gravity of the Y-12 shut-down, along with the government’s wish to keep the interveners behind bars, moved prosecutors to up the charges. The three were at first charged only with federal trespass.

On Aug. 3, prosecutors added a felony count — “willful and malicious destruction or injury to a structure, conveyance, personal or real property” or its attempt — which carries a max of 5 years in prison, 3 years’ probation, and/or a $250,000 fine.

While convictions in these cases are historically slam dunks, it could be hard to prove that steel fences and factory buildings were “injured or destroyed.” It may be as hard a case to make as the one attempted by prosecutor Kirby Aug. 3, when she argued that the peaceniks should be kept in jail because they are “dangers to the community” and “flight risks.”

Presiding Magistrate Judge G. Clifford Shirley might have wondered who was endangering whom, when the health of Sr. Rice was brought to his attention. Her counsel Francis Lloyd told the court she was suffering from hypothermia, possibly brought on by the Blount County jail’s failure to provide the octogenarian with her prescription medicine. The attorney had already draped his raincoat over Rice, when Shirley took a recess. The magistrate then “appeared with a space heater to direct on Megan, and a staff person found a sweater and blanket,” according to eye witnesses.

Mag. Shirley had earlier told the prosecutor that to keep the three in custody, she needed to show evidence of a crime of violence, a serious drug crime, a prior felony conviction, a minor victim or use of a firearm, a serious risk of flight, or obstruction of justice. ADA Kirby came back a day later with felony charges.

Still, Shirley dismissed the “flight risk” claim easily, saying about Michael Walli that in the past he “appeared when required, so that doesn’t seem to be an issue.”

When the magistrate asked Rice and Walli if they wished to be released, both said they wanted out. For his part, Boertje-Obed offered that he would accept the strict release conditions only if the court would “declare nuclear weapons a war crime.” Shirley said he was not likely to do that, and — after Greg made clear that he could not accept punitive restrictions as if he’d already been convicted — the man sent him back to jail mid-hearing.

Prosecutor Kirby then spoke at length, dictating fearsome pretexts to keep all three in jail, even asserting that their action was a “crime of violence.” Kirby got worked up enough to hiss, “Their description of nonviolence is not right. They are willing to die for what they believe. That’s violence.”

Mag. Shirley explicitly rejected this screed, noting that the willingness to risk one’s life does not make one violent. Ultimately, he decided that prosecutors had failed to show that the defendants posed any danger and released them subject to a long list of conditions.

To see if nuclear weapons can be put away as a danger to the community, trial is set for October 9 in Knoxville.

John LaForge is on the staff of Nukewatch. Ralph Hutchison, with the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, contributed reporting for this article.

 

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail