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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
CounterPunch News Service
Bloody Buffalo Billboards
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail