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:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail