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Y12 Fence Cut by Plowshares Activists Still Open Months Later

Ongoing Security Vulnerability at Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex Revealed

Four and a half months after Sister Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed, and Michael Walli enter facility, hole in perimeter fence still not repaired

Second photo of actual entry point

Actual entry point, photo by OREPA, December 17, 2012

Actual entry point, photo by OREPA, December 17, 2012

Second photo of actual entry point, photo by OREPA

"Entry point" shown to defense counsel on December 11, 2012 (photo courtesy of US Government)

“Entry point” shown to defense counsel on December 11, 2012 (photo courtesy of US Government)

Members of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance today releases photos showing that, four and a half months after the July 28, 2012, incursion by the Transform Now Plowshares peace activists, the person-sized hole they made in the perimeter fence at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, TN, has not yet been repaired.

On Tuesday, December 11, 2012, lawyers for the defense were taken on a tour of the Y12 facility to view firsthand the location of the entrance and subsequent activities of the peace activists who entered the Y12 facility to call attention to the criminality of ongoing nuclear weapons production activities at Y12, activities which contradict the legal obligation of the United States, codified in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to pursue nuclear disarmament.

The lawyers were shown a spot in the perimeter fence, marked with three carabiners from which red ribbons were hung, and a trail leading up the ridge through the woods, also marked with red plastic ribbon.

On Monday, December 17, 2012, two OREPA members traveled to the Y12 site and approached the perimeter fence and, after walking for fifteen minutes, came to the actual point of entry where the chain link fence was open from the ground to a point about four feet high. A white plastic cable tie hung conspicuously from the fence; it was a tie the peace activists had attempted to use to close the whole behind them.

On Wednesday, December 19, 2012, OREPA’s coordinator met with counsel for the defense to compare notes and confirmed that 1) the point of access identified by the government was not, in fact, the entry point of the Plowshares activists; and 2) the entry point was not yet repaired and the breach in the fence remained.

Francis Lloyd, counsel for Sister Megan Rice, immediately drafted a letter to be delivered to the prosecution and the court to alert them to the ongoing vunerability.

“The existence of this breach is significant for two reasons,” said OREPA coordinator Ralph Hutchison. “First, of course, we should not have large holes in the fence that establishes the first line of defense for our nuclear weapons facilities. The breach was clearly evident from a distance of twenty yards or more; it says to me that with all the post July 28 security activity, and despite the assurances given to Congress and others, no one had taken the simple step of walking the entire perimeter fence to verify its integrity.”

“But a greater concern is what this says about the capacity of B&W Y12 and the National Nuclear Security Administration to do their job,” Hutchison continued. “Since July 28, the public has heard assurances from the Secretary of Energy on down that the Plowshares action was a wake-up call, that security lapses were intolerable, that attention to detail was paramount, that all steps were being taken to address the lessons learned—and yet the hole in the fence had not been discovered, nor had it been repaired. There is no excuse. None.

“The complete and utter failure of B&W Y12 to complete this simple, fundamental task, and the complete and utter failure of NNSA to make sure its contractor had completed this simple, fundamental task demonstrate a level of managerial incompetence that simply can not be allowed to continue at our nuclear weapons facilities. The problem is not with individuals making poor decisions, the problem is cultural. And to those who say it can be fixed, I ask, ‘What possible incentive could there be, short of an actual terrorist attack, that would provide greater motivation for B&W Y12 and NNSA to demonstrate their competence than the July 28 incursion?’”

On September 12, 2012, OREPA called for the abolition of the NNSA. “Today, we repeat that call,” said Hutchison. “The taxpayers and the nation can not afford to pay for incompetence. We get no value added from the NNSA’s additional layer of oversight; we get value subtracted. There is less accountability, and that leads to less security. You might get away with that in an office building somewhere, but we’re talking about an active nuclear weapons production complex.”

What the officials have said: DOE, NNSA and B&W Y12 statements since July 28

NNSA Administrator Tom D’Agostino, December 5, 2012

“We also have been working to make the structural and cultural changes required to ensure the security of this facility and throughout our entire complex.

“While we’re confident that these aggressive actions have enhanced security at Y-12, we will leave no stone unturned to find out what went wrong and will take any step necessary to ensure security at this site and across our enterprise.

“The second key point here is related to the first, and that is to develop a questioning attitude and get into the details. A strong organization — one committed to continuous improvement — needs to develop a workforce that promotes a degree of skepticism, a questioning attitude and a desire to get into the details…Asking for details about a situation, a program or an event sends the exact opposite message. It tells that individual and others that you think their work is important. And because of that, you want to take the time to understand their work. It also gives them an opportunity to show you how much they know. It has the added benefit of your being able to find areas where additional attention may be needed. And if during your session of questioning, your instincts tell you that there are issues that may require further investigation, then trust your instincts.”


B&W President and General Manager Chuck Spencer, September 12, 2012

“The July 28 event brought to light gaps in our maintenance and security operations, and we are using it as a catalyst for a comprehensive and objective examination of all our operations. As a result, a series of extent-of-condition reviews are ongoing throughout Y‑12. Specific to our show cause response, we believe we have demonstrated a compelling case for NNSA to continue our contract.

“Over the course of the past six weeks, B&W Y‑12 has implemented significant corrective actions. All critical security system elements have been restored to service; security cameras have been repaired, adjusted and performance tested; and security-related maintenance must now be performed on critical system elements within 24 hours of an identified problem. The WSI-Oak Ridge Protective Force has been extensively retrained and performance tested. The testing was also integrated with security systems performance testing. Through multiple corrective measures, daily site-wide alarms have been significantly reduced and Protective Force alarm responses have improved.

“B&W Y‑12 has the commitment and capability to execute its contractual responsibilities and fulfill its mission at the highest level of performance. We will continue our path forward for improvements, and will embed and make them long lasting at Y‑12.”

(Y-12 National Security Complex website: http://www.y12.doe.gov/news/release.php?id=303)


Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman, Congressional Testimony, September 13, 2012

This incursion and the poor response to it demonstrated a deeply flawed execution of security procedures at Y-12. In response to the incident, we acted swiftly to identify and address the problems it revealed.

These actions — either directly or through the contract for the site — included the following immediate steps to improve security:

• The former head of security from Pantex moved to Y-12 to lead the effort to reform the security culture at the site

• Security functions at the Y-12 site have been brought into the M&O contract to ensure continuity of operations, and moving toward an integrated model going forward;

• The Chief of Defense Nuclear Security for NNSA has been reassigned pending the outcome of a review;

• Six of the top contractor executives responsible for security at the Y-12 site have been removed — including the president and acting president of Wackenhut’s Oak Ridge Division;

• The leadership of the guard force has been removed, and the guards involved in this incident have been removed or reassigned;

• The Plant Manager and Chief Operating Officer retired 12 days after the incident;

• Nuclear operations at the site were suspended until re-training and other modifications mentioned above were completed;

• The entire site workforce was required to undergo additional security training;

• Cameras have been repaired and tested, guard patrols increased, security policies have 
been strengthened, and all personnel have been retrained on security procedures;

• The number of false and nuisance alarms have been greatly reduced, to provide more confidence in the intrusion detection system;

• The Department’s Chief of Health, Safety and Security was directed to deploy a team to Y- 12 in support of NNSA’s efforts;

• Site managers at all DOE facilities with nuclear material were directed to provide their written assurance that all nuclear facilities are in full compliance with Department security policies and directives, as well as internal policies established at the site level;

• A formal “Show Cause Letter” was issued to the contractor that covers the entire scope of operations at Y-12, including security. This is the first step toward potentially terminating the contracts for both and the site contractor and its security subcontractor. Past performance, including deficiencies and terminations, will be considered in the awarding of future contracts;

• A senior federal official was deployed to ensure oversight over contractor security operations;

• An assessment was initiated led by Brigadier General Sandra Finan to review the oversight model and security organizational structure at NNSA headquarters;

• An independent HSS inspection of Y-12 was ordered; and

• HSS was directed to lead near-term assessments of all Category I sites to identify any systemic issues, enhancing Independent Oversight performance testing program to incorporate no-notice or short notice security testing, and conducting comprehensive Independent Oversight security inspections at all Category I sites over the next 12 months, using the enhanced program of performance testing.

• The series of personnel and management changes I have just described were made to provide the highest level of security at the site and across the DOE complex. To manage this transition, we have brought some of the best security experts from our enterprise to Y-12 to act quickly to redress the security shortcomings at the site. We are also working to make the structural and cultural changes required to appropriately secure this facility. The Secretary and I intend to send a clear message: lapses in security will not be tolerated. We will leave no stone unturned to find out what went wrong and will take the steps necessary to provide effective security at this site and across our enterprise.

In conclusion, the security of our Nation’s nuclear material is a central responsibility of the Department. We must always remain vigilant against error and complacency and have zero tolerance for security breaches at our Nation’s most sensitive nuclear facilities. The incident at Y-12 was unacceptable, and it served as an important wake-up call for our entire complex. As a result, NNSA will use this event to review the security at all of our NNSA sites. The Department is taking aggressive actions to ensure the reliability of our nuclear security programs, and will continue to do so.


DOE Inspector General Friedman, Congressional hearings, September 12, 2012

Especially important in light of the purpose of today’s hearing, contractor governance and Federal oversight failed to identify and correct early indicators of the breakdowns. These issues directly contributed to an atmosphere in which trespassers could gain access to the protected security area directly adjacent to one of the Nation’s most critically important and highly secured weapons-related facilities (Inquiry into the Security Breach at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Y-12 National Security Complex, DOE/IG-0868, available at: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/IG- 0868_0.pdf).


(Note: On December 20, 2012, a federal spokesperson said the hole had been located and repaired. http://blogs.knoxnews.com/munger/2012/12/the-cut-in-the-fence-has-been.html)

Editor, Knoxville News Sentinel says Plowshares “was in no way an actual act of sabotage”

Jack McElroy, editor in chief of the Knoxville News Sentinel, cites Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. in his criticism of the new charge of sabotage leveled against Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed.

In the new indictment, filed by the assistant U.S. attorney on December 4th, Greg Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice, and Michael Walli face a 20-year maximum charge for damage to national security defense materials under the sabotage act, along with two charges from the August indictment, for destruction of property and depredation of property.  They face a possible total of 35 years in prison.

Newly Charged with Sabotage, still Following the Law of Love

A new charge of sabotage, carrying up to 20 years in prison, has been leveled against the Transform Now Plowshares defendants.  In the new indictment, Greg Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice, and Michael Walli face two charges from the original indictment, but the trespass charge has been replaced by the sabotage charge listed as Count I below:

    Count I – Damage to national security defense materials, with a fine and or imprisonment up to 20 years under 18 USC 2155.  The prosecution has also added 18 USC 2152 which is harm to, among other things, torpedoes from submarines. That claim carries an additional imprisonment of up to 5 years.
    Count II – Damage to a structure within Y-12, carrying up to 5 or 10 years in prison.
    Count III – Damage in excess of $1000 – up to 10 years in prison.

Greg, Michael, and Sister Megan’s action peaceably pointed out the unlawful production and preparation of nuclear weapons at Y-12.  The new charges have not deterred them in their continued call for transformation and common nuclear disarmament.  Here is their response to the charges.

Our consciences compelled us to act at Y-12 Oak Ridge nuclear facility because we knew that the nuclear weapons of mass destruction illegally produced there threaten the well-being of our entire planet.  The government and Babcock and Wilcox [a contractor that manages the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant] know these weapons can only be used to inflict massive death and injury on people and on our planet.

The Government threatened to charge us with the more serious crime of sabotage if we did not plead guilty.  We chose to exercise our constitutional right to a jury trial and refused to bow down to their threats.   So the government has added serious new charges which expose us to an additional twenty years in prison for our peacemaking actions.

We remain convinced that making and refurbishing nuclear weapons at Y-12 is both illegal under US and international law and it is also immoral.  Ultimately we are required to follow the law of love and our consciences.

Our present activities include daily community prayer, study of the Nuremberg trials, and public education about the existence of illegal nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

We look forward to presenting evidence to the jury of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what goes on at Y-12.

See also:

Copy of the superseding indictment (PDF)

Copy of the original indictment (PDF)

Frank Munger’s Atomic City Underground: indictment and response.

Kangaroo Court Looming for Nuclear Weapons Critics


by John LaForge, Nukewatch

Three pacifists that snuck into the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex last summer are preparing for their Feb. trial, and face the prospect that any mention of nuclear weapons will be forbidden.

Y-12 is the 811-acre site in Oak Ridge, Tenn. that’s been building H-bombs and contaminating workers and the environment since 1945. On July 28, Sister Megan Rice, 82, of New York City, Michael Walli, 63, of Washington, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, of Duluth, snipped through fences and walked up to the new Highly Enriched Uranium Materials building. They unfurled banners, painted “Woe to and Empire of Blood” etc., poured blood on the place, prayed and broke bread.

Now they face felony charges that carry a maximum of $500,000 in fines and 15 years in prison. Additionally, in an apparent attempt to scare them into pleading guilty now, federal prosecutors have mentioned bringing two heavier charges, including sabotage “during wartime,” which together carry up to 50 years.

Yet as with previous cases of symbolic damage to nuclear war systems, a Kangaroo Court is being arranged in advance. If the government gets it way, the trial judge will keep facts about nuclear weapons away from jurors and make sure that questions about the Bomb’s outlaw status are left out of jury instructions. Instructions are the jurors’ marching orders, the last thing they hear before starting deliberations.

On Nov. 2, federal prosecutors led by U.S. Attorney William Killian offered a motion “in limine,” urging U.S. Magistrate Judge C. Clifford Shirley to “preclude defendants from introducing evidence in support of certain justification defenses.” The motion asks the court to forbid all evidence — even expert testimony — about “necessity, international law, Nuremberg Principles, First Amendment protections, the alleged immorality of nuclear weapons, good motive, religious moral or political beliefs regarding nuclear weapons, and the U.S. government’s policy regarding nuclear weapons.” The “basis” for excluding evidence regarding the threatened use of our H-bombs is that it is “not relevant.”

Volunteer defense attorneys have submitted a detailed memo to the contrary, arguing that interference with and even defacing and damaging nuclear war plans is a legitimately excusable “lesser harm” that prevents an indisputably greater one. The lawyers, Bill Quigley, Chris Irwin, Francis Lloyd and Kary Love, argue that forbidding a defense of necessity violates protesters’ rights. Citing case law from 2005, 1994, 1980 and 1976, they note that “In a criminal case it is reversible error for a trial judge to refuse to present adequately a defendant’s theory of defense,” and, “where a defendant claims an affirmative defense [necessity, crime prevention, etc.], and that ‘defense finds some support in the evidence and in the law,’ the defendant is entitled to have the claimed defense discussed in the jury instructions.”

It’s easy to show that necessity defenses are relevant, the memo notes, since the “burden is not a heavy one” and is met “even when the supporting evidence is weak or of doubtful credibility.” Nevertheless, as the prosecutor’s motion points out, “Courts have precluded defendants from presenting any evidence in support of such defenses at trial, including expert testimony.” Indeed, gag orders in similar cases have been upheld by the 9th, 8th, 7th and 11th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal. Judges and prosecutors have in fact placed nuclear weapons and war planning beyond the reach of the law — unlike assault rifles, poison gas or other contraband — as if H-bombs were sacrosanct, unquestionable, and too precious to be addressed by mere mortals.

In this case, Magistrate Shirley is expected to grant the stifling motion. He and Mr. Killian know that if jurors learn about the effects of nuclear attacks, about the law against planning massacres, and about U.S. plans for nuclear warfare, they would likely acquit the defendants. The U.S. Attorney’s motion even confesses, “[w]e do not suggest that the deployment of nuclear armament systems does not violate international law, but merely that Congress has power to protect government property….”

If a gag order from Magistrate Shirley follows suit with earlier nuclear weapons protest cases, the accused will again be denied the right to reasonably defend themselves. With the world clamoring for nuclear abolition, it won’t be the defense that’s irrelevant then, but the court system.

— John LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisc., and edits its Quarterly.

Related reading (PDF):

US Motion to Preclude Defenses, 11/02/12 – This is the motion by the government prosecutors asking the judge to prohibit the Transform Now Plowshares from being allowed to provide any evidence or tell the jury anything about: international law; the alleged immorality of nuclear weapons; US policy regarding nuclear weapons; necessity; Nuremberg Principles; or First Amendment protections.
attachment to US Motion to Preclude: Gump decision, 11/02/12 – Attached to the Government Motion to Preclude Defenses was the USDC decision in 2011 stripping defenses from Jean Gump, Elizabeth Lentsch, Bradford Lyttle, Bill Bichsel, David Corcoran, Bonnie Urfer, Carol Gilbert, Ardeth Platte, Jackie Hudson, Paula Rosdatter, Michael Walli, Steve Beggarly and Dennis Duvall.
attachment to US Motion to Preclude: Mellon decision, 11/02/12 – Attached to the government motion to preclude defenses was the 2002 USDC decision in the case USA v Timothy Mellon, Elizabeth Lentsch, Lena Feldmann and Mary Adams.  That decision stripped those defendants of the right to put on all kinds of evidence.  The 2002 decision was made by the same US Magistrate who is making preliminary decisions in the Transform Now Plowshares case.
Transform Now Plowshares Response to US Motion to Preclude Defenses, 11/16/12 – This memo was filed Nov. 16, 2012 by the Transform Now Plowshares opposing the Government attempt to strip them of all defenses.  It explains that the government is seeking to suppress the truth about: what happens at Y-12; what nuclear weapons do; what US policy is on use of nuclear weapons; and why they did what they did.

The Transform Now Plowshares want to tell the jury the truth, the WHOLE truth and nothing but the truth.

Support Transform Now Plowshares

Contributions for jail support for the Transform Now Plowshares activists are welcome and needed! You can mail checks to:

Catholic Worker
PO Box 29179
Washington DC 20017

please mark your check for "Transform Now Plowshares" in the memo line.