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