Government effort to silence critics of nuclear policy continues
Sentencing of Transform Now Plowshares resisters set for
January 28, 2014, in Knoxville, TN
Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli will appear before Judge Amul Thapar in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee on January 28, 2014, to be sentenced for the Transform Now Plowshares action on July 28, 2012. The three were convicted in May 2013 on charges of depredation of property and sabotage; they have been jailed since the guilty verdict because the sabotage charge, by definition, is a “crime of violence.” The sentencing will commence at 9:00am with a consolidated hearing which will likely be followed by separate sentencing hearings for each defendant.
“The action of the government from the outset has had one aim: to silence these messengers of truth,” said Paul Magno, spokesperson for the Transform Now Plowshares support team. “They succeeded in banishing from the trial all testimony about the vast gulf between the United States’ legal obligation to disarm under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the ongoing activities at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, where production of nuclear weapons components is ongoing, and plans for a new $19 billion bomb factory are being drawn up.”
The message of the Transform Now Plowshares action was delivered in the early morning hours of July 28, 2012, when Walli, Boertje-Obed and Rice entered the ultra-high security area of Y12 and read an indictment charging the United States with failure to comply with its legal obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty. The opening paragraphs read:
“Today, through our nonviolent action, we—Transform Now Plowshares—indict the U.S. government nuclear modernization program, including the new Uranium Processing Facility planned at Oak Ridge and the dedication of billions of public dollars to the continuation of the Y-12 facility.
“WHEREAS, This program is an ongoing criminal endeavor in violation of international treaty law binding on the United States under the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article VI):
“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
The indictment delivered that morning was validated by U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark who testified at a motions hearing in federal court in Knoxville that ongoing weapon production activities at Y12 in Oak Ridge are “unlawful.” Clark, Attorney General when the United States signed the Nonproliferation Treaty, testified the US has failed to meet its legal obligations under that treaty and cited the 1996 opinion of the International Court of Justice that nuclear weapons states have an obligation to achieve nuclear disarmament. “It’s the single most important treaty we have ever had,” Clark told the court, adding, “The life of the planet is at risk from the one plant here in Tennessee.”
Contrary to the US commitment in the NPT, Y12 currently manufactures thermonuclear cores (secondaries, or canned-subassemblies) for W76 nuclear warheads under the Stockpile Life Extension Program. The purpose of the SLEP is to extend the life of warheads for decades; the ongoing W76 LEP is introducing significant modifications to the warhead’s military capability resulting in what some experts have called a new nuclear weapon. In addition, Y12 is planning to build a new bomb production facility, the Uranium Processing Facility, which will have as its sole mission the production of thermonuclear weapons components. The estimated pricetag for the UPF, originally $1.5 billion, is now $19 billion.
In an attempt to throw a blanket of silence over the Plowshares resisters’ concerns, the government chose to charge them with sabotage and, despite testimony about the symbolic nature of their action and the hopeful intent demonstrated throughout by their nonviolent behavior, an East Tennessee jury took less than three hours to convict them of all charges including the sabotage charge which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.
Following the conviction, Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed were taken into custody and labeled violent offenders. They were incarcerated in remote Ocilla, Georgia, to await sentencing. The government prepared a pre-sentencing report that recommended lengthy sentences, from 6 – 12 years, for the defendants; the US District Attorney in Knoxville has asked the judge to reject considerations of the nonviolent nature of the action and calls for downward departure from the sentencing guidelines, disingenuously characterizing the defendants and seeking penalties of at least six years—a sentence that would jail 84 year-old Megan Rice until she was nearly 90 years old.
“In this country, we often point to other nations, like China, Russia or Iran, where dissidents are imprisoned in order to silence their criticisms of the policies and practices of their governments,” noted Magno. “We like to think we are more enlightened, that in a free land like ours such draconian measures are out-of-bounds. But this case shows otherwise. The United States is determined to carry out its nuclear agenda, to continue to violate its treaty obligations, to build new bombs and new bomb plants, and they will even put an 84 year old nun in jail for the rest of her life if that’s what it takes to bury the truth.
“There is no mystery behind this action—the government simply knows its nuclear policy and practices can not bear scrutiny. They are, on their face, violations of our treaty obligations. They present a stunning double-standard—we refuse to allow Iran even to enrich uranium while we ourselves continue with full-scale bomb production and are spending billions on a new bomb plant.”
Witnesses expected to testify at the sentencing hearing include John LaForge of Nukewatch in Luck, WI; Mary Evelyn Tucker, Director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University; Andy Anderson, Veterans for Peace in Duluth, MN; Kathy Boylan of the Washington, DC Catholic Worker community.
for more information: Paul Magno 202 321 6650
Ralph Hutchison 865 776 5050