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84-Year-Old Pacifist Nun Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison after Exposing Lack of Security at Nuclear Weapons Site

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | February 23, 2014

Three anti-nuclear protesters, including an elderly Roman Catholic nun, will spend multiple years in prison for breaching security at a key weapons facility previously known as the “Fort Knox of uranium.”

Sister Megan Rice, 84, and two other members of the group Transform Now Plowshares embarrassed the U.S. Department of Energy and its security contractor at the Y-12 Nuclear Complex in Tennessee two years ago.

The three activists managed to enter the top-security grounds and travel all the way to a key building that houses 400 metric tons of highly enriched uranium used in nuclear warheads.

Rice along with Michael Walli, then 64, and Greg Boertje-Obed, then 57, had enough time to paint slogans like “The fruit of justice is peace” and splash bottles of human blood on the bunker wall before private security guards arrived on the scene.

They were convicted last year on two felony counts: damaging government property and obstructing the national defense, a sabotage charge. But they were not sentenced until February 18, 2014.

Rice received a prison term of two years and eleven months, while Walli and Boertje-Obed each got five years and two months because of earlier protest-related arrests.

“Please have no leniency with me,” Rice told the judge prior to her sentencing. “To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor for me.”

U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar asked prosecutors before handing down the sentences what harm the activists caused at Y-12.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore responded that the defendants “had destroyed the ‘mystique’ of the ‘Fort Knox of uranium.’”

The August 2012 break-in at the complex prompted multiple federal reviews of security procedures, including congressional hearings, a report by the Energy Department’s inspector general (IG), and an independent commission review.

In the wake of the embarrassing episode, the Energy Department set about to test security readiness at nuclear weapons sites across the country. At Y-12, the IG discovered, the security knowledge exam itself was compromised when personnel disseminated it, along with the answers, ahead of time.

To Learn More:

Y-12 Protestors “Destroyed the Mystique” of Nuclear Security (by Lydia Dennett, Project On Government Oversight)

Nun, 84, Sentenced to Nearly 3 Years in Prison for Breaking into Nuclear Weapons Plant (Associated Press)

How the Obama Administration Charged 3 Pacifists with Violent Acts of Sabotage (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

The 82-Year-Old Nun Who Breached U.S. High-Security Nuclear Complex (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

February 23, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

83-year-old nun convicted of sabotage for breach of US atomic complex

RT | May 09, 2013

Three activists, including an 83-year-old nun, who broke into a US nuclear weapons facility in Tennessee were convicted on Wednesday of interfering with national security.

In what The New York Times labeled the biggest security breach in the history of the atomic complex, the trio broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex on July 28, 2012 and defaced a uranium processing plant.

The Y-12 facility has been in operation since 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, and today is responsible for both the production and maintenance of all uranium parts for the entire US nuclear weapons arsenal. Over the years, the facility has also been the target of nonviolent anti-nuclear protests.

Now, a jury in Tennessee has charged the three protesters with sabotaging the plant, with a second charge of damaging federal property.

Defense attorneys for the three activists – Sister Megan Rice, 57-year-old Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, 64 – maintained that the prosecution had overreached.

“The shortcomings in security at one of the most dangerous places on the planet have embarrassed a lot of people,” defense lawyer Francis Lloyd said.

“You’re looking at three scapegoats behind me,” he added

Defense attorneys also noted that, once the three refused to plead guilty to trespassing, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, the prosecution introduced the charge of sabotage, which carries a maximum prison term of twenty years. They believed the higher charge should have been dismissed.

According to the Associated Press, which provided details of the court proceedings, the three activists have no remorse for their actions, and were pleased to have reached one of the most secure areas of the facility.

Prosecutor Jeff Theodore noted that the trio’s fate could have been far worse, as that area of the facility allowed guards to use deadly force.

“They’re lucky, and thank goodness they’re alive, because they went into the lethal zone,” said Theodore.

The three defendants spent two hours inside Y-12, during which time they hung banners, cut through security fences, strung crime-scene tape and sprayed “baby bottles full of human blood” on the exterior portion of the facility.

Boertje-Obed, who is a house painter from Duluth, Minnesota, explained why they sprayed the blood.

“The reason for the baby bottles was to represent that the blood of children is spilled by these weapons,” he said.

While inside the most secure portion of the facility, the three activists managed to hammer off what is described as a “small chunk” of the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility.

During cross examination, Sister Rice stated that she wished she had not waited so long to stage a protest within the plant.

“My regret was I waited 70 years,” she said.”It is manufacturing which can only cause death.”

Prosecutors argued that the breach of security was serious, and caused the plant to shut down for two weeks as security staff were re-trained and defense contractors replaced.

Meanwhile, federal officials maintain that there was never any danger of the three activists reaching materials that could be detonated or used to construct an improvised bomb.

May 9, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment