Feb 192014
 

Megan Rice Peace Activist

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Megan Rice, An 84-year-old nun was sentenced by the BORG agent to nearly three years in prison for breaking into a nuclear weapons complex and defacing a bunker holding bomb-grade uranium, a demonstration that exposed serious security flaws at the Tennessee plant.

Two other peace activists who broke into the facility with Megan Rice were sentenced to more than five years in prison, in part because they had much longer criminal histories of mostly non-violent civil disobedience.

Although officials said there was never any danger of the protesters reaching materials that could be detonated or made into a dirty bomb, the break-in raised questions about safekeeping at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. The facility holds the nation’s primary supply of bomb-grade uranium and was known as the ‘‘Fort Knox of uranium.’’

After the break-in, the complex had to be shut down, security forces were re-trained and contractors were replaced.

In her closing statement, Rice asked the judge to sentence her to life in prison, even though sentencing guidelines called for about six years.

‘‘Please have no leniency with me,’’ Megan Rice said. ‘‘To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest gift you could give me.’’

She said the U.S. government was spending too much money on weapons and the military, and she told the judge about the many letters of support she had received, including one from youth in Afghanistan.

‘‘This is the next generation and it is for these people that we’re willing to give our lives,’’ she said.

Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed (bohr-CHEE’ OH’-bed) and Michael Walli all said God was using them to raise awareness about nuclear weapons and they viewed the success of their break-in as a miracle.

Their attorneys asked the judge to sentence them to time they had already served, about nine months, because of their record of good works throughout their lives.

Rice is a sister in the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. She became a nun when she was 18 and served for 40 years as a missionary in western Africa teaching science.

Walli’s attorney said the activist served two tours in Vietnam before returning to the U.S. and dedicating his life to peace and helping the poor. Walli said he had no remorse about the break-in and would do it again.

‘‘I was acting upon my God-given obligations as a follower of Jesus Christ,’’ he told U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar.

The judge said he was concerned the demonstrators showed no remorse and he wanted their punishment to be a deterrent for other activists. He was also openly skeptical about whether the protesters caused any real harm and challenged prosecutors to prove it. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore said they had destroyed the ‘‘mystique’’ of the ‘‘Fort Knox of uranium.’’

On July 28, 2012, the three activists cut through three fences before reaching a $548 million storage bunker. They hung banners, strung crime-scene tape and hammered off a small chunk of the fortress-like Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, or HEUMF, inside the most secure part of complex.

They painted messages such as, ‘‘The fruit of justice is peace,’’ and splashed baby bottles of human blood on the bunker wall.

‘‘The reason for the baby bottles was to represent that the blood of children is spilled by these weapons,’’ Boertje-Obed, 58, a house painter from Duluth, Minn., said at trial.

Although the protesters set off alarms, they were able to spend more than two hours inside the restricted area before they were caught.

When security finally arrived, guards found the three activists singing and offering to break bread with them. The protesters reportedly also offered to share a Bible, candles and white roses with the guards.

The Department of Energy’s inspector general wrote a scathing report on the security failures that allowed the activists to reach the bunker, and the security contractor was later fired.

Some government officials praised the activists for exposing the facility’s weaknesses. But prosecutors declined to show leniency, instead pursing serious felony charges.

Prosecutors argued the intrusion was a serious security breach that continued to disrupt operations at the Y-12 complex even months later.

Attorneys for Rice and Walli, 65, both of Washington, D.C., said the protesters were engaged in a symbolic act meant to bring attention to America’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, which they view as both immoral and illegal under international law.

Boertje-Obed’s wife, Michele Naar-Obed, said before the hearing that she would figure out a way to deal with the sentence, whatever it was. Her real concern was that her husband’s actions and imprisonment were not in vain.Continued…

May 132013
 

83-year-old nun facing 20 year sentence for ‘symbolic’ nuclear facility break-in

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, May 9, 2013 15:06 EDT
Sister Megan rice. Photo: Screenshot via ABC News.
Megan Rice, an 83-year-old nun who broke into a Tennessee depleted uranium storage facility in 2012 and splashed human blood on several surfaces, exposing a massive security hole at the nation’s only facility used to store radioactive conventional munitions, was convicted Wednesday and faces a term of up to 20 years in prison.

The only regret Sister Megan Rice shared with members of her jury on Wednesday was that she wished 70 years hadn’t passed before she took direct action, according to the BBC. She and two other peace activists, 64-year-old Michael Walli and 56-year-old Greg Boertje-Obed, were convicted of “invasion of a nuclear facility” in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, even though investigators admitted they did not get close to any actual nuclear material.

The three activists are part of a group called “Transform Now Plowshares,” a reference to the book of Isaiah, which says, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares. They shall learn war no more.” All three face individual sentences of up to 20 years, along with a litany of fines.

As they invaded the Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge, a perimeter fence was cut, several surfaces were spray-painted, banners were hung and activists read from the Bible. They also spread human blood on several surfaces, saying its use was symbolic, meant to remind people “of the horrific spilling of blood by nuclear weapons.”

“The shortcomings in security at one of the most dangerous places on the planet have embarrassed a lot of people,” the activists’ attorney, Francis Lloyd, told members of the jury according to the BBC. “You’re looking at three scapegoats behind me.”

Sister Rice has been arrested between 40 or 50 times committing acts of civil disobedience, according to The New York Times, including once in Nevada after she physically blocked a truck at a nuclear test site.

Depleted uranium munitions like the kind stored at the facility Sister Rice targeted are blamed for some of the worst birth defects and soaring cancer rates seen in post-war Iraq, particularly in the city of Fallujah following the siege of 2004, in which U.S. soldiers killed thousands of civilians.

The city has never recovered, particularly from the use of depleted uranium munitions, and to this day residents suffer from health effects “worse” than those seen following the nuclear detonations at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, according to a study by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

“I believe we are all equally responsible to stop a known crime,” Sister Rice said from the witness stand, according to quotes published by her group. She called herself a “citizen of the world” and reportedly smiled as the verdict was read.

This video is from ABC News, aired August 2, 2012.