End Drone Killing, Drone Surveillance and Global Militarization
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Criticizing repression of protest abroad, practicing it at home: What if Americans Demanded the Ouster of This Government?
By Dave Lindorff
Ukraine’s new rulers, in one of their first acts, have disbanded that country’s riot police.
Here is the prepared statement Megan Rice read to the court on Tuesday, February 18, 2014:
As I sat observing the facial expressions of participants present in the hearing on January 28th, I sensed a clear sense of a shared mental reaction during the arguments on this restitution evidentiary Table submitted by the Prosecution (identification…) (display my Exhibit I)
I think we felt something of a Master’s compassionate consternation with the hypocrisy at his accusers. (Luke 6:5-11 Mark 4:20-30)
I was stunned that 8 months had elapsed with apparently no prior conversations, out of court, between the opposing sides and the court in this case, and would have imagined it had been resolved by negotiation during those delays, and relegated to where it deserved to be disposed. – unworthy of evidence in any court of law.
This very document [hold up Exhibit 1] is self-incriminating evidence for all the world to see. It represents in microcosm an enormous cloud of deception, exaggerated expenditures in time, energy and cost under which Y-12 has hidden these 70 years since its inception. It reveals but a sample of the extortion by unaccounted for or unaccountable profiteering and blatant miscalculation over Y-12’s entire evolution till today. – Draconian extortion of the hard-earned labor of the people in this country over the last 70 years, and perhaps before.
It provides evidence why we are in deep trouble today. – A perfect analogy to what Greg spoke of as “Emperor’s new clothes.”
Why can we not call a spade a spade?
Why can we not admit the bare truth, and just get on with what is humanly possible: transforming this humanly constructed horrific monstrosity, an entity which has, effectively un-impeded, evolved into risks of perilous portent to the very existence of this sacred Planet and life as we have known it; for whose transformation we all readily long to give our lives.
Who or what is capable of naming, and being heard to name,
this Emperor’s new clothes?
(if not already named in countless ways and forms.)
When will we be willing to listen,
and to face the truth?
Good morning! Thank you, Judge Thapar, and each of you, in this Beloved Community. We are so grateful this morning, in the depths of our hearts. Grateful to each of you for gracing us from your very busy lives, to be here once again. Your coming here from Kentucky, your honor, and up from New Orleans, Bill and Anna. Down form Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Anabel and David, faithfully giving time, and so much zesty, passionate energy and legal expertise in popular education for truth and justice’s sake on current status of international and domestic law; and here, also from a crowded date book at Yale’s Schools of Divinity and of Forestry and the Environment, Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker, to witness on behalf of our entire Planet. A Beloved Community joins us in Spirit, from the four corners of the Earth, speaking truth from people in places like Seychelles, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Denmark, Finland, France, Belgium, Qatar, Bolivia, Alaska, Africa, Scotland, Ireland, Montenegro, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Britain, and many places in between. These messages from the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers came by post for this court. May I deliver them now?
It is indeed fitting as the issue here before us today has touched with perilous risk, for 70 years, the very existence of our sacred, lovely home, which we all share and try to treasure – our Planet Earth, which many of us revere as Mother! So thank you. We treasured the time all you gave in attending the trial in one way or another.
This trial has exposed, quite gratuitously, in the evidence, thanks to the prosecution’s witnesses, the truth about what is happening. That this one facility is part, of what Kristen Iversen says, the U.S. has become: one, huge, bomb factory, of which Y-12 is but one very significant part.
We are all grateful, as Anabel Dwyer points out, with the Defense team of Lawyers, that the details of the goings-on at Y-12 were revealed by the witnesses for the government, details kept mostly secret, over nigh to 70 years – the specific warheads being “enhanced” and “modernized” – the enormous quantities of highly enriched uranium material (HEUM) produced and stored there, in the very building we were able, almost unknowingly, to reach, to touch, and to label with statements and symbols of truth. This alerted Y-12 workers to what has been kept secret for nearly 70 years.
The secrecy began in 1943, when worker women, by thousands, could not tell fellow workers or family. Still now, secrets are kept between workers, officials, and managers. The secrecy prevailed to try relentlessly to turn these United States into a “super power,” an empire. As Germany tried to be under the Third Reich. When I was growing up, to our generation, these were very evil terms. Has any empire, or aspiring super-power not declined, not fallen apart from exceptionalism into decadence? So we had to come to this facility to call it to transformation. Thank you for revealing these secrets as evidence.
Many who were here on Jan. 28th had attended plowshares trials around the country, your honor, from the most recent in Tacoma, WA – the Disarm Now Plowshares (seniors also, I allege, aged from 84-60: One Sacred Heart Sister, Anne Montgomery of happy memory, 2 Jesuits Frs. Bill Bicshel and Steve Kelly, and 2 grandmothers, Susan Crane and Lynne Greenwald.) In many of these earlier trials, even the words, nuclear weapons, have been called “classified” and denied to be alluded to. Despite being components for weapons of mass destruction, contrary to the Non-Proliferation and other treaties and laws, to which the U.S. is legally bound, and for which crimes we citizens bear shared responsibility by law to expose and oppose as crimes, when we know they are being committed.
And still we have more room and reasons for gratitude, you honor. Because recent laws, by the U.S. congress, gave you distress, you felt that you had to keep these jury-convicted, conscience-bound peace-makers as “violent saboteurs,” felons accused of “seriously damaging the national defense of the U.S.” in detention while awaiting sentencing. Detention in a privately-contracted, for profit, rendition warehouse, which punishes and tortures unsentenced people, partly because of the enormously overcrowded courts and prisons in this country. These facilities are not effectively overseen nor accountable. Because of our experience of the ill-equipped conditions and inadequately trained personnel in those for-profit warehouses, we now know how U.S. citizens and non-citizens are treated for nonviolent crimes of “conspiracy” and other medical, drug laws as they exist. Crimes engendered by the failed socio-economic situation which prevails today in a national security state. The direct fall-out from gross misspending to maintain a nuclear industrial complex – of ten trillions of dollars over these last 70 years. An economic system devoid of any outcome other than death, poverty for the masses in a debt-ridden country, with obscene wealth for the less than 1% of the people – individuals wealthier than the GNP of entire countries and I would ask, from war-profiteering?
We thank you, Judge Thapar, for giving us this time to become inspired by truly great human beings, so patiently enduring flagrantly inhuman conditions. We can now report to you and the general public, who are the government, of the conditions where people are experiencing punishment and torture as unsentenced, awaiting changing court dates, or places in federal prisons today. We have seen how this far-profit detention contract system fails to accomplish any kind of restorative justice or rehabilitation. Women and men who are the victims of a nation, impoverished by the violence and cost of an economy based on manufacturing WMDs and war-making – inhumanly separated by distance and poverty, managerial incompetence; inordinately separated from contact with loved ones and families.
I am grateful also for what Daniel Berrigan called in a letter to me in Danbury Prison in 1998, “my time under federal scholarship.” We have tried to make the most of it. (Have learned enough for 2 or 3 Masters degrees, and written and received letters to and from enough to do a doctoral dissertation!) We are activated by the people who suffer under disempowering conditions of detention. Activated to invite U.S. prison reform, which calls for transformation of minds and hearts from violence. Violence of profiteering from the “fall out” of constant, unending war-making, by a military industrial complex. Those engaged in the production of ever more massively powerful, death-dealing weapons, – nuclear, chemical, biological, unmanned weapons, which rob the poor and sabotage and pollute all of life and creation on this Planet. Imagine the profit accrued by charges like mine: $15 for one 10 minute call to Washington DC from Knoxville Detention Facility. TN instate calls can be close to $3.00 each for 10 minutes. Or a sick call, which can cost an inmate $15 to obtain a dropped, previously sanctioned prescription for a nightly Claritin tablet for controlling an allergy condition. Medical records denied to be passed on from facility to facility as inmates are moved along to prisons.
We are energized to call for life-enhancing alternative projects: like disarmament, depleting radioactive isotopes and toxins, and those which meet real needs – social, cultural, spiritual and environmental: restoration, healing, harmony, balance and peace in non-violence.
May I close with a prayer? A rendition of an ancient Hebrew country song – PS 98 (according to Nan Merrill) as again we thank you, Judge Thapar, honorable jurors, our defense team, lawyers on behalf of the government (whose crimes, we as law-abiding citizens attempt to disclose, oppose, and heal), and for each of you, you in this most honorable Beloved Community, a prophetic peace-making remnant, from whom we receive hope and inspiration and encouragement to carry on as grateful participants in your noble pursuits:
Let us sing to the Beloved a new song.
For Love has done marvelous things!
By the strength of Your Indwelling Presence, (Your right hand)
We, too, are called to do great things;
We are set free through Love’s Forgiveness and Truth.
Yes, for Your steadfast Love and Faithfulness
are ever-present gifts
in our lives.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the glory of Love’s Eternal Flame.
Make a joyful noise to the Beloved,
all the Earth;
Break forth into grateful song
and sing praises! [-Sacred the Land, Sacred the Water, Sacred the Sky, holy and true!]
Yes, sing songs of praise extolling
Lift up your hearts with gratitude and Joy!
Let the voices of all people blend in harmony,
in unison let the peoples magnify the Beloved!
Let the waters clap their hands!
Let the hills ring out with joy!
Before the Beloved who radiates Love to all the earth.
For Love reigns over the world
with truth and justice,
bringing order and balance, [harmony]
to all Creation!
In keeping with all that is just and Fair.
and may we go forth
as Your holy right hand, to do great things, in Love!
(MK 3: LK 7)
Megan then asked the judge if it would be all right to sing a song. He agreed, then was taken aback as she turned to the audience and they rose to join her in singing “Sacred the Earth.”
Sr. Megan Rice, SHCJ, February 18, 2014
U S Federal Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
We’ve heard it from the bench in Oak Ridge city courtrooms and from state judges in Clinton, Tennessee. And on February 18 we heard it from a federal judge—there are two variations. The first: There are plenty of ways for you to protest and deliver your message without breaking the law. The second: If you people would just put this time and energy into working for the change you want in the political system, you might get the change you seek.
Both sentiments are either disingenuous or naïve.
I. There are plenty of ways for you to protest and deliver your message without breaking the law.
As one who has spent hundreds of hours in nonviolent protests outside the gates of the Y12 nuclear weapons complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where workers are, right now, making thermonuclear cores for W76 warheads, the judges who lecture us—and who have never so far as I know troubled themselves to protest in any way at all from the security of the bench—have no clue. Sure, you can go to Y12 and protest all day long to the wind. It’s the preferred option of everyone who wants to maintain the status quo, second only to “Why don’t you shut up and leave us alone to do our dirty business.”
There is no sign at all that it is effective. We don’t do it because we think President Obama will drive by one Sunday evening and notice us and say, “Wait a minute! Didn’t I say something in a speech in 2009 about how we are committed to a world without nuclear weapons? Then why am I spending nineteen billion dollars on a new bomb plant? And we promised the world in 1968 that we would disarm? Gosh, these protesters are right!”
Not gonna happen, judge, and I suspect you know that. But we do those legal protests anyway.
We do it because it is important not to be silent whether anyone is listening or not. We do it because a commitment to nonviolent social change includes being present to say “No” when the government is preparing for crimes against humanity and crimes against creation. There is an old story activists tell of an old man who day after day goes out to the sidewalk with a protest sign to hold a lonely vigil. One day a young man stops. “Man, I’ve seen you out here for months. What in the world are you doing? You’re never going to change the government this way.” The old man smiles. “I’m not out here to change them. I’m out here to keep them from changing me.”
I go out every Sunday to stand for peace because I have two daughters to answer to and “I was too busy to do anything,” is not an acceptable excuse.
There have been times, at demonstrations I have attended, where hundreds of people came out to protest and the media ignored it. No TV cameras , no newspapers. The next day, it was as if nothing happened. But I have also been at demonstrations where people got arrested for acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. Guess what—front page of the paper. Lead story at 11:00. When the first goal is to raise awareness, to provide people with information the government would like to keep secret, media coverage is essential. And with only a few exceptions, most media require the drama of arrests before they will cover a story that includes criticisms of the regions largest economic powerhouse.
So to judges and prosecutors who say, “You can protest all you want as long as you keep it legal,” at least be honest enough with yourself and us to say, “even though—or especially though—it means no one will know you are there.”
Of course, that is one of the fundamental tenets of nonviolent direct action, a truth that was lost on the last judge who lectured us, in federal court. The judge said he was “obviously” a fan of Gandhi—but he’s like a fan that cheers for Derek Jeter but has no clue how hard it is to field a hard, low one-hop line drive just outside the baseline behind third base, turn, and deliver the ball on target to first base. The fan admires the pure beauty of it, knows it was hard as hell, knows he could never do it, but that’s as deep as the understanding goes.
Gandhi knew, and Martin Luther King, Jr. after him, that the point of nonviolent direct action is to confront injustice in a way that can not be ignored. When the powers and institutions that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo react by punishing good people for their audacity—breaking a little law to expose a greater crime, or ignoring an unjust injunction—it is a question posed to the rest of society who, seeing good people being punished, is awakened to ask, “Wait—dogs and firehoses? On children?” or “What is going on here that these good people are going to prison?”
II. Channel this energy into working to change policy—make democracy work.
The second suggestion, offered by Judge Amul Thapar from the bench in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee, was even more tortured. He praised the defendants before him for their intellect and clarity of thought. He noted that they had legions of supporters because he had gotten hundreds of letters and thousands of signatures on a petition. “Channel this energy toward changing policy in Washington, DC,” he said, implying they could not help but be effective.
Only two problems with that, Judge. One: without the Transform Now Plowshares action, there wouldn’t be hundreds of letters and thousands of signatures. The action was the stimulus which created the response. That’s how nonviolence works—it’s a dynamic and unpredictable thing. “Extraordinary,” Gandhi said, “and then it becomes a miracle.”
Second problem: Really? Do you really think smart, articulate people have not written hundreds of letters to Congress, haven’t signed petitions, haven’t gone to the nation’s capital to press the case? I’ve met with three different Secretaries of Energy and dozens of other officials; I’ve done briefings on Capitol Hill with former Arms Control Ambassadors and the President of the Union of Concerned Scientists. I’ve served on state and federal advisory committees. I’ve spoken at scores of public hearings, written op-eds in the local newspaper, penned letters to the editor, been quoted in a dozen major national newspaper and magazines, been interviewed hundreds of times, done radio and TV for half a dozen international media outlets. And I’m here to tell you, judge, it doesn’t work that way.
Maybe you can ring up Mitch McConnell and get put through to the Senator, but I have to shame our local Senator into even sending a staff person to meet me outside—they refuse to allow more than three people to visit in their office at one time. I’ve gone to DC to meet with a Representative for an appointment and instead had a five minute meeting in the hallway with his aide who, for most of the time, found the woman down the hall behind me far more worthy of his attention. I’ve talked to dozens and dozens of Congressional staffers, most of whom have this issue in their portfolio, and the level of ignorance is stunning. I don’t blame them—they have a million things to keep track of. But when I take a Department of Energy document to them, open it and show them where it says the new bomb plant will cost 2,400 jobs, and they insist on denying it—well, it doesn’t encourage me to put a lot of faith in your way.
I tell you what might work, though, Judge. If you called up the prosecutor and said, “Let’s look into this business about the Nonproliferation Treaty and the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. It might be nothing, but we did take an oath to uphold the Constitution, and these people are intelligent. And Ramsey Clark says there’s something to it.”
Or, another thing I am pretty sure would work, because I’ve studied a little on how things get done in Washington: How about if we just give some major campaign donations to our Senators—it would only take half a million dollars, I bet, to outbid Babcock & Wilcox, Lockheed Martin and Bechtel. Then my eight page letter to Lamar Alexander would probably warrant more than a form letter with a paragraph inserted about nuclear energy (though I wrote about nuclear weapons) and a machine signature. I’d go in the “first name file.” They have those, you know. One summer, I helped a friend who was interning file the first name file letters for a Congressman from South Carolina. That’s how democracy works, Judge, in case you don’t know. The chance of Michael Walli getting an appointment with a Senator or Representative are zero or less (those DC people don’t actually have a real one of either, you know).
What I’m equally sure won’t work is 16,000 signatures on a petition. The White House requires 100,000 signatures before it will take a petition seriously enough to read it. Nuclear weapons are not a hot enough issue to inspire that many signatures—partly because they are so horrific people don’t want to think about them and partly because they sound so technical people don’t think they can do anything about them and partly because some people are afraid to say they might not be safe without them, but mostly because the fix is in—the money fix, the fear fix, and the politics fix. There is no conversation (without something like a Transform Now Plowshares action to create one) about nuclear weapons these days. About our nuclear weapons, I mean. Lots of talk about Iran’s.
Don’t take my word for it. Set aside this case you drew and ask yourself: how many times in the last year, two years, decade, have you given any serious thought or any thought at all to US nuclear weapons production? How many times have you wondered how many warheads and bombs we have? How many times has the nuclear nonproliferation treaty crossed your mind? Even when you heard a news story about North Korea or Iran’s nuclear ambitions, how many times have you questioned our own nuclear practices? See what I mean?
Martin Luther King, Jr. said nonviolent direct action seeks to create a kind of crisis in a community, to make a space for a creative tension that challenges the status quo or even makes it untenable, and opens a space for a new reality. That’s the point, Your Honors. The discomfort you feel, looking at these people in front of you who are among the best and brightest in your community, having to sentence them or fine them as though they are bad people or have done something wrong—that’s the tension. That’s one of the reasons we are there, in front of you.
Nonviolent direct action has as its fundamental goal shaking things up. It is an honorable tradition. In this country it goes back at least to the Boston Tea Party (though if you consider property sacred you might argue about the nonviolent part of that party). It’s not your normal kind of crime, not committed by your typical criminal. The law can’t take that into account very well, though. Because the law loves order and the beautiful clarity that it brings. The law doesn’t so much like dynamic things like nonviolence when it is loosed in the world or the courtroom.
But when things are really messed up, really—like a nation that preaches nonproliferation to others but is busy building bombs and bomb plants—and no one in power wants to do anything about it, and most people in power actually have disincentives to do anything about it—what is a responsible citizen to do? If the mess up is obvious enough, and distant enough, and done by someone else—trains full of Jews heading for Dachau, for instance—we know what a responsible citizen is to do, and judges and prosecutors, too. We wrote the Nuremberg Code, we the US. But God help the citizen in the United States who sees a terrible wrong being done by the government and tries to raise the alarm.
Some years ago, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the country of Belarus voluntarily relinquished the nuclear weapons that ended up on its sovereign soil, the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, praised them and welcomed them into the community of nations. I remember thinking, “Really? That’s the entry card into the community of nations—renouncing nuclear weapons? So what is Clinton doing there? Is he the doorkeeper? Because if that’s the entry card, we sure aren’t in the community of nations.”
I could go on, but I think my point is clear. Nonviolent direct action is required of us because the government responds to nothing less. It is required of us because our consciences and our unborn grandchildren—and yours—insist we do all we can on behalf of the planet and the future. It is required of some because they feel a divine imperative; the God they follow requires them to beat swords to plowshares and blesses peacemakers. It doesn’t seek an end in itself—it seeks to open a conversation, to encourage jurists, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the public, to search themselves to see what they can do and what they should do.
Of course there is a price to be paid. That’s why Ramsey Clark said the main thing it took was courage—more than most of us have. But to those rare few who listen to voices; who don’t throw caution to the winds but carefully, thoughtfully, gently lay it down and then pick up a hammer; to those who find themselves surprised to be doing courageous things and go on and do them, we owe a debt of great gratitude. We may even owe them the future.
If we want to take appropriate action to fix something that is not working properly, then it is necessary to understand, precisely, the nature of the problem. Obviously, if our diagnosis is inaccurate, then the solution applied is unlikely to work. This principle of needing to understand a problem accurately before we can devise and implement an appropriate solution applies in all fields of human endeavour, whether it be a mechanical, scientific, health or environmental problem, or a conflict at any level of human relationships.
By John LaForge
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee —Three anti-war activists who easily snuck into what is touted as one of the country’s most secure nuclear weapons facilities were sentenced to long terms in federal prison Tuesday, Feb. 18.
The three were convicted last May on felony charges of depredation of property and sabotage for their nonviolent action called Transform Now Plowshares at the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The convictions carried possible maximum sentences of 30 years in prison.
Federal District Judge Amul R. Thapar sentenced both Greg Boertje-Obed, 58, of Duluth, and Michael Walli, 65, of Washington, DC, to five years and two months in prison (“62 months,” in the parlance of the federal court) plus three years of heavily supervised probation. Sr. Megan Rice, 84, of New York, NY, was sentenced to 35 months in prison plus three years of probation.
Megan, Michael and Greg entered Y-12 in the wee hours of the morning on July 28, 2012, cutting four fences and traversing a “lethal-force-authorized” zone, arriving at the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, the country’s warehouse of weapons-grade uranium. They poured blood on the walls and spray painted “Woe to an Empire of Blood” and “The Fruit of Justice is Peace.” They also chipped a corner of the concrete wall with a small hammer, a symbolic act reflecting the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah who said, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares.”
The judge also ordered the three to collectively pay $52,900 in restitution for what prosecutors said was materials and overtime costs to fix the openings in four wire fences and paint over the slogans. Defense attorneys for the three have indicated that the grossly exaggerated repair costs would be challenged on appeal.
At Tuesday’s hearing, each of the nuclear resisters spoke, reminding the court of the central purpose of their action ¾to call the court’s attention to the ongoing US violation of the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn. In testimony at hearings before trial, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark called the production of nuclear weapons components at Y-12 “unlawful” —and the work there “a criminal enterprise” —because the NPT obliges the US government to pursue good faith negotiations for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
Ignoring each of the defendant’s direct appeals to the government’s binding legal obligations under the NPT and the Constitution (which holds that treaties are the “Supreme law of the land”) Judge Thapar repeatedly accused the three of showing “complete disrespect for law.”
Judge Thapar’s accusation of “lawlessness” was plainly dishonest and likely designed for the press, especially in view of his pre-trial orders forbidding the defendants from presenting legitimate law-based defenses. The defense of necessity —that unlawful government actions may be interfered with by citizens acting in the spirit of crime prevention —was also disallowed by Judge Thapar, who ruled before trial that the question of whether nuclear weapons production is unlawful was not relevant to the case and would confuse the jury. What the judge did not say was that when juries are allowed to consider evidence of the outlaw status of nuclear weapons, they regularly find protesters not guilty by reason of justification.
Assistant US District Attorney Jeffery Theodore had recommended much longer sentences for all three: At least 92 months for Michael; 78 months for Greg; and 70 months for Sr. Megan. But Judge Thapar challenged the prosecutor on his claim that the three had “harmed the national defense.” When Mr. Theodore asserted that the protesters “did not just monetary harm” but much more, the judge flatly disagreed. “What is the other harm —beyond the property damage —harm to pride? What is the real harm to the security of the United States?” the judge asked. Mr. Theodore merely noted the sworn testimony of a General Johnson who said that break-in had destroyed the “mystique” of robust security around nuclear weapons factories.
Speaking for himself in reply to the judge’s characterization of the action as “disrespectful of law,” Michael Walli, said in part, “I’m offended by the notion that Auschwitz had a legal right to exist. The gas ovens, the crematoria, fences and buildings there all had a purpose that was not legal or just. The name of the law used by the US to protect the criminal state terrorism going on at Y-12 is preposterous. … The law codified in the Nuremberg Principles forbids complicity in ongoing crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes” such as the planning a preparation of mass destruction.
The statement issued by the three at the time of their action said Y-12 was chosen for the action because of its plans for a multi-billion dollar H-bomb factory there —the Uranium Processing Facility. The sole purpose of the UPF (price tag now $19 billion) is to produce thermonuclear cores for gravity H-bombs and ballistic missile warheads. Y-12 is a weapons production facility where workers today perform so-called “Life Extension Upgrades” on the W76 warhead and potentially the B-61 gravity H-bomb.
John LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, edits its Quarterly, and writes for PeaceVoice.
In the end, U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar showed some leniency to the Y-12 protesters, handing out lower-than-recommended sentences to the three, but he emphasized Tuesday that no matter how much he admired their conviction to ridding the world of nuclear weapons, the law comes first.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN A CHILD IS ON FIRE?
By Joy First, Mt. Horeb, WI
As a member of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR), we have been working in a number of different ways to bring an end to the illegal drone assassination program being perpetrated by the White House, the CIA, and the Pentagon. We know that thousands of innocent people have been murdered, and that the program continues to kill families in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and other places around the world. So many people are suffering so greatly because of our government’s actions.
On Friday February 7, in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, members of NCNR appealed our conviction from an arrest at a vigil against drones at the CIA on June 29, 2013 when about 50 people rallied at the gates in Langley, VA. After several speakers, six members of NCNR walked to the police line and attempted to deliver a letter to CIA Director John Brennan, trying to set up a meeting to talk about the drone assassination program. After being denied a meeting and engaging in street theater Malachy Kilbride, Max Obuszewski, Phil Runkel, Janice Sevre-Duszynska, Cindy Sheehan, and myself were arrested and charged with trespass. Five of us went to trial on October 22, and were found guilty (Cindy was not able to join us and pled guilty). There were so many things that were not right about the trial and we decided to appeal.
We also decided that while we were at the courthouse for the appeal we would try to visit Assistant US Attorney Eugene Rossi since he is in the same courthouse building. Six activists from NCNR had a 40 minute meeting with Mr. Rossi on May 21, 2013. His office, the Eastern District of Virginia, has jurisdiction over the CIA. We delivered a criminal complaint against Obama, CIA Director Brennan, and others at the CIA who are involved in the killer drone program. During the meeting Mr. Rossi was over-the-top friendly in a very artificial way. He was good at his job and tried to placate us, while constantly trying to change the subject to friendly small talk. We left the criminal complaint with him and he said he would send it up to his boss. Over the last several months, we have followed up with him several times, but, as expected, they are not taking our complaint seriously. We can’t let this drop and so we decided to pay him a visit on February 7.
In preparing for our appeal, we were not able to obtain an attorney, and so we decided we would do the best we could as pro se appellants. Several days before the appeal, we filed a written brief that was authored by Max. There were six arguments made in the brief. In summary:
1) Our First Amendment right to free speech was infringed upon.
2) The government did not present sufficient evidence to show that the order to leave was lawful or that we were on CIA property.
3) The arrest and conviction violated our due process rights under the Fifth Amendment.
4) We were denied sufficient discovery to present an effective defense.
5) We were not allowed to present evidence regarding our First Amendment activities or intent during the trial.
6) The Nuremberg Tribunal charges us all to take action against war crimes, and we were not allowed to bring this up in our defense.
Just the day before the appeal hearing, Attorney Stacy Chaffin, on loan to the US Attorney’s office from the CIA and the prosecutor in our October trial, filed a written brief that was very weak and not supported by case law.
Feeling anxious about what would happen during the hearing, Malachy, Max, Phil, and I walked into the 9th floor courtroom a few minutes before 9:00 am. We were joined by several others who were there for support. Janice received a waiver to appear because of a family matter, but was allowed to join onto Max’s motion. Judge T.S. Ellis III would be hearing the case.
What really surprised us that morning was to see that Assistant US Attorney Rossi was in the courtroom along with his boss, Acting US Attorney Dana Boente. Rossi was the person we met with when we delivered the criminal complaint last June. I don’t suspect that their schedule often allows them to be sitting in on cases in a courtroom, and we wondered why they were there.
There were two other cases that were going to be heard before our case, and this gave us an opportunity to see how the judge operated. During the second case, a young man was before the judge for using cocaine three times while on probation. Judge Ellis went into a long lecture about how some people claim that a drug addiction is a disease. However, Ellis disagrees. He thinks it is a personal choice and that you always have a choice as to whether you take a drug or not. He told the story of his mother who was a smoker. She had surgery four times on her lungs, and it was only after the second surgery that she quit smoking. He said she was addicted to smoking, but the addiction was not a disease, it was a choice. To hear a judge sitting on the bench going against all the scientific medical research that has been done in the important area of addictions was simply astonishing.
Our case began at 10:00 and lasted for less than an hour. Stacy Chaffin represented the government and sitting beside her at the prosecutor’s table was Assistant US Attorney Eugene Rossi. Acting US Attorney Dana Boente was also sitting in the courtroom. It appears they are paying attention to what we are doing.
Judge Ellis began by saying that this was an appeal for an arrest for demonstrating to show opposition to drone attacks. He continued by saying that he doesn’t sit on the bench to determine whether drone attacks are good or bad. Someone at the CIA or in the White House does that. And then he chuckled. That was the first of many inappropriate laughs we heard from him throughout the trial.
Max spoke powerfully about why the responses to our arguments from the prosecutor’s brief did not hold water. The judge had a lot of questions and comments for Max.
One theme that Ellis kept went back to over and over was that we live in a democracy and obviously most people don’t agree with us or we wouldn’t have drone strikes. He also said that we should be going to Congress rather than to the CIA. Max responded that we have made many visits to Congress to talk about this issue.
The judge said if that is the case, then our voices have been heard and we need to just let it go then. He said that some people think drones are good and some people think they are bad. That’s just the way it is in a democracy and if we let our members of Congress know how we feel, then we have done what we can. It seemed very inappropriate for the judge to be arguing about whether drones are good or bad, and whether we should be protesting against them or not.
Max also talked about how we have written letters to various officials, including CIA Director Brennan, and we don’t get a response. The judge lectured about how government officials are not obligated to respond. We can write all the letters we want to, but they don’t have to respond to us.
In the government’s brief it said that our intention was to get arrested. Judge Ellis asked Max if we weren’t there to get arrested. Max responded that we were not. “Was this not an act of civil disobedience?” asked Judge Ellis. Max responded that it was not. Max explained that we were not breaking an unjust law for the purpose of changing it. Rather we were trying to stop our government from breaking the law through the drone assassination program that is responsible for killing thousands of innocent people.
Phil talked eloquently about the Nuremberg Principles and why our actions were an attempt to uphold international law and are binding upon all citizens under customary international law. He also stated that each of us has the duty to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring, even if domestic laws must be broken in the process.
After the government prosecutor made her arguments, the judge handed down his ruling.
Judge Ellis said that he said he did not doubt our sincerity and that we are all intelligent people. However, he said that you could get a group of people who thought drones were good and another group who thought they were bad, and asked who really knows whether they are good or bad. But he did think that probably more people approved of drones than disapproved because otherwise our country wouldn’t be using them. He talked about how there are laws that say our government can use drones. First of all, his arguments didn’t even make sense. It is not simply a matter of opinion about whether using drones to illegally kill innocent people is good or bad. It is bad. Second, there are many legal scholars who would argue that the CIA assassination program is illegal. Third, it is not his job to argue with us about drones, but rather to look at the previous case and determine if procedures were violated during our trial.
Even after Max told him we were not committing an act of civil disobedience, I don’t think the judge understood what Max was saying. He talked about a famous case of nonviolent civil disobedience when Henry David Thoreau did not pay his taxes during the War of 1812. However, the judge got it wrong; it was the Mexican-American war that Thoreau opposed. To me this shows that the judge is not careful in making sure that he knows the facts before he speaks out about something from the bench.
At one point during the hearing Judge Ellis said, “You say innocent people are dying. Maybe they are and maybe they aren’t. It doesn’t really matter.” This statement was followed by his inappropriate laugh. This was one of the many outrageous statements he made.
It was unclear whether he had really read and studied our brief. In his ruling, he briefly and inadequately addressed our first two arguments. He said again that we do not have the right to a meeting or a response from public officials. He said that the officer testified to the boundaries of the CIA and that was enough evidence to prove we were on CIA property.
Regarding our last argument, he said that Nuremberg does not have the force of law. What is it going to take for our courts to start upholding international law? As David Barrows pointed out after the trial, according to the constitution treaties are the highest law of the land.
We will be appealing this appalling ruling to the next level.
Once the hearing was over, Malachy walked over to US Assistant Attorney Rossi and asked if we could meet with him about the criminal complaint we had filed in May. He said he didn’t have time, though he and the Prosecutor Chaffin went into a room for several minutes, presumably to look up how many days we had to file for the next level of an appeal. Again, he acts like the nice guy in trying to help us, but he refuses to address why we are there. We waited for him in the hallway.
When Rossi came out of the room, he told us we had 14 days to appeal. We tried to talk to him about the criminal complaint and he said over and over like a broken record, “I gotta go. I gotta go.” He refused to listen to anything from us and within a minute or so, he was in the elevator. Jack McHale commented that this is who he really is. He acts like the nice guy, but this is who he is. Rude and controlling. Malachy commented that if he listened to us and didn’t do anything, he would be held accountable. Once you know a crime is being committed, you are responsible and therefore, he totally shut out everything we were trying to say by saying “I gotta go.” Max thinks he may be conflicted and if so, that is what we need to play to in the future.
We spent a couple of hours discussing what had happened and talking about what our next steps are. We have a lot of work to do in filing for an appeal, and continuing our follow up of the criminal complaint.
The next day, Saturday, was the regular monthly vigil against killer drones at the CIA. I was glad to be in town so that I could attend the vigil. It was a moving experience to be at the vigil after the stress and tension of the previous day in the courtroom. It is always wonderful to gather together with friends that I have made through this work and who I have come to know and love like family. We go through so much together and our experiences create strong bonds.
As I approached the CIA and saw the crime scene tape across the driveway, it brought back memories of the day last June when I was arrested there. Several people said a few words and I read a piece about the just war theory. I also shared that in Wisconsin we have five grandmothers who will be on trial soon for attempting to deliver a war crimes indictment to the head of Volk Field during our monthly vigil against drones there last May.
We read the names of children who have been killed by drone strikes and while each name was read we placed a stone on the driveway at the gates of the CIA. This was very moving and made it was important to slow down and really think about why we are really doing all of this with the arrests, going to court, monthly vigils etc. Jack McHale’s 5-year-old granddaughter was there and laid a stone on the driveway representing a child who died. It brought tears to my eyes to think that it is children just like her who we are killing with the drones.
Art Laffin led us in song, remembering our hero Pete Seeger by singing If I Had a Hammer at the beginning of the vigil and Step by Step at the end reminding us of the importance of all of us working together for a more peaceful and just world.
Afterwards many of us joined together for lunch at Malachy’s. It was such an enriching experience to spend time together and talk about stories from the resistance, what we learned, and discuss how we could move forward.
Later in the afternoon, Malachy, David, and I watched the movie The Camden 28 about a group of 28 non-violent activists who broke into a local draft board office in 1971. The movie started with one of the defendants asking, “What do you do when a child is on fire? Write a letter?” That statement hit me so hard because there are hundreds of children burning up from drone attacks and this is what compels me to continue working on this issue. What do you do when a child is on fire? Writing letters can be important, but it is a critical and an urgent situation. We have to act now and we have to do more. Children are dying. They are burning, and we must take immediate action. We don’t have time to write letters and wait for and hope others will respond.
I flew back to the sub-zero weather in Wisconsin on Sunday morning thinking about next steps. What is coming up and next is a nationwide Spring Days of Action Against Drones and it is something everyone can and should get involved with. We will be doing some organizing in Wisconsin, and NCNR will be organizing an action at the NSA in April as part of this. It is more important than ever to target the role of the NSA in the killer drone program. Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill have just written about the “shocking interplay between digital surveillance [from the NSA] and Obama’s assassination program.” In the fall Campaign Nonviolence and World Beyond War are working to bring people together and act in resistance. This can provide an opportunity to build towards actions against killer drones.
We will definitely be following up with our criminal complaint in Virginia. I feel like filing this criminal complaint with the proper authorities could be a very important path to continue on. I would like to encourage others to think about how you could file a criminal complaint with authorities in your area. This could be an organizing idea to use around the country during Spring Days of Action Against Drones. NCNR will be putting out more information with details on how this can be done. In the meantime, if you want more information or want to talk about how you might do this, please contact me.
What do you do when a child is on fire? This is the reality of life for too many families that are being attacked by drones overseas. We don’t have time to wait. It is NOW we must join together and take action.
On a personal note, my 7th grandbaby will be born in October. It is all the children of the world that we have to continue the resistance for.
Read or hear their Jan 31 Closing Statements
On Friday, January 31, the Hancock 17 Drone War Crimes Resisters trial concluded with Closing Arguments. Eight defendants gave legal and moral Closing Arguments, concluding that they be acquitted of disorderly conduct and trespassing, charges they had received after symbolically blocking the gates of Syracuse's Hancock Air National Guard Base (home of the 174th Attack Wing) on October 25, 2012. Their ongoing nonviolent actions there call for an end to drone warfare.
Legal arguments addressed both international law as well as faults with the charges themselves.
Since drone attacks embody terrorism, the defendants were not defying the law, but rather upholding international law and the U.S. Constitution, which holds that treaties made are the supreme law of the land. While due process is fundamental to the U.S. legal system, drone attack victims are not afforded that luxury, so the defendants acted as first responders to the scene of a crime - Hancock Air Base. They argued that judges even at the local level are bound by international law, as wars of aggression and drone assassinations are crimes against peace and humanity. They challenged Judge Gideon to acknowledge his obligation to acquit them.
On October 25, 2012 the defendants were petitioning their government for redress of grievances, as protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Three defendants had just returned from meeting drone attack survivors in Pakistan only weeks before the action. Others had been to war-torn Afghanistan. Another had experienced the U.S. "Shock and Awe" attack on Baghdad. They lamented how difficult it was to make the horror of drone attacks real for the judge and prosecutor. One defendant addressed his spirituality, stating that when you see actions that are evil, you must not look away, but instead cooperate with the work of the spirit and do good. Another brought the conversation back home, saying that war has a cost and a face right here at home in the number of people in jails, and that the amount of money going into warfare could be spent much more productively here.
The defendants argued that the elements of the charges could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. They did not actually interfere with traffic since the gates were already closed and Base personnel chose not to open them. Both the prosecution witnesses and the defendants had testified that the action was orderly and nonviolent; the Nonviolent Pledge the defendants had all taken was read aloud. Since there were no base boundaries beyond its surrounding barbed-wire fence marked and no two prosecution witnesses could agree on the exact location of any other boundary, it was impossible to tell if the defendants had been on public or private land.
Assistant District Attorney Jordan McNamara argued that the defendants were well aware of the Base boundaries and that their intent was to block traffic and disrupt business as usual on the base. He did not address the international law or Constitutional issues raised.
The defendants are a part of Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars (also known as Upstate Drone Action) which seeks to educate the public and Hancock personnel about the war crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan with the MQ9 Reaper drone piloted from Hancock. See upstatedroneaction.org.
Previously two people pled guilty and two had their charges dismissed. The defendants who will be receiving a verdict on Friday are:
Elliott Adams, Sharon Springs NY
Judy Bello, Rochester NY
Dan Burgevin, Trumansburg NY
Mark Colville, New Haven CT
Clare Grady, Ithaca NY
Mary Anne Grady Flores, Ithaca NY
Brian Hynes, Bronx NY
Ed Kinane, Syracuse NY
Rae Kramer, Syracuse NY
James Ricks, Trumansburg NY
Mark Scibilia-Carver, Trumansburg NY
Patricia Paki Weiland, Northampton MA.
-- carol baum ###
WHO: Citizen activists from the east coast to the west coast will be in court this week defending their actions protesting the United States Military and Central Intelligence Agency weaponized drone program.
The first trial will begin Monday February 3 in Sacramento, California for four activists arrested at Beale AFB in April 2013, while attempting to deliver a letter to the base commander addressing the illegality of US drones which kill innocent people and noncombatants in Pakistan and other countries. The letter is a citizen's declaration charging President Obama and all military personnel involved in the drone program with crimes against humanity and multiple violations of the law, including due process. (Letter is below.)
Meanwhile, in upstate New York, 17 activists are in the midst of an ongoing trial in a DeWitt, NY courthouse for an October 2012 protest at Hancock AFB protesting the use of the Reaper drones piloted from there that activists say perpetuate war crimes, and violations of human rights laws.
On Friday five activists will be in US District Court in Alexandria, VA appealing their trespass conviction at the Central Intelligence Agency in June, 2013 as they attempted to deliver a letter and seek a meeting with CIA Director John Brennan concerning CIA violations of international law related to illegal targeted drone killing in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere.
WHEN: Monday, February 3 through Friday, February 7, 2014
(Beale AFB case), US Courthouse, 50l I St., Sacramento, CA,
(Hancock AFB case) Courthouse at 400 Butternut Drive, East Syracuse, NY,
(CIA case) U.S. District Court, 401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, VA
WHY: Activists across the country continue to work to bring an end to the illegal and immoral killer drone strikes which have now killed thousands of people, including hundreds of children, around the globe with no due process.
For the last several years citizen activists have engaged in peaceful protests drawing attention to the violations of international law the US drone program is committing in multiple countries including Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. In protest activities and courtroom testimonies, activists have repeatedly spoken about their obligations under the Nuremberg Principles to oppose the crimes against peace, the violations of international law, and the war crimes the US is committing through its use of weaponized drones.
Beale AFB defendants: Robin Ryan 415-517-5856; Martha Hubert; 415-722-3321; Toby Blome, 510-541-6874
Hancock AFB defendants: Ed Kinane, 315-478-4571; Mary Anne Grady Flores, 607-273-7437
CIA defendants: Malachy Kilbride 571 501-3729, Max Obuszewski 410 366-1637 Joy First 608 239-4327
OPEN LETTER TO BEALE AIR FORCE BASE PERSONNEL (April 30, 2013)
We, the people, charge the US President, Barack Obama and the full military chain of command, to Beale Air Force Base Colonel Phil Stewart, 9th Reconnaissance Wing Commander, every drone crew and service member at Beale Air Force Base, and every other U.S. base involved directly or indirectly with the U.S. drone program, with crimes against humanity, with violations of part of the Supreme Law of the Land, extrajudicial killings, violation of due process, wars of aggression, violation of national sovereignty, and killing of innocent civilians.
US military and CIA Drone attacks have killed thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children, in the Middle East, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In the name of combating terrorism against the US, we are terrorizing innocent people and creating many more enemies and potential terrorists in the process.
Our government has become a lawless power, acting as judge, jury, and executioner, just because it can. The US uses remote-controlled drones to kill women in their kitchens, elders meeting in their jirgas, mourners at funerals, and rescuers who try to help the wounded. By most independent studies, the vast majority of those killed are civilians.
We therefore demand:
(1) An immediate ban on the use of all drones for extrajudicial killing
(2) A halt to all drone surveillance that assaults basic freedoms and inalienable rights and terrorizes domestic life in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia
(3) A prohibition on the sale and distribution of drones and drone technology to foreign countries, in order to prevent the proliferation of this menacing threat to world peace, freedom, and security, and
(4) An immediate end to this lawless behavior of drone warfare that violates many international laws and treaties.
Ed Kinane, CLOSING STATEMENT, Charges: trespass & disorderly conduct, Trial of the "Hancock 17," Judge David S. Gideon presiding, De Witt, NY Town Court, 31 January 2014
Good evening Judge Gideon, prosecutor Mc Namara, court staff, our many supporters here, and my fellow defendants.
I want to thank you, Judge, for your attentiveness throughout this trial and for assuring that each pro se defendant has had ample opportunity to speak and adequate time to do so.
I would also like to thank both you and Mr. McNamara for your patience with our frequently fumbling ways as we amateurs seek to navigate court protocol.
Likewise I must acknowledge your patience as, over several days, we’ve sought to mesh the efforts of the 15 or 16 of us who, coming from all over the map, often couldn’t consult together much before coming to court.
As pro se defendants, we are probably naive about how the U.S. “justice” system works.
We understood from our charges that any alleged trespass must occur on private property.
We further understood that any alleged annoyance, any alleged disturbance, any alleged recklessness, construed as disorderly conduct, must occur on public property.
Squaring that circle, we’ve been thinking, would surely result in at least one of those charges being dropped.
But that has yet to happen.
In my opening remarks on December 3, eight weeks ago, I noted that our defense would take two paths: that of conscience and that of legalism.
Our hope remains that this court will move along those two paths, paths bound for justice.
For as Clare Grady in her January 3rd Opening suggested, the law is meant to serve humans and not humans sacrificed to law.
Each of our testifiers spoke out of their consciences, some suggesting that their consciences were shaped by their own personal faith tradition.
Others cited personal experience as impelling them to gather outside the Hancock drone base on October 25, 2012.
I myself in my Opening alluded to having survived the murderous 2003 bombardment of Baghdad, Iraq -- an ancient city of several million non-combatants widely viewed as a cradle of civilization.
It was that bombardment which the Pentagon boastingly and terrifyingly called “shock and awe.”
It would be impossible to count the number of “shock and awe” casualties – the Pentagon expressing supreme indifference to such numbers.
So I speak from analogous firsthand experience when I say that airborne killing and destruction typified by the weaponized drone – whether in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan or Afghanistan -- are terrifying.
And I speak first hand when I say that the Trespass and Disordered Conduct of those drones are not a defense against terrorism, but rather embody terrorism and may well generate retaliatory terrorism – an endless cycle of violence.
Others defendants – James Ricks, Patricia Weiland and Judith Bello -- spoke of participating in a risky October 2012 human rights fact-finding delegation to Pakistan – a nation, supposedly a U.S. ally, terrorized by the robotic, lethal drones.
On this delegation they met drone survivors, non-combatant human beings who were maimed or had neighbors and close relatives killed.
Judith Bello shared with the court a short video interview with one of those survivors she met – a young man named Raz Mohammed.
Hopefully that video helped personalize the horror of those cowardly drone attacks.
James, Patricia and Judith testified that such encounters helped shape their state of mind on October 25, 2012 as they stood outside the gates of the Hancock drone base.
Their vivid reports on their Pakistan experience also helped shape the state of mind of other Hancock co-defendants on October 25th.
Many of my co-defendants who testified spoke to the layers of law we sought to uphold that morning.
These included the Nuremburg mandate for citizens of all nations to expose the war crime of her or his government.
Those layers also included aspects of international and U.S. Constitutional law, with the latter’s First Amendment right to assemble, to speak out, and to petition our government for a redress of grievance.
That Constitutional law cited also included Article Six, the Supremacy clause, specifying that treaties the U.S. Government enters into become the highest law of the land.
Such law governs the judiciary at all levels -- national, state and local.
Sadly, it appears that some U.S. courts unilaterally pick and choose the international treaties they’ll recognize.
For example, as we stand here on stolen Onondaga Nation land, it’s clear that New York State courts fail to honor the U.S./Onondaga Nation treaty.
By contrast international trade treaties like NAFTA – i.e. commercial international law so kind to corporations – tend to be treated as legitimate in U.S. courts.
It’s a curious inconsistency.
Several of our testifiers referred to the grievance about which we were petitioning and for which we sought redress – that grievance being the protracted war crime committed or being prepared for 24/7 at Hancock by those piloting weaponized Reapers in Afghanistan and who knows where else.
Our petition at Hancock on October 25th against such war crime took the form of a people’s indictment co-authored with us by former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark.
As you ponder a just outcome for this trial, Judge Gideon, we urge you to carefully weigh that indictment.
That document, entered into evidence here, specified the layers of law we sought to uphold on that October 25th.
On that date we were not defying law, we were seeking to uphold law.
Some testifiers noted that no one from the base inquired as to what our business was there and none spoke to us claiming we were trespassing.
Certainly no base personnel ordered us to leave.
Nor did any base personnel, including military police, tell us that the area near the base entrance from which we were petitioning the government was somehow exempt from the First Amendment.
Under questioning, both prosecution and each of our own witnesses noted that there was no NO TRESPASSING signage visible or in place between the Hancock main entrance gate and East Molloy Road in the town of DeWitt.
As each prosecution witness acknowledged, there was no line demarcating any trespass zone.
The prosecution’s own witnesses couldn’t seem to agree on where base property began.
In fact, the prosecution provided no documentation regarding base boundaries.
Curiously, while the prosecution initially sought to put into evidence a map of the base, when the defense asked for a copy of that map, the prosecution withdrew its request.
It does seem like the base command, for reasons of its own, prefers to keep base boundaries ambiguous.
No testifier for the defense indicated we knew where, besides at that fortified gate or at the barbed-wire fence surrounding the base, base property could properly be said to have begun.
Obviously, not only the authorities, but the defendants were in the dark regarding the whereabouts of the base property line – so much for our knowingly trespassing.
Pledge of Nonviolence
As each defense witness testified, all of us read aloud together a Pledge of Nonviolence on the morning of October 25, 2012 before embarking for the Hancock Reaper base.
Each defense witness testified that that Pledge faithfully reflected her or his frame of mind on October 25th.
Each also testified that their own behavior was consistent with that Pledge.
Further, neither our witnesses nor any of the arresting officers testified that they saw any of the defendants engage in behavior inconsistent with the Pledge.
In fact some of the arresting officers told of the congenial interactions between themselves and those they arrested.
Having been entered into evidence, and having referred to the Pledge numerous times while questioning our witnesses, I would like to read aloud the Pledge here.
It consists of seven short sentences. But first let me quickly put the Pledge into context.
Since 2009 appalled citizens have been seeking to educate the public, the media, law enforcement, and base personnel about the ongoing war crimes originating at Hancock. This campaign, coordinated by our grassroots group Upstate Drone Action, involves a range of tactics – including some that have led to arrest, trial and incarceration. Our entire campaign has been scrupulously nonviolent in the spirit and tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. – both victims of assassination.
Thus before each civil resistance action participants commit ourselves to the following Pledge:
We are committed in the campaign to nonviolence in all of our words, symbols and actions. Our purpose is to publicize and hopefully deter the war crimes perpetrated from Hancock AFB by hunter/killer Reaper drones piloted by Hancock personnel over Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Accordingly, at today’s event at Hancock our attitude will be one of respect toward all – including police, military personnel, the public, and each other.
We will not resist or evade arrest and if prosecuted, we will use the judicial process to continue our anti-drone campaign. Where possible we will put the Pentagon’s and CIA’s use of hunter/killer drones itself on trial.
Today’s Action is part of an ongoing, protracted campaign. We will return to our communities and continue our work to end Reaper assassination, civilian killing and other such acts of state terrorism.
Closing Argument presented on Janurary 31, 2014, by Judith Bello on trial as of those who protested at Hancock Air Base in New York State on October 25, 2012
I would like to begin, Judge Gideon, by thanking you for your attention to our unique argument, and support for our learning process with regard to formal court procedures as pro se defendants.
I will preface my remarks by saying that we are ever grateful for the right and privilege given to us by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which says that:
“Congress shall make no law [. . .] abridging the freedom of speech . . . ; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
We would not be here today if this were not the law of the land. I will argue that I went to Hancock Base on the 25th of October, 2012, that as far as I know, we all assembled at Hancock Base on October 25th, 2012 to exercise our right and privilege of free speech to ask our government for redress of grievance; specifically to uphold international laws that prohibit wars of aggression, targeted assassination and the reckless endangerment of civilian populations around the world.
You have heard testimony that Weaponized Drones, including those flown from Hancock Air National Guard Base are on the front line of illegal wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries around the world. You have heard testimony that Armed Drones threaten civilian populations in these countries, and contrary to government assertions, kill indiscriminately, leaving a trail of dead civilians in their wake. Even the oft affirmed ‘militant’ target is a civilian in most cases, perhaps in every case depending whether American combatants can be said to be engaged in a legal war. According to Customary International Law and numerous treaties which I will now elaborate, these wars of aggression are illegal,
Therefore, my presence, our presence at Hancock Air National Guard Base is justified under NYS Penal Law 35.05, Subsection 1)
"Unless otherwise limited by ensuing provisions of this article defining justifiable use of physical force, conduct which would otherwise constitute an offense is justifiable and not criminal when: 1) Such conduct is required or authorized by a law or judicial decree . . . "
In light of Article. VI of the US Constitution, which says:
“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.”
We turn to the following passages from the Nuremberg Judgment which has been designated as a Federal Rules Decision, thereby incorporated into United States Law as well as the United States Army Field Manual:
on pg 19 under THE COMMON PLAN OR CONSPIRACY AND AGGRESSIVE WAR:
The esteemed justices of the Nuremberg Court say:
". . . War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world.
To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
on Pg 42 under VIOLATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL TREATIES:
The court continues in the same vein. It says that the waging of an aggressive war is a crime regardless of whether any signed treaty has been violated.
"The Charter defines as a crime the planning or waging of war that is a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties. [ . . . ] This makes it unnecessary to discuss the subject in further detail, or even to consider at any length the extent to which these aggressive wars were also "wars in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances.""
In other words, since we are agreed that prosecuting a war of aggression is a crime, we do not need any further Treaties to justify our verdict.
on Pps 44-47 of the Nuremberg Judgment, under THE LAW OF THE CHARTER: The Nuremberg judges state:
"The Charter is not an arbitrary exercise of power on the part of the victorious nations, but in the view of the Tribunal, as will be shown, it is the expression of international law existing at the time of its creation; and to that extent is itself a contribution to international law."
The United States must have agreed with this at the time because the Judgment was admitted to US Law as a Federal Rules Decision. They go on to say that it is a matter of justice that a criminal act is understood in reference to the law. So they proceed to name the Treaties on which they have based their judgment. First and foremost, the Kellogg-Briand Treaty, also called The Pact of Paris because the United States and France were the makers of the treaty, and the charter signatories:
“This view is strongly reinforced by a consideration of the state of international law in 1939, so far as aggressive war is concerned. The General Treaty for the Renunciation of War of August 27th 1928, more generally known as the Pact of Paris or the Kellogg-Briand Pact, was binding on sixty-three nations, including Germany, Italy and Japan [and, I might add, the United States] at the outbreak of war in 1939. [ . . . ]
The first two articles of Kellogg-Briand are as follows:
"Article I: The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations to one another."
"Article II: The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arrive among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means."
In case we don't take this seriously, the Nuremberg judges go on to quote Henry L. Stimson, US Secretary of State in 1932, as follows:
"War between nations was renounced by the signatories of the Kellogg-Briand Treaty. This means that it has become throughout practically the entire world ... an illegal thing. Hereafter, when nations engage in armed conflict, either one or both of them must be termed violators of this general treaty law....We denounce them as law breakers."
I have been told that the Kellogg-Briand Treaty is obsolete and irrelevant. No one pays any attention to it. However the United States has not withdrawn her signature from Kellogg-Briand, as she has, for instance, from the International Court of Justice. Kellogg-Briand is not only a basis for the Nuremberg Judgment, which is accepted as a Federal Rules Decision, but is a direct creation of US diplomacy of which the United States is a charter signatory. Perhaps it should be taken more seriously.
Clearly, Kellogg-Briand does not codify particular penalties for particular variants or degrees of the crime of aggressive war. The Nuremberg judges respond to this concern as follows:
“But it is argued that the pact does not expressly enact that such wars are crimes, or set up courts to try those who make such wars. [. . . ] In interpreting the words of the Pact, it must be remembered that international law is not the product of an international legislature, and that such international agreements as the Pact of Paris have to deal with general principles of law, and not with administrative matters of procedure. The law of war is to be found not only in treaties, but in the customs and practices of states which gradually obtained universal recognition, and from the general principles of justice applied by jurists and practiced by military courts.”.
Here we have an argument that International Law is a foundation of global justice, and should be enforced through understandings and procedures defined by Customary Law, which has evolved through the consensus of nations over a period of centuries.
Armed Drones, which are currently a critical tactical method in support of our many wars of aggression, are engaged in the commission of crimes, Crimes Against Peace in so far as they facilitate illegal wars, and War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in so far as they facilitate indiscriminate killing of civilians and targeted assassinations which are illegal under US Law.
It is a matter of particular concern that United States officials are attempting to change Customary International Law to their advantage by changing the facts on the ground through the introduction of new technologies and social classifications. Terrorists and terrorism supposedly represent a class of individuals who perpetuate a condition not anticipated by Customary International law nor standing Treaties. However, the United States duplicity in both fighting 'terrorists' and supporting the same individuals under different names shows that this is not the case. The use of new technologies i.e. armed drones, to 'terrorize' civilians while supposedly hunting so called 'terrorists' is frivolous, hypocritical and completely illegal.
Terrorists and the armed drones that hunt them are social and technical constructs designed to disrupt international law and the social structures on which it is founded. This is clearly succeeding as can be seen by the confusion evidenced in recent statements by the United Nations Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial Killing and on Human Rights and Counterterrorism, and by the conclusions drawn by NGO Reports on Drone attacks released by the Human Rights NGOs this Fall by Amnesty International  and Human Rights Watch.
Drones are asserted to be a device that is not constrained by Customary International Law as we have understood it in the past. The claim is that they are so advanced as to require new laws for new situations. Indeed they say:
- Drones can hover quietly at great heights, out of view of those o the ground and out of reach to retaliation by populations without air power and are claimed to be primarily used for surveillance
- Since drones aren't manned, they have not violated the boundaries and borders they have illegally crossed.
- Since a Drone can be piloted from a faraway location that is not in the clear zone of war, then pilots are not at risk and not liable for their actions
- Drones are able to discriminate their targets more effectively than other delivery systems for missiles
To me, the above list of special features can be subsumed under a single classification, IMPUNITY. The latter point in particular has clearly proven not to be the case. It takes more than a stable image from 2 miles away to provide meaningful clues to an operator 10,000 miles away. Drones are used to conduct illegal wars invisibly. Even so, new laws aren't necessary to constrain armed drones. What is necessary is that their owners and users be called to obey the existing laws.
In fact, International Law has addressed this very situation more than 100 years ago. Initially, the Martens Clause, as it is called, was introduced into the prologue of Hague Convention II in 1899, later the substance was incorporated into the Hague Convention IV in 1907. The Martens Clause states:
Until a more complete code of the laws of war is issued, the High Contracting Parties think it right to declare that in cases not included in the Regulations adopted by them, populations and belligerents (we would say civilians and combatants) remain under the protection and empire of the principles of international law, as they result from the usages established between civilized nations, from the laws of humanity and the requirements of the public conscience.
In other words, you cannot create an instrument that smashes the existing rules and boundaries and then claim that new boundaries must be drawn around it. Rather, the use of new technologies must be required to remain within the boundaries of existing law until such time as the international community can come to a consensus on a new structure of law to accommodate them. Then their use can be expanded into the new legal space. We must act under the empire of international law rather than under the law of the empire.
-------- Conclusion ---------------
We cannot ignore the fact that these laws are often broken; often restated in new language. It seems to me that war is much like an addiction, deadly and difficult to end. We vow to quit, then fail, and recover and relapse again and again. This does not mean that we should cease trying. Every treaty and promise to repudiate the deadly violence of war, and restrain the instruments that make it easy for us to engage in war, must be held up and honored, over and over again until justice prevails, and we are at last free to live as civilized human beings in peace and security with other individuals and other nations.
That is why I was at Hancock Base on October 25, 2012 and that is why I am here today. I am not asking you, Judge Gideon, to try defendants under these laws as the Nuremberg Judges were required to do. That is not your job. What I am asking is that you acknowledge our obligations under these laws, along with my obligation and privilege to uphold them under the Constitution and acquit me and my companions of the current charges under Penal Code 35.05 which says that we may justify an act that would otherwise constitute an offense when it is authorized by a law or judicial decree.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
The State Department has released the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed northern leg of the controversial and long-embattled TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Image credit: Kris Krug.
In a familiar "Friday trash dump" — a move many expected the Obama administration to shun — John Kerry's State Department chose to "carefully stage-manage the report's release" on Super Bowl Friday when most Americans are switching focus to football instead of political scandals. **See bottom of this post for breaking analysis**
Anticipating the report’s release, insiders who had been briefed on the review told Bloomberg News the SEIS -- not a formal decision by the State Department on the permitting of the pipeline, but rather another step in the department’s information gathering -- “will probably disappoint environmental groups and opponents of the Keystone pipeline.”
And, indeed, the new report reads: “Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States.”
This reiterates one of the earlier draft’s most heavily criticized conclusions that the pipeline is “unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands,” and thus avoids a comprehensive assessment of those climate impacts.
In June 2013, President Obama said in a speech announcing his Climate Action Plan at Georgetown University that he would only approve the permit if it was proven that “this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution."
The final environmental review is being released on the heels of damning revelations about the close ties between the Canadian pipeline builder, TransCanada and Environmental Resources Management (ERM). ERM was hired by the State Department to conduct the environmental review.
TRIAL DATE: Monday, Feb. 3, 9:00 am
OPEN LETTER TO BEALE AIR FORCE BASE PERSONEL (April 30, 2013)
We, the people, charge the US President, Barak Obama, and the full military chain of command, to Beale Air Force Base Commander Colonel Col. Phil Stewart, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander, every drone crew, and service members at Beale Air Force Base, and every other U.S. base involved directly or indirectly with the U.S. drone program with crimes against humanity, with violations of part of the Supreme Law of the Land, extrajudicial killings, violation of due process, wars of aggression, violation national sovereignty, and killing of innocent civilians.
US military and CIA Drone attacks have killed thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children, in the Middle East, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In the name of combating terrorism against the U.S. we are terrorizing innocent people, and creating many more enemies and potential terrorists in the process.
Our government has become lawless powers, acting as judge, jury and executioner, just because it can. The U.S. uses remote-controlled drones to kill women in their kitchens, elders meeting in their jirgas, mourners at funerals, and rescuers who try to help the wounded. By most independent studies, the vast majority of those killed are civilians.
We therefore, demand:
(1) An immediate ban on the use of all drones for extrajudicial killing
(2) A halt all drone surveillance that assaults basic freedoms and inalienable rights and terrorizes domestic life in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia
(3) A prohibition on the sale, and distribution of drones and drone technology to foreign countries in order to prevent the proliferation of this menacing threat to world peace, freedom and security and
(4) An immediate end to this lawless behavior of drone warfare that violates many international laws and treaties.
My mother, the anti-war activist and writer Margaretta D'Arcy, is serving a three-month sentence in Limerick prison for trying to stop the violation of Irish neutrality by US military planes, which stop over at Shannon airport on the way to and from the war in Afghanistan. She took peaceful direct action to stop crime being committed by lying down on the runway of the airport. Margaretta, the widow of playwright John Arden, is 79 and undergoing treatment for cancer. Imprisoning her for an act of conscience is inhumane. I call upon the Irish government to release her immediately and for the British government to use its influence to secure her release. To keep her spirits up while she remains in prison, I urge readers to send cards c/o Limerick Prison, Mulgrave Street, Limerick, Ireland.
Here is an excerpt from a statement by her colleagues:
(Orange Gate 1983-84)
We are outraged to learn that our dear sister and colleague Margaretta D’Arcy has been jailed – and for three months! – for protesting the use of the civilian airport at Shannon for US wars. And we are deeply worried about her health and well-being as a cancer patient. One of the many public services Ms D’Arcy has performed is to protest the Irish government’s many years of complicity in US war crimes and its destruction of Irish neutrality. She has been dedicated to highlighting that the most devastating impact of war is on women and our children, both directly from the bombs that rain down on us, and by paying with our poverty for the horrendous weapons of massive destruction that surround us all.
on behalf of Global Women’s Strike, Ireland
There is access to an online petition contact.ie/node/271
Comments can be registered at firstname.lastname@example.org
Updates are available from Clare Daly (Clare.Daly@Oireachtas.ie)
Thank you for sharing this story with any and all persons you can reach who are concerned with issues of free speech, social justice, and over all, peace.
Jan 23/24 - Thursday & Friday 5pm
Town of De Witt Court, 5400 Butternut Drive, East Syracuse, NY.
The Hancock 17 trial began January 3, 2014 and will continue this week on January 23 and most likely January 24. Please come in support!
After 12 hours in the courtroom on January 3rd and 6th, the prosecution case is nearly complete. With one exception, the defendants are going pro se, which means that they are defending themselves. Their defense is based on the fact that they were not at the base to break the law, but rather to uphold the U.S. Constitution and international law.
Listen to the powerful opening statements of Ed Kinane and Clare Grady at http://upstatedroneaction.org/
It is expected that the defense case will begin Thursday, January 23, most likely continuing on the Friday the 24th. The defendants' case is supported by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, international law experts Francis Boyle and Mary Ellen O'Connell, and a an Afghani man whose brother-in-law was killed in a drone strike.
On October 25, 2012, they had been arrested for symbolically blocking the three gates at Hancock Air National Guard Base, from which MQ 9 Reaper drones are piloted over Afghanistan and where MQ9 Reaper pilots, sensor operators and technicians are trained. They stood in front of the gates with banners and and signs calling for an end to drone warfare, and read a Citizen's War Crimes Indictment to the base personnel. They called for an end of attacks on civilians that are illegal under international war.
After more than two hours outside the gates, they were arrested and arraigned on charges of Trespass and Disorderly Conduct (both violations) and were issued Orders of Protection for Col. Earl Evans which require them to stay away from the base (his place of work). Violating these Orders of Protection carries potential misdemeanor or even felony charges.
Elliott Adams, Sharon Springs, NY
Judy Bello, Rochester, NY
Daniel Burgevin, Trumansburg, NY
Mark Colville, New Haven, CT
Paul Frazier, Syr. & Rochester, NY
Clare Grady, Ithaca, NY
Mary Anne Grady Flores, Ithaca, NY
Martha Hennessy, New York, NY
Brian Hynes, Bronx, NY
Ed Kinane, Syracuse, NY
Rae Kramer, Syracuse, NY
Andrea Levine, Trumansburg, NY
Michael Perry,Trumansburg, NY
James Ricks, Enfield, NY
Mark Scibilia-Carver, Trumansburg,NY
Patricia Weiland, Northampton, MA
Margaretta D’Arcy is not a war criminal. Nor is she a human rights abuser, or the commander of an invading army. But she has spent many years drawing attention to the fact that these type of people pass through Shannon Airport regularly. The legally and morally correct response from the Irish police would be to investigate this complicity in wrongdoing at Shannon. Instead they imprisoned 79 year old Margaretta because she wouldn’t promise to stay away from the airport.
Days Before Casselton Oil Train Explosion, Obama Signed Bill Hastening Fracking Permits on ND Public Lands
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
On December 20, both chambers of the U.S. Congress passed a little-noticed bill to expedite permitting for hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on public lands in the Bakken Shale basin, located predominantly in North Dakota. And on December 26, President Obama signed the bill into law.
This is a cross-post from Transcend Media Services
Nonviolence vs. Nonexistence!
Nearly 50 years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence.” That choice is becoming ever more profound as we enter the new year of 2014. For billions of people around the world, and for the earth itself, life is hanging by a thread. The choice is do we foster a world free of war, poverty, and climate crisis through non-violent action, or do we continue on the downward spiral toward nonexistence.
By Dave Lindorff
So Pope Francis, the new pope who has conservative American Catholics, particularly those in politics and the media, freaked out because he is criticizing capitalist greed, knows Marxists who are "good people," and isn't upset to be labeled one of them, even though he says "Marxist ideology is wrong.".
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
As we evaluate the outcomes of the recent UN climate negotiations in Warsaw, one lesson that we are invited to learn, again, relates to our strategy for getting effective action taken on the ongoing climate catastrophe and other critical environmental problems. Is lobbying elites to change their behaviour an effective strategy for change?
My experience, reinforced by decades of casual observation, is that lobbying elites is a complete waste of time and that a strategy that focuses on inviting ordinary individuals and groups to take action in the desired direction is far more effective. Why do I say this?
The pre-eminent problem confronting humankind is human violence. It is our own violence, in its various guises, including the ongoing possibility of nuclear war and the ongoing devastation of the natural environment, that threaten to consign us to the fossil record within decades, if not sooner. And yet we devote virtually no effort to trying to understand human violence and to developing strategies to end it. Why?
Report Back: Occupy Beale AFB and Resisting Drones, November 2013
On November 25-26, we held our monthly vigil that included a surprise “pre-emptive peace response”
direct action on Tuesday morning against drone warfare at Beale Air Force Base. We were wearing
white clothes with blue scarves in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan who want peace.
www.TheBlueScarf.org “The Blue Scarf represents the expansive blue sky we all share and has
become a global symbol for togetherness. It was set in motion by a brave group of women in
Afghanistan ready to be heard and is now being worn around the world as a way for people to
express their solidity as global citizens for a better world.”
On Monday afternoon, four of us from the Bay area went to the Doolittle Gate. There were another 6
at the Wheatland gate. Meeting at the main gate at 5:30pm, in the dark and cold, we were visited by a
security detail from the base during our potluck. They advised us of the nighttime cold. When Flora,
a local activist, arrived with MacGregor, we gladly accepted an offer of her warm house for the night.
After our potluck, we shared two birthday cakes to celebrate the completion of our 3rd year at Beale.
Three years ago this month, Toby, Martha, Lisa and Eleanor dared to come to Beale AFB in the dark of
the early November morning for the first drone warfare vigil. We have since had nearly 100 different
people join the vigil, 4 road blockades and numerous arrests. These past 3 years, many more people in
our country have become aware of the immoral use of drones against civilians, women and children in
other lands. As more and more innocents are being slaughtered by drones the outrage is intensifying.
On Tuesday morning, shortly after 5am we headed out to the Wheatland gate on S. Beale Rd., a heavily
used artery into the base. 12 of us were able to again block traffic into the base at the Wheatland
gate for over 30 minutes. Traffic had backed up for nearly a mile. We held out large banners with
messages of peace, including the beautiful drone victim quilt, with panels of paintings showing some
of the many children who have been murdered by drone warfare. The large NO DRONES light brigade
signs glowed brightly in the night. The vast majority of vehicles respected our blockade without physical
confrontation, but several irate motorists forced their way through the vigil. One dragged our drone
quilt and other visuals several hundred feet, and put one Veteran For Peace activist, John Reiger, at risk,
though luckily he was unharmed. (This led to a length discussion and learning experience for how to
deal with confrontational motorists: peacefully let them through). Not all of us were able to risk arrest,
thus we moved aside after Highway patrolman, Dan Yeager, arrived and gave several warnings. It is our
deepest hope that in that brief period of the morning, as the war machine was momentarily halted, that
maybe a human life in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere was saved.
Four of us, Shirley, Flora, Michael and MacGregor then walked about ½ mile down the road to the
waiting military police at the base boundary, McGregor handed over the vigil’s signed letter she
had prepared to the base commander demanding a halt in the base participation in the drone wars.
Michael, as a military veteran, told the soldiers he was there to speak on their behalf to condemn
the U.S. government for forcing our military personnel to be involved in war crimes against innocent
civilians. After waiting over 15 minutes for a representative of the commander, who never came, the
four of us walked onto the base and were immediately arrested. We were treated well and were
processed out just after 9am to the greetings of many of our fellow vigilers who had braved the cold
morning air another 2 hours to support us. We then closed our usual vigil with breakfast, debriefing
and planning for future drone resistance at the Brick Coffeehouse in Marysville. We will be back and we
hope you will join us the next time.
Written by Michael Kerr, Martha Hubert and Toby Blome
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
The ever-wise Yogi Berra once quipped "It's like déjà vu all over again," a truism applicable to a recent huge decision handed down by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
The real criminal, our government, jails the real hero: The Hero and the Villains: the Jeremy Hammond Sentence
By Alfredo Lopez
This past Friday, Internet activist Jeremy Hammond stood in a federal courtroom and told Judge Loretta A. Preska why he released a trove of emails and other information uncovering the possibly illegal and certainly immoral collaboration of a major surveillance corporation called Stratfor with our government.
As our government continues the illegal and immoral killer drone program, terrorizing communities around the world, members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) continue our resistance. As part of that resistance I was on trial with four other activists in US District Court in Alexandria,VA on October 22. Joining me were Malachy Kilbride, Max Obuszewski, Phil Runkel, and Janice Sevre-Duszynska. Cindy Sheehan was also arrested with us, but was unable to attend the trial because of an illness.
We began our resistance against the CIA drone program when we filed a criminal complaint against the CIA with the US Attorney’s office in Alexandria, VA on May 23, 2013. As citizen activists we are responsible for reporting crimes that we know are being committed. So we went to the US Attorney’s office and we were able to meet with Assistant US Attorney Eugene Rossi. He talked with us for about 40 minutes and accepted our complaint. We then followed up with phone calls and emails to his office in our attempt to hold the CIA accountable for their crimes. However, we did not receive any response.
We decided to continue our resistance with a letter to CIA Director John Brennan. In the letter we told him why we oppose the drones and we asked for a meeting to discuss our concerns. When we didn’t get a response from him, we went to the CIA on June 29, 2013. Our crime was to walk onto the CIA property with a copy of the unanswered letter in our hands and ask for a meeting with CIA officials.
We were arrested and charged with trespassing. After some preliminary matters, including a motion filed for extended discovery (which was denied) our trial was scheduled for October 22. We made plans to defend ourselves, pro se, and at about 10:00am on October 22 we walked into Judge Ivan Davis’ courtroom in the US District Court in Alexandria, VA as he was finishing up with another case.
As our case was called, we walked to the front of the courtroom, and the five of us crowded around the defense table. I got ready to take notes on the proceedings, and as the trial began and the judge immediately began to chastise Max, the first words I wrote were “He’s scary”. Right from the start he was very antagonistic and argumentative towards Max. Max tried to argue again for extended discovery and the judge did not want to hear anything about it.
The prosecutor, US Attorney on special assignment from the CIA, Stacy Chaffin, gave a short opening statement and framed the case for the judge stating this was a simple case of trespass and that though we would try to bring the issue of drone warfare into the trial, this was only about us trespassing on CIA property on June 29. It was not about drones, she emphasized.
Ms. Chaffin had one witness, Police Officer Davilla. He said that we had a letter that we wanted to deliver, and it was accepted by an official with the CIA. He said there was a mock air strike and the defendants fell across the police line and were allowed to lie there, but when they got up and moved forward he read us a warning and when we didn’t leave we were arrested.
Max cross-examined Davilla and Ms. Chaffin objected to almost every question he asked with Judge Davis sustaining the objections. Max asked if the letter that Davilla mentioned could be entered as evidence and the judge refused this request. When questioned by Max, Davilla claimed he didn’t know that the mock air strike was supposed to be a simulated drone strike. Malachy followed up, asking Davilla to read the police report. In the police report, written by Davilla, it was noted that it was a mock drone strike. The government was working hard to try to keep the word “drone” out of the proceedings.
Throughout the questioning of the government witness Judge Davis repeated over and over that what Max and Malachy were saying was not relevant. He shut them down at every turn and seemed very angry.
I took the stand as the first defense witness, and gave background information. I said that I live in Mt. Horeb, WI. I am a wife of 41 years, a mother of five, and a grandmother of six, with a seventh on the way. I have my PhD in Women’s Studies. Spending time with my grandchildren and doing the work I am involved in for peace and social justice are the things I spend most of my time on. The two are very interconnected. My grandchildren inspire me to do this work. I said that I think about what kind of world my grandchildren will live in when they grow up and that makes me continue with this work. I felt very overwhelmed by emotion as I talked about being a grandmother, and stated that as a grandmother I don’t just think of my own grandchildren, but I think of all the children of the world. I want to spread my arms wide around all the children of the world and keep them safe. I think about the children who are dying from drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and other places around the world. I am a member of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) and we have been acting in resistance to the illegal actions of our government since 2003. We have done actions at the White House, the Pentagon, Congress, and the Department of Justice. We write letters to both elected officials and government personnel about our concerns before each visit. It has become clear that those in our government feel they are no longer accountable to the citizens of this country because we have never once gotten any kind of reply to any of our letters. When we don’t get a response we follow up with a visit in person and have often been arrested simply for seeking a meeting with a government official.
The statute for trespassing states that unauthorized people are not allowed on the property, but under cross-examination I stated that I believed I was authorized to be there under the First Amendment and that I was obligated to be there under the principles that came out of Nuremberg. I talked about what happened at the CIA on June 29 and was able to say that we were there because of our concerns that thousands of innocent people, including children, are dying as a result of our government’s illegal activities.
After seeing the judges response to Max and Malachy, I was very surprised that he let me say all that I said.
Janice took the stand next. She talked about being a teacher and about how it is important to show children how to resolve conflict through mediation. She testified that many of the children she taught in ESL classes were from war-torn countries and that she doesn’t want to see this kind of suffering anymore. She stated that it is more than the US Constitution that gives her the right to do what she did on June 29, but that she has that right as a human being.
I gave the closing statement (see below) and then without any deliberation at all, the judge found us guilty. I looked him right in the eye during the last sentence of my closing, “We ask that you please find us not guilty as charged and join us in working for peace and true justice in the world.” but he refused to open his heart to what we were saying.
His arguments for the conviction were that there was police tape with the words “Do not cross” and this should have put us on notice. He said that the defendants could argue that because they were allowed to be there, according police testimony and the police report, that meant they were authorized. However when Officer Davilla read the warning that we should leave or we would be arrested, we should have know we would be arrested at that point and we should have left. He argued that although the defendants said that we did not intend to break the law, this was not a crime of intent and so our intention was irrelevant. He also said that Nuremberg does not apply because there were no international laws broken. This was an astonishing statement to hear the judge make.
Also unbelievable were statements made by Judge Davis that the Bill of Rights were irrelevant, Nuremberg was irrelevant, and drone strikes were irrelevant. He said this is a court of law, not morality.
The prosecutor asked for unsupervised probation, reasoning that we were obviously nonviolent. This was a surprise because she had told Max and Malachy at a pre-trial hearing that she would ask for supervised probation.
All the defendants, except for me, gave moving sentencing statements. I said what I needed to in the closing and didn’t need to say more, but I am glad the others were able to speak out so clearly about our need to be there and to be doing what we did.
The judge gave us one year unsupervised probation and said that we should not violate the law in that year or return to the CIA for protesting in an unauthorized fashion. We would also be fined $300 plus court costs.
Malachy asked for clarification on the sentence because he vigils outside the gates of the CIA monthly. The judge said that would be acceptable as long as he does not go onto CIA property.
What happened next was something I have never seen before. Judge Davis said that now that the whole thing was over he had a question he wanted to ask us just to satisfy his curiosity. He said that all we tried to do all morning was to talk about drones, but what if there was a plane with a pilot who killed someone, would we be there? Of course we would be there, we responded. But what was the meaning of this question? Was he putting us down and making fun of us? Of course he knew how we would answer to that question.
On our way out of the courthouse we were required to check in at the probation office. Though we have been on unsupervised probation, we have never had to do check in with the probation office before. We were given a stack of forms to fill out and were surprised when we realized they wanted us to sign releases for access to medical, psychiatric, financial, educational, and jobs records. Though we all know the government is spying on us and getting this information, we were not going to willingly submit and give our permission for this kind of serious intrusion of privacy. After raising our concerns to the receptionist, we were able to talk to a supervisor who said we did not have to fill out the forms, but if they needed the information they would come after us.
The trial was two weeks ago. It takes a lot out of you emotionally and physically, but in one week I will return to DC to ttend the CodePink drone summit. NCNR is organizing an action of nonviolent civil resistance on Capitol Hill for Nov. 18 and then I will be traveling from DC to the SOA Watch in Georgia. I will be so looking forward to returning home on Nov. 24 to spend the holidays with my family, even as I remember those who are not able to spend time with their loved ones because of the US drone attacks.
We filed for an appeal and we also filed a motion to stay the execution of the sentence pending the appeal. I am feeling deeply conflicted about the year of probation with the order to not get arrested during that time or face the serious consequences of Judge Davis’ courtroom. In the mail today I received a counter motion, for the stay of execution, filed by the prosecutor. She wrote that she is willing to stay the payment of the fine, but not to stay the year of unsupervised probation. In her motion she states, “the probation is necessary to protect the community…”. How arrogant and ironic and ridiculous! Ask Nabila who poses a threat to her community.
It is wrong whether a bomb is dropped from a plane with a pilot or from a drone. It is wrong if it is soldiers on the ground fighting to expand the empire through the pain, suffering, and death of innocent children, women, and men around the world. As long as these crimes continue, I will join my compatriots in standing in resistance and calling for an end to the illegal actions of our government. We will work together for a world where communities are a place of peace and justice and where children can play happy and free.
CIA Arrest June 29, 2013 Trial October 22, 2013
Good morning/ afternoon Your Honor. My name is Joy First, defendant pro se and I will be giving the closing statement for our group.
We are standing before you today, Your Honor, being charged with Trespassing - Entering or remaining on an Agency Installation without proper authorization.
But the government did not \prove our guilt on that charge beyond a reasonable doubt. We have shown that we did not go to the CIA on June 29, 2013 to break the law; rather we went there to uphold the law.
It should not be presumed that we were there to engage in unlawful activities. We are people of nonviolence, involved in Constitutionally-protected speech. Our intent was to seek a meeting with Mr. Brennan and to influence him, wake him up, affect his conscience, and shame him perhaps, but we never engaged in any criminal activity.
You heard testimony that the police knew we were coming and had erected a police line at the main entrance gate of the Central Intelligence Agency on Dolley Madison Boulevard.
You heard testimony that we were given mixed messages from the police regarding this line. First being told we would be arrested if we crossed the line of police tape, but then according to the police report as we crossed the police line, “CIA Police Personnel backed up and allowed them to lie on the ground.” Then, as we moved further onto the property we were arrested. To us, it was not clear what the boundaries were, and what we could and could not do. We were on CIA property during the rally, and we were on CIA property when we did the die-in. We did not know if or when we would be arrested.
You heard testimony that we did, in fact, go to the CIA on June 29 and ask for a meeting with Mr. Brennan or one of his representatives to discuss our concerns.
You heard testimony that it was only when that meeting was refused that we were moved by our conscience to walk peacefully onto CIA property expressing our very deep concerns about the CIA involvement in illegal drone strikes.
We were charged with trespassing – being on the CIA base without “proper authorization.” But you heard witnesses state that they believed that not only were we authorized under the US Constitution, but we were obligated to be there under the principles of Nuremberg.
You heard testimony that though the police told us we had to leave, we believed it was our right and our duty to refuse that order.
You heard from both government and defense witnesses that we acted in a nonviolent and a peaceful and cooperative manner throughout the whole process.
Sadly, a large portion of the citizenry are unable or unwilling to challenge the government when it engages in activities which are unlawful. However, these five defendants have a long and worthy history of engaging in the legislative process. We defendants are citizen activists, who have engaged in dialogue with many elected officials mostly over peace and justice matters. We recognized a long time ago that War Is Not the Answer. It is wrong on many levels—wasting tax dollars which could go to social programs, creating enemies when random acts of violence attack generally poor people in the Middle East and make our government representatives to be hypocrites when challenging another country’s human rights violations.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution confirms that we were authorized to engage with government representatives: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” However, we were instead arrested.
According to the Nuremberg Principles, if we remain silent while our government is engaged in illegal activities, then we are complicit, we are equally guilty of being in violation of international law and of going against our most dearly held values. It is our responsibility as citizens, as taxpayers, as voters to speak out. Robert Jackson, the United States judge at the Nuremberg trials said, “The very essence of the Nuremberg Charter is that individuals have international duties which transcend national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state.”
Your honor, the bottom line is that thousands of innocent people are dying and it is up to all of us to do everything we can to stop the pain and suffering and death being inflicted on these people by our government.
We ask that you please find us not guilty as charged and join us in working for peace and true justice in the world.
Thank you for your time and attention to this case.