The three individuals charged with last week infiltrating the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee pleaded not guilty on Thursday to accusations of passing into a restricted government area without authorization, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported (see GSN, Aug. 2).
The suspects -- 57-year-old Greg Boertje-Obed, 82-year-old Megan Rice and 63-year-old Michael Walli -- could face prison terms of up to 12 months and penalties as high as $100,000 if convicted of the misdemeanor charges. A federal judge is scheduled to hear their case on Oct. 9.
The potential for open court proceedings to include statements about how the peace advocates entered Y-12's "Protected Area" -- the plant's most heavily guarded section and its site for atomic arms activities and bomb-grade uranium storage -- could prompt worries about further undermining defensive measures, according to the News Sentinel.
The accused infiltrators' moves were "far beyond" those of prior demonstrators at the facility, Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Kirby said in calling for the suspects to be held without bail. They do not live in the area and had been detained in no fewer than eight states, she added, suggesting they could flee if released.
"These defendants have absolutely no respect for the law," she added (Frank Munger, Knoxville News Sentinel, Aug. 3).
A representative for the three activists -- who identify themselves as Transform Now Plowshares -- indicated they had breached four barriers and wandered for "over two hours" prior to arriving at the plant's structure for holding nuclear weapon-usable uranium, Reuters reported. Once there, they posted placards and strung police barricade signs, among other actions.
Government personnel said a comprehensive suspension of site "nuclear operations" had started on Wednesday, days following the unauthorized entry on Saturday. The halt was anticipated to remain in effect until next week, according to the sources.
Project on Government Oversight atomic protection specialist Peter Stockton voiced doubt over U.S. statements that the site's weapon-capable uranium is safe.
"It is unbelievable this could happen," he stated. "The significance is outrageous. If they were terrorists, they could have blown open the door and got inside" (Mark Hosenball, Reuters, Aug. 2).
The three individuals charged with last week infiltrating the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee pleaded not guilty on Thursday to accusations of passing into a restricted government area without authorization, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.