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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Prison for Peacemakers in Tacoma, Washington

From Common Dreams, please also follow the blog http://disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com/ for updates!


Two Grandmothers, Two Priests and a Nun Go onto a Nuclear Base

by Bill Quigley

Two grandmothers, two priests and a nun were sentenced in federal court in Tacoma, WA Monday March 28, 2011, for confronting hundreds of US nuclear weapons stockpiled for use by the deadly Trident submarines.

Sentenced were: Sr. Anne Montgomery, 83, a Sacred Heart sister from New York, who was ordered to serve 2 months in federal prison and 4 months electronic home confinement; Fr. Bill Bischel, 81, a Jesuit priest from Tacoma Washington, ordered to serve 3 months in prison and 6 months electronic home confinement; Susan Crane, 67, a member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore, Maryland, ordered to serve 15 months in federal prison; Lynne Greenwald, 60, a nurse from Bremerton Washington, ordered to serve 6 months in federal prison; and Fr. Steve Kelly, 60, a Jesuit priest from Oakland California, ordered to serve 15 months in federal prison. They were also ordered to pay $5300 each and serve an additional year in supervised probation. Bischel and Greenwald are active members of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, a community resisting Trident nuclear weapons since 1977.

What did they do?

In the darkness of All Souls night, November 2, 2009, the five quietly cut through a chain link perimeter fence topped with barbed wire.

Carefully stepping through the hole in the fence, they entered into the Kitsap-Bangor Navy Base outside of Tacoma Washington – home to hundreds of nuclear warheads used in the eight Trident submarines based there.

Walking undetected through the heavily guarded base for hours, they covered nearly four miles before they came to where the nuclear missiles are stored.

The storage area was lit up by floodlights. Dozens of small gray bunkers – about the size of double car garages - were ringed by two more chain link fences topped with taut barbed wire.

USE OF DEADLY FORCE AUTHORIZED one sign boldly proclaimed. Another said WARNING RESTRICTED AREA and was decorated with skull and crossbones.

This was it – the heart of the US Trident Pacific nuclear weapon program. Nuclear weapons were stored in the bunkers inside the double fence line.

Wire cutters cut through these fences as well. There they unfurled hand painted banners which said “Disarm Now Plowshares: Trident Illegal and Immoral”, knelt to pray and waited to be arrested as dawn broke.

What were they protesting against?

Each of the eight Trident submarines has 24 nuclear missiles on it. The Ground Zero community explains that each of the 24 missiles on one submarine have multiple warheads in it and each warhead has thirty times the destructive power of the weapon used on Hiroshima. One fully loaded Trident submarine carries 192 warheads, each designed to explode with the power of 475 kilotons of TNT force. If detonated at ground level each would blow out a crater nearly half a mile wide and several hundred feet deep.

The bunker area where they were arrested is where the extra missiles are stored.

In December 2010, the five went on trial before a jury in federal court in Tacoma charged with felony damage to government property, conspiracy and trespass.

But before the trial began the court told the defendants what they could and could not do in court. Evidence of the medical consequences of nuclear weapons? Not allowed. Evidence that first strike nuclear weapons are illegal under US and international law? Not allowed. Evidence that there were massive international nonviolent action campaigns against Trident missiles where juries acquitted protestors? Not allowed. The defense of necessity where violating a small law, like breaking down a door, is allowed where the actions are taken to prevent a greater harm, like saving a child trapped in a burning building? Not allowed.

Most of the jurors appeared baffled when defendants admitted what they did in their opening statements. They remained baffled when questions about nuclear weapons were objected to by the prosecutor and excluded by the court. The court and the prosecutor repeatedly focused the jury on their position that this was a trial about a fence. Defendants tried valiantly to point to the elephant in the room – the hundreds of nuclear weapons.

Each defendant gave an opening and closing statement explaining, as much as they were allowed, why they risked deadly force to expose the US nuclear arsenal.

Sojourner Truth was discussed as were Rosa Parks, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King.

The resistance of the defendants was in the spirit of the civil rights movement, the labor movement, the suffragist movement, the abolition of slavery movement.

Crowds packed the courtroom each of the five days of trial. Each night there was a potluck and a discussion of nuclear weapons by medical, legal and international experts who came for the trial but who were largely muted by the prosecution and the court.

While the jury held out over the weekend, ultimately, the activists were convicted.

Hundreds packed the courthouse today supporting the defendants. The judge acknowledged the good work of each defendant, admitted that prison was unlikely to deter them from further actions, but said he was bound to uphold the law otherwise anarchy would break out and take down society.

The prosecutors asked the judge to send all the defendants to federal prison plus three years supervised probation plus pay over five thousand dollars. The specific jail time asked for ranged from 3 years for Fr. Kelly, 30 months for Susan Crane, Lynne Greenwald, 7 months in jail plus 7 months home confinement, Sr. Anne Montgomery and Fr. Bill Bichsel, 6 months jail plus 6 months home confinement.

Each of the defendants went right into prison from the courtroom as the spectators sang to them. Outside the courthouse, other activists pledged to confront the Trident in whatever way is necessary to stop the illegal and immoral weapons of mass destruction.

--------------

Bill Quigley is part of the legal team supporting the defendants and was in Tacoma for the sentencing. You can learn more about the defendants at disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com.


Bill Quigley is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Contact Bill at quigley77 @ gmail.com

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sacred Peace Walk: 18-24 April: Fried eggs and Nuclear Meltdown

Mail from NDE's Jim in Kabul

March 21, 2011
Jim Haber via email from Kabul, Afghanistan:

Today's discussions with the young Afghans was so powerful, hearing their individual stories. Also, they have specific ideas for us to share with our friends at home. We're looking forward to sharing with you the images of their actions, the powerful slogans that we can share and amplify. The candle light of hope that we hope to ignite with you, sparked from candles we return with from the vigil here the other night. Their commitment to ending the killing in their country is strong. The clarity with which they call on all the warring factions to stop killing is so powerful. The risks for peace they take are so real. The 25 members of this delegation are inspired by this small group to redouble our work to get their message out, to combat the ignorant perspectives of the people of Afghanistan.

People were warned about threats of violence today, the Afghan New Year, the first day of Spring. 50,000 people gathered, and throughout the city there was a bit of an earthquake in the afternoon, but no bombs or attacks. It was a day of celebration. Tomorrow, Mary Lou and I will visit a internally displaced person's camp on the edge of town. I'm sure it will be sobering, but we'll also have more to share when we return.

Finding Hope in Afghanistan
By Jake Olzen
March 20, 2011

In a country torn by thirty years of war where the promise of peace is continually broken, despair and resignation seem to be the norm for Afghan society.  War – and its corollaries of social decay, poverty, corruption, and trauma – does not discriminate. 

Not a family in Afghanistan has been left unaffected by the death or disappearance of a loved one and the daily, traumatizing stress of living in an occupied war zone.  Billions of aid intended for reconstruction has been siphoned off leaving little left over for meaningful, local development. 

Afghanistan is an unstable society wracked by corruption at nearly every level of government and a pervasive distrust of strangers and neighbors alike is the expectant result of such disintegration of social ties.  But as the late Studs Terkel reminds us, “hope dies last.”  And this is certainly true for the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, a small but growing group of young Afghans committed to a life of peace in the midst of so much violence.

While cynicism and disbelief  run deep across generations, the AYPVs have an alternative vision for their country embedded deep in their hearts – and they believe this hope for peace is already in the heart of every Afghan.

Hope in the Afghan Spring
Fifty-five young saplings mark the beginning of a new year in Afghanistan.   The various apple, apricot, and almond trees were planted in a Kabul elementary and high school as a sign of hope and promise of peace.  Organized by the AYPVs, twenty-five international partners joined together with over fifty ordinary Afghans to declare a commitment to an Afghanistan without war.

The previous day, the AYPVS along with members of the Open Society organized and participated in an inter-ethnic walk for an end to the war.  As far as anyone can tell, this is the first public gathering calling for peace in Afghanistan that is not politically aligned or sponsored.  The bright blue scarves of the AYPVs, their smiles and words of gratitude to the accompanying riot police, and banners denouncing warmongering is a considerable different message that most Kabulis are not used to seeing or hearing. 

The steadfast commitment to nonviolence of the AYPVs and their deep desire for peace offers a kind of hope that is unheard of in Afghanistan but it also offers a breath of fresh air.  Slowly but surely the AYPVs and their partners – both Afghan and international – are growing into a sizable community with a peace-filled vision for Afghanistan. 

The planting of trees is a small gesture indeed and the challenges for ending the foreign occupation of Afghanistan, confronting corruption and human rights abuses (particularly of women), and promoting a culture of peace are many.  But the planting of trees is a beginning and it may very well be the birth of a movement that transforms Afghanistan.       

Jake Olzen is a member of the White Rose Community in Chicago, Il.  He writes from Kabul, Afghanistan.  He can be reached at jake.olzen@gmail.com

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 19th: Candlelight commemoration remembering the children recently killed in Afghanistan - Nau Roz

From Kathy Kelly´s article on Antiwar.com, entitled One blue sky above us:

On March 19th, in Kabul, Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers will hold a candlelight commemoration, remembering the children recently killed in Afghanistan. Following this ceremony they will plant saplings as a symbol of their dedication to a nonviolent future. Their compassion extends beyond Afghanistan to young people in other lands, some of whom they will connect with through a "Global Day of Listening," a 24-hour Skype communication which they’ll host on the first day of spring, Afghanistan’s "Nau Roz" (New Year’s Day) holiday. Colorado College students, on their spring break, plan to participate.

Read the whole article http://original.antiwar.com/kathy-kelly/2011/03/18/one-blue-sky-above-us/">here.

International peace activists arrive in Afghanistan for week of actions

From Wagingnonviolence.org

by Eric Stoner | March 18, 2011

A group of 28 peace activists from the US and Australia, including Waging Nonviolence contributors Simon Moyle, Jim Haber and Jake Olzen, has just arrived in Afghanistan. They immediately connected with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, a truly inspirational group of young people who I had the good fortune of getting to know during my trip there in December. As Voices for Creative Nonviolence co-coordinator Kathy Kelly explains in an article that was widely published today:

Last evening, they showed us photos of an unusual walk they’d held in the streets of downtown Kabul that morning. Dressed in white, with the young women wearing sky blue veils and the young men in the same color neck scarves, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers carried sky blue and white banners proclaiming that Peace is a Pre-Requisite for Progress. They are seeking an end to wars in their country. “Why did you choose sky blue?” I asked. “Because it shows that there is just one sky over all of us,” Chahara replied. Although they came from different ethnicities and various provinces, they walked shoulder to shoulder, 40 of them, on a bright, warm day.
The delegation’s itinerary over the next few days is jam-packed. Kelly writes that:

On March 19th, in Kabul, Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers will hold a candlelight commemoration, remembering the children recently killed in Afghanistan. Following this ceremony they will plant saplings as a symbol of their dedication to a nonviolent future. Their compassion extends beyond Afghanistan to young people in other lands, some of whom they will connect with through a “Global Day of Listening,” a 24 hour Skype communication which they’ll host on the first day of spring [March 20], Afghanistan’s “Nau Roz” (New Year’s Day) holiday… (see: www.livewithoutwars.org and www.ourjourneytosmile.com or email globaldayoflistening@gmail.com to arrange participation for yourself and/or your community.

Hopefully over the next few days we will be running the dispatches from our contributors on the ground, so check back for updates on the work of these courageous activists.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Come to the desert for peace


Nevada Desert Experience - In the Name of Love


Sr. Megan Rice on the Nevada Desert Experience Sacred Peace Walk

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Exciting Additions to NDE Spring Activities

NDE Represented in Delegation to Afghanistan for their New Years (Spring Equinox) "Day of the People's Peace"; Ways for Non-Travelers to Participate
Help NDE Send Two Shoshone Youth to DC for Alliance for Nuclear Accountability Lobby Days

Peace and Disarmament: Interfaith Perspectives

April 17 Forum at Islamic Society of Nevada Now Leads off NDE's Sacred Peace Walk (Note that April 26 is the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.)

Click here to view the Feb/March Newsletter

In Loving Memory of Sr. Rosemary Lynch (1917-2011), NDE Elder
Native Outrage at Nuclear Testing by Johnnie Bobb, Chief of the Western Shoshone National Council

The Creech-14 Verdict: Guilty of Protesting US Drones by the Creech-14
60 Years of Disaster: Finger Still on the Button by Jim Haber, NDE Coordinator

When Our Feet Pray: Walking in Memory of MLK by Candace Ross, Sekhmet Temple Priestess

DETAILS:
1. NDE Members Visiting Nonviolent Afghan Peace Activists

Jim Haber and Mary Lou Anderson of Las Vegas are privileged to be among the 26 international peace activists meeting with members of Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (AYPV) and other Afghans for Peace in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 17-24 in support of the "Journey to Smile" campaign. Traveling as “citizen diplomats,” they hope to learn first-hand about Afghan experiences and to support an AYPV project called “I Wish to Live Without Wars,” www.livewithoutwars.org. Trip organizers Voices for Creative Nonviolence led two smaller delegations in December and October of last year.

Please go to their action page to sign the "I Wish to Live Without Wars" petition and read about other ways to show solidarity with their courageous anti-violence/pro-peace work in Afghanistan. Sign up for their Facebook event. "Please join with your heart and spirit “I wish to live without wars,” which asks for your solidarity on the Day of the People’s Peace on March 21, 2011, which is also the Afghan News Year’s Day. We call everyone, anywhere, individually or in groups, to walk, plant trees or light candles in loving support of the mothers, youth and people of Afghanistan, as they walk, plant trees, and light candles to declare the peaceful wish of the People of Afghanistan to live without wars." (from the Action Page)
Of particular interest should be the Global Day of Listening, a 24 hour call in opportunity whereby people of the world can actually listen to people of Afghanistan and other war torn countries via voice over internet, Skype or international telephone connection. The first one, held in December, was powerful and memorable for listener and presenter alike. People from Afghanistan will be speaking from 8 to 11 pm Pacific Daylight Time on March 19.

Updates from Haber and Anderson will be posted on this NDE webpage which you can also find from the NDE homepage and on Twitter @NVDesertExp.

2. NDE Raising Money to Help 2 Western Shoshone Youth join Anti-Nuclear Lobbying Delegation to DC
Every year the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability holds their "DC Days" lobbying meetings in the Spring. Since the Sacred Peace Walk is also in the Spring, sometimes NDE and the state of Nevada are not represented as the delegations meet with members of Congress as well as some executive branch committees.

This year, we're excited to help two young members of the Western Shoshone Nation attend. We're hoping that you will want to help NDE in this effort by contributing specifically to support their travel expenses. Donzie Bobb and Jeremiah Jones are looking forward to meeting other anti-nuclear activists and to see some of what is going on in our nation's capitol, and to give voice to underrepresented views in the halls of government.

3. April 17 Interfaith Forum and Sacred Peace Walk, April 18 to 25

Peace & Disarmament: Interfaith Perspectives
Date & Time: Sunday, April 17, 3 to 5 pm

Location:
Islamic Center of Nevada
4730 East Desert Inn Road, Las Vegas 89121

The community of religions must not be seen as neutral on issues related to war and peace. We are on the side of peace, and we stand against all acts that put the creation of God in danger, especially those acts associated with weapons of mass destruction. To express its unambiguous support for movements of peace and disarmament, the interfaith community of Nevada is hosting this public forum. Come, join in taking a stand for life, love and dignity.

Confirmed Presenters:
(sharing from their lives, as informed by their respective faiths, and perhaps their faith in faith)
Aslam Abdullah, Masjid Imam and Executive Director, Islamic Society of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV
Johnnie Bobb, Chief, Western Shoshone National Council
Candace Ross, Priestess, Temple to Goddess Spirituality, Cactus Springs, NV
Robert "Bob" E. Stoeckig, Pastor, St. Andrew Catholic Community, Boulder City, NV
Mel Hecht, Retired Founding Rabbi, Temple Beth Am, Summerlin, NV

Co-sponsored by Nevada Desert Experience, The Islamic Society of Nevada, Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada, The Sekhmet Temple. (More sponsors to be added)

For more information, contact:
Nevada Desert Experience
702-646-4814
Jim@NevadaDesertExperience.org

Closing Thought
Please offer up prayers for our 5 dear friends of the Disarm Now Plowshares. They are to be sentenced on March 28 in Tacoma, Washington for their having entered to within one fence of the Trident D-5 missile bunkers at the Bangor-Kitsap Naval Base.

Sincerely,
Jim Haber, NDE Coordinator and Desert Voices Editor
jim@NevadaDesertExperience.org

Monday, March 14, 2011

NDE: International Activists Assemble in Kabul, March 17 – 24to Join Afghan Youth in Solidarity Delegation

*FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

*Contacts:

Jim Haber 415.828.2506 haber.jim@gmail.com
Mary Lou Anderson 775.219.5327 mlavegas@yahoo.com
Hakim (AYPV, Afghanistan) weeteckyoung@gmail.com
Joshua Brollier (VCNV, Chicago, IL) 773.878.3815 joshua@vcnv.org
Mario Intino (NDE, Las Vegas, NV) 702.806.4152 mario@cyberservo.com

*International Activists Assemble in Kabul, March 17 – 24 to Join Afghan Youth in Solidarity Delegation*

Jim Haber and Mary Lou Anderson of Las Vegas will be among the international peace activists meeting with members of Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (AYPV), in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 17-24, 2011.

Traveling as “citizen diplomats,” they hope to learn about Afghan experiences and to support an AYPV campaign called “I Wish to Live Without Wars,”. Updates from Haber and Anderson will be posted on an NDE webpage and on Twitter @NVDesertExp (and on this blog and on the facebook page).

Haber and Anderson are coordinator and a volunteer, respectively, with Nevada Desert Experience (NDE). Founded to resist nuclear weapons work at the Nevada National Security Site, NDE has recently been in the forefront of the movement against the increasingly deadly use of Predator pilotless aircraft in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Many Predator “drones” are controlled from Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, NV.NDE also facilitates personal renewal in the desert tradition, honoring the land, as people of the Earth.

“I look forward to meeting the brave citizens and youth groups of Afghanistan, listening to their dreams, their strife; sharing some joy, knowledge and hope for a violence-free future,” Anderson said about her reasons for going on this journey. Haber added, “One doesn't have to go there to have solidarity with average Afghans, beset by violence from so many quarters, both foreign and domestic. However, I feel called to see for myself, to meet peacemakers there who I have been supporting in my long-standing work against US war-making and other brutalizing forces in Afghanistan.”

The AYPVs have asked the international delegation to help promote the second “Live Without Wars, Global Day of Listening” and to support their other anti-violence activities in Kabul in celebration of the Afghan New Year which is March 21, the first day of Spring. Afghans of many ethnicities will walk for peace together, followed by a tree planting take on Saturday, March 19, the Global Day of Listening on Sunday, March 20 (starting on 3/19 in Las Vegas), and the candle lighting on Monday, March 21.

Like the group Afghans for Peace, AYPV calls for an end to war. Determined not to exacerbate spiraling violence based on desires for revenge, members encourage wide-scale friendships of love and truth that will cross all borders towards nonviolent and conciliatory relations. They ask, “Why not love?”

During 2010, Voices for Creative Nonviolence members spent three weeks in October and again in December as guests of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, first in Bamiyan and then in Kabul. As in those trips, Anderson, Haber and the other 22 delegation members will meet with representatives of various NGOs and with leaders of civil society. They will also meet with Afghans who have been displaced by the war and now endure wretched conditions in a Kabul refugee camp.

*Voices for Creative Nonviolence has deep, long-standing roots in active nonviolent resistance to U.S. war-making. Begun in the summer of 2005, Voices draws upon the experiences of those who challenged the brutal economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and U.N. against the Iraqi people between 1990 and 2003.

Nevada Desert Experience has been organizing interfaith resistance to nuclear weapons and war since the mid-1980s. Through campaigns of education, dialogue and nonviolent direct action, NDE works against development and use of nuclear and other new weapons systems.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

WA: Week of Sentencing! March 26th for the Disarm Now Plowshares

From: Disarm Now Plowshares

Week of Sentencing!

Here is the most current schedule of events leading up to and including the sentencing of the Disarm Now Plowshares. Please note that changes might occur, and we will keep this schedule updated, so check back on the day of each event for any last minute changes.

Please also note that you can still write letters of support on behalf of the Disarm Now Plowshares co-defendants. Go to the “Support Us” page to learn more. Thanks!

SATURDAY MARCH 26 - 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm. Vigil at the US Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor Main (Trident Ave.) Gate.

SUNDAY MARCH 27 – 10:30 a.m. MASS AT ST. LEO CHURCH, 710 South 13th St., Tacoma, Fr. Pat Lee, SJ, Oregon Provincial

SUNDAY MARCH 27 – 5:30 p.m. FESTIVAL OF HOPE AT ST. LEO CHURCH, Potluck Dinner, Music by St. Leo’s Choir, Mooncoyne, Native American Drummers. Speakers include BISHOP THOMAS J. GUMBLETON– longtime peace activist and founding member of Pax Christi.

MONDAY MARCH 28 – 9:00 a.m. SENTENCING for all five Disarm Now Plowshares co-defendants begins at the U.S. District (Union Station) Courthouse, Tacoma. 8:00 a.m. Vigil in front of the Union Station Courthouse in support of Disarm Now Plowshares. Come out and support them!

Click here for directions and parking information for the Tacoma Union Station Courthouse.

Post Sentencing Gathering to be determined.

For more information and/or if you need hospitality, please call Bix at 253-304-6612.

For housing, contact Karen at karenh@harbornet.com or call her at 253-627-0486.

Azerbaijan starts production of Israeli drones

From: News-AZ

Thu 10 March 2011

Production of drones has started at Azad Systems, a joint venture between Azerbaijan's Defence Industry Ministry and Israeli manufacturer Aeronautics.

Azad Systems, which was formally opened by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev last week, is producing the Orbiter 2M and Aerostar unmanned aircraft, Fineco/ABC reported.

The Orbiter 2M has four to five hours of free flight at an altitude of 4-6 km, while the Aerostar can fly for 12 hours at an altitude of up to 10 km.

Azerbaijan has already created a flight control centre for the Orbiter 2M, Fineco/ABC said.

Sources in Israel indicate that the close cooperation between Israeli company Aeronautics and Rafael Advanced Defence Systems may result in the production or assembly of some Rafael systems in the new Azad Systems facility, according to Flightglobal website.

Aeronautics is the third-largest Israeli UAV manufacturer, after Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems.

Aeronautics has formed a similar joint venture in Spain and the facility there will start operations by mid-2011.

In recent years, Israel has become a major arms supplier to Azerbaijan. The deals so far include artillery systems, communications equipment and UAVs of the same types that will be now assembled locally.

Azerbaijan's defence industry minister, Yaver Jamalov, said in May 2010 that negotiations were under way with an Israeli company on the joint production of pilotless aircraft, but did not name the company involved.

Azad Systems has also started production of a four-seat passenger aircraft, the Diamond DA42.

News.Az

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wired: Prisoners Help Build Patriot Missiles

By Noah Shachtman
In: Wired
March 8, 2011

This spring, the United Arab Emirates is expected to close a deal for $7 billion dollars’ worth of American arms. Nearly half of the cash will be spent on Patriot missiles, which cost as much as $5.9 million apiece.

But what makes those eye-popping sums even more shocking is that some of the workers manufacturing parts for those Patriot missiles are prisoners, earning as little as 23 cents an hour. (Credit Justin Rohrlich with the catch.)

The work is done by Unicor,  previously known as Federal Prison Industries. It’s a government-owned corporation, established during the Depression, that employs about 20,000 inmates in 70 prisons to make everything from clothing to office furniture to solar panels to military electronics.

One of the company’s high-tech specialties: Patriot missile parts. “UNICOR/FPI supplies numerous electronic components and services for guided missiles, including the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missile,” Unicor’s website explains. “We assemble and distribute the Intermediate Frequency Processor (IFP) for the PAC-3s seeker. The IFP receives and filters radio-frequency signals that guide the missile toward its target.”

The missiles are then marketed worldwide — sometimes by Washington’s top officials. Last year, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pitched the Patriots to the Turkish government last year, a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks reveals: “SecDef stressed that ‘nothing can compete with the PAC-3 when it comes to capabilities.’”


Patriot assemblers Raytheon and Lockheed Martin aren’t the only defense contractors relying on prison help. As Rohrlich notes, Unicor “inmates also make cable assemblies for the McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F-15, the General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16, Bell/Textron’s Cobra helicopter, as well as electro-optical equipment for the BAE Systems Bradley Fighting Vehicle’s laser rangefinder.”

Unicor used to make helmets for the military, as well. But that work was suspended when 44,000 helmets were recalled for shoddy quality.
Government agencies — with the exception of the Defense Department and the CIA — are required to buy goods from Unicor, according to a Congressional Research Service report (.pdf). And no wonder: the labor costs are bordering on zero. “Inmates earn from $0.23 per hour up to a maximum of $1.15 per hour, depending on their proficiency and educational level, among other things,” the report notes.

Last year, Unicor grossed $772 million, according to its most recent financial report (.pdf). Traditionally, inmate salaries make up about five percent of that total.

Unicor insists that the deal is a good one for inmates — and for the government. The manufacturing work offers a chance for job training, which “improves the likelihood that inmates will remain crime-free upon their release,” the company says in its report. (Some reports suggest that Unicor prisoners are as much as 24% less likely to return to crime.)

The work also keeps the inmates in check, Unicor insists. “In the face of an escalating inmate population and an increasing percentage of inmates with histories of violence, FPI’s programs have helped ease tension and avert volatile situations, thereby protecting lives and federal property,” the company says. “Prisons without meaningful activities for inmates are dangerous prisons, and dangerous prisons are expensive prisons.”

Gonna take Us All, Jon Fromer (RIP

To keep the spirit!

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We are all Bradley Manning!