Reading Room

Citizens Watch Newsletter August 2003

Never Give Up

by Ann Seitz
From August 2003 Tri-Valley CAREs Citizen's Watch newsletter

Tri-Valley CAREs? annual Strategic Planning Retreat was held in July at the peaceful and beautiful San Damiano Retreat Center. After Executive Director Marylia Kelley presented a ?Looking Back, Looking Forward? summary, we developed priorities for the future. Our 2003 retreat theme became clear: Never Give Up.

That Dalai Lama quote captures what Tri-Valley CAREs is, and has always been, about. Thanks to the vision and skill of dedicated members, volunteers and staff, Tri-Valley CAREs celebrates its 20th birthday as a grassroots organization this year. Our retreat served as a reminder that we work to expose health hazards at Livermore Lab, win cleanup of pollution in the community, promote disarmament and stop the creation of new nuclear weapons.

At the daylong retreat, we celebrated some of our recent triumphs -- like preventing the DOE from trucking plutonium from Rocky Flats to Livermore and winning a Federal Advisory Committee Act lawsuit that stopped DOE from forming biased review committees to bless the NIF. (See the story at right on another NIF court victory -- this one under the Freedom of Information Act.)

We were also able to rejoice in a new addition to our staff. Tri-Valley CAREs and Loulena Miles have won a "New Voices" Fellowship. The award will pay the salary for Loulena to undertake a special project, beginning in September 2003, that will combine community education and legal analysis to address the serious environmental issues at Livermore Lab. Loulena recently graduated from Golden Gate School of Law, and has been a member of Tri-Valley CAREs since High School.

To appreciate our members' wonderful work, Board president Martha Priebat handed out a special coffee cup with a Tri-Valley CAREs emblem to each in attendance. We all participated in identifying the forces, threats and opportunities that help or hinder our efforts to create social change. We then enjoyed a fabulous banquet with many homemade treats. The afternoon discussion started with the ?big picture? and moved to ?particular details.?

Areas considered of high importance included maintaining the strength and vitality of the organization itself. Other priorities included new nukes, the Livermore Lab biowarfare agent facility and increasing our community outreach capacity.

Several new and young voices at the retreat gave us all hope for the peace work of future generations. And, the energetic and active discussions motivated us to resolve anew: Never give up.

?Looking Back...? a summary analysis of Tri-Valley CAREs' goals and accomplishments for the past year, is available on request.

NEVER GIVE UP

No matter what is going on
Never give up
Develop the heart
Too much energy in your country
Is spent developing the mind
Instead of the heart
Be compassionate
Not just to your friends
But to everyone
Be compassionate
Work for peace
In your heart and in the world
Work for peace
And I say again
Never give up
No matter what is going on around you
Never give up

-- H.H. The XIV Dalai Lama

NIF: Suing to Uphold the Freedom of Information Act

by Steve Sugarman and Marylia Kelley
From Tri-Valley CAREs August 2003 Citizen's Watch newsletter

In continuing pursuit of information concerning the Dept. of Energy's multi-billion dollar boondoggle -- otherwise known as the National Ignition Facility (NIF) mega-laser -- Tri-Valley CAREs submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the DOE in September of 1999. Our request focused on documents that were produced and discussed during the meetings of the managers of the Inertial Confinement Fusion program, which is the type of fusion to be used in NIF.

We filed the FOIA request because we had learned that the technical and budgetary problems that beset the NIF were discussed at length during those meetings. This, we believed, was information that the people had a right to know.

While the FOIA law provides that federal agencies are to respond to requests for documents within 20 days, our FOIA request concerning NIF and the Inertial Confinement Fusion program set into motion an odyssey through the federal court system that lasted for more than three years, from 1999 to 2003. That odyssey provides a textbook lesson in the DOE?s intense desire to withhold from the public all information concerning its nuclear weapons activities.

In response to the FOIA request, the DOE first told Tri-Valley CAREs that we did not meet its criteria for a ?public interest? fee waiver, and that we would have to pre-pay for search and reproduction of the relevant documents. When that effort at stonewalling ultimately failed (because we could, of course, easily demonstrate our public interest credentials), the DOE next proposed that we limit our request for documents to ?administrative items? such as agendas and scheduling notices for the managers? meetings.

We rejected this proposal out of hand. What we were looking for with the FOIA request was substantive information concerning NIF and the Inertial Confinement Fusion program -- not the meeting times for managers? meetings.

Despite our refusal to acquiesce to DOE?s proposal that we limit our request to essentially meaningless documents, the DOE nonetheless responded to our request with nothing more than a small batch of documents pertaining to the location, date, and time of past managers? meetings. Consequently, Tri-Valley CAREs had no choice but to file a lawsuit against the DOE for illegal withholding of documents in violation of the FOIA.

Last year, Judge Susan Illston of federal district court in San Francisco agreed with our legal position, and held that it was implausible that the DOE had produced all the documents that were responsive to our FOIA request concerning NIF and the Inertial Confinement Fusion Program. While a rational mind might believe that this would be the end of the matter, and that the DOE would finally produce the documents we had sought in response to Judge Illston?s order, this did not occur.

Rather, the DOE waited for an additional ten months to produce the relevant documents. Finally, just when the DOE knew that Tri-Valley CAREs was on the verge of filing another motion before Judge Illston complaining of the DOE?s continuing recalcitrance, the DOE produced the responsive documents.

The lessons here? First, when the DOE desires to keep a veil of secrecy over its nuclear weapons work, it takes a litigation to force the agency to comply with its clear legal obligation under the FOIA to produce government documents to the interested public. Further, it takes an excellent attorney, and we were fortunate to have Steve Sugarman behind us on this. And, finally, the lesson is that, yes, it is possible for a small, dedicated, determined group to win in court.

Many of the NIF documents we received outline time frames for solving technical problems. Many of those dates are here or fast approaching -- and we will be following up to ask "what's happening?". Thus, our legal victory will allow us to better track the NIF project. Stay tuned.


In Search of Those "Missing" WMDs

by Inga Olson
From Tri-Valley CAREs August 2003 Citizen's Watch newsletter

In reference to Iraq?s so called nuclear weapons development program, local Representative Ellen Tauscher said, ?We went off the tracks big time. The President in the State of the Union address talked about uranium. It was patently false, and people knew it was false.?

So what happened? Who said what and when? President Bush, apparently inaccurately, said that British intelligence indicated that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa in his State of the Union address on January 28. According to Voice of America news, a classified intelligence assessment was circulated within the Bush administration well before the State of the Union address. According to the CIA, the document stated clearly that U.S. officials could not verify foreign allegations of a possible sale by Niger to Iraq, nor confirm reports Iraq sought uranium from other African countries and stated these claims were ?highly dubious.?

In fact, the Washington Post reports that the CIA sent National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice a memo directly about this. The Post also mentions that when things started to heat up, Rice is the administration official who fingered CIA Director George Tenet. In support of the language in the State of the Union address, Rice claimed other intelligence agencies did not have a problem with the view that Iraq was rebuilding its nuclear program. However, in the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) produced by the State Department, it said there was not ?a compelling case? and that the government was ?lacking persuasive evidence that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program."

In a briefing on Air Force One on July 11, Rice said the White House and CIA had ?some discussion? on the African uranium sentence in Bush's State of the Union address. She said, ?some specifics about amount and place were taken out -- and with the change in that sentence, the speech was cleared.? Later, Ari Fleischer said Rice told him she was not referring to the State of the Union, but to an October speech. However, in Bush's October speech the controversial language had been removed, not cleared.

Apparently, the Vice President's office was directly involved in this scandal. Former African Ambassador Joseph Wilson was sent by the CIA, in response to a request from Vice President Cheney's office, to check out reports of Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium from Niger. Both he and the Bush Ambassador to Niger concluded that there was little chance of any such transaction having transpired. He is reported to have no doubt that his conclusion reached the Vice President's office.

According to the BBC, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said the use of ?murky intelligence? is justified in the war on terror, if it prevents future attacks. However, Senator Carl Levin said, ?it sure didn't sound murky before the war. There were clear connections, we were told, between al-Qaeda and Iraq. There was no murkiness, no nuance, no uncertainty about it at all. It was very clear, very certain. That's the way it was presented to the American people,? Levin told CBS.

Meanwhile, a joint task force of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society released a report suggesting that if the U.S. does not sharply increase its commitment to peacekeeping and reconstruction in Afghanistan, the country could quickly collapse into the chaos that resulted in the rise of the Taliban. Another issue not being readily picked up by the press is the use of depleted uranium that was used in population centers in Iraq, which raises questions about the Geneva Convention.

So, what is at the bottom of this intelligence scandal? Apparently, a parallel intelligence agency called the Office of Special Plans (OSP) or the ?cabal? as they referred to themselves was set up. It is operated under the command of Rumsfeld, the idea came from his top deputy Paul Wolfowitz, and is directly overseen by Undersecretary of Defense Policy Douglas Feith. Greg Thielmann, who ran military assessments at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research until he retired in October, says it is still unclear why the civilian-run office was formed. In a salon.com article, he asks, ?Do they have expertise in Iraqi culture, are they missile experts, nuclear engineers?? Rep. Tauscher says, ?The concern is they were in the cherry-picking business -- cherry-picking half-truths and rumors and only highlighting pieces of information that bolstered the administration's case for war.?

The OSP was reportedly an open conduit to the White House for the Iraqi opposition, and it developed close ties to a parallel intelligence operation inside Ariel Sharon's office in Israel. According to the salon.com article this continued a long-standing relationship Mr. Feith had with Israel's Likud party. In 1996, Feith and Richard Perle -- now an influential Pentagon figure -- served as advisers to the then Likud leader, Benjamin Netanyahu. In a policy paper they wrote, entitled ?A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,? the two advisers said that Hussein would have to be destroyed, and Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iran would have to be overthrown or destabilized, for Israel to be truly safe.

So what can we all do to address this problem now? Both Rep. Henry Waxman and Rep. Ellen Tauscher have similar bills calling for investigations. (They are co-sponsors of each other's bills.) Tauscher's bill, HR 307, sets up a House Select Committee that has subpoena power to ensure the committee gets the information it needs. The committee's work is to be concluded before the '04 presidential elections. Waxman's bill is HR 2625. One action is to contact your elected representatives with your support for investigating this scandal.. Or, write a letter to the editor. Or, you can find a Council for a Livable World petition at www.clw.org/iraqintelligence/wmdcartoon.html. Moveon.org has a pledge to reveal the truth that you can send to Congress at www.moveon.org/moveonbulletin/bulletin21.html.

And, you can join us on August 10 at Livermore Lab -- where you will find plenty of real evidence of weapons of mass destruction!


Action Alerts

by Marylia Kelley
From Tri-Valley CAREs August 2003 Citizen's Watch newsletter

Each year, nuclear weapons funding goes through two Congressional processes -- authorization and appropriations. Further, any differences between the House and Senate versions of either bill go to a conference committee for a final reconciliation. This year, as your August newsletter arrives, the fiscal year 2004 budget process is still underway. And, you still have an opportunity to be heard on key nuclear weapons issues.

Senate Appropriations. The Senate is expected to vote on its version of the energy and water appropriations bill in September, after the August recess. The bill includes funding for the Dept. of Energy?s nuclear weapons programs. The Bush Administration wants $15 million for continued research on the ?Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator,? a high yield nuclear bunker buster, and $6 million for specific research on other advanced nuclear weapons concepts, mostly mini-nukes. Other items include $25 million for ?enhanced readiness? to conduct a full-scale nuclear test and $22 million to speed the process for siting a new plutonium bomb core production plant, called the Modern Pit Facility.

House Appropriations. On July 18, the House passed its version of the energy and water appropriations bill. Thanks to hard work by a number of Members of Congress -- and the pressure brought to bear by phone calls and letters from the public -- the House voted to cut $10 million out of the $15 million requested for the RNEP. The House also cut all of the $6 million slated for the Advanced Concept Teams to continue their research on mini-nukes. Further, the House cut the $25 million for ?enhanced readiness? to blast full-scale underground tests in Nevada and trimmed $12 million from the $22 million requested for a new plutonium pit factory.

This was a huge victory for peace advocates. However, to make certain the nuclear weapons budget is actually cut at the end of this process, your Senators must step up now and offer budget-cutting amendments to match the House.

Appropriations Action. Contact your Senators. Urge them to block funding for new nuclear weapons when the energy and water appropriations bill reaches the Senate floor. Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Defense Authorization. The issue here is the mini-nuke ban. In the authorization process so far, the Senate repealed the ban that had existed since fiscal year 1994 on research and development leading to the production of mini-nukes, defined as nuclear weapons with yields of less than 5 kilotons. The Senate voted to repeal it -- substituting a weak measure requiring only that the DOE obtain authorization before embarking on a mini-nuke?s ?formal? development phase. The House language, while not perfect, is substantially better. The House did roll back the ban on the early R&D stages, but held the ban on any mini-nuke design going into ?formal? development. This will go to conference committee for final resolution after the August recess.

Authorization Action: Contact your Senators and your Representative. If s/he will be on the conference committee, ask him/her to go with the House language on mini-nukes. If s/he is not on the committee, ask him/her to contact conferees and ask them to work to preserve the ban. Call our office if you would like the list of conferees. Call your Members of Congress today at (202) 224-3121.

Back to Citizen's Watch Index