November 25, 2003
Contact: Stan Goff or Jim Warren
Report released: Bush administration degrading national security to protect financial interest of nuclear energy industry; Calls Bush administration rhetoric “Orwellian patriotism-for-profit”
DURHAM, NC – In the George Orwell classic 1984, the monolithic security state called “Big Brother” combined “doublethink” with “newspeak” to create doublespeak, where “peace” meant “war” and “love” meant “hate.” A new report from the North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network (NC WARN) shows the Bush administration using “homeland security” to mean “homeland security neglect” when it comes to the giant energy corporations that run the ill-protected nuclear power industry. The administration’s “security for sale” mentality could result in an unprecedented radiological catastrophe.
“Our research shows the Bush administration’s deep antagonism to government and corporate whistleblowers,” says Stan Goff, NC WARN’s security analyst, who is a retired military Special Operations expert. “Federal regulatory agencies – especially the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission – are now complicit in financially-motivated industry cover-ups of glaring security weaknesses.”
Deep financial ties are shown in the report between the energy industries – particularly nuclear utilities – and the executive branch. The emphasis this administration has put on compromising civil liberties ostensibly to increase security, says the group, has paradoxically done the opposite as the Bush-Ashcroft security state has aimed its newfound post 9/11 power at citizen watchdogs and regulatory oversight.
“Secrecy is being systematically invoked by the Bush administration to conceal security weaknesses on behalf of their corporate patrons’ bottom line, ” commented Goff. “Meanwhile the so-called security at nuclear power plants and many other targetable facilities is based more on blind faith than substance, and if put to the test by any committed group will go down like a chicken-wire canoe.”
The NC WARN study entitled “Are you more secure today than before September 11?” prominently cites three recent publications that indicate an increasing threat to nuclear facilities in the United States and a Bush administration response that has sacrificed security to protect the financial interests of energy corporations: A Government Accounting Office (GAO) report on aviation security showing that 70 light aircraft have been stolen inside the US in the last five years, a Vanity Fair article on a nuclear security whistleblower who was ousted from the Department of Energy for reporting security failures, and a Department of Homeland Security alert that there are plans afoot to attack US nuclear power plants with airplanes – a contingency the nuclear power industry has falsely and knowingly claimed poses no danger to the public.
Gordon Thompson of the Institute for Research and Security Studies points out that small general aviation aircraft can do exactly what a Cruise missile can do: fly 600 miles under radar and deliver hundreds of pounds of high explosive with pinpoint precision.
Rich Levernier, fired from the Department of Energy for reporting security weaknesses to his superiors, ran mock terrorist teams that breached security at nuclear weapons facilities in half of their force-on-force exercises. By extension, Goff points out, “given that nuclear power plants have markedly weaker security, and themselves fail force-on-force exercises against untrained three-person teams in half their exercises, it is safe to assume that a larger, more well-trained team [like Levernier’s] could penetrate a nuclear power facility close to 100 percent of the time.”
The Homeland Security alert said US intelligence indicated that nuclear power plants are targeted now. But the Bush government has resisted upgrading security at every turn, and now classifies as secret even the criteria upon which their protection is based.
NC WARN’s research showed a series of deceptions by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) including a report they buried from 1982 that showed an aircraft hitting a nuclear power plant could melt down the reactor, ignite the spent fuel pools, and kill thousands before they could evacuate. The NRC began denying this could happen on September 11 and had to recant on September 21, saying that while nuclear plants are vulnerable to destruction, other facilites are more likely to be targeted. For the latter claim, they provided no evidence.
“Our report weaves together these pieces to show a dangerous pattern,” explains Jim Warren, executive director of NC WARN, “of invoking ‘national security’ not to protect the general population, but to protect energy corporations and industry-obedient regulatory bureaucracies from exercising their mandate to provide oversight and accountability.”
“While the NRC and other business-friendly regulatory agencies were busily protecting their corporate clients from the costs of security upgrades,” says Goff, “George Bush and John Ashcroft were taking unprecedented measures to scapegoat immigrants and re-legitimize racial profiling. The administration tried to intimidate the public from dissent by making the ‘with us or with the terrorists’ statement, they now want to marginalize and even criminalize people for telling the truth about weakened security. This is one of the most Orwellian patriotism-for-profit scams imaginable.”