Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Silkwood Narrative, Linda Thompson, American Justice Federation. AEN News,
From: email@example.com (Linda Thompson, American Justice Federation)
Subject: 2/4 Murder: Note the Defense Contractors Named Status: U
(screwed up the first message, it said 1/1 and should have been 1/4) If this arrives garbled, please let me know. We've had great difficulty sending/receiving this text due to intentional interference with email traffic.
Courtesy of one of our great sources who prefers to remain unknown.
Summary: Kohn, Howard. Who Killed Karen Silkwood?, New York, New York, Summit Books, 1981. Kohn is an award-winning investigative reporter and Senior Editor at Rolling Stone magazine. He investigated the Silkwood case since 1974.
AEN NEWS (Alternative Energy News or Associated Electronic News?)
This book went far beyond the film. The anti-nuclear movement got its jump-start as a result of Silkwood's murder in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. But Silkwood was not the only martyr to the cause. Many others lost jobs, forfeited savings, had to go into hiding, and lost their good names due to smears after they came forward to testify to the blatant cruelty to nuclear workers, smuggling nuclear material and selling it on the black market, loss of privacy, illegal wiretapping, secret surveillance, and illegal and unethical practices with regard to intentional violations of nuclear safety guidelines.
Many law enforcement personnel in Oklahoma City were later discovered to have been members of the Red Squad, cooperating with Kerr-McGee's goons in illegal practices after having attended a secret spy school alongside CIA-types from all over the world.
Silkwood, an employee, had been secretly collecting evidence about Kerr-McGee's violations which were endangering the lives of untold numbers of people, not just at Kerr-McGee's plant, but at all the government nuclear plants all over the country to which Kerr-McGee's defective fuel rods had been shipped, rods which could create meltdowns.
Fuel rods are about as thin as a pencil, eight feet long, metal, and stuffed with plutonium pellets, after which the rods are welded shut, a precision weld which had to be smooth. The welds were then tested and x-rayed for defects. The Atomic Energy Commission was paying Kerr-McGee for the rods. But the real profit for Kerr-McGee was in the fact that they were getting in on the ground floor of nuclear energy, being the first oil company to do so, which later gave them a monopoly.
The way fast-breeders work puts incredible pressure on the rods. If plutonium leaks out of a rod through one tiny hairline crack, the other rods can blister and swell, which, in turn, can block off the coolant. The rods then overheat, fuse together, creating a meltdown, the big one. There was a new book out called We Almost Lost Detroit about the only fast-breeder to go on line in the United States, a commercial nuclear plant named Fermi near Detroit, the one that had a criticality and almost melted down.
After collecting substantial evidence against Kerr-McGee, Silkwood was on her way to a secret meeting to turn over the evidence to David Burnham, a New York Times reporter who had broken the Frank Serpico story, and to Steve Wodka, a union official from Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International. On her way to the meeting, Karen Silkwood was killed when her Honda was run off the road, crashing head on into a cement culvert lining a creek a mile past the Kerr-McGee factory.
Silkwood had been a trophy-winning race car driver on the autocross circuit where she had to nimbly navigate by twisting, braking, and racing her Honda through numerous pylons in a matter of seconds. She had won first place.
The night of her murder, Burnham and Wodka visited the site. The evidence they saw there told the story:
The car had crossed the center line, moving left to the wrong side of the road, and had gone off onto the left shoulder, a grassy embankment that dropped away sharply from the pavement. Yet the car had skittered a good length along the shoulder, almost a hundred yards, parallel to the road. "Why the hell didn't she get back on?" Wodka wondered. It was almost as if another car had driven alongside and forced Karen to stay on the shoulder.
Jack Tice, chairman of the local union, said that recently Karen had been upset and alarmed because she thought someone was out to get her. She was sick with a bad lung infection, her voice "full of gulps and hissing exhalations." She was jumpy, anxious, and lacking sleep. She started taking Quaaludes to help her sleep. During the autopsy, it was discovered that she had taken one Quaalude the previous night. In her notebook, she had written, "the company knows something's going on."
She was reporting in once a week to Wodka, telling him of the evidence she was collecting in her manila folder. Wodka recorded some of the conversations, recordings which were later used at trial. In the recordings, she spoke of the photomicrographs, the X-rays, and the missing plutonium.
During her daring investigation, she also spoke to James Noel, a science teacher, friend, and former co-worker at Kerr-McGee. Noel had made notes in his daily journal, notes which also were later used at trial. He wrote that she said, "There's just so much wrong. Every day I'm finding out stuff you wouldn't believe. I swear, you wouldn't believe it." He also wrote down her quote about the nuclear material unaccounted for - seventeen kilograms, which was about forty pounds. His journal was later introduced as evidence at the trial.
Silkwood had already decided to leave Kerr-McGee. In one of her last conversations with her sister, Rosemary, she had asked Rosemary to pick up job applications for her. Rosemary told her to come home the next day. Silkwood had responded, "I just gotta finish one thing first."
After the murder, the Highway Patrol swiftly and prematurely concluded that she fell asleep during this ten minute drive, resulting in a one-car accident, despite evidence to the contrary.
While waiting for Silkwood, Wodka's motel telephone was inexplicably dead during the critical hours. Later he began using pay phones due to his suspicions. Wodka's union boss, Tony Mazzocchi, authorized him to hire an investigator, A. O. Pipkin, a former policeman who specialized in traffic accidents. Pipkin concluded it was no accident, that Silkwood was not alone on the highway, that she was not asleep, and that another vehicle had rammed her from behind.
He discovered in the left rear bumper of Silkwood's car a two inch long, three quarter inch wide gouge in the steel. On the fender next to the bumper, was another large dent. Finding these "mighty damn suspicious," Pipkin performed extensive tests. The dents, made by a blunt object, contained no road film, indicating that they had been made the night of the accident. According to Newtonian physics, if Silkwood had been asleep, her car would have drifted right, following the slope of the road. Instead, it had shot left, up over the crown in the center of the road onto the left shoulder where it then straightened out, "indicating she was awake and trying to return to the pavement."
Another thing: the impact of a limp, sleeping body against the steering wheel would not have so drastically altered its shape. The wheel had been concaved to the point of fracture, the halves shoved so far forward they almost overlapped. Obviously, Karen had braced her hands against it....The tracks and furrows were those of a car squirting over the center line and spinning off the road, not drifting. The rear left wheel actually spun off first, making three tracks instead of two in the mud and grass where it left the road.
It appeared that Karen's autocross experience had kept her from panicking and helped her regain control. She had managed to hug the shoulder, driving next to the road for two hundred and forty feet. Perhaps her assailant was hogging the road, preventing her return. In any case she was still on the grass when the culvert loomed. The car hit the short north wingwall [of the V-shaped creek culvert] and jumped. Karen's final act was to clutch the steering wheel as the car sailed with savage accuracy across twenty-four feet of creek bed into the south wall. The Highway Patrol then tried to say that the dents were because the tow truck operator had banged the car into the culvert cement wall while lifting it out of the creek. But the tow-truck driver, Sebring, said his men never banged the car. There had been no jarring or scraping sound. Not only that, but Sebring had pulled the car out over the grass in order to not bang it up any more. "It didn't come close to the wingwall....It was a good five, six feet away."
Wodka thought the new Highway Patrol report was perhaps a "put-up job." Pipkin also ran chemical tests on the dents. The dents contained fragments of metal and rubber, but no concrete, evidence clearly contradictory to the Highway Patrol report. In response, the Highway Patrol decided not to take their own samples. In fact, they hadn't examined the car since the accident. When pressed for more information, they said the case had been turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Questions should be directed to them.
Strangely, however, Pipkin had never been contacted by any agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The idea that she had fallen asleep in a drug stupor was ludicrous. Six toxicologists said fifty milligrams "is not necessarily enough to induce drowsiness," while one government toxicologist said it was. Her adrenalin was probably pumping because she was so excited, and shivering as well because it was so cold. The shoulder of the road was like a washboard. Who could have slept through it? And it was on an incline. She would have had to struggle to keep the car headed straight all that way. No one could do that while asleep. Her arms had to have been braced to have bent the steering wheel so far back. No one does that while asleep or in a stupor.
One Highway Patrolman said he had placed all of Silkwood's possessions in her car, which was then towed to a garage. He said he had picked up some papers from the mud, placing them in the car as well. A police officer from another town, Guthrie, had also witnessed the papers strewn in the mud and creek, about fifty of them.
But later investigation revealed that none of the her possessions in the car included her prized and hard won folder of evidence. The papers that were there bore no Kerr-McGee insignias, no photomicrographs, no copies of Kerr-McGee documents, none of the hard evidence she had painstakingly spent seven weeks collecting, but only about a dozen union papers, none of which had evidence of having been in the mud or the creek, and none of which bore the Kerr-McGee insignia.
Someone stole the documents out of her car in the garage. That was when the cover up began.
While she was investigating, Silkwood spoke of dishonesty, disregard, and fraud committed by Kerr-McGee. Prior to Silkwood, attempts to unionize in Kerr-McGee's various factories and mines were few, all dismal failures. In one, coal miners had struck for six months: Kerr-McGee never budged an inch. In another, an entire town refused credit to any potash workers to stop the walk out. In another, Kerr-McGee refused to pay any compensation to Navajo mine workers: Out of a hundred uranium miners, eighteen were dead and twenty-one were terminal with a rare lung disease. During Silkwood's unionizing efforts, one strike led to a Kerr-McGee ultimatum: Either go back to work or else their jobs would be given away. Kerr-McGee fought the union further with petty harassments, transfers, threats of violence, and ugly remarks.
When she began her attempts to unionize, partially it was because she had realized how poorly the workers had been educated about the deadly effects of radiation. Even after being poisoned numerous times, no one at Kerr-McGee had ever informed Silkwood that plutonium causes cancer. None of the other workers had been informed either. Eighty percent of the workers had under two years experience. Workers thought it was harmless play to shoot at each other with uranium pellets from an air gun. Kerr-McGee had done its best to keep people uninformed: In compliance with a regulation to notify the public that it was going into the business of nuclear energy, Kerr-McGee put the ad in the smallest newspaper around that no one read.
An anonymous tipster revealed that there had been numerous spills, that the floorboards of a truck had been eaten all the way through with plutonium, and that there were holes in the Kerr-McGee gloveboxes used by workers to stuff the pellets into the fuel rods, all charges which were later corroborated.
Kerr-McGee attempted to make do with secondhand equipment and untrained kids on a staff which had a sixty percent turnover rate.
Kerr-McGee had ordered defects in the welding of rods to be ground down and disguised to get around the Atomic Energy Commission requirements, shorten production time, and increase profits. The defects in the welding included bubbles, occlusions, voids, hairline fractures, and cracks. It didn't matter what the quality of the weld, Kerr-McGee was passing all of them, a practice which got worse as they speeded up their time table from one pellet lot every three weeks to one every week. Silkwood pointed out to her union supervisor that she had one particular weld she would love for him to see because of how far down they had to grind it to get rid of the defects.
On one occasion, five gloveboxes had leaks. The room was so hot that the health physician ordered it shut down for clean up, but the supervisor overruled the health physician and ordered production to continue on as if nothing were wrong.
In one spill after another, Silkwood had to collect her urine and feces into bioassay kits to be saved for later analysis in the lab to determine whether she had been poisoned internally. In one spill, she had been assigned to vacuum up spilled plutonium. After the task was completed, she discovered plutonium splattered on her face and hands resulting from the previous user not cleaning the vacuum after the last spill.
In another spill, a leak had been detected in a glovebox she had been using which required another round of bioassay kits.
Silkwood discovered that gloveboxes which were damaged with blisters and cracks had simply been covered over with masking tape. A bunch of plutonium pellets were rolling around in the bottom of a desk drawer. Contaminated wipes were used to clean equipment. Equipment for self-monitoring was not used. Spills were tracked from one room to another. Spills weren't recognized or dealt with properly. Dirty filters were used in the mouthpieces of respirators. Pipes and gaskets were leaking and corroded.
When a spill happened, Kerr-McGee was supposed to stop production to decontaminate. Instead, workers were forced to work in respirators the rest of the week: Decontamination occurred on the weekend, if at all.
There was failure by Kerr-McGee to minimize contamination. There was also poor monitoring of safety and health conditions. Samples of the air were taken, but were either not counted immediately or the results were delayed. During the night shift, there was no repairman on duty. Plutonium was stored in such a way that risked criticalities. There were cracks around the glovebox windows. The tape used to seal the cracks was peeling. Uranium dust was found in the workers' lunchroom.
In similar spills at other plants, a pipe for radioactive waste had been inadvertently hooked up to the workers' drinking fountain. Every time they took a drink, they were dosed. In another plant, the dose of radiation had been found to be eight times more than allowed by code in the workers' lunchroom.
In another instance, a sick worker fainted. Silkwood rescued the worker when a Kerr-McGee health physician tried to use a packet of smelling salts but didn't know enough to break it open first. When the resuscitator arrived, it was useless because the adaptor was broken. Finally, an ambulance took the worker away. When alarms went off indicating a leak or a spill at Kerr-McGee, workers were told to ignore it as a false alarm.
Silkwood was a spirited fighter. At one point she became upset with the fact that her supervisors would not enforce safety regulations, but bothered to enforce dress code regulations: When the heaters broke down at work, they refused to allow Silkwood to wear a sweater under her company uniform. The next day, she protested by not wearing any underwear beneath her uniform. When her supervisor confronted her, she told him she was only following company rules.
Because she had the strength of her convictions, she was asked to run for a position on the bargaining committee for the upcoming contract talks, a position with no pay and a lot of work. The workers voted and elected her.
When a co-worker, Jean Jung, was dosed, Silkwood told her to go get a nasal smear immediately, the test revealing plutonium in Jung's nostrils. The health physician on duty told Silkwood she had no business being present with Jung, who was terrified, shaking, and crying. Silkwood informed him to read the contract: She was staying put to hold Jung's hand. Then the health physician replied that he was not going to do any more talking.
When she discovered the Kerr-McGee fraud where defects in the fuel rods were being masked over, she volunteered to get the hard evidence by stealing the X-rays to turn over for public scrutiny.
Silkwood helped to organize a union meeting for the workers to attend so they could learn from the experts about radiation. Dr. Donald Geesaman had worked as a physicist and researcher for the Atomic Energy Commission for thirteen years. When his experiments revealed that plutonium gas caused cancer, he requested a review of radiation standards. His superiors not only refused, but fired him for insubordination. He was now a professor. Geesaman informed the workers that they don't have to have a criticality to die from plutonium: Just a small speck could cause cancer.
Dr. Dean Abrahamson was a physicist, physician, ordained minister, and professor. He had resigned from Babcock & Wilcox when he realized they compulsively sought loopholes for their nuclear business. He told the workers that they should have been informed from their very first day on the job that plutonium causes cancer. He quoted Dr. Glenn Seaborg who had named plutonium. He said that it "is fiendishly toxic. It's a thousand times more deadly than nerve gas, twenty thousand times more deadly than cobra venom."
The workers were told that the standards were overly optimistic because they had been based on animal research. Exact data was hard to come by because cancer takes twenty or thirty years to develop in humans. "The human experiments are going on right now....You're the guinea pigs."
At work, she was found to be contaminated three times in three days, having to go through the painful scrub down with Clorox, Tide, even harsher abrasives, and a bristling brush. But two of those days she had spent doing paper work at her desk, never going near plutonium.
That was when they decided to check her apartment. Everything Silkwood had touched at home was contaminated. The source was a package of baloney in the refrigerator. Men wearing moon suits and life-support gear showed up to take away all of her possessions in steel drums. In three hours, her place was stripped, the contents held in the custody of Kerr-McGee. As Silkwood stood watching in shock, crying, Morgan Moore, a high official with Kerr-McGee dropped by with his company lawyer in tow.
This was a significant event in many ways. It was significant in the sense that it provided Kerr-McGee with the opportunity to search Silkwood's home and all of her possessions. They could even search behind the walls. It was also significant in the sense that their response to Silkwood's shock, hysteria, and contamination in her home, an unprecedented event, was not to seek medical treatment or counseling for her, but to seek legal counsel for themselves.
Later Silkwood called Wodka, crying and upset, saying she thought she was dying. Wodka consulted Dr. Dean Abrahamson, who told Silkwood she needed a full body count for which she had to fly to Los Alamos, New Mexico, one of only six places in the country which was equipped with an in vivo counter. Only after Wodka insisted, did Kerr-McGee pay for Silkwood, her boyfriend, and her roommate to fly to Los Alamos, all three to be tested.
Silkwood then stopped by her home, slipped past the quarantine signs, and retrieved her package of evidence. "They didn't get the stuff," she later told Drew, her boyfriend. She then had to find another hiding place.
The Atomic Energy Commission came to interview her at length because a contamination in someone's home had never happened before in the history of nuclear power. Wodka flew in as well. Wodka asked the Atomic Energy Commission to stay at a different motel, suspecting motel workers were tipping Kerr-McGee to the supposedly surprise inspections.
During the interview, it was discovered that Silkwood had eaten two sandwiches made from the hot baloney. Atomic Energy Commission inspectors patronizingly informed her that there had never been a single case of anyone dying or being seriously injured from this kind of accident, a notion that Wodka found unbelievable. Silkwood also told them that she couldn't have accidentally brought home any plutonium because she always monitored herself prior to leaving work. Besides, she hadn't been near any on the last two of the three days.
The Atomic Energy Commission brought with them a man who specialized in keeping up a good image for nuclear power by controlling headlines and stopping discussion in the community. As a result of his cover up efforts, none of Silkwood's neighbors ever found out her home had been contaminated.
The Atomic Energy Commission then interviewed Jack Tice, asking him if Silkwood would have dosed herself with radiation, and asking him who the anonymous tipster had been.
Prior to flying to Los Alamos, Silkwood had given Wodka part of the evidence, two notebooks full of her written documentation. She said that the rest of the evidence was in a safe place.
When Los Alamos had first been created, it was a secret city: None of the government workers could vote, file legal papers, or send uncensored mail. For all practical purposes, they didn't exist. "For a while all the plutonium in the world was kept there in a storeroom, inside a cigar box."
A Los Alamos scientist also spoke to Silkwood patronizingly, telling her that most nuclear materials lost their ability to hurt anyone after only a few months or years. What he did not tell Silkwood was that plutonium is different: It stays active for 240,000 years, a fact which Silkwood already had learned from Drs. Geesaman and Abrahamson.
When she returned to work, Kerr-McGee had assigned a security guard to track her every move, following one step behind her everywhere she went. Kerr-McGee said it was for her protection.
Later that night at a union meeting, she told Jung, "Somebody's got it in for me, Jean. The way I got dosed was no accident. Somebody's out to get me....But those [Atomic Energy Commission] inspectors act like I did it to myself."
After the union meeting was when she was supposed to meet with Burnham from the New York Times and Wodka to deliver all the evidence. The meeting place was the Holiday Inn Northwest. When Wodka arrived, the motel "had lost his reservation and given away his room. He would have to bunk the night with Burnham. Burnham had a room, but the phone in it was dead." Once they received the news that Silkwood had been killed, the phone magically began working again.
After investigating the case only a short time, Burnham had to leave. Over his objections, he was ordered back to Washington, D.C. by his editors. Later, he quit writing articles altogether because "the case had been officially closed. The Justice Department, relying on the FBI's investigation, had ruled that Karen's death was an accident."
After Silkwood was murdered, her boyfriend, Drew, discovered her camera was missing from his apartment. He suspected his place had been searched. He installed new locks. He also felt certain he was being followed and kept under surveillance.
Many strange things happened during the investigation. For example, the tow-truck operator normally on duty during the night watch, George Martin, was called to tow Silkwood's car out of the culvert. But half way there, he was called off of this job by radio, a particularly peculiar event since it had been a Code Two call, meaning someone was pinned inside a vehicle. Instead, Ted Sebring, the day man, was called. Sebring had to leave a party and come out in his nice clothes to tow the car. It was suspected that this move was to buy time for someone to steal Silkwood's manila folder of evidence.
After Pipkin had called in his conclusions regarding his traffic accident investigation, he obtained a second opinion from Dr. B. J. Harris, a structural engineer. Harris concurred: It had been a hit and run accident.
Only four days after Silkwood's murder and sometime after Pipkin had called in his conclusions, a road crew was destroying all the evidence, ripping up the dirt and grass on the shoulder of the highway, changing the slant of the road, eliminating the rising crown in the middle of the road. Strangely, only a few miles on either side of the culvert was being repaved. The measurements Pipkin and Harris made would never be the same again.
Some of Tice's union workers were chased down the highway at high speeds.
Sherri, Silkwood's roommate, was terrified because "on her first night in her new apartment burglars had broken in and ransacked the few things she had left." A news crew did tests on Pipkin's theories on the newly paved road using a car identical to Silkwood's, without knowing the road had been repaved. Half the time the driver found that it went left and half the time right. Only later, from viewing helicopter footage did the news crew understand why: The road crown had been eliminated. During the investigation and subsequent courtroom proceedings, Kerr-McGee was meticulous in following headquarters' instructions to not discuss the case.
It was discovered that in 1971, a few Kerr-McGee employees were internally contaminated, but after the 1972 strike, it only got worse. After a citizen, Ilene Younghein, complained to the Atomic Energy Commission, they decided that people around the Kerr-McGee plant should be interviewed to find out whether they wanted to live next door. Kerr-McGee responded by writing to the Atomic Energy Commission that interviews were not "a proper subject of inquiry." Several months later, Kerr-McGee wrote a letter which they had two cities and one county send to the Atomic Energy Commission, each saying exactly the same thing word for word about how everyone liked the plant: This was their public survey, a put up job using manufactured evidence.
When nuclear power first emerged, the Atomic Energy Commission had a conflict of interest: On the one hand, it was supposed to promote the use of it, while on the other, be its policing agent as well. The local Atomic Energy Commission proved to be simply yes-men to Kerr-McGee. The Atomic Energy Commission was building an experimental nuclear reactor called a fast-breeder, a name given because of the ability of plutonium to reproduce itself. Two other fast-breeders had been attempted, but had to be shut down due to accidents.
In response to Ilene Younghein and her concerns, Atomic Energy Commission officials told her that you could get more radiation under a pine tree than you could from inside or outside a nuclear reactor.
The Atomic Energy Commission was required to set up a public documents room so the public could see the results of inspections done at Kerr-McGee. But they weren't required to inform the public about the room, its purpose, or its location. When Younghein, a local citizen investigating spills, finally located it, she discovered cardboard boxes piled in a heap, filled to overflowing with papers lying every which way. There was no index and no organization.
Further, when Younghein attempted to make copies of some of the documents exposing spills at Kerr-McGee, she discovered there was no copier at the library where the Atomic Energy Commission had chosen to put its public documents room. So she had to patiently transcribe it all by hand for days. She discovered that the anonymous tipster had been telling the truth. Kerr-McGee had been having accidents. In one of them, plutonium had eaten through a truck's floorboards, spilling onto the ground where the wind could take it anywhere.
When Younghein complained to the Atomic Energy Commission again, they patronized her with assurances that any violations that may have occurred had been corrected, that the truck had been buried, and that she needn't trouble herself anymore.
The Atomic Energy Commission issued a report which virtually exonerated Kerr-McGee on all thirty-nine violations which Silkwood had accumulated against them. Of the thirty-nine, it said, only twenty had merit. Of the twenty, only three were violations, just technicalities, for which Kerr-McGee was slapped on the wrist. There were no fines, no penalties, no punishments.
An honest congressional investigator named Stockton found the Atomic Energy Commission report extremely inept:
Every point of controversy had been glossed over. Health and safety conditions at Cimarron (a vaguely worded conclusion that everything was okay). The contaminations of Karen in her apartment (a one-sentence speculation that they were self-inflicted). The alleged defects in the fuel rods (a declaration that all fuel rods were up to snuff, though there had been some "irregularities"). The "missing" pounds of plutonium (no discussion of any sort).
Stockton confronted them about the fact that the possibilities were wide open as to who contaminated Silkwood's home because the back door was always left open, a country custom. When asked why they hadn't dusted for fingerprints, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Commission replied that Kerr-McGee people had already cleared everything out by the time they arrived on the scene and that Kerr-McGee had already concluded for the most part that Silkwood had done this to herself. Stockton wondered how they could possibly have made such conclusions so quickly: The spokesman said that it was logical because she was such a troublemaker. When Stockton countered that it was even more logical to assume that Kerr-McGee had done it, the spokesman became very uncomfortable and denied responsibility for sorting out who the bad guys were, passing the buck to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Another Atomic Energy Commission/Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman admitted to Stockton that Kerr-McGee did have missing plutonium problems in 1974 where they had to reinventory twice. But the mechanism for taking the inventory of plutonium involved allowing the company to self-select the test site on pipes, self-perform the test, and then guess as to the total amount left in all the rest of the pipes. When Stockton suggested that the Atomic Energy Commission would be at the mercy of the company, the Atomic Energy Commission inspector disliked the implication and replied, "You're assuming Kerr-McGee would have a reason to do that."
Around this time period, congress attempted to resolve the conflict of interest that existed within the Atomic Energy Commission, turning it into two agencies. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission would now be responsible for regulating. The Energy Resource and Development Administration would now be responsible for promoting. "On closer inspection the reform seemed to be only on paper. The acronyms had changed, but not the people or the policies." It was literally the same inspectors working out of the same offices, but with a new name. "The old Atomic Energy Commission regional director, James Keppler, was the new Nuclear Regulatory Commission regional director."
In one story written by Burnham, facts given indicated that out of over three thousand violations which had occurred in 1973 and 1974, the Atomic Energy Commission had handed down rulings involving only eight small fines.
Peter Stockton, a congressional investigator for Congressman Dingell, had become interested in the case. Even before he decided to investigate, someone from the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy dropped by to influence Stockton to not bother with the case since Silkwood was "a real mess, a weirdo."
Next, Stockton became suspicious when, after requesting a briefing with the Atomic Energy Commission, six top-ranking officials from the Atomic Energy Commission gave him his briefing: It was overkill. Their briefing amounted to slandering Silkwood and dirty talk about her sex life, subjects which Stockton did not find relevant. Their point was, who are you going to believe, a perverted kook or a "four-square corporation like Kerr-McGee?"
Stockton's boss, Congressman Dingell, referred the investigation on to the General Accounting Office, "which is a repository for...
Part 2 of 4 parts continued
...complicated, unpopular problems."
An official from Westinghouse told Stockton that forty-four pounds of plutonium was unaccounted for at Kerr-McGee, only to suddenly recant later. Others, including Atomic Energy Commission inspectors, said the same thing to journalist Burnham, but refused to go on the record.
One worker said that if Silkwood had kept her nose out of things, she would still be alive. Another told Stockton to get out of town or else he would be shot.
Win Turner, another honest congressional investigator, said the final Government Accounting Office report had problems. They had relied almost exclusively upon Kerr-McGee and the Atomic Energy Commission for all of their information. "The report reads like concentric circles." But the report said that security around nuclear energy plants was "inadequate at best." There were thirty-six violations in one plant alone. At two others, unauthorized people had gotten into high-risk areas. At another, doors were unlocked and alarms turned off. Three had huge holes in the surrounding fences. For the last twenty-three years, a total of eight thousand pounds of nuclear material, cumulative for all facilities, was missing. In one case, a whole truckload was missing.
The possibility existed that it was being sold either on the black market, or on the gray market, "an international consortium of seventy-nine companies from eighteen countries" known as the World Nuclear Fuel Market. About half were American companies, some of which had been shipping nuclear material overseas. Since 1973, after Nixon had slid through a legal loophole, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission only had to approve the first leg of the sale. Once the American companies sold it to European companies, it went anywhere. Prior to 1973 when only the government could sell nuclear material, these companies could have been charged with treason. In 1976 alone, sixty pounds of plutonium was sold through private commercial sales.
Congress was still unaware of what was happening with this gray market. The new loophole presented a vast temptation to companies to lie regarding the nuclear matter stuck in their pipes, stockpile it, then sell it secretly overseas. Munitions companies had been secretly doing it with weapons for years.
Turner thought that the Silkwood case smelled to high heaven. He was not willing to go so far as to say the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Government Accounting Office were covering up, but they certainly were not thorough in their investigations. "This lady was set to blow the whistle on Kerr-McGee, and they're trying to say she nodded off on her way to do it? I don't buy it." He wouldn't chalk it up to a drug overdose either.
Turner said that Stockton had "the impression there's a really powerful force that doesn't want the truth to come out."
Congressman Dingell and Senator Metcalf were reluctant to take the case because it was so controversial.
When Turner put in a standard request for plane fare to go investigate on site, his request was denied. Stockton and Turner went to find out why. They were told they just wanted to make trouble for people who had just been following orders and doing their jobs. Stockton and Turner objected, saying the case justified the request since it involved allegations of murder, fraud, and smuggling plutonium. Their answer: "You've been told national security is at stake. You're both old enough to take a hint. The case is out of bounds."
Stockton and Turner uncovered letters from the Atomic Energy Commission to Kerr-McGee dating back to November of 1972 and March of 1975 which referenced missing plutonium and warning Kerr-McGee about its lack of security. The Atomic Energy Commission's concern about it progressively worsened until it was requesting daily reports from Kerr-McGee. Then, inexplicably, the Atomic Energy Commission's attitude suddenly reversed: Inspectors were recalled and Kerr-McGee's operations were allowed to go forward with no further interference.
One news investigator was told by a Kerr-McGee executive, "All we have to do now is get rid of the rest of the trouble-makers." The executive went on to describe a plan to shut down Kerr-McGee temporarily so that lie-detector tests could be administered. Union organizers would not be hired back, but told they simply did not clear security.
True to the plan, when people were called back to work, the union organizers were let go, all except for one, Jack Tice, too close to the Labor Relations Board to fire. So they did the next best thing, restricted him to an isolated warehouse where organizing people was impossible since he never saw any.
Another employee verified the plan. One of the Kerr-McGee workers said that, when five workers had been contaminated on the job, their Kerr-McGee supervisors were saying "it was a deliberate masochistic act - and for this ostensible reason" they were shutting down and running lie detector tests. Workers had to pass security before they could return to work.
During the lie detector tests, which were designed by Jim Reading, Kerr-McGee's security chief, Kerr-McGee was asking some strange questions, none of which had anything to do with security, like:
Have you ever talked to Karen Silkwood? To Drew Stephens? To Steve Wodka? To Ilene Younghein? To the news media? Are you a member of the union? Have you been involved with anti-company or anti-nuclear activities? Have you ever had an affair with another employee? Do you know anyone who has?
Reading was, overall, a man who Nazis would have been proud to claim as their own. He had developed a band of personal stooges. They began rumors about Silkwood to smear her. They claimed she was a liar who had no proof and no documents. Because of the one Quaalude, they said she died in a drug stupor. Because of her attempts to improve safety, they said she was out to get the company, that she was trying to get the Atomic Energy Commission to yank Kerr-McGee's operating license.
People on the street believed the rumors. One of them felt she must have been a real dope addict to slam her car at fifty miles an hour into a cement culvert. The rumors were that she had a plan: "Sneak out plutonium, poison herself, blame the company, then commit suicide and hope that that too was blamed on Kerr-McGee."
Evidence showed otherwise: There had been seventy-three contaminations prior to Silkwood's that Kerr-McGee didn't care about, so why would seventy-four suddenly matter? Further, if Silkwood had wanted to embarrass Kerr-McGee, she would have done it at a Kerr-McGee site, not at her own apartment.
The disregard for workers was illustrated in some examples:
One guy got hot his first day there. He quit the next day, and no doctor was ever sent to diagnose him. Another time the company waited a full day to call in a doctor for seven workers who were hot, and it was four days before they were checked for lung damage.
When Silkwood's sister came to investigate, she was stopped by a young state trooper, who looked startled when he found out she was Silkwood's sister. The cop told her, "You best get yourself to Texas and stay there."
Kerr-McGee's assertion that there were no documents was contradicted by eyewitness testimony. One witness, Alma Hall, said she had seen Silkwood's file full of papers. Another witness testified to the same thing and more: Jung had seen her notebook, her Kerr-McGee documents, and Kerr-McGee photomicrographs. But Jung was terrified, crying, and begged investigators not to use her name: "They'd come after me for sure."
Later in the investigation, Jung's concerns also included her previous contaminations. Her hair had begun to fall out and she had a tumor in her neck. Later, after the tumor had been removed, packed in preservatives, and sent to Los Alamos for analysis to determine whether it had been infected with plutonium, strangely, the tumor had been detoured to the Dominican Republic and was lost. No one would ever know now.
When Silkwood's boyfriend, Drew, tried to pick up copies of magazines and newspapers which were carrying the Silkwood story, they were gone from the newsstand, "as if someone had hopscotched through town buying them all up."
When Drew suspected his phones had been bugged, he and Wodka conducted a test, talking up a decoy story over his phone. Shortly, Kerr-McGee's henchman, Reading, was around asking Drew all about it.
To be the object of secret intelligence gathering is an intimidating prospect, as Ilene Younghein discovered: A man had been calling her acquaintances, asking questions about her, using the guise that he was checking her references that she had given on a job application. But, Younghein had not applied for any jobs.
A whole group had assembled in the senator's office to request hearings. Merle and Bill Silkwood, Karen's mother and father, had traveled to Washington, D.C. to help make the request. It was while they were in Washington the day before they saw the senator that their other daughter, Rosemary, was in a strange accident in Nederland, the Silkwoods' home town. The accident seemed like a warning. She had been driving along an access road over by Beaumont and did not see the other driver until he shot out of a dead-end street, blindsiding her. Her reflexes were fast, fast and smart. She hit the accelerator and twisted the wheel hard right. The two cars passed close enough for the bumpers to make sparks....Coming out of the spin, her car banged head-on into a phone pole....The other driver had kept going, never touched horn or brake, never looked back. That was what bothered Mr. Silkwood most of all. An innocent driver would have stopped, would have made sure the pretty woman didn't need an ambulance.
Unfortunately, this was not the end of harassment for the Silkwood family. While Bill Silkwood was in Washington attending to the lawsuit, someone bothered Linda Silkwood, Karen's other sister. Someone claiming to be her mother called the school Linda attended. The person pretending to be Linda's mother talked to the school secretary, excused Linda from class, and said she would pick up Linda out front to take her to a doctor's appointment. Linda didn't know of any doctor's appointment, but followed the school secretary's instructions, going out front to wait. She had a bad feeling nagging at her. Then a strange car came racing up toward her, frightening her back inside where she phoned her mother. "Then she got really scared: her mother knew nothing of a doctor's appointment."
Reading, Kerr-McGee's security chief, was a former cop with quite a network of connections. He used it to smear Pipkin, pulling out old petty details given to him by the Pinkertons and friendly cops. Nitpicking stuff from an old audit by the Internal Revenue Service was placed in the newspapers to make Pipkin look shady. Srouji used the same stuff in her book to smear Pipkin.
Those likely to side with Silkwood were visited by Reading. He not only threatened their jobs, but conveyed the message that they should leave town while they still could.
Reading put together a dossier on Silkwood, including every rumor conceivable and focusing mostly on sexual material and allegations of homosexuality. Srouji said she had read Reading's transcripts of Silkwood's phone conversations, dozens of them: Apparently Reading had tapped her phones.
Drew said Silkwood told him that she had at one time sought love from her girlfriends out of bitterness toward Drew and Silkwood's former husband. It had been a short and unsatisfying experiment for her. But, her girlfriends said Silkwood had simply hung out at a few gay bars in an attempt to make Drew jealous, never sleeping with any women.
After lobbying the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department to get involved in the investigation, Mazzocchi, a union official, was in a strange car accident. He inexplicably blacked out while driving on the freeway, his car flipping over onto its roof upside down facing two lanes of oncoming traffic. Because he never drank to excess and had never blacked out before in his life, he was very suspicious that someone had slipped him a mickey. He demanded a blood test, which showed no trace of any knock-out pill. He even did an experiment later (with a friend to witness) to see what it would take to get drunk and to see whether he would pass out.
Later discussions with a veteran investigator, Taylor, revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency had drugs which could be absorbed through the skin, drugs which couldn't be traced with regular blood tests. Mazzocchi had not been wearing gloves the day he blacked out. He could have absorbed something from the steering wheel through the skin on his palms. Watergate investigations had revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency had a plan to do this very thing to Jack Anderson: It was never carried out because Anderson wore gloves when he drove.
Later in the case while Mazzocchi's wife was packing to move, a sophisticated bug had fallen off the back of the kitchen clock when she took it off the wall, a bugging device so sophisticated that no detector could pick it up. Its level of sophistication indicated it had to be obtained through the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, or somewhere like Audio Intelligence, a secret spy school for CIA-types.
Congressman Tom Bamberger, who held a low opinion of corporate morality, wanted to hold public hearings, an idea which implied that he "didn't have much faith in the Atomic Energy Commission inspectors" or the owners of Kerr-McGee. To hold hearings would go up against formidable resistance from Kerr-McGee. No witnesses wanted to talk in Kerr-McGee country. Kerr-McGee seemed to own the whole place. When he thought about using subpoena power to obtain company records, he didn't think it would be successful because the local judges would just quash the subpoenas "and never miss a beat." He said his best witness was dead, and, having heard the rumors, believed Silkwood had been a "sex-crazed pothead."
Bamberger's public hearings never happened: He was unable to get any support for them after Kerr-McGee spoke to the right people, not twisting arms, just purring. "They can purr real nice when they want."
There were disturbing comments from Silkwood's old roommate, Sherri Ellis. She isolated herself for the most part after Silkwood's murder. But one time she had been seen in town at a motel with "two men from Kerr-McGee, her face all red-eyed and screwed into a grimace." After that, she betrayed Silkwood by saying that the idea that Silkwood might steal plutonium to embarrass Kerr-McGee was an idea to be considered.
Sara, a Silkwood supporter and political activist, later spoke with Sherri and got the whole story of how Kerr-McGee had terrorized her when she was hardly more than a teenager:
If you've ever been locked up, you'd know what it was like. There were two of them, company men in white shirts; they took me to the Broadway Motor Inn. They didn't rough me up. But they kept me there a long time and made me believe I'd be the scapegoat if I didn't say Karen did it to herself. After a while I would've told them anything.
Sherri had been fired after hiring a lawyer to handle negotiations with Kerr-McGee about compensation: Plutonium had contaminated her, too. She got sick. Her gums were hurting. She couldn't keep down any solid foods, and her muscles ached all over. But her lawyer lost interest in the case real fast, as did the police. Her new apartment had been broken into twice within the first few weeks that she lived there. The police laughed at her, saying, if nothing was taken, then it didn't count. During the second break-in, someone had framed her, planting dope in her closet. After that, she went a little nuts, then quietly disappeared so they would leave her alone.
She disappeared to her grandmother's old, deserted farm, where she began to write a book about the case wherein Kerr-McGee was the culprit. The farm was isolated, no phone, and no close neighbors. After she went to town and showed her manuscript around, harassment started again. One day she heard noises and went to get her shotgun: It had been stolen. She saw a man's shadow around the corner of the house.
The ducks stopped shrieking and it got quiet. I slid under my bed and held my breath. Stayed there an hour, maybe two, listening for footsteps on the stairs. Couldn't hear a thing. Finally I got bold enough to come out. The man had laid a board across the porch railing and he'd put one of my ducks on the board. It was all stretched out; its neck was snapped. I took it to mean that's what I was gonna be, dead as a duck.
After that, she escaped to a Colorado cabin in the woods.
When confronted by Kitty Tucker and Sara Nelson, two political activists, about having dropped the case, Sara told a Justice Department representative, "Plutonium couldn't just grow in Karen's refrigerator. The dents in her car couldn't have happened by themselves." The Justice Department representative said the dents were caused by the tow-truck men and the car going off on the wrong side of the road was caused by a strong crosswind.
When asked for a copy of their report, he responded that in cases where there is no prosecution, they don't make their reports public. He then accused the women of watching too many who-dun-its on TV.
Later, when interviewed on the news, Sara informed them that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department were engaged in a cover up, one that congress should investigate.
Investigator Stockton formally requested copies of the Justice Department files, but was denied. The Justice Department spokesman said it was because the case was still under active investigation, when just the day before the whole case had been closed. The spokesman also said it was because part of the case was not available for review due to national security. When asked which part, he said he couldn't say due to national security.
Even after three months, Stockton was denied full access.
When it came to the plutonium unaccounted for, Stockton couldn't understand why the Federal Bureau of Investigation had not jumped all over the case. If someone had stolen it, the thief had to be someone high up in the company. A flunky couldn't manage it: Stealing a milligram per day would take hundreds of years. Stockton didn't think ten flunkies could manage it. Once the theft had been pulled off, they would have to have the contacts to sell it somewhere, either to the mob or a foreign power.
But as far as Stockton knew, the Federal Bureau of Investigation never even checked it out. When he called to ask the agent in charge in Oklahoma City, the agent told him that he had orders not to discuss the missing plutonium with anyone, not even the United States Senate.
Jackie Srouji had been a copy editor for a local newspaper in Nashville. But years ago, she had been turned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into a mole, secret spy who would report back to them. In the Silkwood case, she had access to secret FBI files which had been denied to congress. She was also writing a book on the Silkwood case, a put up job at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency. But no one knew this when she had been called to testify at the hearings. Unfortunately, she gave testimony which revealed nothing new. Only after lulling everyone to sleep with her dull recital, she then interjected insults about Silkwood's personal life which had nothing to do with the hearings and which were mere rumor, just character assassination.
Later, her book was also revealed to be merely another character assassination on Silkwood. Srouji said alleged narcotics paraphernalia had been discovered in Silkwood's possession, meaning glass beakers and a hog-nosed needle used in the kitchen for cooking. Stockton said, "Karen would've looked like a small-pox survivor if she'd ever jammed that into her skin." But Silkwood's body had no needle tracks and best friends confirmed that she never used a needle.
Srouji also mentioned an anonymous source, probably James Reading, who said that "if [Silkwood] was any kind of human being at all, do you think she would have left her three children? Lesbies don't care. They'll do anything, and that is a significant factor in this investigation."
The first move in the investigation made by Olson, an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had been to visit Reading at Kerr-McGee, excited about the dossier Reading had compiled on Silkwood. Olson's job had been to simply prove Kerr-McGee's side of things. He "devoted himself to finding everyone Karen had slept with." He would get really jacked up about anything that had a sexual angle. As soon as he heard about the contaminated baloney and the in vivo body count being high all through her vaginal area, it was obvious to him that Silkwood had been abusing herself with it: He had mistakenly assumed the baloney was the sausage type, not sliced.
Even the phony story about the sixty mile per hour crosswind making Silkwood's car veer on the highway came from the bureau. An old lady in Dallas phoned the FBI with some story about a howling crosswind. A check with the weather bureau revealed the wind that night to be fifteen miles an hour from the northwest, coming from behind the car, not a crosswind. But Olson took the old lady's report as gospel. It was no wonder the bureau resisted so hard when asked to turn over their files.
The dossier compiled by Reading was Kerr-McGee's insurance against Silkwood's family suing, lest Karen's private life be made into headlines. Olson introduced Srouji to Reading. Srouji's book was to be a sample of what could happen if the Silkwoods sued. At the request of the Central Intelligence Agency, Srouji was to write the book in order to have an excuse to make inroads in the nuclear industry: Olson had written in an FBI teletype, "It had been suggested that she write a book on the nuclear industry in order to make contacts in that area."
Olson's investigation for the Federal Bureau of Investigation seemed incompetent in the extreme. "You can't be as incompetent as he was without doing it deliberately. On everything crucial Olson fell down on the job." He even took Reading's word for it about the missing plutonium.
A man who had worked under Hoover and had been with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for forty years, now the number two man in the bureau, Nicholas Callahan, paid a visit to Senator Dingell's office after Srouji's admission that she had gotten access to secret bureau files. When Dingell asked about Srouji, Callahan attempted to intimidate him; told him he was badgering Kerr-McGee, the most important corporation in the state; said his Energy and Environment subcommittee should have little interest in the irrelevant area of a car accident; said the "people behind this are misguided fanatics. They see conspiracies everywhere. You have my word, the Bureau has given this case as much attention as anything since the Reverend King killing," a reassurance that was patently questionable.
At the hearings, Lawrence Olson, the FBI agent who had been Srouji's handler, came to testify. Strangely, he was accompanied by two extra agents who never left his side. Investigator Stockton couldn't decide if the extra agents were there to support him or keep him under guard. After testifying each day, Olson would then telephone Stockton at home late at night, begging that Srouji be left out of the questioning to prevent her from being hurt. He started the first phone call by saying, "Now I know what it feels like to be captured by the Gestapo." He also said the bureau could never afford to tell the truth in this matter and never would. He told Stockton that he was in over his head and would never be able to figure out what was going on because it was so complicated: "You'll go crazy trying" to figure it out.
Stockton later tried to speak to Olson alone at the hearings, but his guards were ever vigilant, at his side even in the men's room.
Congressman Dingell phoned John Seigenthaler, owner of the newspaper where Srouji worked in her cover position as a journalist. Dingell said, "You have an employee who claims to be in possession of secret FBI documents. She's either lying or she's in tight with the FBI. We'd like to know which."
Seigenthaler then investigated. Other employees verified that she had the best contacts when it came to the bureau. When he confronted Srouji, she broke down. She said the bureau was intimidating her, forced her to sign a paper saying she had never officially received any files. She said she had met Olson twelve years before when she became an informant for the bureau at age nineteen when she worked for James Stahlman, publisher of the Banner. Stahlman was a personal friend of Hoover. She infiltrated the Students for a Democratic Society, and hung out with students in New York and Berkeley, surveilling for the bureau. Now the bureau was threatening to smear Srouji by telling everyone she was a Soviet agent. She said the FBI sees communists everywhere, and had even asked about the radicals who worked for Seigenthaler. Seigenthaler said, "What radicals?" Srouji explained she had only been attempting to appease the bureau by telling them Seigenthaler's news editor was radical because he had spoken out against nuclear energy.
Seigenthaler was the nephew of a law enforcement career man, and was, himself, a law and order man who also required to see a warrant for any search. He had assisted Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Seigenthaler had his skull opened by the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama during the freedom rides, while agents from the bureau stood by doing nothing but taking notes. He also knew that Olson was "the FBI agent to see if you wanted to hear the Martin Luther King tapes." Olson was famous for playing the tapes as a form of entertainment.
Seigenthaler ran a front page article, firing Srouji, but blaming the bureau for having used and exploited her. He also filed a formal complaint with the Office of Professional Responsibility within the Justice Department about the bureau infiltrating his office. Within an hour of filing the complaint, another FBI agent, Boynton, visited the New York Times reporter who covered the federal police beat, and implied that Seigenthaler should be investigated because he wasn't pure. Upon hearing this, Seigenthaler invited them to investigate him all they wanted. He also remembered that Boynton had been the agent who had pressured Srouji into signing the paper. He also wondered if the reason the Federal Bureau of Investigation was strongarming him to back off was because of the Silkwood case.
The bureau was using Hoover's old tricks. When asked if all of Hoover's dossiers of dirt on everyone had been destroyed upon Hoover's death, investigator Stockton replied, "If you believe that, you better watch out for door-to-door salesmen."
True to form, the bureau then publicly smeared Seigenthaler in a New York Times article, saying it believed Seigenthaler to be part of a criminal syndicate and had a diabolical mind, but later review of the bureau files indicated that their information was merely rumor which they hadn't been able to corroborate.
Another agent testified that Srouji had met with the Federal Bureau of Investigation thirteen times in the weeks just before her testimony was given.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation made themselves look ridiculous when it tried "to lump housewives and newspaper columnists in with Stalin." When asked why they were keeping dossiers on anyone opposed to nuclear energy, the bureau agent replied that the communist party had a plan to discourage the use of nuclear power in the United States. When asked whether this was a hypothetical plan or was it really true, the FBI agent said, "I would have to check. Uh, the last time I saw the Communist Party program, it was several years ago...."
Immediately after Srouji's testimony, the bureau paid for her a Florida vacation. After the vacation, she was on the news again, this time saying the bureau was trying to discredit her so she wouldn't talk, that Silkwood had information on at least forty pounds of plutonium that had been stolen, and that Silkwood had the exact figures in her possession which pinpointed a skewed inventory and nuclear smuggling.
When Srouji took to the news with this information, the bureau retaliated by smearing Srouji, saying she was mentally unstable, and by harassing her family, her parents and her grandmother. Strangely, she had been sane enough for the last fourteen years to work for the bureau and be in the Naval Reserve, placed in a secret operation called Project Seafarer. When Stockton called the Pentagon to get a copy of her discharge, he found out her entire file was missing from the army, but that Callahan of the FBI had a copy, one that Srouji swears was a phony.
When Stockton had visited Srouji's book publisher, two things struck him as very odd: First, the offices did not feel right. They looked temporary, and the boss didn't look like an editor, but a Foreign Legion officer. Second, they inexplicably assigned a secretary to drive Stockton to the airport. On the way, she "tried to get very friendly." The implication was that they were attempting to smear Stockton. Later, Srouji admitted the publisher had been CIA.
Upon further investigation, it was found that Srouji was known to many political groups, some under various aliases. She had infiltrated them, then tried to get members and leaders to do illegal acts, setting them up. Orders had been sent from on high from within one of the intelligence agencies for her to go to Oklahoma City. Her handler in the CIA was named DeLorenzo. He steered her away from the missing nuclear material, writing in a note, "Concerning the nuclear black market - stay away from that because it would really cause a blowup."
Next, they attempted to smear Congressman Dingell with what appeared to be a clear set up, timed to match with Dingell's deadline in the Silkwood case for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to cough up its files. The smear on Dingell used an officer who had been tipped off by the bureau. Some of the evidence had been purchased from an FBI informant. Worst of all, the whole case had been set up at least a year before, as if waiting for just the right time to hit the papers to discredit Dingell.
This was when Stockton began to seriously consider thoughts of a conspiracy.
Someone from the Justice Department saw and countersigned everything that Olson did, a cover up on a grand scale. There was a Justice Department memo which indicated that a conclusion had been reached before even a third of the evidence was in, a premature conclusion that Silkwood's death had been an accident and that there had been no suspicious circumstances or foul play. A Fact Memorandum, which normally takes weeks to write and runs more than a hundred pages, took only two days to write and ran four and a half pages. It had been assigned to Justice Department employee who had already been given instructions that he was being transferred and had two weeks to close out all of his litigation. They obviously did not want a thorough job done on the Silkwood case.
During the course of the Silkwood case, Callahan and six other officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation who had worked alongside Hoover resigned in disgrace over a scandal where they had been implicated in accepting kickbacks.
The sheer scale of scandal within government bothered Stockton greatly.
One matronly woman, nicely dressed in a business suit, entered a National Organization for Women convention and passed out high-gloss, expensive flyers propagandizing for nuclear power and for Kerr-McGee, saying defective fuel rods were impossible. She also propagandized against Sils, and covertly videotaping people.
Two private firms specialized in working for the nuclear industry, Research West and Information Digest. Georgia Power, owner of two nuclear reactors, had used both firms. Georgia Power was located in Atlanta, along with the World Nuclear Fuel Market, the gray market.
Georgia Power even had its own undercover squad with a $750,000 annual budget, nine undercover agents, and lots of fancy-dandy arcana out of a spy catalogue: infrared telescoping cameras, fingerprint kits, two-way radios, a videotape unit, drug-analysis kits, and surveillance cars with a dashboard flip-switch to change headlight configurations and trick a driver being tailed. Georgia Power had justified all this because thieves had been stealing equipment from its Hatch nuclear plant. It appeared, however, that the thieves were corporate executives, not working stiffs, and when William Lovin tried to prove it, he had been fired.
Part 3 of 4 parts continued
Lovin had worked for the undercover squad, calling it "a miniature CIA." They kept dossiers on anyone Georgia Power didn't like for whatever reason, detailing information about their sex lives, creditors, and enemies. Georgia Power may not have liked someone because he was anti-nuclear, because he was a union activist, or because she was the little old lady who complained about her bill being so high. Lovin said they even had one on Silkwood which they obtained through the network, an organization which had a school located in Fort Lauderdale.
The Georgia Power men in Florida "had been with JM WAVE, the CIA guerrilla army that warred on Castro in the sixties." Taylor found the school, Audio Intelligence Devices, Inc., surrounded by fencing with signs saying to keep out and having a landing strip in back.
When Taylor returned to his motel room, trouble was waiting for him: Two men had entered his room, ransacking and destroying its contents. One of them stabbed him while the other hid behind the bed. Taylor defended himself, taking the knife away from the attacker and stabbing him with it. The two then ran away.
When Taylor returned home, his wife was worried because their home had been burgled. Someone was tailing him. Taylor doubled back, ambushed the tail, and discovered the tail was carrying identification as an Iranian secret policeman.
Further investigation revealed the school in Florida to be the place to learn spy techniques, bugging, wiretapping, etc. It was an "international intersection for spies" who flew in from all over the world. Audio Intelligence also sold state-of-the-art spy equipment. Georgia Power and many local police departments from all over the United States had been steady customers, particularly from "states where it's illegal for cops to have wiretap equipment. Like Oklahoma." The Oklahoma City Police Department had been a customer, which begs the question, why would Okie cops need heavy duty espionage training? Tracking plutonium for Kerr-McGee was the only answer which made any sense.
It had been confirmed that the Red Squad within the Oklahoma City Police Department did have spy equipment. A couple of reporters had obtained a copy of an inventory of the police department's equipment. Included on the inventory were wiretaps, disguiseable microphone transmitters, beeper devices used for tailing cars, equipment to covertly monitor conversations, and a debugging transmitter to check for wiretaps. Some of this equipment had been purchased from Audio Intelligence prior to Silkwood's death.
Taylor also discovered old Kerr-McGee envelopes hidden in the barn behind the old farm belonging to Sherry's grandmother. One envelope had been stuck behind a plank.
One of Taylor's old war buddies, Royer, had been hired to investigate. "While checking out a tip that Karen had been tailed to and from Los Alamos, [Royer] was jumped and shot behind the ear." Later, Taylor discovered that his office had been broken into and his file on the Silkwood case had been stolen, despite having stashed it in an elaborate hiding place.
During Drew's deposition, Kerr-McGee's lawyer, Bill Paul, compulsively and voyeuristically kept returning to sexual subjects over and over again, attempting to paint Karen in a perverted light.
During the deposition taken of Kitty, an anti-nuclear activist, Paul asked for names. Kitty refused and said she didn't want any more activists harassed. When Paul self-righteously said Kerr-McGee doesn't do that, she started to rattle off example after example. Paul then withdrew the question.
During Sara's deposition, Sara asked Paul point blank whether Kerr-McGee had any of them under surveillance. All the Kerr-McGee lawyers had to leave the room. Upon returning, Paul answered off the record, no. When Sara asked him to swear to it, he refused, saying he didn't want to dignify the suggestion.
In the midst of the investigation, there had been a secret report being passed around among people in Washington: The Barton Report. It had been commissioned by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to assess the future of nuclear power. In it, the civil liberties section envisioned an Orwellian scene in which secret agencies were allowed to conduct surveillance without first obtaining a court order. The report saw a time when those critical of nuclear power could be detained without any need for formal charges and when those just suspected of nuclear terrorism could be tortured.
Witnesses in the Silkwood case complained that Kerr-McGee owned everything, were tight with the judges, and had "people on all the civic committees, the hospitals, the schools, everything. No one wants to alienate them." In this part of the country, great value was placed by the citizens on minding your own business. Because of that, intimidation, and the threat to their jobs, no one wanted to talk.
Witnesses were routinely tailed, surveilled, and photographs were taken. In one case, the Kerr-McGee security chief, Reading, even attempted to interfere with one witness' ability to get a loan in another city by smearing him.
Sara and Kitty used their activist skills to form coalitions between the National Organization of Women, the Sierra Club, the Lawyers Guild, unions, and any other political organization sympathetic to the Silkwood case. They worked hard to get the story in the news, since there had been a blackout on the case. Immediately after Silkwood's murder, news about the case was common and reporters dug for the facts. But after Kerr-McGee threatened to move their world headquarters out of Oklahoma, news sources began towing the line. Editors and reporters began having confidential chats with Reading and subsequently writing stories which smeared the case and supported Kerr-McGee.
There were a few reporters who wouldn't comply. One was transferred and the other was fired. One newspaper received a letter from Kerr-McGee saying the case was a national security issue.
Srouji was so unpredictable, Sheehan never knew which way she was going to be blowing. It complicated the case unbelievably. If she claimed to be a journalist, she then had first amendment protection. If she claimed to be an agent, she then sought protection under national security.
Kitty started a study on nuclear workers to assess whether they had ever been contaminated or had health problems as a result, things like cancer, miscarriages, birth defects, fathers passing the defects to their children, etc. Kerr-McGee sent all their former employees a letter warning them to not participate in the study or else they would get embroiled in the law suit.
One such employee was angry about the threatening letter since he had been a worker there and saw all those people breathing in the poisoned air. The employee said, "One time...a fire broke out and there was radiation everywhere. I went in and told the manager we had to stop and clean up. He said, 'Let's go out front!' - which meant I was gonna get the axe. So I put the men in respirators, and they came out hotter than little red wagons. It was push, push, push - production first and to hell with everything else."
The employee had also witnessed the moon-suits ripping apart Karen's apartment: "She was standing there, tears running down her cheeks, a scared little girl."
While attempting to put together her own study, Kitty received a call from Dr. Thomas Mancuso. He informed her that her study of a few hundred would not produce significant results as the study sample was too small to be statistically significant. No matter what her results, they couldn't be generalized to all nuclear workers. Mancuso was in the process of studying a sample of thirty thousand nuclear workers, monitoring their health effects. Unfortunately, the government was in the process of suppressing his research because of what it proved.
He had ingeniously thought of using social security numbers to track workers from long ago, workers who had likely retired, died, or moved. For seventeen years, Mancuso had been the industrial hygiene director for the state of Ohio.
Another researcher, Dr. Milham, was studying the abnormally high rate of cancer among nuclear workers at Hanford, Washington's fast-breeder facility. But the Atomic Energy Commission was trying to stop Milham from publishing his findings: It was an accelerating curve where workers were dying in increasing numbers, particularly from pancreatic cancer and bone-marrow cancer.
The safety level had been set through guesswork at five rems per year. Yet, the Hanford workers had been exposed on the average to ten to thirty times lower than five rems. It was clear the maximum legal dose should be lowered by at least ten, to half a rem a year. Milham's findings confirmed Mancuso's findings.
But the Atomic Energy Commission, now called Energy Resource and Development Administration, wouldn't let Mancuso complete his study, cutting off his funding, circulating a negative critique of his study, telling him they didn't want to see his study in print. Worst of all, now they were telling him he had to give up all of his files and readouts, or else have all twenty-four filing cabinets seized. Mancuso said, "I thought this sort of thing only happened in Russia." Then the Nuclear Regulatory Commission joined with the Energy Resource and Development Administration in demanding he forfeit his data.
Then the Health Physics Society organized a panel for Mancuso to tell his story. But the panel met him with sarcasm. When Mancuso attempted to defend himself, the moderator told him he had to wait his turn. "When it came, the moderator cut him off because his remarks were 'too political.'" Then Mancuso's friend grabbed the mike and read a letter from Congressman Rogers, explaining how the Atomic Energy Commission had supported Mancuso's study until the findings revealed the standards for rem were set too high. "A man in a Navy uniform wrestled the mike away and shut it off. The scientific discussion ended in near-bedlam." Obviously, Mancuso had been lured there to bring him into line with the rest of his peers, peers Mancuso thought were no better than book-burners. Dr. Mancuso said, Science, it's the new religion. All these scientists, they're trying to be high priests. They're the men of purity. Not the purity of what the numbers show, but the purity of blind faith....They knew all along radiation could cause cancer. They were even hypocritical in the way they set the standards - one for workers, another one for the public. A worker can be legally dosed with five times as much as a regular citizen. Why? A worker isn't five times more immune....I used to think it was unprofessional to speak out against fellow scientists. Not any more. The difference in standards set for workers compared to the public had to do with the profit margin for the nuclear industry.
Dr. Ernest Sternglass was one of the very first scientists in the United States to warn of nuclear danger. In an article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in 1969, he said that four hundred thousand people were being killed from fallout in the atmosphere. He was ridiculed by "the Atomic Energy Commission, the National Academy of Sciences, the New York Times, and the Washington Post." The National Institutes of Health cut off his funding. The Atomic Energy Commission even paid a group of scientists to refute Sternglass' findings. Drs. Gofman and Tamplin "were still with the Atomic Energy Commission; they were still Good Germans. But they were coming up with calculations that refuted the Atomic Energy Commission more than they refuted Sternglass."
Other doctors came forward. Dr. Irwin Bross had concluded that as little as one tenth of a rem of radiation "increased the risks of leukemia and genetic damage." As soon as his research went public, his grant had been terminated.
Dr. Edward Radford, chairman of a National Academy of Sciences committee, testified that people are being deformed and are dying. The rem standard needed to be lowered immediately to a tenth of what it was.
Immediately following this scientific testimony, the Atomic Industrial Forum sent someone to explain to the subcommittee members: Since the companies couldn't afford safety precautions, if they lowered the rem standard, workers would be let go as soon as they had the maximum dose, turning the nuclear work force into transient laborers. "Barflies and summer-vacation students are already being pulled in off the street to do repairs and other hot jobs."
Besides Drs. Abrahamson and Geesaman, two other Atomic Energy Commission researchers had also jumped ship, Dr. John Gofman and Dr. Arthur Tamplin. They had been working as scientists for the Atomic Energy Commission until their own enlightenment, at which point they wrote a book called Poisoned Power, an indictment of nuclear energy.
Dr. Gofman had been the father of plutonium, spending three weeks cooking a ton of uranium salt to obtain a drop of pure plutonium for the War Department during World War II. He felt the risk was worthwhile then because of being up against an enemy without morals. But, today, he felt the risk should be taken only by those soldiers and scientists who are informed in advance that their lives are on the line. He said, "The license to give out doses of plutonium is a legalized permit to murder." He testified that Silkwood was "unequivocally married to lung cancer."
During a press interview, Dr. Gofman, when asked what he would think if the nuclear industry solved the problem of waste disposal, Dr. Gofman replied, That's just the final phase of waste disposal. There'd still be all the other phases: sealing it in drums, transporting it, loading and unloading it, and so forth. In the last four years there have been more than three hundred traffic accidents involving nuclear shipments. Outside Denver a truckload of uranium yellow cake lay on the ground for twelve hours, blowing about loose because everyone else was confused about who was responsible for cleaning it up. Nuclear waste is escaping into the environment all the time. By early next century, not so far in the future, radiation from waste and other nuclear sources will be killing two hundred thousand Americans a year with cancer. Dr. Karl Morgan also came forward. He was the father of health physics, the Atomic Energy Commission's foremost health physician for more than thirty years and creator of the Health Physics Society. He was not naive about censorship. One time, twenty-four hours before he was to address a symposium in Nuremberg, Germany, his superiors at the Atomic Energy Commission had destroyed all two hundred copies of his speech. They had ordered him to read a speech that did not make any criticisms of the fast-breeder, however mild. And he did have criticisms....In the overall debate he was nonpartisan....He had agreed to testify [in the Silkwood case] because of Bob [Kitty's husband] and Stockton, whom he knew and respected, and because of the files. He had read them. The history they described, the spills, leaks, dirty respirators, had made him sick. "The [Kerr-McGee] operation at Cimarron was callous, almost cruel," he testified. "It was like sending someone into a lion's cage and not telling them there were animals inside." Strong stuff, for a nonpartisan. Two witnesses, former employees at Kerr-McGee, willing to come forward were both stopped, one because of a visit from Kerr-McGee threatening to take away his franchise gas station and annul the mortgage, and the other because his previous years in the military made him respect the label national security.
The first judge appointed to the Silkwood court case was clearly in Kerr-McGee's corner, ruling that one friendly witness was not allowed to discuss the missing nuclear material and that Srouji didn't have to. He also allowed the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Kerr-McGee to withhold much evidence behind a guise of national security. Sheehan proceeded to intentionally infuriate the judge, hoping the judge would make some unjudicial remarks on the record, which he did. When informed that Sheehan was drafting a recusal motion to have him removed, the judge voluntarily transferred the case to another judge.
The next judge was also clearly prejudicial, telling them their case was "in the clouds" and that they had sued a lot of people they shouldn't have. Of twenty-one requests made by Sheehan, the judge rejected twenty. He also told them they had to go to trial whether they were ready or not. A little investigation revealed that this judge had been placed on the bench by Senator Kerr, co-founder of Kerr-McGee, when he was still alive. The judge had been an old family friend who had masterminded Kerr's election. Sheehan drafted another recusal motion.
The next judge was imported from Wichita, Kansas at the request of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. His first move was to make sure that some of the files that had been requested by Sheehan be produced by the other side.
After Jung, a former employee at Kerr-McGee who had requested anonymity, was identified in a deposition, she was then harassed. She suffered two break-ins at her trailer, though nothing was taken: Only the papers on her desk had been pillaged. Then a heavy car chased her home. The car came within inches of her bumper, braked, wheeled around in a sideswiping move, pulled in front, slowed to a reptilian pace: a terrifying sequence. When she got up the nerve to pass, she was pursued at speeds up to eighty-five miles an hour over gullied rural roads. She made it home; but since then there had been other harassments. Anonymous callers, throaty voices in the night, had been dunning her with cold advice. They told her things like, don't do anything you might regret, think of your health, and do the smart thing.
The Church had been supporting Sheehan's work on the case, but ultimately pulled back as well. "Like Wall Street, the Church is willing to do political work, as long as it doesn't make their big rich contributors unhappy."
Reporters were invited by Bill Paul, the Kerr-McGee lawyer, to attend depositions which focused on Silkwood's personal life, but were not invited to depositions of former employees who told the truth about work conditions. Depositions of FBI agent Olson and Kerr-McGee security chief Reading were stalled by their refusing to answer questions, hiding behind the cloak of national security.
Then, when Sheehan spoke to a reporter and an article surprisingly made it into the newspaper, Paul accused Sheehan of manipulating the press and slandering Kerr-McGee, requesting a gag order on Sheehan.
Another witness told the story about how, after Silkwood's possessions were taken into custody by Kerr-McGee, moon-suits had picked through everything while two narcs observed, obviously waiting to come across a drug stash in hopes of having Silkwood busted. But their search revealed no drugs, only moon-suits "holding up frilly panties and laughing."
Senator Kerr had been king of the hill in Washington. He was the richest, most powerful man there, controlling everyone. Upon his death, two million dollars in cash had been found in his safe, money not accounted for in the books. Bobby Baker testified before going to prison for influence peddling that some of the money was a bribe from S&L executives. Baker was Kerr's protege, like father and son. Baker had also been his bagman, as well as keeper of secrets, among them that Kerr had kept his mistress on the senate payroll. Kerr and McGee had both been involved in the Arkansas River scandal, where they bought up useless land, then used public money to extend the river into this land and built a seaport, inflating the price of the land by millions and millions.
Kerr-McGee had also conspired to inflate the price of materials sold to the state. Kerr-McGee then attempted to get back its reputation through high-profile propaganda and goodwill charity.
Kerr-McGee had a particularly close relationship with the Atomic Energy Commission. Senator Kerr and the Atomic Energy Commission chairman, Lewis Strauss, had been friends. The Atomic Energy Commission favored Kerr-McGee with ten times the contracts over any other single company. In one case, Kerr-McGee got the contract despite the fact that the uranium had to travel four hundred extra miles by ferry, bypassing numerous other companies on the way, to arrive at the Atomic Energy Commission facility. Small companies complained that Kerr-McGee's influence peddling was going to bankrupt them, which it did.
Investigator Stockton had called down the ire of the Central Intelligence Agency director when he had uncovered the paper trail of another scandal. The Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation had lost five hundred seventy-two pounds of uranium. The company said two hundred pounds of the loss was normal. The Joint Committee on Atomic Energy had responded, "only if the factory had run seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day since before the Revolutionary War." Then, the Atomic Energy Commission investigator on the case had quit to take a cushy job at the private company being investigated. Further, the Justice Department had closed their investigation after only nine days because they decided that there was no one to prosecute. The Central Intelligence Agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Justice Department, and LBJ had known about the scandal as well as the fact that the missing uranium had probably gone to Israel "so Israel could become the world's seventh nuclear nation-state....It had been a cover-up so vast it seemed unmanageable, but it had been managed, and it had gone on and on" stretching over ten years.
Stockton had uncovered evidence that an Israeli agent with the Mossad had infiltrated the private company. "Veteran journalist Tad Szulc had reported that the CIA was, in fact, a silent partner in the smuggling ring." In his attempts to plea bargain his criminal case pending at this time, Richard Helms offered that he had evidence that the whole thing was LBJ's responsibility. Since LBJ would get the CIA off the hook, the CIA was enraged that Stockton was interfering in the case. None of the men who had conspired and lied in this case ever went to prison, nor did they suffer from any public disgrace. Nothing happened to the criminals thanks to Helms' plea bargain and lack of prosecutorial zeal at the Justice Department.
Srouji's book finally came out, an indictment of Silkwood as a "suicidal fanatic turned into a union patsy." The Atomic Industrial Forum was helping Srouji promote the book.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission finally decided to inform Congressman Dingell of the exact figure of plutonium missing from Kerr-McGee, sixteen pounds, a figure Stockton had great difficulty believing.
A secretary for the Oklahoma City Police Department admitted she had typed up transcripts of wiretap tapes recorded on Audio Intelligence cassettes. She said the Oklahoma City Police Department had a Red Squad which did wiretapping. "Kerr-McGee knew all about it."
After confronted, one cop said, "No, siree. None of our people did that, not in their official capacities," accenting the word official.
It was discovered that the Oklahoma City Police Department had purchased their wiretapping equipment from Audio Intelligence through Thomas Bunting, who was a captain in the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. After informing Bunting's lawyer that he would be deposed, Bunting stalled with claims of police security. When his attorney was informed that the deposition would take place the following week, Bunting was found dead within a few days. He was forty-four and had died supposedly of a cerebral hemorrhage.
Bunting had been the third person on Sheehan's witness list to die in the previous three months. The first one had been Senator Metcalf, found dead three days prior to the second one. Metcalf was also buried without benefit of autopsy.
The second one had been Leo Goodwin II, the person who originally funded Audio Intelligence. Goodwin was heir to the Geico Insurance fortune. Goodwin, terminal with cancer, had died of supposed congestive heart failure two days before he was to be interviewed for the case. The doctor who signed the death certificate had never even seen the body.
While researching nuclear energy, Kitty discovered too many accidents. A nuclear dump in Illinois, declared by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to not be a hazard to health, was feared by local officials who had fenced off nearby swimming holes because fish and cattle were dying with strange diseases. In Kentucky, nuclear waste was leaking into underground streams. In a near criticality at Hanford, cadmium had to be pumped into a waste trench twenty-four hours a day to prevent an explosion when the plutonium waste began collecting in one end of the trench.
For years, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Atomic Energy Commission had told the public that it was not possible for a waste pit to go critical. They hadn't believed it when just such a story had come out of the Soviet Union: A nuclear waste dump had exploded in late 1957 or early 1958, a fact which was later confirmed. The Central Intelligence Agency and United States officials had known about it from the beginning.
The Soviet dump had been in an area of small villages and nomadic tribes, but the victims filled all the nearby hospitals. The people vomited; their eyes went white. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, died. The ground looked like the surface of the moon, blistered and cracked from the heat. The air had a charcoal taste. Only the chimneys were left standing in one village. The main highway was closed for nine months. When it reopened, there were signs telling motorists to drive through at top speed with their car windows closed. Even after the land repaired itself, radiation lingered. Topsoil had to be scraped off and bulked in a nuclear landfill. Mushrooms and wild berries sprouted and grew huge, to the size of tennis balls, but they couldn't be eaten. Fishing wasn't allowed. Ten years later, pregnant women were still being advised to have abortions. There had been many deformed babies with beveled lips and nubs for arms.
Kitty's file disclosed so many difficulties in the nuclear industry. Nuclear waste accidents seemed to be found everywhere:
Radioactive curium from New York's West Valley disposal site had left a trail down the Cattaraugus Creek, across Lake Erie, over Niagara Falls, into Lake Ontario. Cesium and cobalt from the Indian Point reactor on Long Island had settled in the Hudson River. One million gallons of radioactive waste embalmed in metal barrels had been sunk off the coasts of Delaware, Maryland, and California. The barrels, steel with a concrete matrix, were corroding. Men in minisubmarines had begun tests near the Farallon Islands, fifty miles west of San Francisco, after gigantic sponges were found growing on the barrels. About sixty-seven thousand barrels were at the bottom of the Atlantic and another forty-seven thousand in the Pacific. No one knew the exact total: The Atomic Energy Commission had destroyed its records of the dumping. During a rally to educate the public about nuclear power, a farmer spoke, giving "surprising statistics about how nuclear facilities drive down the value of adjoining land." Shipyard workers at a nuclear submarine base were suffering from cancer. Recently, the United States Geological Survey had made the results of their two year study available to the public. "According to the government's own experts, there was no such thing as a 'fail-safe method of storing nuclear waste' and never would be."
During another anti-nuclear convention, many delegates showed up from all over the country. A farmer had driven from Minnesota in his running-board pickup.
Up north the utility companies had criss-crossed the land with megawatt power lines. You could hear the electricity crackle and feel it like a heavy tingle. It was electromagnetic radiation, and it was scaring cows to death, killing them with heart attacks. Some farmers had become midnight raiders, toppling the towers with bolt-cutters. An undercover agent had infiltrated their group, posing as a reporter, but the farmers had found him out and left him to walk barefoot out of a frozen swamp.
People wonder whether Silkwood would have supported the nuclear industry while attempting to reform it or whether she would have become a member of the anti-nuclear movement. Silkwood had been very bright, an A student, winner of a scholarship, leader of her science club in school, and the only girl student in the advanced chemistry class. She was...
Part 4 of 4 parts continued
...quick, perceptive, and ahead of her time with regard to feminist causes. Her history showed that she had courage to fight the good fight. A direct quote from a tape made by Wodka of one of their phone conversations reveals the answer regarding her stance on nuclear power: In the final month of her life she had been ready to join the movement, had there been a noticeable one at the time:
"Steve, we have eighteen- and nineteen-year-old boys who didn't get any schooling, so they don't understand what radiation is." The voice grew simultaneously softer and higher. "They don't understand, Steve! They don't understand!"....Just before she hung up, Karen had mentioned a public hearing scheduled for the next day at the State Capitol. It involved the Black Fox nuclear reactor near Tulsa. Representative Thomas Bamberger was inviting people to come and give their opinions. "I think one of us ought to go over there," Karen had said. "Somebody's got to tell them they better hold off on that shit!"
When the judge finally forced the Kerr-McGee lawyer to turn over the Kerr-McGee files to Sheehan, their records indicated that the final figure of missing plutonium was sixteen pounds, when only four weeks prior to Silkwood's murder, the figure had been forty pounds. The excuse was that it had been stuck in the pipes.
Gerry Spence, the famous country lawyer, was hired by Sheehan to try the case in court. When Spence deposed FBI agent Olson, there were more than thirty objections made under the excuse of national security. During one objection, the judge retired to chambers to listen to the argument for national security. Upon returning to the courtroom, he said the matters should remain secret, then proceeded to formally identify Srouji as a government agent.
FBI files indicated that they attempted a classic smear on Stockton, using unnamed sources passing on unverified rumor.
When asked whether there had been any pressure applied to the FBI to stop investigating the Silkwood case, Srouji indicated that the Oklahoma City bureau had been stopped by an order from the Justice Department. Srouji also claimed to have copies of Reading's transcripts of wiretaps and bugs on Silkwood. When asked about Mr. DeLorenzo who was her publisher for the book, Srouji indicated that he was with the Central Intelligence Agency. It was he that had asked her to write the book and he that had paid her.
Two so called friends of Drew and Karen, Steve Campbell and Bob Byler, turned out to be spying on them while working for the Red Squad, turning over their information to Reading at Kerr-McGee.
During his deposition, Campbell admitted he became friends with Drew on orders from Reading, turning over information to Reading after spying on Drew and Karen. So Reading had been receiving information about and photographs of Silkwood secretly through the Oklahoma City Police Department. They had been working with Kerr-McGee all along.
All the cops claimed they were doing this unofficially for their old buddy, Reading. Reading, it turns out, had been high up in the Oklahoma City Police Department years ago. Kerr-McGee hired him away to be their security chief, someone who came with ready-made connections to the police department.
Reading had already sworn he had not even heard of Silkwood until her home was contaminated. But Sheehan had gathered incontrovertible proof that Reading was gathering a dossier on her almost a month prior to the contamination at her home.
Drew, Silkwood's boyfriend, put together a quick summary of the events:
October 10 - Silkwood organized the union seminars;
October 12 - Silkwood and Drew ran into Campbell and Byler, who pretended to be their friends;
October 16 - the union won the election to keep their union;
October 17 (approximately) - Campbell and Byler met with Reading at Kerr-McGee;
November 5 - Silkwood was contaminated;
November 6 - Silkwood was contaminated;
November 7 - Silkwood was contaminated, her home inspected and found to be contaminated;
November 13 - Silkwood was murdered;
Sheehan felt that no jury in the world would believe it was a coincidence that Campbell and Byler met with Reading within such a short time, two days at the most, after the union won the vote of the workers to keep their union.
One of Sheehan's investigators was a priest, Father Bill Davis. At one point, Taylor had attempted to get him to wear a small microphone under his priest's collar. Father Bill refused, saying, "I'll do one or the other, but not both. It's a clash of symbols. With one I'm telling people I can be trusted, but with the other I'm deceiving them."
Father Bill investigated another car accident that had happened. A union member's car had been sideswiped, almost forcing him off the same highway, only a few days after Silkwood had been murdered. The man refused to talk. Oklahoma City Police had labeled the incident a prank.
Father Bill also investigated another strange occurrence: John Thomas Cook was murdered by a shot to the head. He had been an oil rigger in Oklahoma. Dying, he used his blood to write the letters AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) on the wall. "But his message had nothing to do with the government AEC: it was about a sex triangle and jealousy and suicide."
Taylor's sources said the Central Intelligence Agency had been involved in this entire thing from the very beginning: The agency had known about the smuggling and killed Silkwood because she had found out. It had been this same source that had tipped Taylor that Srouji's publisher was CIA. There were agency ties in many places. They had people stationed in Oklahoma City because of Kerr-McGee. There were agency overtones written all over an outfit like Audio Intelligence.
When Sheehan tried to get a deposition from Jack Holcomb, the head of Audio Intelligence, Holcomb left the country immediately. The same thing happened when they tried to serve Bill Lovin from Georgia Power: He took his family, left the country, and fled to Germany, never even bothering to sell his furniture, but leaving it all still sitting in the house.
When Sheehan and investigator Royer tried to serve J. W. Hand, an Audio Intelligence salesman living in Dallas, dropping the papers inside his screen door then leaving, within five minutes they were pulled over by someone in a white car with a red flasher on the dashboard claiming to be a policeman. He demanded identification from the driver, Royer. When he ordered Sheehan to produce identification, Sheehan said, since he was a passenger, his identification was not any of the officer's business. The officer then arrested Sheehan for refusing to identify himself and for resisting arrest, hitting his chin on the car and kicking his legs open. When Royer objected, the officer said, "The way I hear it, ain't nobody gonna miss him up there. They don't much appreciate what you're doing, and we don't either."
Then, two more cops drove up, sirens blaring, handing back the papers which had just been legally served on the salesman from Audio Intelligence. The cops called them litterbugs, handing back the summons, saying, "I believe you fellas dropped this."
In jail, Sheehan went into meditation and refused to eat. Angry and alarmed, his jailers allowed him a second phone call. Sheehan called the judge in the Silkwood case, explaining to the clerk how he had been "arrested without just cause, interfered with in the service of a federal subpoena, thrown in jail, and denied arraignment." Taylor and Father Bill began making phone calls to everyone in the press, the church, and in high places, an attempt to lessen the likelihood of Sheehan's death by supposed random violence. After three days, they were released from the phony arrest charges.
One witness, Roy King, had been former personnel director at Kerr-McGee. He had been called to identify Karen's body the night of her murder. After that, he had called Karen's family to inform them, then dropped by the police station. While at the police station, a Highway Patrol officer told King that a lot of Kerr-McGee papers had been in Karen's car and invited him to go the next morning along with the officer to collect them from her car.
The next morning, the officer arrived to inform King that there was no need to pick up the Kerr-McGee things because someone had already collected them.
Shortly after the murder, King woke up at home dizzy and cold.
It was winter, the windows were closed, and he could smell gas. A gas company repairman came and checked, even taking the meter apart. Apparently someone had crept in, turned off the gas in the heater, waited till the pilot light went dead, then turned the gas back on. Apparently someone had tried to kill King. It might not have had anything to do with Karen's death, King thought; and then again, it might.
While waiting to hear whether the judge would hear the entire suit, Sheehan became upset with the possibility that they wouldn't be able to expose all of the evidence:
"The CIA has been reformed, isn't that what we've been told?" he said into a luminous sky. "The Rockefeller Commission, the Church Committee, the Pike Committee, they reformed it. What a crock! Anytime the CIA doesn't want a case prosecuted the case doesn't get prosecuted. Justice be damned! Same as always - nothing's changed."
The missing plutonium was critical to the case because it established motive. If Kerr-McGee was involved in smuggling nuclear material, with or without the participation of the Central Intelligence Agency, all the rest fell into place.
Of the three parts of the law suit, the judge decided only the contaminations part would be heard. The parts about her death and cover up were thrown out.
Sheehan had narrowly missed disaster. Congressman Leo Ryan's party had asked him to accompany them on their mission to investigate Jim Jones and the People's Temple. The congressman was going to visit Guyana to look into the first amendment rights of the members of the cult who had followed the Reverend Jim Jones there. Sheehan was tempted to go along, but stayed with Sara instead to help with rallies and fundraisers.
The only member of Kerr-McGee management to testify for Silkwood was Jim Smith. He said Karen had been an emblem of disloyalty and revolution. Her idea of reform was to scrap all of the gloveboxes and most of the fuel rods and start over. It was difficult as well as infuriating to talk with her. But - but she had been right, Smith testified. Shoddiness and shortcuts and profiteering were everywhere in the factory. Karen's list for the AEC had been true in spades. One time, Smith said, he had to buy a hundred gallons of white paint to brush over the walls. The walls were cinderblock, full of crevices, in which plutonium had gotten lodged. The paint was to seal it in. But paint is not very permanent, and before long, thousands of tiny flakes, embedded with plutonium, were in the air. Also, behind the factory, on nine hundred acres, there were waste ponds for low-level debris. Ducks and migrating geese would swim and cavort in the ponds, enchanted in their ignorance. And runoff from the ponds once got into the Cimarron River. Whitening and distended, sand bass were washed ashore. A company crew had to take shovels and dig cemetery craters for hundreds of dead fish.
Smith was on the stand three days, all told. He had a lot to tell.
The "surprise" inspections of the AEC were a sham, he said. He and the other supervisors knew of them in advance....In that way a considerable number of violations were kept from the AEC. In addition, there was the incident of April 1972. Two maintenance men had been repairing a pump when a gasket seal ruptured above them. A plutonium mist had rained down. But the two men left for lunch, a meal they ate that day at the Hub Cafe, and all through the beef stew and corn bread, they had no idea their hands, hair, and clothes were hot, no idea at all until they got back to Cimarron. But no HPs [health physicians] were sent to the Hub Cafe, even though, by law, there should have been an all-out cleanup: the stools, napkin holders, salad bar, toothpick jar, everything. No one was notified, not even the AEC. "Management didn't want to risk a public panic," Smith said. The AEC inspectors did find out, but not for more than a year and not from Kerr-McGee. It was told by Mister Anonymous to Mrs. Younghein and reported by her to the AEC.
Smith went on to testify about the missing plutonium. He said Kerr-McGee would not tell him what the final figure was, which was strange, since he was the one doing the cleanup. He ran boiling nitric through the pipes to flush out any remaining plutonium. On the last flush, the got three grams of plutonium, which was way less than an ounce.
Spence asked him on the stand, "So if a Kerr-McGee witness gets up here and tells the jury that forty pounds is still in the pipes, why, he wouldn't be telling the truth, would he?"
Smith answered, "Let me put it this way, if there's forty pounds still at Cimarron, I don't know where it is."
Another witness testified about having been a former Kerr-McGee employee. He told how he sandpapered or ground down bad welds from fuel rods that had been rejected. They shipped them anyway because production was so far behind. He did this on orders from his supervisor.
Former employees testified about how the real number of contaminations was probably twice what the Kerr-McGee files said it was: Without graph paper, red-alert machines couldn't record the measurements taken of air purity. They sat that way for hours. One worker had been contaminated from a barrel spouting waste "like water from a garden hose." Even after being scrubbed down, workers had to sometimes wear rubber gloves home because, already being raw, they just couldn't rub enough to clean off the plutonium.
One former health physician testified that no effort was made to control the plutonium because it was a lost battle.
None of the workers had heard it causes cancer until the union seminar Karen put together, or, even later, while reading coverage of the Silkwood case. Kerr-McGee didn't say a word about it in orientation or in their safety manuals. "When the workers got contaminated, Kerr-McGee played down the contaminations, leading to carelessness and more contaminations."
Working in a respirator was practically useless because of the poor fit, fogging, and sweat. Kerr-McGee had promised Silkwood a special one because she had such a narrow face, but in two years of waiting, it never came. Oxygen tanks proved to be just as unreliable: Workers ran out of oxygen in their tanks while deep inside storage vessels. Desperate for air, they would rip off the top of their protective suits in order to breathe, taking in radioactive air.
Nitric acid used in production rotted the rubber gloves and gaskets. The acid combined with radioactive waste had to be solidified before being put in the storage barrels for shipping. But the process sometimes was not permanent. Then the acid would eat the barrels, allowing nuclear waste to rupture the barrel and escape. That was how it had eaten through the floorboards of a transportation truck. That was also why it was floating in underground streams.
Since the Kerr-McGee facility was located in Tornado Alley, special procedures had been designed to move the plutonium into a vault during a tornado alert. But former workers told how that had been a farce: It was too much trouble. The vault had grown dusty with disuse. Inspectors had been fooled or lazy or naive. Workers had been ordered to say nothing during inspections. "Before inspectors arrived, hasty cleanups were ordered, spills painted over, broken equipment hidden away....The lies and deceptions were reaching a point of numbness" for those who attended the trial.
After court and after hearing all of this testimony, Spence said, "If this keeps up, I'm gonna go home a radical."
An anonymous call came in to Sheehan's law office to offer them a tip. The caller wouldn't give his name. He told of a friend who was a trucker. The trucker had been asked to join an outlaw gang of truckers who were doing hits for the mob using their trucks rather than guns. Hit and run assassins, they ran people off the road with their semis. They had done jobs in Seattle, Albuquerque, and one right here, that Karen Silkwood girl.
Further investigation was unable to uncover any hard evidence, though.
During Mazzocchi's testimony, he said Silkwood's contamination was disruptive to their union strategy because it was poor timing, made Silkwood highly visible, and had no news value because she was just one in a series of contaminations over the years. Kerr-McGee would have been the only one to benefit. When Kerr-McGee's lawyer asked how Kerr-McGee could possibly benefit, Mazzocchi answered, "By blaming it on her, doubt was cast on her credibility. And it gave Kerr-McGee an excuse to go into her apartment and search for her documents."
During the trial, the film, The China Syndrome, had opened, a film which depicted a "hit and run goon squad to frighten whistle-blowers." At this point, Kerr-McGee's lawyer requested a mistrial.
At this point in the trial was when the accident at Three Mile Island happened in Pennsylvania. Pregnant women and small children were advised to leave immediately, while one million people around Three Mile Island were advised to get ready for possible evacuation. "A succession of human errors and machinery breakdowns - by themselves not at all uncommon - had brought the reactor to crisis." A hydrogen bubble had formed. If it continued to grow, it could press on the cooling pumps, stop the cooling process, and cause a meltdown. At this point, Kerr-McGee's lawyer asked for another mistrial.
Two months prior to Three Mile Island, the Rasmussen Report had fallen into disrepute, labeled unreliable by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission had spent years saying a meltdown was a one-in-a-million event.
Three Mile Island was not the most severe nuclear accident. Accidents at Rocky Flats in Colorado got that distinction. Fires in the weapons factory burned through filters causing plutonium dust to shoot into the air. The wind had blown it everywhere. Cancer was sharply rising in both Denver and Boulder. The Detroit plant and England plant were both shut down after partial meltdowns. In Detroit, citizens had not even been informed until months afterward. A fire at Browns Ferry in Alabama raged for six hours, destroying control wiring. Only a jerry-rigged backup prevented a meltdown. Fifty thousand gallons of nuclear waste had gone into drinking fountains in St. Paul, Minnesota. A jet making an emergency landing in Japan had almost run head-on into a nuclear reactor.
It had been conventional fuel rods which may have created the bubble at Three Mile Island. Kerr-McGee had sold its rods to Bobcock & Wilcox, which, in turn, supplied Three Mile Island.
The Atomic Energy Commission investigator admitted during the trial that he could have taken fingerprints at Silkwood's home after the contamination, but didn't. He also admitted that he had not investigated further when it was discovered that her contamination was from Lot 29, a lot that had been shipped two months before her contamination. He also admitted that he had not investigated further when it was discovered that over forty pounds of plutonium was unaccounted for. When asked whether he had checked financial records of people involved, including those of upper management, a standard procedure when valuables are missing, Kerr-McGee's lawyer objected. The jury never got to hear the answer, but Spence felt he had made his point with the jury.
On the stand, a Kerr-McGee official who had been a member of the design committee swore their factory was not located in the middle of Tornado Alley. He didn't think there was a Tornado Alley in Oklahoma. That night a tornado passed within five miles of the plant, ripping limbs from trees and killing a cow. Sheehan commented later, "No doubt about it - God's on our side....Next time they lie, they'll be afraid of lightning striking." In court, the Kerr-McGee official, Moore, who had showed up at Silkwood's contamination at home with his lawyer in tow, had to be asked five times whether or not he had ordered that Silkwood be put under guard escort on the day of her murder. Finally after the fifth time, he admitted to it. He also admitted to having put out false stories to the press, making headlines that some of the contaminations had been the result of sabotage by workers rather than leaks for which Kerr-McGee was responsible.
When Kerr-McGee presented testimony by a solitary doctor to say that the level of contamination was not significant in terms of causing cancer, Spence made the point that this doctor had attended college on a government scholarship, attended medical school on a government scholarship, and ever since been working at Los Alamos, a government facility, altogether a government expert "bred, fed, and led by the feds."
The majority of the evidence, evidence which tied the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Kerr-McGee, the Oklahoma City Police Department, and their Red Squad together in the case, was never allowed to be introduced in the trial. The conspiratorial nature of events never got a fair hearing, nor did the evidence of all their illegal spy activity. Yet, in court, the Kerr-McGee lawyer painted Silkwood as a sneaking spy for the union. Paul asked, "Have you heard anything about Kerr-McGee using anybody to spy or sneak around? No, you haven't." Sheehan was enraged.
Spence closed his argument with the following: This is the story of a smart-alecky boy. One day he caught a tiny bird. Holding it in his hands, he decided to trick a wise old man, "Old Man, what do I have in my hands?" he asked. The old man saw the bird's head peek out and said, "A bird, my son." "Ah, but is it dead or alive?" Whatever the answer, the boy thought, he'd fool the old man. If the old man guessed dead, he'd let the bird fly free. If he guessed alive, he'd crush the bird with his fingers. But the old man only smiled. "My son, " he said, "it's in your hands."
Ladies and gentlemen, it's in your hands.
During jury deliberations, Kerr-McGee lawyers had been heard discussing the case out in the hallway: "This trial is a farce - Congress should be deciding these issues, not a jury. What do six people from Oklahoma know about nuclear science? Why should they have any say-so? They're just six ordinary people. Nobody elected them."
Pressure to stop the anti-nuclear movement continued. Two activists were "gunned down, assassination-style," one dying on the operating table and one, the mother of two children, surviving with a bullet lodged next to her spine. Other members of the movement found themselves the victims of "vandalism, burglaries, and beatings."
When the jury completed their deliberations, they returned with the conclusion that Silkwood had not smuggled out plutonium or contaminated herself, that Kerr-McGee had been negligent in its operation to allow plutonium to escape from their facility which caused her contamination, that actual damages be awarded in the amount of $505,000, and that punitive damages be awarded in the amount of $10,000,000 as penalties against Kerr-McGee.
Although Karen had been the first victim officially recognized in court, the toll of the dead and dying long preceded her. Out west in the fifties the army had ordered GIs into foxholes near the epicenter of atomic tests; scores of men, maybe more, had come away with leukemia or other forms of cancer. A cancer had killed John Wayne, a cancer caused perhaps by nuclear fallout. One of the big bombs had been blown up when the Duke was in Utah for the movie The Conqueror. Half a dozen others from the movie set had died of cancer too, as had the many Navajo miners, and all those nuclear workers on Mancuso's charts, and some others, more unlucky yet, killed in freak accidents by radioactive substances that ate them alive. If there was any redemption to this, it was the men of science, the Gofmans and Mancusos, still fighting for tougher radiation standards. After her murder, Silkwood's headstone for her grave was inscribed with a quotation Karen had chosen for use in her high school yearbook, "It is not only the most difficult thing to know oneself, but the most inconvenient thing too."
After the trial, supporters and activists gathered to put up a memorial, a tribute to Karen Silkwood near the accident site on the highway. Next to her engraved image, it read, "Born 2-19-1946, Died 11-13-1974, Vindicated 5-18-1979."
After the trial, investigator Stockton began to get angry with the smears on himself, Karen, Dingell, and Seigenthaler. He decided to sue James Reading, Jackie Srouji, Larry Olson, Kerr-McGee and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for libel, for violations of his civil rights, and for conspiracy that prevented him from doing his duties as an officer of public trust, all in an effort to bring out the secrets, secrets about smuggling plutonium and police state tactics.
Sheehan put together a law firm called the Christic Institute, "not so much a place for lawyers as for people of conscience."
Weeks after the trial, Taylor received a call from one of his resources in the Federal Bureau of Investigation who told him that he had found a lengthy report in a top-secret file:
"The FBI knows exactly what happened. It's all right there on page three." There was a narrative of that night, he said: from the Hub Cafe to the highway culvert. Karen had been followed as she left the cafe. She had driven south on Highway 74, toward Oklahoma City, but then she had swung west, making a detour down a dirt road, to the old barn on the ranch of Sherri's grandmother. Coming back to the highway, Karen encountered her pursuer. There was a brief chase; the other car banged into the Honda. Karen jockeyed about and ended up on the shoulder. The other car raced alongside. And seconds later there was the sound of a crash, then quiet, except for the fleeing wheels and the howl of the wind, a howling like a ghost gone mad....But how could the FBI be so specific, so definite?
A year after the trial ended, Robert Kerr Jr. ran for office, a senate seat in Oklahoma, his father's old job. He lost the election, lost big time.
Ultimately, Kerr-McGee decided to get out of the nuclear business rather than clean up their act and make the improvements requested by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
*********************** V *************************
DEATH TO THE NEW WORLD ORDER
Linda Thompson American Justice Federation Home of AEN News & news videos, "Waco, the Big Lie," "America Under Siege" 3850 S. Emerson Ave. Indianapolis, IN 46203 Telephone: (317) 780-5200 Fax: (317) 780-5209 Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember Waco. The Murderers are still free.
The Army courtmartialed Spc. Michael New for not wearing a U.N. hat, but the Army won't courtmartial the 160th and 158th Special Operations, 82nd Airborne, Ft. Hood Cav and 10th Mountain Div. soldiers who helped MURDER CHILDREN at Waco. What's wrong with this picture?
Do you pay taxes because you are afraid if you don't, the feds will take your paycheck, your house, your car, and put you in prison? Funny, when the mafia does it, that's called CRIMINAL EXTORTION. THIS YEAR, JOIN 50 MILLION AMERICANS AND JUST SAY NO. And never give up your guns
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. -George Bernard Shaw