By JG Vibes
October 13, 2012
The first first anti-drone case to be heard in a federal court has come to an unfortunate end, with one nonviolent person behind bars for six months and another to be kept on a short government leash for the next five years.
The defendants, Ron Faust of Kansas City and Brian Terrell of Maloy, Iowa, have both been found guilty, with Ron sentenced to 5 years probation and Brian facing 6 months in prison.
Their crime is participating in the April 15 “Trifecta Resista” protest at Missouri’s Whiteman Air Force Base, from where killer drones engage in combat in Afghanistan by remote control.
They were arrested for trespass as they attempted to deliver an “indictment” to Brigadier General Scott A. Vander Hamm, the base’s commander.
The indictment charges the chain of command, from President Obama to General Vander Hamm to the drone crews at Whiteman “with the following crimes; extrajudicial killings, violation of due process, wars of aggression, violation of national sovereignty, and the killing of innocent civilians” and demands that these crimes immediately cease.
Arrested with Faust and Terrell was Mark Kenney of Omaha, who is now serving a four month federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to charges at a June 6 arraignment.
After sentencing, Brian Terrell made a gripping speech to the court, which was released earlier today by wariscrime.org.
I have posted an abridged portion of his speech below, but the whole thing can be found at wariscrime.org.
Brian Terrell’s statement at sentencing, US District Court, Jefferson City, Missouri, October 11, 2012:
Mark Twain called free speech the “privilege of the grave,” a privilege never afforded the living save as an empty formality, not to be regarded seriously as an actual possession.
“As an active privilege, it ranks with the privilege of committing murder: we may exercise it if we are willing to take the consequences. Murder is forbidden both in form and in fact; free speech is granted in form but forbidden in fact….Murder is sometimes punished, free speech always.”
Punishing free speech and letting murder off the hook is the order of the day in this courtroom.
How to speak of an appropriate sentence where no crime has been committed? No crime committed, at least, by the defendants?
Last month’s trial in this courtroom concerning a protest of killer drones flown from Whiteman Air Force Base left no doubt that this is the case.
Each of the government’s witnesses, all of them Air Force police personnel, testified that participants in this protest were nonviolent, respectful and peaceable in assembling at Whiteman Air Force Base, a government installation, to petition that government for redress of a grievance, demanding that the remote control killing carried out daily from Whiteman cease.
They testified that at no time, before or during our protest, did they perceive us as a threat.
Our expert witnesses testified that our behavior was consistent with the activities that the drafters of the First Amendment intended to be protected, not persecuted, by the government.
The order and security of the base would not have been compromised had the security police allowed us to proceed to the headquarters to deliver our petition. No testimony to the contrary was offered this court.
Instead of planning to accommodate a constitutionally protected peaceable assembly, however, the Air Force chose intimidation and conspired to deprive us of the rights they are sworn to protect.
We learned from government witnesses that that the phalanx of goose stepping riot police is a “Confrontation Management Team,” deployed only in the case of preannounced events.
Whiteman security did not call out the Team to defend the base but to intimidate citizens engaged in lawful activities.
The court was mistaken a month ago when it said that our group was “allowed” to assemble on the highway right of way by the Air Force and that this space provided for us met free speech requirements of reasonable time and place.
This place in question is not only outside the base’s jurisdiction, it is outside the sight and hearing of anyone on the base.
The court’s decision is part of a widening disintegration of civil liberties, where speech is tolerated only in designated and remote “free speech zones” where it cannot be heard by the government, and criminalized in any place where that speech might actually have a chance to be understood.
Intended or not, the court’s message is a chilling one- that a citizens’ constitutional right to assemble to petition the government extends only to places outside government facilities and where the government does not have to hear it.
The court’s easy dismissal of international law as not “trumping” domestic law has precedents, but is all the more disturbing for this fact. Last fall, I was on trial for a drone protest in a New York State where, in contrast to this court, former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark was permitted to testify on international law.
Judge Gideon, after listening to Ramsey Clark speak of the Nuremburg Principles at length, leaned over the bench and asked him, “This is all interesting, but what is the enforcement mechanism?
Who is responsible for enforcing international law?” “They are,” responded Mr. Clark, pointing to us defendants, “and so,” he said to Judge Gideon, “are you!” Every citizen is responsible under international law and every judge more so.
In our trial here last month, as at our protest in April, our intention has been to put the illegally operated predator drones on trial and so we have focused on the machines that are sowing death and terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan by remote control from Whiteman Air Force Base.
It was never our intention to address or to protest the weapons system that is the larger mission of Whiteman, namely the B-2 Stealth Bomber.
However, Judge Whitworth, both in sentencing Mark Kenney and in our trial, you noted that your commitment to maintain the security of the B-2 weighs heavily in your decisions.
For a judge to admit to being swayed by a consideration other than the law, not to mention when that consideration is the security of weapons of mass destruction, raises obvious questions about that judge’s impartiality.
For my part, Judge Whitworth, I am grateful to you for calling our attention to the larger picture. It is not, of course, the technology of robotics that we protest but the murderous and criminal uses the government puts it to.
Drones are the weapon of choice in the current administration’s wars of aggression, but it was the B-2s from Whiteman that first violated Afghan airspace eleven years ago this week and began killing the people of Afghanistan.
The crimes against humanity that began in October, 2001, with B-2 airstrikes on a defenseless civilian population continue today with drones operated from that very same base.
I expect nothing other than a prison sentence today. I accept this without regret and will, if allowed, surrender myself to a designated prison some weeks from now, but I cannot say that I see justice in this. I admit that my conduct was as the government described it at trial.
That conduct, however, does not constitute a crime but was a response to one. It is conduct this court should be protecting.
If you have any questions or disagreements feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Vibes is the author of an 87 chapter counter culture textbook called Alchemy
of the Modern Renaissance and host of a show called Voluntary
Hippie Radio. He is also an
artist with an established record label and event promotion company that hosts politically charged electronic dance music events. You can keep up with his work, which includes free podcasts, free e-books & free audiobooks at his website www.aotmr.com .