Outrage is admittedly the most common emotion one feels after reading the 280-page The Ambushed Grand Jury [Apex Press].
However, one also experiences practically every other human emotion -- frustration, anger, sadness, joy, empathy and admiration of the human spirit -- as authors Caron Balkany and Colorado cowboy Wes McKinley reveal how the US Department of Justice covered up government nuclear crimes at Colorado's Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons plant and how a band of persevering individuals courageously caught the government red handed.
Their riveting story is not just about Balkany, an anti-nuclear activist and volunteer lawyer, and McKinley, who served three years as the foreman of a special grand jury convened in 1989 to hear charges of nuclear crimes by the US government and its defense contractor, Rockwell International.
It is also about a courageous whistleblower and a former plutonium plant employee, Jacque Brever, and an FBI agent, Jon Lipsky, who saw years of hard work investigating environmental criminality undermined by his own superiors and the US government.
Throughout the book the reader is shown evidence of how the US government and its defense contractors covered up dangerous environmental wrongdoing at Rocky Flats, suppressed the indictments demanded by a federal grand jury and threatened those jurors with jail if they spoke out concerning their findings.
Rocky Flats, where the triggers for America's nuclear arsenal were made, lies only 16 miles upwind from Denver and has the reputation of being one of the most contaminated nuclear facilities in the nation, although its production facilities have been closed since 1992.
Unwilling to accept being made victims, it was through McKinley's sense of justice and Balkany's initial investigative efforts that a Citizens' Grand Jury Investigation was launched and still is enlisting support of Citizen Grand Jurors to consider all the facts -- laid out meticulously in a 43-page appendix, 36 of which are textual footnotes -- and render their decision in the court of public opinion and before Congress.
The Ambushed Grand Jury, which details their citizens' investigation and additional information can be obtained at www.Ambushedgrandjury.com. The authors are donating their profits to nuclear watchdog and environmental groups around the country.
In the book, the Citizens' Grand Jury recounts how Lipsky, the FBI agent, after years of methodical preparation and investigation led a historic 1989 FBI raid on the Rocky Flats plant, the first time the bureau ever served a search warrant on the US government, only to see the US Justice Department sell out his case.
Later, Lipsky maintains, the Justice Department ordered him to lie about what had happened with the criminal investigation. Outraged, Special Agent Lipsky instead joined the citizens' investigation to help uncover the secrets of Rocky Flats.
It also tells the story of Brever, who blew the whistle on repeated safety violations and secret illegal midnight plutonium burning at Rocky Flats, after the facility had been ordered to shut down. Subsequently, in 1989, she believes someone tried to kill her by intentionally contaminating her with deadly radioactivity to stop her from testifying before the Special Federal Grand Jury. She testified anyway.
Despite her expert testimony, the government sabotaged her two days of testimony by claiming she was not "a very reliable source."
Distraught and fearful of the continuing assaults on her and her young daughter, she fled Colorado and disappeared for almost 10 years, yet in failing health and still fearful of the dangers that almost killed her she eventually came out of hiding to join the Citizens' Grand Jury Investigation.
Today she is undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer and has started United to Keep Rocky Flats Closed, a Colorado-based informational program dedicated to stopping government efforts to convert the highly-contaminated 6,550-acre Rocky Flats reservation into a national wildlife refuge with horseback riding, hiking and children's school trips.
The other key hero in this tale of how the US government has held the health of an unsuspecting public hostage in the name of corporate greed, at the same time bilking the nation's taxpayers of millions of dollars and attempting to discredit those patriots who sought to expose their corrupt practices, is Wes McKinley.
Foreman of the 1989-1992 federal grand jury that sought to investigate the insidious relationship between the US Department of Energy and Rockwell International, he saw the US Department of Justice ambush his 23-member panel and seal their grand jury report detailing the evidence of alleged nuclear crimes and lethal contamination in addition to threatening those same jurors with prison if they talked about it.
He also witnessed the Justice Department lies to the grand jury, Congress and the public about what the Energy Department-Rockwell alliance had really been doing at Rocky Flats.
Described as "as patriotic and law abiding as they come," who "never even had a traffic ticket" McKinley, despite being under investigation by the FBI since 1992, has sought to try and find ways to warn the Congress and the public about the dangers he and his fellow jurors uncovered in their three years of hearing Rocky Flats testimony.
He has twice run unsuccessfully for Congress, hoping to use congressional immunity to reveal what truly happened with the grand jury. He is running again in 2004. Otherwise, grand jury secrecy rules prevent him from talking about the evidence the grand jury reviewed. Violation of Federal Criminal Rule 6(e) could lead to a prison sentence, or an indefinite prison sentence, based on the mood of the presiding judge.
In a conversation with his attorney, Caron Balkany, the Colorado native explained his motivation:
"This isn't about them and it isn't about me. This is about how the government works. It's no use going half way and showing how you can't trust the government to do nuclear stuff because they lie, if you don't go the rest of the way and show that you can't trust the government to enforce the laws, either, because they lie. It's the same issue, it's the same problem. If people aren't held accountable for what they do, the system won't work.
"And I have to be accountable for what I do too," McKinley stressed. "Or what I don't do. Maybe this is just a little bit of accountability, but it's better than nothing."
Author Balkany adds: "The Citizens' Grand Jury Investigation isn't just about Rocky Flats. It isn't just about a Justice Department cover-up. The government has plans to turn toxic and hazardous waste sites throughout the entire country into recreation areas. They say they'll clean them up. But after you hear the evidence of the cover-up at Rocky Flats, you decide whether you can believe what the government says about how it cleans up its own toxic mess."
Clearly, as Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, points out in his "Afterword":
"This book, with its real cowboy protagonist -- a cowboy who knows mathematics -- and its courageous FBI agent and [its] Rocky Flats whistleblower, is far more than a cautionary tale. It is a true story of public empowerment, based on solid research and told with style and vigor. If we pay no heed to its message, we risk sliding down a steep slope into the nuclear abyss. But should we be awake enough to attend to it, we will surely be moved to put people back in the saddle and nuclear weapons where they belong in the dust bin of history."
A.V. Krebs operates the Corporate Agribusiness Research Project and publishes a free email newsletter, The Agribusiness Examiner; email firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ea1.com/CARP/.