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The purge continues within the Trump administration over border and immigration policy as Trump floats getting rid of asylum judges. This week on Intercepted: Ryan Grim, the Washington, D.C., bureau chief of The Intercept, discusses the departure of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and the historic War Powers Resolution vote that just passed Congress. It would cut off all funds to Saudi Arabia for the scorched-earth bombing campaign in Yemen. Also, Ryan and Jeremy Scahill discuss the pending release of some version of the Mueller report and what it might contain. Investigative reporter Aura Bogado, of Reveal, discusses the Trump administration’s current immigration policies, the ongoing family separations, and Bernie Sanders rejection of the concept of “open borders.” The Intercept’s Micah Lee discusses the bizarre case of the Chinese national who talked her way onto Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort with a bunch of cash, USB drives with malware, and some countersurveillance equipment. Lee reviews some of the possible scenarios as to what she could have done if she was not caught. Two Catholic Worker peace activists explain why they snuck onto a U.S. military base, poured their own blood, and attempted to deliver an indictment of President Trump. Carmen Trotta of the New York Catholic Worker and Martha Hennessy, the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, discuss their legal strategy, why they acted, and the history of the Plowshares movement. They and their five co-defendants could face up to 25 years in prison. Jeremy talks about his time at the Catholic Worker in the 1990s and his family connections to that movement.
Announcer: Your mind.
Donald J. Trump: Give me a quickie.
Announcer: It is the center of your life.
DJT: Wow, that’s a tough cookie.
Announcer: It is everything you hear.
DJT: Like a wonderful, beautiful baby.
Announcer: Everything you see.
DJT: Nuclear explosions, and a lot of things.
Announcer: Everything you feel.
DJT: Brooklyn. Spent a lot of time in Brooklyn.
Announcer: It is everything you are.
DJT: Presidents, dictators, prime minister, kings, queens. Everybody.
Announcer: Thoughts can kill.
Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted.
JS: I’m Jeremy Scahill, coming to you from the offices of The Intercept in New York City. And this is episode 90 of Intercepted.
DJT: The bad things that are coming out of Congress. You have a Democrat Congress that’s obstructing — you talk about obstruction, the greatest obstruction anyone’s ever seen. All they have to do is spend 20 minutes and they can fix this whole problem. We have the worst laws of any country anywhere in the world.
JS: This is another one of those weeks where there is so much happening that it is difficult to know where to even begin. Attorney General William Barr told Congress on Tuesday that the release of the Mueller report is imminent, perhaps just days away. Congress passed a historic War Powers Resolution that represented an effort to stop U.S. military aid to Saudi Arabia for use in the ongoing scorched earth bombing of Yemen — Donald Trump will almost certainly veto that. We have the growing scandal at Homeland Security with Kirstjen Nielsen apparently being fired by Donald Trump and news reports that are alleging that there is a full blown purge of officials who refuse to implement the most extreme measures that the Trump administration wants implemented on immigration, family separation and the border.
It seems pretty clear that Trump’s adviser, Stephen Miller is running the show on this, which in and of itself is pretty disturbing and frankly dangerous. Trump reportedly told a group of Border Patrol agents that they should break the law and refuse to grant asylum seekers entry into the United States. He’s also suggested getting rid of judges who preside over these matters. Trump is clearly furious over a judge’s recent ruling that he cannot deport asylum seekers back to Mexico. In a few moments we’re going to talk to investigative journalist Aura Bogado about Trump’s immigration policies and the latest developments.
But first, to run through several of the developing breaking stories right now, I am joined by The Intercept’s Washington D.C. bureau chief Ryan Grim. Ryan, welcome back to Intercepted.
Ryan Grim: It’s good to be here.
JS: Let’s begin with the breaking news about Kristjen Nielsen leaving and the reports primarily being driven by CNN right now that there’s been this major purge in the administration around the issue of immigration and the border. What are you hearing? What do you understand about this situation?
RG: It’s an attempted and ongoing purge which fits with kind of Stephen Miller’s MO. He has a bold vision for what he wants to accomplish, but he often comes up short. Right now, you still have a number of DHS officials still hanging on to their jobs with the coup now out in public, but essentially what’s going on is you’ve got Kristjen Nelson did resign. Trump’s nominee for ICE was pulled by Trump at Stephen Miller behest. It was then leaked that he’s trying to get a whole bunch of other people at DHS out but they haven’t quite left yet.
CNN: Sources tell CNN Stephen Miller played a critical role in ousting Nielsen, but she’s not the only DHS official he wants to get rid of. Miller has also pushed Trump to dismiss the director of citizenship and immigration services as well as the department general counsel.
RG: Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee is now pushing back and he said he’s going to go on Fox News which in other words, you know, he’s going to talk directly to Trump and urge him to stop purging DHS officials. And he had very harsh words directly for Stephen Miller saying that the president should try to figure out what Stephen Miller has actually ever accomplished for him because it isn’t anything.
JS: Now, Ryan we also have these reports about Trump’s interaction with border agents where he reportedly told a group of border agents “Don’t let more migrants in. Tell them we don’t have the capacity” and if judges give you trouble basically tell them “Sorry, judge, we don’t have room.” My understanding from the reporting, if it’s accurate, is that the supervisor for these border patrol agents after Trump said that woah, woah, wait a minute those are not your orders. And if you do what he’s saying, you could be held individually liable for breaking the law.
RG: That’s right. And it’s the same problem in a microcosm that Kirstjen Nielsen has which is there are a lot of top Trump administration officials who are quite comfortable with his kind of ultra-conservative approach. They’re comfortable with racist, xenophobic policies. They don’t flinch at that, but they do still respect the law. And so that’s where Nielsen and Trump clashed al lot. For instance, last week Trump told Nielsen “Close the border to El Paso.”
Jake Tapper: Senior administration officials tell me that President Trump then ordered Nielsen and Pompeo to shut down the port of El Paso, Texas by the next day, Friday, March 22nd at noon. The plan was that in subsequent days the Trump administration would then shut down other ports.
RG: It’s Nielsen’s job to say “Look, I sympathize with you. Yes, all these brown people are coming across the border. But listen, you just can’t close the border. A, it would be ineffective because it’s a legal crossing and so all you’re doing is screwing the people who are trying to come across the border legally and you’re pushing people who are going to try to cross illegally to other places. And B, it would be cataclysmic and C, it would be illegal. And so, every time that Nielsen would have to tell Trump that something that he wanted to do is illegal, it would build resentment inside Trump. He saw her as somebody who was a Bush loyalist and that’s the worst thing that somebody can be as far as Trump is concerned. She was brought in by Kelly, his former Chief of Staff. Kelly’s now out publicly criticizing him. So, she’s guilty by association there. So, what it shows is this woman who backed his worst most infamous policy of child separation, became the public face for it — it will be the thing that follows her to her grave — now kind of ignominiously rolling out of DHS because the law-breaking just got to be too much. Not the immorality but the law-breaking became too much.
JS: Shifting subjects here — a very significant vote earlier this month when the house voted 247 to 175 to send a bill to Donald Trump related to the War Powers Resolution, the War Powers Act that would effectively, if Trump signed it, end any U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen. Trump is expected to veto that. But what is the significance of this vote?
RG: To get this through a Republican Senate and a hawkish Democratic House was a rather extraordinary achievement. It’s extraordinary also by who got it done.
Ro Khanna: We’re going to bring the War Powers Resolution for a vote in the House. It’s going to pass and Bernie Sanders is going to bring it back in the Senate. It will pass. It’ll be the first time that a War Powers Resolution has passed in the House and the Senate in opposition to the White House and it will be a clear signal to end this war.
RG: It was Ro Khanna in the House and Bernie Sanders in the Senate taking the lead and that tells you that the party’s a little bit different than it used to be because those are the types of Democrats who are accustomed to kind of being the Ron Paul on the no vote. You know, they’re the ones who are going to vote their conscience and Congress is going to do the wrong thing. But at least they’re there making their point. They’re not making points anymore. They’re actually, in this case, making a law. It doesn’t appear that they have the votes to override a veto but the fact that they were able to get it through the House over some significant Democratic opposition actually was remarkable.
JS: Steny Hoyer one of the top Democrats in the House early on in this seemed to be trying to stop any kind of resolution aimed at stopping the U.S. role in the ongoing genocide in Yemen, particularly, the military aid to Saudi Arabia, but you’ve been hearing of kind of an interesting twist of events involving Steny Hoyer and other members of the Democratic party who are not happy that this resolution passed. Explain what you can about what you’re hearing and what your reporting is showing.
RG: Toward the end of last year Hoyer kind of flipped on this and you know, he’s extremely close to Saudi Arabia and he’s extremely close to Israel. Both parties are very pro this war in Yemen because they both see it as a way to poke Iran in the eye. But despite that Hoyer became a proponent of this resolution and has been pushing it pretty strongly. It fell apart at the end of last year, but it you know, it got back together again this year and he ended up encountering resistance from Josh Gottheimer who is a fairly new member of Congress from New Jersey. What he did during the Yemen resolution was organize as many Democrats as he could to take this thing down any and he succeeded for a while. Basically forced Democrats to re-vote in the House, then he goes to Steny Hoyer and he says “Look, I’ve got 30 votes in my pocket to vote for what’s called this motion to recommit.” You’re basically voting for a Republican amendment that would basically take the bill down. And Hoyer gave an impassioned speech in the private caucus meeting saying “Look, do not get behind this Josh Gottheimer maneuver because if you do, it basically means we don’t have a majority anymore. If every time a bill comes up that Josh Gottheimer and his friends don’t like and they side with Republicans, we can’t get anything done. So stick with the party on this no matter what you think of the Republican amendment, no matter what you think of the Yemen resolution, don’t blow this. And basically called Gottheimer’s bluff and took it to the floor.
Steny Hoyer: I promised to bring it to the floor. Here we are. And now the House will have an opportunity to express its views to the president and to the country that he ought to end his administration’s support for the Saudi coalition’s military campaign in Yemen.
RG: There were, I think, five Democrats, not 30, who ended up voting against it and Gottheimer being one of them. So, this is, I think, not the last time that we will hear of this guy. I don’t know what his long-term game is but he’s certainly setting himself up to be a player on the kind of far-right edge of the party.
JS: William Barr was on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, and it was not to testify about the Mueller report. It was for an Appropriations Committee meeting on the budget but Democrats did try to ask him about when the Mueller report is going to be delivered to Congress and what the redactions and underlying evidence question is going to result in, you know, what answer that’s going to result in. And Barr said that he believes he’s going to be delivering the Mueller report to Congress and the public within a week. What’s your understanding of what he means when he says that, Ryan, or do we even know? When he says it’s going to be delivered, like what is going to be delivered to Congress? What is going to be given to the public?
RG: From the reporting around the Mueller report, we know that Mueller wrote it in a way that’s supposed to be easy to be publicly released in a sense that there is a summary at the beginning of each section that is clean of any need for redaction. And so, you know, buried inside the chapters themselves are a lot more details that for either national security purposes or ongoing criminal investigations, Barr would say, and Mueller might agree, ought to be redacted. And so, I suspect what we’ll see is a report that has all of the summary pages written by Mueller, Mueller’s team published unredacted and then heavily redacted chapter contents inside that. After that, Barr said he’s going to talk to Democrats on the Hill about ways that some Democrats could privately see what’s been redacted and maybe make some arguments that particular pieces of redaction should be made public.
JS: One of the things that I find fascinating about this dynamic between Attorney General Barr and Robert Mueller is these guys have known each other as close personal friends, their families are friends. They also have a long multi-decade professional relationship and the idea that Barr would have radically mischaracterized Robert Mueller is the unrealistic scenario that Glenn Greenwald and other skeptics of the Russiagate narrative have been pointing to. And I think it is going to be interesting to see, you know, if we are able to see unredacted copies of this — or largely unredacted, you know, obviously some names etcetera — if Barr was accurate in his description of just the narrow question of did Trump or his campaign or individuals in his campaign conspire with agents of the Russian government to impact the 2016 election? There’s that question of whether Barr correctly represented the findings of Mueller. But then the flip side of it is that I think this report is going to be packed with shady shit about Donald Trump because whether or not Trump conspired with Russia, I think is far less interesting than all the other shit that Robert Mueller found in this investigation and Barr and Mueller and their dynamic is going to make it all the more intriguing.
RG: Yeah, and I’ve always been skeptical on that narrow question of the direct collusion between Putin and Trump for a whole host of reasons many of which you’ve spelled out. But I also agree with you that I can’t wait to get into this report itself and frankly, I think Washington would be a better place if there was a permanent special counsel whose job it was to investigate not just foreign criminal influence but domestic criminal influence. Turn over all of these rocks. It’s been amazing to watch everybody kind of rush to register as a foreign agent and generally be looking over their shoulder and trying to clean up their act. It’s been wonderful to learn so much more about Saudi influence in Washington, about Israeli influence in Washington, about UAE influence here. You know, we might find out about Qatar influence in Washington, Chinese, right, like this is good stuff. It is good that you have some of the best investigators in the country, you know following the money through Washington. In some ways, it was convenient to focus on this narrow question of traitorous collusion between Trump and Putin because otherwise, it indicts the entire elite, you know. Otherwise, you’re talking about locking up basically everybody who functions at a high level in Washington and in New York because if you really hit Trump for the criminality of the money laundering that involves all the Russian oligarchs who are pumping that through his real estate empire. That’s basically New York luxury real estate. And so, you kinda have to particularize it and say well, actually what we’re looking at is, you know, this particular meeting between these Trump officials and these Russians rather than the broad swath of criminality that this report is likely to expose.
JS: Ryan Grim, thank you very much for your reporting and for joining us on.
RG: Always a pleasure.
JS: Ryan Grim is the D.C. bureau chief of The Intercept. You can find him on Twitter @ryangrim
JS: Coming up later in the show, we are going to be talking to some really brave anti-war activists who snuck onto a U.S. military base in Georgia in the dark of night to conduct a protest against U.S. nuclear weapons and to deliver a citizen’s indictment of Donald Trump and other U.S. and military officials. Those activists are facing up to 25 years in prison. But first, more on this ongoing attempt by the Trump administration to ram through extremist policies on immigration and asylum.
In recent weeks, Trump has yet again ratched up his anti-immigration agenda, threatening to close the U.S.-Mexico border.
DJT: So, Mexico’s tough. They can stop them but they chose not to. Now they’re going to stop them. And if they don’t stop them, we’re closing the border. Close it. We’ll keep it closed for a long time. I’m not playing games. Mexico has —
JS: Trump has directed the State Department to end aid to Central American countries, which he has already cut.
DJT: And I stopped paying almost 600 million dollars to those three countries. Now, I got a lot of heat. The Democrats say “How dare you do that?”
JS: And Donald Trump is attempting to deny asylum seekers protections
DJT: Whether it’s asylum, whether it’s anything you want, illegal immigration, can’t take you anymore. We can’t take you. Our country is full. Our area is full. The sector is full. Can’t take you anymore, I’m sorry. Can’t happen. So, turn around.
JS: The recently departed, fired, resigned Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen departs with a shameful record and most notably, perhaps, she’s going to be viewed as the face of the administration’s family separation policy.
Brian Karem: — What these people are going through. They have less than you do.
Sarah Sanders: Brian, God, settle down.
BK: Sarah, come on, seriously, seriously.
SS: I’m trying to be serious but I’m not going to have you yell out —
BK: — Telling us it’s a law.
Elizabeth Warren: This is ugly. This is wrong and this is not the way to run our country.
JS: After mounting pressure and a federal judge’s order Trump signed an executive order back in June that purported to abandon his so-called zero tolerance child separation policy. But reports that senior White House adviser Stephen Miller is the mastermind behind Nielsen’s resignation and shakeups at the Department of Homeland Security are raising concerns that he’s going to revive the family separation policy and close ports of entry.
CNN’s Chris Cuomo: Despite having a court currently stopping any more separations and horrid reports that it could take years to pair up the families that were affected already, this president reportedly not only wants to keep separating, he wants more of it.
JS: Now ProPublica reported in November that border agents are still removing parents from their children, despite the technical end of that policy. It’s also been reported that thousands more children than initially were revealed may have been separated from their families. And the government says it could take up to two years to reunify thousands of families who were separated.
My next guest, Aura Bogado, is an investigative reporter at Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. She’s been covering U.S. immigration policy since the Bush administration. She places those most affected by U.S. immigration policies at the center of her reporting, underscoring the trauma and cruelty that people are facing. In this report from Reveal, Aura shares Maria Antonia Larios Soto’s story when she learns that her son Wilson, then-6 years old, was going to be separated from her.
Maria Antonia Larios Soto: [Speaks in Spanish.]
Aura Bogado [translating]: She’s saying that she started crying in front of her son when she tells him that they’re going to take him away from her.
Maria Antonia Larios Soto: [Speaks in Spanish.]
AB [translating]: And he told me, don’t cry Mom. Don’t cry. And he cleaned the tears off my face with his jacket. And I wanted to be strong for him, to not cry. But it can’t be done.
Aura Bogado joins me now. Aura, welcome back to Intercepted.
AB: Thanks for having me, Jeremy.
JS: What’s your understanding of the current situation with families that have been separated under the Trump administration?
AB: Well, we know that a lot of them were reunited. Myself and a lot of other reporters have always known that the sort of official number of people that were part of a class that were going to be reunited didn’t include all of the families necessarily that were separated and a lot of families are still torn apart. Some parents have been deported back and their children are still here. Some parents want the children to try and stay here and get asylum. They may have another sponsor but some of those children still, to this day, remain in shelters. Other parents want their children back, but there are a lot of obstacles to that.
There are language obstacles. We know that a lot of families who were separated, it’s not just that they don’t speak English, they may also not speak Spanish too much. They are often indigenous families. And in terms of communication, it’s difficult, right? Once you get deported and you make your way back to a village, for example, there may not be legal assistance there. You may have to travel very far to make a phone call. And then who are you going to call and how are you going to kind of make your case that you want your child back? So, I think those are some of the obstacles that we’ve seen and yeah, a lot of families remain separated.
JS: Last month, you co-authored an article for Reveal the title of it was “U.S. government uses several clandestine shelters to detain immigrant children.” What’s that all about?
AB: There are about a hundred or so contracted known shelters. They’re operated by individual nonprofits, sometimes bigger nonprofits that own several of them in different states and some are private companies as well. A few months ago, we heard about a facility that we had never heard about before in Arkansas. It really caught our attention because as far as we knew, there weren’t any shelters holding migrant children in Arkansas period. We found out that it was sort of residential treatment facility and then we were able to confirm the existence of four more. The government did acknowledge that these out-of-network facilities exist. That’s what they call them, “out-of-network facilities,” and that they’re holding 15 to 20 migrant children, approximately. So, although they did tell us that, you know, confirm that they do exist, they couldn’t tell us the exact number of children that were there and they didn’t tell us the exact facilities.
And this is a problem in part because for the attorneys who are trying to serve their clients, the government contends that every attorney was always told. We’ve found that that has not been the case and if you can’t find your client, you can’t give them the legal defense that they need in their cases. But also, you know for taxpayers, this is all publicly-funded, one way or another we still haven’t figured out exactly the financial mechanism through which this exists. The government won’t tell us how the money exactly is being processed or where we can find out more information. And so, you know, my job is to be able to tell the public what is happening in these places, but I can’t report about places that I don’t know about.
JS: Over the weekend we learned that Kirstjen Nielsen had resigned as Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary and she wrote in her resignation letter the following: “I can say with confidence our homeland is safer today than when I joined the administration. We have taken unprecedented action to protect Americans. We have implemented historic efforts to defend our borders, combat illegal immigration, obstruct the inflow of drugs, and uphold our laws and values. What do you make of Nielsen’s resignation and her assessment that I was just quoting.
AB: Part of her legacy or maybe her most memorable legacy will be as the person who oversaw the separation of children from their parents.
Kirstjen Nielsen: We do not have the luxury of pretending that all individuals coming to this country as a family unit are in fact a family. We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job. We have sworn to do this job.
AB: When she does make these statements about, you know, we’ve done a lot to protect the country, one does sort of have to wonder like well, how? Doing what when her name is so highly associated with any separations?
JS: What do we currently understand about Stephen Miller’s role in shaping what comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth on immigration or the policies emanating from the administration?
AB: We don’t know exactly what’s going on in that White House, you know investigative reporters, reporters in general, we try to find communications or who is saying what to whom. Can we get emails? Can we get texts? When it comes to the White House, the White House has this sort of executive privilege and so we don’t know what those communications are like. But it has been long rumored that Stephen Miller is sort of, the source of a lot of this rhetoric and quite possibly the sort of, mastermind behind family separations.
JS: The Democrats talk a strong game, and it’s sort of easy to do that when you have a cartoonish character like Trump there but what do the immigration records of the Democratic field as it currently exists look like?
AB: That’s a great question a lot of times on Twitter when I’m tweeting out something that’s happened or more information about something or a particular story, I inevitably get hardcore Trump supporters that are like, why didn’t you ever complain about this during the Obama administration? How come you didn’t report on it? And the truth is that I did and people weren’t paying attention but some of the people that I talk to a lot during my reporting are people who are now adults. They’re very young adults who came in as unaccompanied minors, right either five, eight, even ten plus years ago. So, they were kids then and I made connections with them one way or another and I’m still in touch with them now. And they talked very explicitly about some of the horrors that they endured whether it was in the ‘hieleras,’ right, the ice boxes that children are put in, whether it was the process themselves, whether it was the shelters. We’ve seen not versions of this, we’ve seen some of the origins of this from the previous administration. What we didn’t have in the previous administration was a president who as you said, you know, has almost made a cartoon character out of himself with his rhetoric very hateful and dehumanizing language.
DJT: We’re on track for a million illegal aliens to rush our borders. People hate the word invasion, but that’s what it is. It’s an invasion of drugs and criminals and people.
AB: But it is something that I think I haven’t seen Democrats really engage with too much, you know, but it was those appropriations committees. It’s not like the Democrats didn’t necessarily know that any of it was happening, you know, and a lot of this is an extension of that with some exceptions. The really heightened family separations that is sort of unique to the Trump administration, some of that did happen under Obama though and people had reported on that. Reporters had covered that story in the past. It just wasn’t a sort of blanket way in which it happened last summer.
JS: The majority of migrants or asylum seekers are coming from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Explain to people what’s caused this surge in attempted migration from these countries specifically.
AB: You know, all of those countries that you named are countries in which the United States has played a big role in destabilizing, sometimes it’s United States companies and sometimes it is the United States providing military assistance training death squads who then carried out a lot of horrors in El Salvador.
Ronald Reagan: The Salvadoran battalions that have received U.S. training have been conducting themselves well in the battlefield and with the civilian population.
AB: And I think that’s also a lot of what people forget but is very, very present and very much a part of reality for a lot of Central Americans and broadly, the Central American community. A lot of that big wave of Salvadoran refugees that arrived to the United States in the 80s with or without papers at ports of entry or without authorization, that was a result of a very bloody, massive civil war and the United States was all up in it. Honduras has seen coups dating back for more than a hundred years. So, these are countries in which the United States has been involved for decades or centuries. So, a lot of times that’s missing from the way that we think about or that we talked about, you know, these individual stories. There’s so much rhetoric around MS-13.
DJT: And we’re throwing out gangs like MS-13. These are some of the sickest, most demented, most vicious people in the world. We’re throwing them out of our country by the thousands.
AB: Truth of the matter is it started here in California, in LA, largely a result one could say of people who arrived to the United States from a war-torn country that the United States was explicitly involved in and weren’t even recognized as refugees. That’s like another big part of what’s missing here is you had an entire wave of refugees in the 80s who weren’t recognized as such, hardly were able even to see themselves as such, right. There’s a great academic named Leisy Abrego and she writes and talks about this a lot that what happens when people come as refugees seeking asylum and, you know, figure out a way to stay here one way or another but aren’t given what one would assume that an entire community that has been terrorized would get in a new country — how they see themselves, how society sees them, right, whether or not that translates to papers. What does that mean? And this is like this ongoing legacy.
JS: Just a few days ago, when Trump was speaking in Las Vegas at the Republican Jewish Coalition, he again was mocking asylum-seekers saying —
DJT: Some of the roughest people you’ve ever seen. People that look like they should be fighting for the UFC.
JS: And he called the asylum program a “scam.”
AB: Yeah, most of them look like women and children. In the past, we’ve seen a lot more adult men coming through the border and claiming asylum. We know now that a lot of families and ‘families,’ sort of, shorthand I think, a lot of times, for a single woman who sometimes has been separated from her partner because that partner was killed or sometimes may have had a child as a result of rape. We’re seeing a lot of mothers and a lot of children. I just think about the children that I’ve talked to, you know, by phone or face-to-face in the last year. We’re talking about, you know, little, little kids, three feet tall, definitely not fighters in any way.
JS: Given that you’ve covered this, you know, in such a dedicated way, do you think that the Trump administration has been effective in pushing its vision for transforming U.S. immigration policy, how it’s understood in the broader public and basically redefining who is allowed in and who needs to be deported? I mean, it has it been an effective campaign that they’ve waged?
AB: I think his base, that’s one of the big issues that they voted on. I think on the other side, I do think that there has been, I know that there has been a lot of backlash. When children were being separated last summer, I was surprised at how many people cared about this and that the policy changed.
Kristen Welker: Under a mountain of pressure, a stunning reversal by the president with the stroke of a pen after saying for days only Congress could do it.
DJT: It’s about keeping families together, while at the same time being sure that we have a very powerful, very strong border.
AB: It was a ruling by a judge, and that ruling wasn’t then appealed by the Trump Administration, but they did some version of trying to do what the ruling said, which is to return at least many of the children back to the parents. And so, I think it’s sort of both where, I think it still is vital for Trump’s base, but I think that there’s been a lot of backlash for other people. And I say other people because I don’t think it’s even necessarily another side. I think it’s a lot of Republicans, as well, that are disgusted by the rhetoric and then by certain actions.
JS: How do you think that news organizations, reporters, journalists should improve or how could they improve their coverage of immigration issues? What would you like to see changed in the way that this is covered, handled, reported on in the broader news media?
AB: You know the way that we ask questions, if we’re not thoughtful about the way that we ask questions of the people whose lives we’re trying to learn about and write about, that can give you a very different answer and therefore, frame for your story. So something that I’ve heard a lot over the years, I mean, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard another reporter asked someone “Why did you come to this country?” Personally, that’s not the question I ask. I ask “Why did you leave your country?” You’re going to get like really different responses to all of that. I’m an immigrant myself. I’m Latina. I’m going to be speaking in Spanish, which is my first language. So, I’m going to have an access that other people may not necessarily have. Nevertheless, I am from the United States of America, as far as when I’m talking to a source, when I’m talking to somebody who is very newly arrived, right. Just that question alone, really, like we’re trying to get at the same thing but how you ask that is going to open a person up in a very, very, very different way.
I have been working this beat for a really long time. So, I do have the sort of luxury of being able to call people in Long Island, in Texas, in LA, in different places, in New Orleans who are from these communities, are still very tied to these communities. This is an ongoing thing. It’s just a continuum that gets more difficult for other people and so what winds up happening is we get stories that feature, solely feature the voices of policymakers and maybe advocates every once in awhile, but never the people who are actually affected by the policies that we write about. And I think that that’s, in 2019, I feel like that’s a tragedy.
JS: That really is the incredible value of the work that you’re doing is bringing those stories and making it plain, making it real, and having that humanity. Last thing I want to ask you about: Senator Bernie Sanders, of course, now widely viewed as the front-runner in the Democratic primary that seems like it’s going to go on forever, but he was campaigning in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and he said the following —
Bernie Sanders: I think what we need is comprehensive immigration reform that is not simply — you’re quite right, if your point is you open the borders, my God, you know, there’s a lot of poverty in this world and you’re going to have people from all over the world. And I don’t think it’s something that we can do at this point. Can’t do it.
JS: What’s your response?
AB: We could do it when his poor Polish father came to the United States in 1921. I would love to actually ask Bernie Sanders, what is the difference between those last hundred years in which people who were also rightfully seeking refuge in the United States and were able to come here with papers and you know, have children who then grew up to be senators and then run for president, what’s changed in that time? I’d love to ask Bernie Sanders that question.
JS: I hope you get a chance to do that. Aura Bogado, thank you very much for your very important work and also for joining us on Intercepted.
AB: Thanks so much, Jeremy.
JS: Aura Bogado is an investigative reporter at Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. You can find her on Twitter @aurabogado.
JS: It’s no secret that Trump’s self-proclaimed “winter White House” — Mar a Lago — is a Kubla Khan of corruption and conflicts of interests. That on its face should be cause for continuing outrage and investigation. But over the two years of Trump’s presidency, his Palm Beach, Florida club has also been notorious for the gloriously stupid operational security SNAFUs that have happened there — like when one of his club members, who pays Trump hundreds of thousands of dollars in yearly dues, posted a picture of himself with the nuclear football and he posted it on Facebook. That’s the briefcase that carries the materials needed for Trump to initiate a nuclear strike.
It’s important that Mar-a-Lago be secure. After all, Trump has spent a lot of days of his presidency there. Just last month, a woman was arrested attempting to gain access to Mar-a-Lago’s pool. The Secret Service found on her four cell phones, a laptop, an external hard drive, $8,000 in cash, five SIM cards, a thumb drive containing malware, and a signal detector device used to reveal hidden cameras.
The woman, a 32-year old Chinese national named Yujing Zhang, claimed that she was there to attend a “United Nations Friendship Event.” Such an event did not exist.
So why was she there? Well, we still don’t know. But it begs the question: What would have happened had she gained access? What could she have accomplished? To explore these possibilities, we turn to The Intercept’s security engineer and journalist Micah Lee.
Micah Lee: So USB sticks or USB devices that look like USB sticks can do a lot of things. It’s not necessarily just a little USB hard drive. It could look like that in order to be stealthy. But really, it could do whatever you want as long as you can fit enough hardware in that thing. For example, there is a $45 product that you can just buy on the internet called the USB Rubber Ducky and it looks just like a typical USB stick except actually when you plug it into a computer tells the computer that it’s a USB keyboard. And so at that point, you could do anything on the computer that you could do if you were sitting in front of it typing keystrokes.
ML: So, you could for example, if you go into Mar-a-Lago, you find some computer that’s unlocked. It doesn’t matter what computer it is. Maybe it’s somebody who’s registering new guests or something. If you could just see a USB port and plug it in for a couple of seconds, then it could type using keyboard shortcuts, open up a terminal or a command prompt, and then run commands and the commands could be — and it would do this very, very fast because it’s a computer typing and not a human. So it could like download some malware from the internet and then run it and then close the terminal, for example. So, that’s one thing that it could do. And then at that point, you basically have a back door into their network.
What it does really just depends on what malware you decided to put on it, but typical malware would be a remote access tool. So, it will basically allow the attacker to then go back home and then connect into that computer over the internet and explore the internal network. So from that point, they could start launching attacks on other computers on the network and they could start scanning it to see what is out there and they can have access to anything that that computer has access to. So if that computer is on a corporate VPN or something, then the attacker is on that corporate VPN as well. And if that computer has access to an email account, the attacker could access all of that email.
If a lot of secret stuff happens at an unsecured facility like Mar-a-Lago that like, you know random people that can afford a ticket to some event have access to, there’s a lot of attack vectors there. You can bring in an Android phone that’s been modified to have a bunch of hacking tools on it. And then from there, you can do stuff like start mapping out what wireless networks you see, maybe even doing attacks against the wireless networks to try to like crack the passwords on them. You know, if you can manage to connect to a wireless network, you can start scanning the network and trying to see if there’s any other devices that you can attack.
Near the beginning of the Trump presidency, there was an event at Mar-a-Lago. They had their phones out. They were using their phone flash like, lights in order to look at classified documents because it was kind of dark out and people like could just see them doing this. And there’s a ton of things wrong with this scenario. You shouldn’t be like dealing with classified documents just like out on the patio while you’re like enjoying drinks to begin with. It should be you know in a SCF, a secured compartmentalize facility, and then like all of the people using their flashlight phones, like if those phones have been compromised then whoever controls those phones could be taking pictures of these classified documents as well.
USB sticks can be very evil. And if you find a random USB stick, it might just be a drive that you’re expecting but it could really be doing anything. There’s multiple products out there that are relatively cheap that you can use to program something that looks like a USB stick to compromise a computer and there’s a lot of fun attacks that people have come up with. So basically USB sticks, you can’t trust them and plug them into your computer very deliberately.
JS: That was the Intercept’s Micah Lee. He spoke to our producer Jack D’Isidoro.
JS: Regular listeners of this show know that I don’t often talk about my personal history or my path to journalism very much on this program, but for the next segment that we’re going to do, I felt like I should share with listeners part of my history with the people that we’re going to be talking to and with the movement that they are a part of. And it deals with the Catholic Worker and the Plowshares Movement. So, by way of a little bit of personal background: I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My father and mother are both from Illinois. My dad grew up on the south side of Chicago in Hyde Park. His parents were Irish immigrants who came by boat to the United States in the early 1900s. And he grew up in a pretty traditional Irish Catholic family. And as he came of age and was contemplating what he wanted to do with his life, one of the things he was considering was entering the priesthood. And at this time in the 1960s when my dad was finishing high school and looking into college, you had the rise of the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King and the marching throughout the south and the anti-segregation move. And then eventually Martin Luther King brought the Civil Rights Movement north.
Reporter: Dr. King, how are things shaping up now for tomorrow?
Martin Luther King: Things are shaping up beautifully. We have people coming in from all over —
JS: And it settled in the city of Chicago. And my dad became very politicized during that era and having grown up as an Irish Catholic, the aspect of the broader social justice movement that really spoke to him was the evolution of something that became known as the Catholic left. As I was thinking about this segment, I thought it makes sense to just give my dad a call.
Jeremy’s Dad: Hello.
JS: Hey Dad.
JS: My dad had gone to see Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Which is an anarchist, pacifist movement.
D: I actually met Dorothy Day in Chicago and that’s kind of where I learned about the Catholic Worker. I was always attracted to the values and the belief system because you know, I was you know, very much within a framework of Catholic social action so to speak in that era.
JS: Hearing Dorothy Day speak completely changed the course of my father’s life. He decided that he wanted to work among the poor and he began doing tutoring and housing projects in Chicago, but felt like that wasn’t enough and eventually he decided to leave home, to leave his immigrant parents and do something that actually they objected to. He took a bus to New York City and he moved in to the Catholic Worker house.
D: So I went to the Catholic Worker around late September 1969. I was 21 years old, just graduated from college. There was a soup line every morning. The soup line doors would open at 10:00 and the line extended from the door of 36 East First Street, all the way around almost, there was a gas station on the corner of Second Avenue and lasted for about an hour and it was quite a big production. And that was a big deal. And that lasted for a couple hours and then there was lunch and then there were some cleanup chores and there was the clothing room. And so it was very, you know, direct, hands-on, type of things that were done there at the time.
JS: Dorothy Day asked him if he would be willing to go down to Cuba as part of what was called the Venceremos Brigades. Fidel Castro was still developing the Cuban Revolution and so, all of these young people from around the world were invited to Cuba. And my dad was sent by Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker movement to go on a delegation down there and to cut sugar cane and to write about his experiences.
D: Dorothy said, you know, I can’t for lots of reasons, I can’t find anybody to go and she said I want to send you there and I said, oh my God, I — what would — I know nothing about this. I was a real novice with leftist politics and still learning. And she said, “No, you can do it.” And she said “Just write what you see and write what you think and write what you feel has happened there and you have my full endorsement to go.
JS: My dad actually met Fidel Castro when he came to their camp one evening and Fidel addressed the international workers who were there helping with the harvest of 10 million tons. And when my dad returned to New York, he wrote an article for the Catholic Worker newspaper that was called —
D: “Up from non-violence: A young Catholic Worker in Cuba.” I really felt that there was some validity to this revolution and basically in the article I said: “I defend the right of the Cuban people to defend themselves.” And the phrase they used was “la lucha armada,” the armed struggle, I began to see that in a different light and understand that a little better.
JS: I knew that my dad had some connection to some Catholic newspaper, Catholic organization. But you know, it’s my dad. I didn’t — I wasn’t really that interested in hearing about it when I was little. And when I was going through my own searching in life and deciding what I wanted to do, I had dropped out of University in Wisconsin, and I essentially hitchhiked to Washington DC in the mid-1990s and moved in as a worker to the nation’s largest homeless shelter, which was called The Community for Creative Non-violence. And it was the summer of 1995 and it was the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the entire peace movement descended on DC for the entire month leading up to the anniversaries of the atomic bombings. And there were all of these incredible people there. People like Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower of the Pentagon papers, Philip and Daniel Berrigan, radical priests who had really jump started the Catholic left with their actions aimed at burning and destroying draft cards that were being used to send primarily poor people to fight in the war in Vietnam. And this really was the height of Catholic faith-based activism. No one had seen priests take these kinds of actions.
“Hit & Stay” Daniel Berrigan: We regret very much, I think all of us, the inconvenience and even suffering on the part of these clerks here.
Phil Berrigan: We sincerely hope we didn’t injure anyone.
[Catonsville Nine reciting The Our Father.]
“Hit & Stay” Activist: We have chosen to be powerless criminals in a time of criminal power.
JS: One of the days during that summer of 1995 where there were all these protests at different sites around Washington D.C. There was a big demonstration at the Pentagon and I had just gotten to know Phil Berrigan and Liz McAlister. And Liz McAlister came up to me at this demonstration and she said would you escort Daniel Berrigan. He has to go to the bathroom. So Dan Berrigan, and this was pre 9/11, Dan Berrigan, you know a very slight Jesuit priest and I — and I was blown away. That was the first time I met Dan Berrigan, we walk into the Pentagon and go and find a bathroom and I’m standing there at a bank of urinals next to Father Daniel Berrigan. And he says to me — you know, it’s surreal. We’re inside the Pentagon and he says to me, you know, “when Roosevelt signed off on building the Pentagon, he had always promised that after it was done, he was going to turn it into a hospital.” And Dan Berrigan said, you know, “and he actually kept his word. It is. It’s the largest insane asylum in the world.” So, that’s how I met Daniel Berrigan.
And meeting Liz McAlister, Philip and Daniel Berrigan was absolutely life-changing for me. I don’t know that I ever would have become a journalist if I wasn’t subjected to those kinds of people whose entire lives were about the pursuit of justice and living according to their beliefs. And you know, Dan Berrigan was also a fan of saying don’t just say something, stand there. And that’s how I think of all of these people that they’re people that are willing to stand there when it’s necessary.
I’m bringing all of this up because the history of the Catholic Worker Movement and the history of what would become known as the Plowshares Movement represent a largely untold narrative of actual resistance to some of the gravest threats that the imperial nation of the United States represents to the rest of the world through nuclear weapons. And both Daniel and Philip Berrigan lived a life where they were in and out of prison. Phil, in particular, spent about a tenth of his life in prison for anti-war actions.
Philip Berrigan: If the war makers would stop making the bombs and would go into disarmament, we’d go back to working with the poor because we come from that tradition.
JS: And in 1980, once again, the Berrigan brothers united with like-minded individuals and they started a new movement called the Plowshares Movement. And the idea was quoting from the scripture of Isaiah that they shall beat their swords into plowshares and nations shall not take up arms against other nations and they shall study war no more. And they went into the General Electric factory in the King of Prussia, Pennsylvania with hammers and their own blood and they physically hammered on Mark 12-A nuclear warheads and they destroyed equipment and they poured their own blood on documents and computer systems. And they were arrested and stood trial. And that action that became known as the Plowshares Eight would, similar to the Draft Board Raids, spark a movement of people that began to do symbolic acts of resistance against nuclear weapons systems.
And last April, on April 4th, 2018, It was the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. A group of seven activists including Phil Berrigan’s wife Liz McAlister, people from the Catholic Worker Movement, a current Jesuit priest named Steve Kelly divided into three teams and snuck onto the Kings Bay naval submarine base in Georgia. They had to cut their way through fences, navigate the base, and they poured blood on structures inside of the base. They unfurled banners against nuclear weapons, and they brought with them an indictment of President Trump and other U.S. officials for their continuing involvement in the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the threat that is always present to use them. These nonviolent activists, these seven people, were eventually arrested by the U.S. military and interrogated, ultimately handed over to civilian authorities and they have been charged with multiple felonies. They are facing up to 25 years in prison for their actions.
I know every single one of these seven people. I lived with Carmen Trotta. I lived with Liz McAlister. I lived with Father Steve Kelly during my time at the Catholic Worker in New York as well as at Jonah House. These are some of the best people that I’ve ever met. People who have spent their entire lives living in voluntary poverty, among the poor, in servitude to the poor and also confronting the machinery of war. And so, it’s in this spirit and also personally telling you, the listener, of my connection to this, I’m not objective about this. I think these are amazing people. So joining me now are two of the seven people who entered Kings Bay Naval Base last April that are now facing 25 years in prison. They are both wearing ankle bracelets, monitoring bracelets as they sit here in our studio. Martha Hennessy, she is a longtime anti-war activist and she is the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. Martha Hennessy. thanks for joining us on Intercepted.
Martha Hennessy: Thank you for having us.
JS: I’m also joined by Carmen Trotta, a lifelong member of the Catholic Worker Movement. He lives at the Catholic Worker house, St. Joseph’s, that both my dad and I lived at. And I lived there with Carmen myself in the 1990s. Carmen, welcome to Intercepted.
Carmen Trotta: It’s good to be here, Jeremy.
JS: How did you explain to the military personnel, and the civilian personnel later, who you are and why you were doing what you did?
MH: Yeah, we were interrogated by several different groups of people on the base and I just sort of kept a tight lip. I mean, the one thing that I do remember saying, was I was just quoting the banner: “The ultimate logic of Trident is Omnicide.” And the people I was in the room with became very quiet and still hearing me say that. So they clearly understood our point and why we were there and what we were attempting to do.
JS: You both have referenced an indictment that you brought with you. Explain that indictment.
MH: We have a copy here. I mean, we wanted to make it clear that we were indicting the president on down to the captain of the base, and the indictment is to just again, remind us. “Today, through our nonviolent action, we, Kings Bay Plowshares indict the United States government, President Donald Trump, Kings Bay Base Commander Brian Lepine, the nuclear triad, and specifically the Trident nuclear program.” And then we go on to reference the U.S. Constitutional Article 6, Section 2 where international treaty is a binding law in the United States. We talk about the United Nations Charter ratified and signed in 1945. Article two regards the threat to use nuclear weapons as ongoing international criminal activity. We reference the Nuremberg principles where citizens are obliged to speak up when they know that they’re governments are committing war crimes and we have been committing war crimes since World War II. And so the non-proliferation treaty is also part of this document and we’re saying, we have come onto this base to uphold the rule of law that the existence of this base and these war plans are actually criminal.
JS: Just for people who have never heard of it, what is the Catholic Worker Movement?
MH: The Catholic Worker movement started in 1933 under the dire conditions of the Great Depression. Capitalism was failing the people. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin came together as co-founders and decided that the works of mercy, the sermon on the mount needed to be implemented literally in the streets of New York, picking up the human wreckage of the capitalist system, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned.
JS: And who was Dorothy Day before she co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement?
MH: Well, she’s a Catholic convert. She’s a journalist. Her father and brothers were journalists. She was a writer and with the experience of her Catholic conversion, with the birth of her daughter, my mother, she tried to find a way to combine this socialism that she was exposed to in the teens and 20s and 30s in the United States. She tried to combine her faith with really understanding how to help the people, serve the people. And she didn’t believe that governments could ever do it.
JS: And she’s up for beatification.
MH: That’s right.
JS: For the lay-people out there that means that the process is in [the] works to become a saint.
MH: Yes, the New York Archdiocese is working on her cause for her canonization to be made a saint for the Catholic church. She is a saint desperately needed for our times because of her voice against warfare.
Dorothy Day: Just as we’re living in a nuclear age something we have grown so tremendously in scientific knowledge. It doesn’t seem too much to say that men can begin to awaken to the fact that they haven’t grown enough spiritually and haven’t recognized their spiritual capacities. And I think that today there is certainly the beginnings of a movement of non-violence all over the world.
JS: Carmen, can you talk a bit about the history of the Plowshares Movement and for people who have never heard of this before and it sounds to them insane that you have a priest and a former nun and the granddaughter of the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and Catholic Workers going on to a base where they could be shot with lethal force to perform a symbolic act of resistance against nuclear weapons — Like what is the history of it? And what is the Plowshares Movement?
CT: It’s direct action at nuclear weapons plant or facilities, wherever they’re made or maintained, that these are gross violations of the law of God and the law of man and they need to be exposed. The history may go back to 1955 in the civil defense drills that Dorothy Day, Ammon Hennacy, AJ Muste with the War Resisters League and the Catholic Worker sort of put together a protest against people having to go out in New York City, go into the subway, go into the basement of buildings one day a year for six years, one day a year. The civil defense authorities made this happen in New York City.
Newscaster: New York City is teeming millions prime target for an atomic attack go about their normal affairs. Suddenly, their daily routine is rudely shattered by the screaming whale of air raid sirens warning them of a possible enemy onslaught. This first demonstration of an all-out civil defense drill by America’s number one metropolis is a model of preparedness and training. All traffic halts and pedestrians immediately seek shelter guided by a core of well-trained wardens.
CT: And AJ Muste, Dorothy Day, Hennacy said that this was psychological warfare against the American people going into the subway that would simply be your grave in the event of a nuclear war. While Dorothy Day, and I think there were 13 of them in the first instance, went simply and sat. They sat in various parks. I think the first one was at City Hall. They simply sat there and refused to go underground or refused to go into a building. And at one point Dorothy went to jail for a month for doing one of these actions. The first three or four times they did it, they had very small crowds. In fact, the second year that they did it, they had fewer people than I think the like 15 that participated in the first time and then one year, which is the fourth year, there 600 people joined. The fifth year, a thousand people joined and the last year, 2,500 people participated in separate actions around the city and this shut down the air defense drills in the city.
Newscaster: All clear. New York’s first civil defense drill is a tribute to its citizens and defense organizations.
JS: How would you describe the political purpose of that action?
MH: It was brilliant. She was brilliant. She put her finger right on the exact thing that needed to be done in terms of not cooperating, non-cooperation with this madness. What affected me much more deeply were the words that she wrote in September of 1945 after the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. You know, “We are breathing in the dust of our Japanese brothers and sisters,” printed on the pages of the Catholic Worker newspaper in 1945. “Mr. Truman was jubilant. President Truman, true man, what a strange name come to think of it. We refer to Jesus Christ as true God and true man. Truman is a true man of his time in that he was jubilant. He was not a son of God, brother of Christ, brother of the Japanese, jubilating as he did. He went from table to table on the cruiser, which was bringing him home from The Big Three conference telling the great news, jubilant. The newspaper said ‘Jubilate Deo, we have killed 318,000 Japanese.’”
Harry S. Truman: It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The first from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the far East. We have spent more than two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history and we have won.
JS: Moving forward with that history, from the air raid drills to then we get into the 1960s.
MH: Vietnam War. Well, my brother was sent to Vietnam as a 20-year-old. He dropped out of college and was immediately drafted and for the family, this was not theoretical. This was the practice and Dorothy was able to visit him down at Fort Benning during his training which was unheard of. So, for us, we were out on the streets protesting the Vietnam War, you know, while our brother was there and he did not construe that as supportive and you know, the experience was very personal and very painful. Regarding, you know, Dorothy asked him if he wanted to be a conscientious objector, and he said no and she felt that the primacy of conscience was to be respected and she accepted that. So the lessons for me as a 14-year-old were very, very seared into my memory.
JS: This is also when you start to see the real emergence of what became known as the Catholic left and you had the actions of the Berrigan brothers, Philip and Daniel Berrigan but explain that, the next sort of, evolution of this kind of direct action against nuclear weapons.
CT: Best I know the first person to publicly burn their draft card walked out the front door of the St. Joseph House and the day they of doing so had been volunteering at the Catholic Worker was also a student of Dan Berrigan’s. Dan Berrigan very quickly put out a statement that he was proud of him, that he would support him. In ’65, they created a law that made it illegal to burn your draft card. If you get an A1 draft card, you were most likely to go to the war in Vietnam, but over time it became really quite clear that the people who were being sent to Vietnam were predominantly the poor. [In] ’65, Tom Cornell, Dave McReynolds, three others, forgive me for not knowing the names. They very publicly burned their draft cards knowing that they would be arrested.
Bob Wallace: Well, FBI cameras recorded a draft card burning demonstration in New York City this afternoon. Five men publicly burned their draft cards as a large crowd watched. One onlooker took strong action. He doused the draft cards and the draft card burners with a nearby fire extinguisher. The FBI is not taken any action as yet.
Protester: I hope that we are not doing this in the spirit of defiance. But in the spirit of a plea, a very heartfelt plea to our fellow citizens and to our leaders to turn away from the course that they have undertaken and to turn toward a course that will strengthen the best in our traditions and that will help to stop wars of this kind starting up in Latin America and other critical areas.
CT: As a veteran of World War II, Philip Berrigan was startled that the military was segregated and at the mistreatment of African Americans. And so, when he decided to become a priest, he became a Josephite because they worked with, at the time, the African American community in Baltimore. And ultimately they do what is in certain ways can be considered the first draft board raid which is the Baltimore Four — him and Tom Lewis and two others.
JS: Phil Berrigan and three others go into a draft board in Baltimore, Maryland where they’re holding the files for people that they —
CT: Holding those A1 draft cards.
JS: — the draft to send to the war in Vietnam.
CT: They knew where they were. They pulled out the files from the drawer and they poured blood.
JS: They’re arrested and at the time, this was way before internet, cable news everything. It was a fairly big story that you have a Catholic priest and three other people going in and doing this.
CT: They were sentenced for a couple of years. It was when they were out on parole of some sort that they began to plan the next draft board raid, which was the Catonsville Nine.
Daniel Berrigan: We do not believe that non-violence is dead and that we don’t believe in interposing one form of violence for another and that we believe that an action like this will still speak to our fellow Americans and bring home to them that a decent society is still possible. But it’s totally impossible, if these files and what they represent are preserved and honor and even defended as those poor women tried to.
JS: Martha, what was the significance of the Catonsville Nine action? This was May 1968.
MH: Well, it was the beginning of the nation paying attention to these Catholic priests finally stepping up and speaking about peacemaking. And the fact that these two priests were on the front cover of the Time Magazine, I think maybe ’71, ’72. I think that you know, the country was at a place where these protests were registering and could be recognized and then, I think the learning curve that the war machine is on figures out how to obliterate this news. I mean the Berrigans then disappeared after being on the front cover of Time Magazine and the reporting just was not what it should have been.
Thomas R. Melville: Not only are we killing people violent, physical war. We’re also killing them through the extension of our economic-political empire. Let us also pray for all those people that are dying from hunger and starvation throughout the world so that Americans can have a higher standard of living.
JS: Martha, share with us your thought process of why you decided to do this and how you got to the point where you end up on April 4, 2018, at a military base in Georgia?
MH: It’s a lifelong process. I never imagined that I would be prepared to do such a thing. My first arrest was in 1979 protesting Seabrook nuclear power plant. I served three months in jail for that and I think all of these steps along the way were preparation for me. I’ve had a chance to be exposed to what the U.S. empire does to other people in other countries and I think probably my faith journey is what really triggered for me the capacity to be able to take personal responsibility and to be willing to have personal sacrifice to engage in such an act. But you know, Dorothy handed me the book by John Hershey, “Hiroshima” when I was a kid and that stuck in my mind. I had a very acute awareness of the nuclear arsenal and what it means and knowing in my heart that this was something that I could and should do.
JS: Carmen, what led you to the base that day?
CT: When we were in court, the prosecution said that we had extensive criminal records, and I never thought of anything that I did is criminal. I was struck by it. You know, I’ve never assaulted anyone. I’ve never stolen anything. And so, what have I done? I’ve engaged in non-violent civil resistance to American imperialism and particularly to war crimes. So, now in terms of leading up to our action, Kathy Kelly comes to town and starts a vigil about Yemen, and she wants the Catholic Worker to take it up and I began to look into Yemen and we started a vigil, a vigil that goes on to this day. I mean, you’re in the environment of the Catholic Worker where this has been thought about I think pretty deeply for a long time and resisted only by non-violence and it’s almost its own form of, I don’t want to say patriotism, but its own form of a love for those ideals that I was given that I thought were at the heart of our Constitution, of our Declaration of Independence.
That all that stuff still — it’s still relevant to me. So, now I walk into, I am asked once again to join a community if I want to see it and I walk into the room and I know every one of them. Yeah. Yeah, and they were all people that I greatly loved and I could, I said this somewhere else, that I could not — almost a quote from Dan — but I could not not do the action after seeing who was in this crowd knowing that most of them had more extensive criminal records than I had and that they would therefore likely suffer whatever we were going to suffer for it and that’s yet to come or some of this is doing it right now. They have larger records therefore, they’re going to get punished more than I would.
JS: Speaking of resistors, by the way, what do you make of the hashtag resistance? You know, it’s a big thing. We’re all resisting Trump right now and members of Congress are like declaring themselves members of the resistance. What do you make of the use of that term given that you guys are facing 5 to 25 years for what I think is a legitimate act of resistance against you know the most lethal threat on the planet?
MH: Yes, it’s thrown around easily. And again, the lessons of the Catholic Worker are you do this at a personal sacrifice. And that’s where change can happen when you step up to take responsibility in a way that’s going to impact yourself and your family. And I applaud everyone, you know, talking about making the changes but when push comes to shove, what does it really take to make these changes?
JS: The significance of doing this action on April 4th.
MH: Oh, the killing of Martin Luther King Jr. I believe it was a state killing. I believe there was a civil trial in 1999 that showed that he was killed by a conspiracy from elements of his own government, and it was the 50th anniversary. And we are trying to highlight especially in light of Donald Trump the triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism. And Dr. King forfeited his life for this effort to bring peace and justice and we wanted to honor him.
JS: What’s your current legal strategy, the argument that you’re making in the court? I understand part of it is that you are going to argue under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that you should not be convicted of the specific charges that you’ve had leveled against you.
MH: Well, we have proven in court, I believe, that our religious beliefs are sincerely held. I don’t think that can be doubted based on our evidentiary hearing and the government’s response with this Religious Freedom Restoration Act was to be least restrictive and slapping us with three felonies is not the least restrictive. They could give us a ban and bar letter to obey. And the government has to prove that it has a compelling interest to protect those weapons. And so, we are saying that these weapons are anti-God, anti-creation, anti-life and Pope Francis has said that we are to not even possess these weapons. It’s immoral to possess them. So, we feel that this religious freedom restoration approach is legitimate but right now the courts have not responded in 12 weeks time now to our motion to dismiss based on religious freedom.
CT: This is only the third time that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been used in a criminal case. And ideally what we would like is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act may open us up to being able to speak directly to the jurors about our motivations and there’s been a recipe that’s been used against Plowshares actions in certain states, and Georgia is one of them, which basically shut you down and it makes the trial this: Did you cut this lock? Did you cut this fence? Did you pour blood here? If you did these things — and we admit and want to explain why we did those things — you’re guilty. And that’s that.
MH: The real goal is to get into the federal courts, expert testimony on the legality of nuclear weapons.
JS: If an action of this nature took place in Russia, against Russian nuclear weapons or in North Korea at one of those facilities, those people would be celebrated as heroes, as resisters, as political prisoners and in this country, you’re relegated to the status of did you actually cut this lock or not? Because the crime really is cutting that fence. That’s the crime that you’re going to be charged with and it’s really — I would ask people listening too, just imagine what the reaction would be if we woke up tomorrow morning and heard that a group of peace activists went on to a nuclear facility in Russia and did this exact same thing that you guys have just been describing against Russian nuclear weapons. Adam Schiff would probably try to, would meet you on a ship somewhere to give you the resistance crown award of the you know of the royal order of MSNBC guests. I mean, it would be like, it would be incredible. People would be celebrating it the world over and most people have never even heard that you guys did this or that there is a such thing as the Plowshares Movement. Do you know yet when you go to trial?
MH: No, trial date has been set. I think that they don’t want a trial because that will expose the whole topic.
JS: Carmen Trotta thanks so much for being with us.
CT: Great to be here.
JS: Martha Hennessy, thank you as well.
MH: Thank you for your work.
JS: Carmen Trotta is a long time member of the New York Catholic Worker, an activist with Witness Against Torture, and a member of the Kings Bay 7 Plowshares group. And Martha Hennessy, a lifelong peace activist and the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Some of their co-defendants, in this case, have been in prison for the past year. The other members of the group are Jesuit priest Steve Kelly, Jonah House co-founder Liz McAlister, and Catholic Workers Patrick O’Neill, Clare Grady and Mark Colville. They are facing up to 25 years in prison for their action. No trial date has been set. You can find out more about this case by going to www.kingsbayplowshares7.org.
[“I Had No Right” by Dar Williams plays.]
JS: That is the great singer-songwriter Dar Williams performing her song, “I Had No Right,” about the Catonsville Nine action back in 1968.
And that does it for this week’s show. If you are not yet a sustaining member of Intercepted, you can log onto TheIntercept.com/join. Intercepted is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our producer is Jack D’Isidoro and our executive producer is Leital Molad. Laura Flynn is associate producer. Elise Swain is our assistant producer and graphic designer. Rick Kwan mixed the show. Transcription is done by Nuria Marquez Martinez. Our music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky. We are not going to be on the air next week. So, we’ll see you soon. Until then, I’m Jeremy Scahill.