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Project ELF RIP
The curtains are about to close on an epic drama in the north woods of Wisconsin and Michigan. On Friday, September 17, the U.S. Navy announced intentions to close its two ELF (extremely low frequency) communications sitesone in the Chequamegon National Forest near Clam Lake, Wisconsin; the other in Michigans Upper Peninsula, near Republic in the Escanaba State Forest. The announcement drew immediate cheers from anti-nuke watchdogs who have protested the sites since plans for the installations hit the drawing boards. The Associated Press reports the Navy, admitting what opponents have claimed for yearsthat their technology is outdatedchose to close and dismantle the sites because Project ELF no longer serves its purpose adequately.
Improvements in communications technology and the changing requirements of todays Navy make the ELF communications system no longer necessary, claimed Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command spokesperson Steven A. Davis. Previously, military advocates proclaimed Project ELF a necessary tool in maintaining secure communications with the United States global submarine fleet.
During the first Gulf War, messages sent from ELF transmitters alerted submarine fleets in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere to military orders. While the Trident submarines could not respond and communication was limited to quick pulses of coded information, the ELF antenna could direct commanders to surface at appropriate coordinates to receive more detailed instructions via other communication technologies.
The low-energy waves, with wavelengths much longer than radio wavesan average wave being 2,500 miles longrequire an enormous antenna. In Clam Lake a collection of 600 40-foot towers spaced throughout sensitive wetland habitats created 2 perpendicular power lines each running 14 miles. Waves generated here penetrate the ocean to depths unreachable by radio and other communication waves. Requiring a million watts of power to generate a two-watt signal, the installation composes a very large radio transmitter.
Captain Daniel Donovan, Deputy Director for Naval Communications in 1982, told Discover magazine, ELF would have to send only a few code letters to summon a missile sub nearer the surface for firing commands.
Useful only in a first-strike scenario, communications from the transmitter would alert submarines to begin operations, leading to a potential launch of their nuclear weapons. The antennas location, easily discerned by anyone with Internet access, almost guaranteed a quick strike against northern Wisconsin, endangering the lives of people nearby. Given its incredible energy budget, a simple three-digit code would still require 30 minutes to be transmitted by the antenna, an incredibly slow process allowing enemies even more time to destroy the facility.
Dr. Helen Caldicott, in The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bushs Military-Industrial Complex, argues that weapons employed by the Trident fleet are designed to foil the intent of START II (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which was specifically designed to eradicate first-strike weapons capable of destroying missile silos. Project ELF, thus, had its role in escalating the post-Cold War defense build- up, increasing the chances for nuclear annihilation.
Though low-frequency communication facilities were first hypothesized in the 1950s, the Navy only proposed its Project Sanguine in 1968, once scientific advances would allow such an installation. The Sanguine proposal, which eventually devolved into Project ELF, originally recommended a 6,000-square-mile grid of lines blanketing northern Wisconsin. The extensive, shallow granitic bedrock drew the Navys attention to the region as the rock, working analogously to the hollow chamber of a monstrous guitar, would contribute to the devices effectiveness.
In the face of public opposition, the Navy tried in vain to find less politically-charged sites elsewhere, including Texas, before returning to Wisconsin and Michigan with the streamlined Project Seafarer. Then President Carter stepped in and, heeding strong local opposition, had the Navy further scale down the proposed installation. The Navy returned with specs for the current assembly that remained shelved until Reagan assumed office.
As Wisconsinites organized opposition to a proposed mine near Crandonan opposition that finally won its epic battle a year ago grassroots anti-ELF sentiments also spread through rural communities, eventually alerting Madisons activist community. The northern economy, built around logging and tourism, was not predicted to breed insurgents. Activists worked to educate their neighbors throughout the state. Protests on-site began in 1981eight years before the facility went on-linewith activists pulling survey stakes. Northern Wisconsin became a hotbed of protest.
A 1971 Navy study determined that electromagnetic fields associated with ELF caused stunted growth in rats. The military sat on the details of these findings until 1976, even as concerned citizens worked to unearth information on potential health impacts of the ELF waves. The Navy convened the Ad Hoc Committee for the Review of Biomedical and Ecological Effects of ELF Radiation to analyze their research in 1973. The committees members raised concerns over potentially serious health problems related to the technology, though their worries carried little weight with militarists desiring a different message. The ad hoc committees findings only reached the public once Senator Gaylord Nelson, an environmentalist and progressive Democrat, raised a stink and released the report himself.
The battle over scientific findings continued for years with the Navy searching for experts willing to vouch for ELFs safety while the publics suspicions grew. Various figures, such as Dr. Creig R. Kronstedt, released reports describing the potential impacts on humans, suggesting ways that low-frequency waves interfered with neural activity. Others suggested that stray voltage reduced milk production in dairy cows. Speculation proved ubiquitous and though few hard facts surfaced, public relations eclipsed the scientific pursuit of reliable information. To this day, anyone expressing concerns over health problems stemming from exposure to various forms of long-wave energy is likely to be denounced as a conspiracy theorist. In effect, the citizens occupying lands surrounding the Clam Lake and Republic installations served as human guinea pigs in a massive study of the long-term effects of electromagnetic radiation on living beings.
In September 2001 the Lac Courte Oreilles band of Chippewa began pressuring the Navy to determine the nature and extent of health and environmental problems created by the antenna system. Holding treaty rights as their trump card, band officials argued that a minimal three million dollar would be needed for a study examining conditions such as cancer rates in the four-county area surrounding the project site. Navy spokesperson Richard Williamson told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that testing would be money wasted as 5 universities in proximity to the Great Lakes had already spent $25 million on research that identified no major effects from the ELF antenna.
The Navy required their detractors to provide the burden of proof that the system caused health problems. Such a burden would require an incredible investment of time and money, two luxuries least available to the working people of the northern Midwest. Whenever evidence surfaced of alleged health effects, the Navy countered with the required contradictory message.
Ultimately, the Navylike pharmaceutical companies or food purveyorsshould have been forced to prove their systems safety. But the Navys secrecy, alongside their perceived need to implement Project ELF, prevented them from assuming an ethically responsible role. Though both sites were shut down on September 30, resulting cancers and other health problems may not surface for some years with victims unable to trace their misfortune to the antenna.
During the debate over the 1996 Senate Defense Appropriations bill, Wisconsins two senators, Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, succeeded in getting the Senate to pass an amendment putting an end to Project ELF. Hawks such as Rep. Bill Young of Florida (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) restored funding in a joint House-Senate conference, stressing ELFs role in national security. A year later, Feingold, who had fought the antenna installation diligently on the Senate floor for years, introduced a bill to end the project, that was costing up to $15 million every year.
State of Wisconsin also fought Project ELF. In 1984, Wisconsin won
a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy. Federal Judge Barbara Crabb ordered
the site decommissioned but an appeals court overturned the finding,
ruling in favor of the Navy and keeping the facility operational.
The Clam Lake site became a Mecca for anti-nuclear activists with notable protests and numerous arrests making the front pages of newspapers throughout the region for decades. Since 1991, more than 500 arrests have been made on the ELF site. For example, on Sunday, August 8, 1999a recurring date for protest chosen in memory of the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasakia dozen protesters from a crowd of 65 were arrested for trespassing on the site. Many participants had endured a 4-day, 53-mile peace trek from the courthouse in Ashland, Wisconsin where legal battles over ELF and protesters rights had also waged for decades.
Bonnie Urfer, a local activist working with the group Nuke- watch, said that Ashland County stopped issuing trespassing tickets in 2000, leaving the federal government to take up the slack. In later protests, Forest Service officials, having jurisdiction over the National Forest lands, issued tickets, adding meaning to their agencys popular description of federal forests, Land of Many Uses.
A dozen protesters in 2003 wound up in federal court in Madison on trespassing charges, each fined $150. Federal Magistrate Stephen Crocker, threatening jail time to repeat offenders, sentenced Duluth resident Michelle Naar-Obed to 30 days in a federal prison. Naar-Obed, who has a history of civil disobedience, informed the magistrate that she had recently witnessed the direct consequences of militarization upon the innocents of Iraq and suggested he avoid placing his judicial stamp of approval on such acts. Crocker reminded Naar-Obed that the court did not determine whether or not military actions are correct.
When activists found a way to take the antenna assembly off-line, protests took on a whole new meaning. In 2000, two Luck, Wisconsin residents, Urfer and Michael Sprong, cut down three poles with hand-held saws. They patiently awaited law enforcement to take them into custody. Urfer and Sprong were the fifth team to cripple the multi-million dollar device with tools available for less than ten dollars in any hardware store.
To counter Project ELF, Nukewatch formed in 1979 in the small town of Luck. The group organized regular anti-ELF actions while also carefully monitoring shipments of nuclear materials throughout the United States by train, truck, and other vehicles.
Urfer explains that, despite the closing, Nukewatchs activists have mixed emotions over the Navys announcement. Most people are extremely skeptical of the reasons that the Navy gave, she reports, noting several more credible reasons for the Navys abandoning the sites. Speculation centers on the belief the Navy wishes to appear frugal to improve its chances of garnering more funding for operations in the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, plus any potential incursions into Iran, Syria, North Korea, or elsewhere. Some think that the Navy finally realized that the ELF site proved too vulnerable, so leaders opted for a higher number of low-frequency installations around the globe.
Others believe that another related technology, developed in the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program, with its misleading acronym HAARP, may prove more effective in communicating with their underwater fleet. The HAARP website appears to justify the suspicions with its self-description: HAARP is a scientific endeavor aimed at studying the properties and behavior of the ionosphere, with particular emphasis on being able to understand and use it to enhance communications and surveillance systems for both civilian and defense purposes.
Urfer, asked to estimate the affect Nukewatchs peaceful protests had on the Navys decision, minces no words. I think our part in its probably zero, she offers, adding, Were not even spit in the bucket when it comes to a campaign in this country. She notes that other actions, including the fight to close the School of the Americas, dwarf Nukewatchs actions in Wisconsin. But, Urfer adds, Nukewatch has planty of potential actions ahead.
Douglas J. Buege frequently writes on environmental issues, focusing on northern Wisconsin. Hes currently writing a history of the American chestnut and efforts to restore it.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.