Reporters, editors and publishers hear rumors all the time. It comes with the territory.
Sometimes those rumors can be discounted or confirmed because people who have the information cooperate and provide the information journalists can use to craft a story.
Other times, of course, rumors stay just that because the information just isn’t out there.
Then there are the rumors that should be confirmed or denied, but the people with the information just won’t cooperate.
The latter situation exists in our own community and it should not, because it concerns our collective safety and it concerns a large institution funded with taxpayer dollars.
And my telling you about this will give you an insight into institutional arrogance right in our own backyard.
David Grisham, the force behind Repent Amarillo and its aggressive attacks on those with whom Repent and Raven Ministries disagree, is a guard at the plutonium playground north of town. An armed guard, by the way.
I’ve heard for several months that B&W Pantex has told Grisham to cool it — to be less vocal and less visible.
But Grisham scares some people. After all, he and his crowd aren’t harmless little protesters who march up and down the sidewalk spouting their beliefs.
We’ve documented extensively that Repent went after members of the swinger’s club, to the extent of calling employers. In short, those who fear Repent do so because they’re not sure if he might go off the deep end and launch some kind of assault.
Remember the Hutaree in
last spring? Members of this hyper-Christian group were allegedly going to attack the police and had a cache of arms that could make for a serious assault. Michigan
Richard Rhone, a co-owner of Furrbies, is one of those people who worry about Grisham’s stability. On a couple of occasions Grisham has protested in front of the eatery on
Sixth Avenue. Rhone was concerned enough to call Pantex and, according to Rhone, he spoke to Terry Cox, whom Rhone described as the head of the security contractor over on the radiation ranch.
I did what any reporter would do. I called Pantex, and, following their rules, went through one of their public information officers, in this case Laura Bailey. You can’t really talk to anyone with Pantex and working with Bailey gave me flashbacks to
Los Alamos, home to Los Alamos National Lab, and one of the most dysfunctional towns I’ve ever seen. The PIOs for the lab are some of the slipperiest characters you’ll ever meet in journalism. Since LANL and Pantex work so closely together, it was no surprise that Bailey’s job wasn’t really to help the public with information about a contractor who works for the taxpayer.
One indicator that Pantex isn’t really serious about working with the public is their protocol. They don’t answer questions. They put out statements.
The next time you hear or read a story from Pantex, know that it is a totally engineered response. Bailey said it’s because everything has to be “classified.” National security, my friends, is often the refuge of a scoundrel who wishes to keep public information hidden.
So, what statements did I get from Pantex?
Here is the direct response that Bailey e-mailed to me: “B&W Pantex has not spoken to Mr. Grisham about his personal beliefs or activities conducted during his personal time.
“The opinions of Mr. Grisham do not represent or correspond with that of the company, and Mr. Grisham does not represent the company during his personal time.
(Statement attributable to John Alan Jones, Chief Counsel, B&W Pantex.)”
When I asked the direct question about whether Cox had talked to Grisham about his activities, Bailey wrote Cox “categorically denies ever having spoken to Mr. Grisham on any subject.”
And when I pushed for more information, here was the written response:
No one within the B&W Pantex management team has spoken to Mr. Grisham.
B&W Pantex has appropriately considered Mr. Grisham’s outside activities and found no employment concerns.
Mr. Grisham has a Constitutional right to express his personal opinions during his personal time so long as they conform to the law and do not involve issues of security concern. The opinions of Mr. Grisham do not represent or correspond with that of the company, and Mr. Grisham does not represent the company during his personal time.
B&W Pantex has no appropriate basis of concern to this point involving Mr. Grisham’s activities outside of work. It is not appropriate for the company to speculate on issues with our employees, therefore, B&W Pantex will not provide further information on this subject.
Then there is the cute little line, “(Statement attributable to John Alan Jones, Chief Counsel, B&W Pantex.)”
It’s laughable, really, to think I am going to play this silly game. I didn’t talk to Jones and I am not going to attribute any of this stonewalling to him.
So, while Pantex regales us with its wonderful safety record, we are never going to really know if one of its guards is a risk to the community.
It’s a neat little package we’re getting from nuclear nirvana.
Our tax dollars at work.
George Schwarz: Editor and publisher of the Amarillo Independent. firstname.lastname@example.org