A former security officer at a nuclear-arms plant is challenging his termination over a break-in by peace advocates, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.
Kirk Garland, 53, told a U.S. government mediator he took unfair blame for a breach made possible by systemic vulnerabilities at Tennessee's Y-12 National Security Complex, the newspaper reported on Monday. Garland has demanded salary he would have been paid had he not lost his job. He was let go for purportedly acting carelessly as the first security officer to reach the July 2012 intrusion's three participants.
"At the end of the day I stopped their actions, I detained them, I called for backup, we arrested them, I testified against them and they’re in prison," Garland said. A federal judge in February handed multiple-year prison sentences to each of the "Transform Now Plowshares" activists, including octogenarian nun Megan Rice.
Garland argued that malfunctioning sensors and surveillance equipment enabled the group to cut through a series perimeter fences and enter the highest-security section of the facility. He said the trio was already well into its demonstration at the time of his arrival.
Detractors, though, have argued that Garland's response could have enabled a more serious breach by extremists, had they staged a protest as a diversion. The trespassers' actions included splashing blood and painting slogans on the facility's storehouse for bomb-grade uranium.
Garland noted that he was initially praised for his role in detaining the antiwar advocates. "I was a hero for about two days and then I turned into a zero," he said.
The fired guard lost his home and health insurance following termination, and he now suffers from a series of medical ailments.
Garland now works as a security officer at a Tennessee state prison. He cannot win back his old job because the site no longer uses his former employer, a division of G4S Government Solutions.