May 9, 2016 – A series of internal emails leaked by an anonymous Navy source to Truthout investigative reporter Dahr Jamail reveal a deliberate willingness by the US Navy to flout federal law; the story was published today.
The gist? Navy personnel have been “working to manipulate the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) biologists into bending the law, then proceeded to break the law, whilst the consultations between the two entities are ongoing.”
A quick reading of the emails also reveals an unprecedented level of intimidation by Pentagon-level officials, of FWS field biologists.
According to the article, Navy sonar and explosive activities are a double whammy for marbled murrelets, “… secretive diving seabirds that nest in old-growth forests, which makes them vulnerable to both jet noise and sonar.” The Navy’s John Mosher frankly admits in one email, “We are conducting these activities without coverage.” Meaning, a valid permit to “take” (harm) threatened and endangered species does not exist, which is illegal.
The emails show the Navy trying to force the FWS to shrink its definition of harm by eliminating both temporary hearing loss caused by explosives, and behavior changes of all kinds, from the standards for measuring harm. This too would be illegal if the FWS complied with that request. It is possibly the reason for concern that has caused an unprecedented delay in completing the Biological Opinion (and the take permit that accompanies it) that the Navy wanted last September. According to the FWS, neither is complete and the consultation is still open. Which raises big questions about the legality of the Navy’s ongoing activities.
West Coast Action Alliance spokesperson Karen Sullivan, who was asked to analyze the emails, said, “If an evaluation of harm to a species rules out standard definitions of harm, encourages use of data more than 40 years old and prohibits the presence of adequately trained observers, then it neither gives the benefit of the doubt to the species nor uses the best available information — and thus does not contribute to legally defensible solutions.”
What will it take to make the Navy follow the law? Must the citizens who already pay for the Pentagon’s $600 billion dollar budget also have to sue them to keep them honest?