Known Unknowns

by William Skink

The title of this post comes from an infamous Donald Rumsfeld quote where he expounds on known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns.

What got me thinking about this Rumsfeld quote are two instances where it is known something happened, but what that something is remains unknown.

The first incident happened in New Mexico, at a Solar Observatory. For 10 days the facility has been shut down, its staff evacuated and the FBI has not been forthcoming toward local law enforcement about what kind of threat triggered this rapid federal response:

“The FBI is refusing to tell us what’s going on,” Sheriff Benny House told the Alamogordo Daily News shortly after the closure. “We’ve got people up there (at Sunspot) that requested us to standby while they evacuate it. Nobody would really elaborate on any of the circumstances as to why. The FBI were up there. What their purpose was nobody will say.”

“But for the FBI to get involved that quick and be so secretive about it, there was a lot of stuff going on up there,” he added. “There was a Blackhawk helicopter, a bunch of people around antennas and work crews on towers but nobody would tell us anything.”

While the observatory reopened today, there are still lots of unanswered questions. Here is more the NPR report today:

“AURA has been cooperating with an on-going law enforcement investigation of criminal activity that occurred at Sacramento Peak. During this time, we became concerned that a suspect in the investigation potentially posed a threat to the safety of local staff and residents. For this reason, AURA temporarily vacated the facility and ceased science activities at this location.

“The decision to vacate was based on the logistical challenges associated with protecting personnel at such a remote location, and the need for expeditious response to the potential threat. AURA determined that moving the small number of on-site staff and residents off the mountain was the most prudent and effective action to ensure their safety.”

Additional security will remain in place because authorities are anticipating curious members of the public will start poking around. The observatory is not very far away from Roswell, New Mexico.

The second known unknown is the unusual event declared today at Duke Energy’s Brunswick Nuclear Plant:

A nuclear power plant just outside of Wilmington, North Carolina declared an “unusual event” Monday after rising floodwaters and storm damage caused limited access to the facility, officials said.

Duke Energy’s Brunswick Nuclear Plant – located about 30 miles south of Wilmington – declared the state of emergency, the lowest required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, after roads surrounding the 1,200-acre complex were impacted by flooding and downed trees.

“None of the roads are passable,” NRC spokesman Joey Ledford told the News & Observer. “The plant is safe. The reactors are in hot stand-by mode 3 shutdown.”

If providing information to the public could cause a panic or tip-off a suspect, I understand why being careful is important. With this latter “unusual event” at the Brunswick Nuclear Plan looking like a Fukushima replay (ok, that’s a bit much to say at this point), the concern should be over what local authorities will take more seriously–protecting Duke Energy’s profits or the public’s safety.

In Japan, the public lost and the disaster remains ongoing.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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