A Lesser Kind of Treason – A Story for Prisoners of Conscience Month


In Germany, on 8th November 1923, Adolf Hitler led six hundred armed storm troopers into parliament in a failed attempt to seize power.  He was arrested, convicted of treason, and sentenced to five years in gaol.   He was released after nine months.

In the United States, on 12th November 1984 Helen Woodson was jailed for eighteen years for damaging the concrete of a Minuteman missile silo – a symbolic action that was careful to avoid endangering anyone.  She has now served the full term, and is on trial again for another symbolic act of defiance to her government, appropriately enough a protest against the courts themselves, whom she regards as complicit by legalising her government’s possession and threatened use of the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, the hydrogen bomb.

On release from her 18-year sentence, she immediately went to the federal courthouse, where the probation office was housed, and declared she would not abide by the conditions of probation, which amounted to ‘government supervision of my life and conscience’.

She carried a plastic cup filled with red enamel paint, and this she poured onto the counter top, saying, “The government has blood on its hands’.

In a letter to the Kansas City federal judges and the commander of Whiteman Air Force Base, she stated, “This is a warning.  There is a weapon of mass destruction in your building.  Choose life.’

She was arrested and now faces multiple charges, including the charge of ‘making threatening communications to federal judges and air force personnel’ – a charge that would be laughable if it were not for the probability that Woodson will incur a heavy penalty for it.  She awaits sentencing, which is expected to be for up to ten years.

What moral can we draw from this contrast between the treatment Hitler and Woodson received?  Ideas to KPN.

Helen has entered a guilty plea.  She is also to be sentenced for breaking a ten-year-old parole, and has asked supporters to contact Judge Dean Whipple, US Courthouse, 400 East Ninth St, Kansas City, Mo.64106 Ph 816-512-5615, and the US probation Officer Scott Burton, of the same address, fax no. 816-512-1313, simply to ask that both charges be heard at Kansas City, sparing her the dual journey (and taxpayers’ money).  H.D.