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News ::
Postol Alleges Pentagon Tried To Silence His Missile Criticism
31 Aug 2001
Outspoken national missile defense critic Theodore A. Postol
'67, Professor of Science, Technology, and National Security
Policy, has accused the Pentagon of attempting to silence his
criticisms of the National Missile Defense Plan.


Postol Alleges Pentagon Tried To Silence His Missile
Criticism

By Nancy L. Keuss and Shankar Mukherji

ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITORS

Outspoken national missile defense critic Theodore A. Postol
'67, Professor of Science, Technology, and National Security
Policy, has accused the Pentagon of attempting to silence his
criticisms of the National Missile Defense Plan.

At issue is correspondence between Postol and the General
Accounting Office (GAO), an investigative branch of Congress, in which he
accused the Pentagon of using doctored data to support its missile defense plan.
The physicist's April 17 letter to the GAO, an analysis of a now-classified
report, has prompted allegations of security violations by Postol. The report,
previously unclassified, is widely available on the Internet.

In two letters to MIT, dated July 10 and July 19, the Defense Security Service
(DSS) asked the Institute to "retrieve and properly safeguard" classified
information relating to the incident and to "conduct an administrative inquiry."

Although the Institute has recently come to the defense of Postol in the form of a
written statement from President Charles M. Vest, Vest's initial reaction to the
Pentagon's allegations seemed to favor compliance with the preliminary steps
requested by the DSS, Postol said.

"My immediate concern is that it appears that the Institute may be contractually
obligated to move forward with at least the initial steps that we have been ordered
to take by the DSS," Vest wrote in a July 23 e-mail message to Postol.

Yet proceedings from a meeting last Thursday between Vest, Postol, other senior
faculty members, and researchers in the Security Studies Program suggested to
Postol that Vest was "backing away from any intention to try to collect anything
or to have MIT operate as an agent of the U.S. government."

Still, the physicist continues to stand his own ground, carrying on discussions
with congressional officials and making clear he appreciates only limited official
Institute support on his behalf. "MIT [has no] legal obligation ... except to defend
me as a member of the faculty, since this research was done as a member of the
MIT faculty," Postol said.

The incident has raised various concerns, ranging from questions of
after-the-fact document classification to fundamental issues of academic
freedom versus national security.

"While MIT certainly abides by the laws that protect national security, we also
believe that the legitimate tools of classification of secrets should not be misused
to limit responsible debate," Vest said. "Trying to treat widely available public
information as `secret' is a particular concern."

Postol's July letter was an analysis of the "Independent Review of TRW
Discrimination Techniques Final Report," an MIT Lincoln Laboratory document
from a study ordered by the Pentagon, which hired five scientists -- including
two from MIT's Lincoln Laboratory -- to review technology from TRW. The
review came in the midst of engineer Nira Schwartz's accusations of scientific
fraud on the part of TRW, her former employer.

Postol has picked up Congressional allies in Representative Henry A. Waxman of
California, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Government
Reform, who has asked the Pentagon to review Postol's accusations about the
report, and Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, who
has requested that the GAO study the Defense Department's classification
policy.

Postol's earliest professional missile-defense-related activity was in the late
1970s and early 1980s. Postol worked at the Pentagon from 1982 to 1984 as
senior scientific advisor to the chief of naval operations, when the U.S. Navy was
in the process of determining the military requirements for the Trident II
ballistic missile. He also did some ballistic missile defense work for Congress
prior to going to the Pentagon, where he was studying the MX missile for
Congress, during a time of international debate over whether or not the United
States should modernize its land-based missile force with the MX.


This story was published on Wednesday, August 8, 2001.
Volume 121, Number 30

See also:
http://www-tech.mit.edu/V121/N30/30postol.30n.html
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