Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

M.I.T. Physicist Says Pentagon Is Trying To Silence Him.
July 27, 2001 1:06 AM   Subscribe

M.I.T. Physicist Says Pentagon Is Trying To Silence Him. (NYTimes, registration required) So, it appears that the Pentagon commissions a panel to "review" ("refute"?) a contrary assessment of antimissile technology, but when an unintended byproduct of that review is more criticism of said technology, they pull this little snow job? I guess we've heard this song before, but it's still laughable. Interesting comment from the Brass: "just because it is made public doesn't mean it's declassified." I guess he must mean "authorized", because for my money, that's exactly what it means.
posted by topolino (13 comments total)

Assuming it does work, we'll still be vulnerable to this kind of missile, which has been around since the 70's.
posted by skyline at 1:23 AM on July 27, 2001

The last thing the US government needs is it's missle shield going Postol.

Har dee har
posted by crasspastor at 1:42 AM on July 27, 2001

Does anyone have a link to the report in question?
posted by faisal at 2:20 AM on July 27, 2001

How in hell can we trust the Pentagram to build a missle shield (which always sounds like some sort of riot grrrl condom) when it can't even squelch one little professor?
posted by Opus Dark at 2:30 AM on July 27, 2001

"For years, Dr. Postol has argued that the Pentagon's prototype antimissile system could not distinguish between decoys and enemy warheads." Just how would an anti-missile system distinguish between a missile and a decoy? I'm assuming a decoy would move like a real missile. And if that were possible, how would an anti-missile system decide which of many real incoming warheads to target while the rest of the real ones get through?

Anyway, here is the May 11, 2000, letter from Postol to Podesta that states:

I have obtained and analyzed the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization’s (BMDO’s) own published data from the Integrated Flight Test –1A (IFT-1A) and have discovered that the BMDO’s own data shows that the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) will be defeated by the simplest of balloon decoys.

and this:

• Data that demonstrated that the EKV would always mistake a partially inflated balloon for the mock lethal object was inexplicably removed from the post-flight analysis of the EKV’s performance.

• After this data was removed, the data from the eight other remaining benign objects and the lethal mock warhead showed that the system would still mistakenly choose two of the benign objects instead of the lethal object.

• In order to alter this unfavorable outcome, the team tampered with both the data and the analysis of the data to artificially create a false outcome where the system would choose the mock warhead.

posted by pracowity at 2:32 AM on July 27, 2001

pracowity: thanks for the link!
posted by topolino at 2:38 AM on July 27, 2001

``Just because it is made public doesn't mean it's declassified,'' Colonel Lehner said.

I love this. Okay, what he's saying is probably correct in some obtuse, technical sense, but doesn't it just sound dippy?
posted by Bixby23 at 3:57 AM on July 27, 2001

For what it's worth, here's a related (though unsubstantiated) claim that the video of the "successful test" was a doctored version of a fake "hit" created by the DoD back in the 80s. The whole thing is so surreal at this point that I'm not sure this is hogwash.
posted by aflakete at 3:59 AM on July 27, 2001

More interesting links on the subject:

Excellent page of links to government reports, professional opinions and news related to ballistic missile defense, from the Council for a Livable World.

"A Critique of Sea-Based and Boost-Phase Proposals" for National Missile Defense from the Council for a Livable World. PDF, 520K.

An email from an activist summarizing the Army's various anti-missile efforts.

Letter from Postol to Clinton's White House Chief of Staff, from May of last year, summarizing the problems with the anti-missile system as proposed. PDF, 475K.

Transcript of an interview with Postal at the Chronicle of Higher Education, covering general issues on the proposed shield, missiles and military research.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:09 AM on July 27, 2001

Thanks mo - that last link is really interesting. It's particularly important to me to take the point that key people within the Clinton administration failed to come out strong against these schemes, probably because they were afraid of opening up charges from the right that they were soft on defense.

I seem to recall Harper's publishing an excerpt of his letter (or a similar document) in the Readings section some months back. Anybody else remember seeing it?
posted by BT at 7:15 AM on July 27, 2001

...and a little humor, courtesy of Tom Toles.
posted by mapalm at 7:25 AM on July 27, 2001

Er... isn't the missile defense system faith based? So who cares about all the technical stuff? I believe man!! So you'd rather spend the money on poor folks, the environment, or some other liberal cause, eh? Not on my watch, you commies!
posted by nofundy at 8:26 AM on July 27, 2001

Interesting comment from the Brass: "just because it is made public doesn't mean it's declassified." I guess he must mean "authorized", because for my money, that's exactly what it means.

Information is classified at various levels depending on how much harm would be done to national security if that info was made available to people without proper authorization for access. The higher the potential for harm, the higher the classification.

Publicizing such information does not render the possible harm inert -- someone can take that information and use it against the entity doing the classification. Thus, the information is still classified. Declassification of information follows a fairly rigid protocol and is rarely accompanied by an announcement to the public. In other words, publication does not equal declassification and vice versa.
posted by joaquim at 10:26 AM on July 27, 2001

« Older Tom Lehrer...   |   Earth springs a leak.Mount Etn... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments