by Berkeley SESPA
(SESPA) Scientists and Engineers for Social
and Political Action
Contributors: Jan Brown, Martin
Brown, Chandler Davis, Charlie Schwartz, Jeff Stokes, Honey Well,
from CharlesSchwartz-UniversityOfCalifornia Website
The Story of Jason - The
Elite Group Of Academic Scientists Who,
As Technical Consultants
To The Pentagon,
Have Developed The Latest Weapon Against Peoples'
Liberation Struggles: "Automated Warfare"
This booklet was written
in 1972, in the midst of domestic protests against the
US' war in Vietnam, and this copy for the web was made
by C.S. in 2002.
Chapter - The Story of
Chapter - Jason People
Chapter - Why They Do
Chapter - Accountability
Chapter - Conclusion
Some abbreviations used
Scientists and Engineers for Social
and Political Action
Institute for Defense
President's Science Advisory
Project Group (later called DSPG)
Advanced Research Projects
Agency (an arm of the DOD)
Department of Defense
University of California
Back to Contents
In June of this year, a world-famous American scientist was chased
out of the College de France by a group of young French scientists
who were outraged at his contributions to the Vietnam War.
Murray Gell-Mann, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist from Cal-Tech, had
come to Paris to lecture on the theory of elementary particles, but
the audience which met him wanted to ask about his work for the
Pentagon, through his participation in the Jason Group.
"I am not free to answer."
At an international symposium on physics held in Trieste in
September, five Jason physicists (Professors Wigner, Wheeler,
Townes, Weinberg, and Montroll) were confronted by 300 persons who
denounced them as war criminals.
The only response by the five came
from Professor Wigner, who said,
"I am flattered by your
accusations. They are compliments for me."
When the meeting was
moved to a suburb, 100 riot police were called on to block the
protesters. (Le Monde, 9/30/72.)
At a summer school on the history of physics, held at Varenna,
Italy, in August, there was circulated a Statement on Vietnam,
saying, in part:
The operational use of scientific knowledge in the Indochina War is
of particular concern to us... Our discussions have convinced us
that it is no longer possible to separate out attitudes on these
issues from our professional activities. This is why we express, as
scientists and in the publications and institutions of science, our
condemnation of those colleagues who have willingly involved
themselves in the waging of this war: we ask that these issues
should be honestly faced within the scientific community, wherever
The Jason Group was specifically cited in this statement for their
contribution to the technology of the war. This statement was signed
by almost all (about sixty) of the participating scientists -
mostly Europeans, and some of them were men of considerable
prestige. This same statement was circulated for signatures at a
large physics meeting in the United States in September (the
high-energy conference at the National Accelerator Laboratory).
21 scientists signed out of over 700; and most of the signers were
Can American scientists evade these issues? We feel that we make up
a community of shared work and common understanding - students,
teachers, and researchers. Can it be a matter of indifference to us
that some members of the community - even some of its leaders - serve a military adventure that most of us regard as criminal ?
The overall involvement of scientists with government is an enormous
subject. The issue is posed perhaps most sharply by the Jason Group,
an elite panel within the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). The
President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), which works directly
for the President, is still more select than Jason and presumably
But in Jason, we see long-range strategic advice
to the Department of Defense associated with the symbols of academic
science. The forty-odd members of Jason include some of the very
best known physicists in America, working at the most prestigious
universities. While maintaining their public personalities as
esteemed professors, they have been quietly helping the Department
of Defense with - with what?
They are "not free to answer."
The first aim of this study is to assemble some of the story of this
classified work. An especially significant contribution of Jason to
the Vietnam War was revealed in
the Pentagon Papers. In a 1966
report, a Jason Group drew up general outlines for a system of
sensors, communications links, aircraft, mines and bombs intended to
stop transport of soldiers and supplies into South Vietnam.
system, adopted and expanded by the Pentagon, has become what is now
known as the automated battlefield. It has made possible the policy
of minimizing American casualties while continuing to devastate
Indochina and its people through technological warfare; it has made
possible Nixon's plan to prosecute the war indefinitely or until he
can achieve "peace with honor;" it is being readied for other,
Thus, everyone concerned with anti-democratic forces in our society
should be vitally interested in the nature of Jason and its
activities. In this report, we present the best information
available to us on this important issue.
In addition to tracing the consequences of this one Jason project,
we will give a few indications, from the meager unclassified
material available, of the wide range of Jason's still-secret work.
The second chapter summarizes rather fully several Jason members'
own account of their own experiences and attitude in this work. The
bulk of this chapter is based on personal interviews conducted in
Finally, we offer an analysis of the issues raised, and suggest some
proposals for action.
While this report focuses on the activities of the Jason Group,
Jason is by no means an isolated or unique phenomena. This
case-study of Jason serves to illustrate the nature of relationships
which exist generally between elite academic scientists and
government, military and business agencies.
facilitate the routine implementation of policy decisions of
sweeping social consequences without the knowledge or consent of the
people or their elected representatives.
Back to Contents
The Story of Jason
THE ORIGIN OF
At the end of World War II many of the country's leading scientists,
who had been involved in such war research as the atomic bomb and
radar, left full-time government work and returned to the college
The military, of course, did not want to lose all this
valuable talent. In addition to its own "in-house" laboratories, the
Defense Department sought to establish ongoing consulting liaison
with first-rate scientists.
At first this service was obtained through the RAND corporation and
some scientific advisory committees attached directly to the
Pentagon; some scientists also consulted for industrial corporations
working on defense contracts. The industrial consulting jobs paid
extremely well, but the scientists involved felt that they were not
close enough to the center of power to influence policy decisions.
On the other hand, scientists in Washington often felt restricted by
the particular government agency they consulted for and also found
the government consulting fee scales to be very low.
idea of a new, independent research and consulting organization
arose: this was the Institute for Defense Analyses, IDA.
nominally as a private, non-profit corporation, IDA worked on the
basis of contracts with the Pentagon for particular research
problems of interest to the military. IDA could determine its own
salary scales and it hoped to attract high calibre scientists with
the promise of considerable "freedom" in their choice of problem to
be worked on. A group of the very brightest young scientists was
recruited into a sub-group of IDA called Jason.
The whole success of
this enterprise depended upon establishing it as a mark of highest
prestige to be invited into this elite group.
IDA'S COLD WAR
The original political-philosophical outlook of IDA and Jason was
boldly stated in terms of cold-war ideology. Their literature of ten
years ago told of the creation of IDA as arising from,
inescapable realization that International Communism is
imperialistic in nature and that its goal is no less than world
hen, noting that,
"the real war was American science
versus Soviet science", IDA traced its birth to the fact that "the
government, specifically the Department of Defense, in an attempt to
strengthen its application of the scientific method toward the
solution of broad problems of military policy and strategy, sought
some machinery by which it could reach more effectively into the
reservoir of technological talent in the nation's scientific
JASON AND THE
The most detailed public account of Jason's contribution to the
Vietnam War is contained in
the Pentagon Papers: the 1966 Jason
summer study which gave birth to a new form of technological
warfare, now known as the automated, or electronic, battlefield. The
situation leading up to this report is as follows.
Even while campaigning for reelection on a "peace" platform in 1964,
Lyndon Johnson was accepting plans from his military advisors for
increased levels of fighting in Vietnam. Early in 1965 he launched
the program of sustained bombing against North Vietnam: Operation
Rolling Thunder. After more than a year of this campaign, there was
a growing opposition to the war among the American public, and there
was also disillusionment within some parts of the government over
the failure of the bombing to achieve its military objectives.
Early in 1966, a clique of Harvard-MIT scientists with high level
connections in Washington persuaded Defense Secretary Robert
McNamara to sponsor a special study on "technical possibilities in
relation to our military operations in Vietnam."
prompting, McNamara formally requested the scientists to look into
the feasibility of,
"a fence across the infiltration trails, warning
systems, reconnaissance (especially night) methods, night vision
devices, defoliation techniques and area denial weapons."
This special scientific study group was assembled under the auspices
of the Jason Division of IDA; the group of 47 scientists represented
"the cream of the scholarly community in technical fields",
group of America's most distinguished scientists, men who had helped
the Government produce many of its most advanced technical weapons
systems since the end of the Second World War, men who were not
identified with the vocal academic criticism of the Administration's
This Jason study group met during the summer of
1966, starting off with a series of briefings by high officials from
the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department
and the White House. They were given access to secret materials.
The Jason report, given to McNamara at the beginning of September,
was in four parts:
The Effects of US Bombing in North Vietnam
Viet Cong/North Vietnam Army Logistics and Manpower
Supported Anti-Infiltration Barrier
Summary of Results,
Conclusions and Recommendations
This report was regarded as
particularly "sensitive" and the only persons to receive copies,
outside of McNamara, were General Wheeler and Mr. Rostow. The
writers of the Pentagon Papers evaluated this Jason report as
exerting "a powerful and perhaps decisive influence in McNamara's
mind," concerning future US policies in Vietnam.
As the New York Times's presentation of the Pentagon Papers
"Their [the Jason Summer Study's] report evaluating the results of
the Rolling Thunder campaign began:
"'As of July 1966, the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam had had no
measurable direct effect on Hanoi's ability to mount and support
military operations in the South at the current level.'
"They then pointed out the reasons that they felt North Vietnam
could not be hurt by bombing: It was primarily a subsistence
agricultural country with little industry and a primitive but
flexible transport system, and most of its weapons and supplies came
"These factors, the scientists said, made it 'quite unlikely' that
an expanded bombing campaign would 'prevent Hanoi from infiltrating
men into the South at the present or a higher rate.'
"In conclusion, the Pentagon study says, the scientists addressed
the assumption behind the bombing program - that damage inflicted
on a country reduces its will to continue fighting. The scientists
criticized this assumption, the study says, by denying that is
possible to measure the relationship.
"'It must be concluded', the scientists said, 'that there is
currently no adequate basis for predicting the levels of U.S.
military effort that would be required to achieve the stated
objectives - indeed, there is no firm basis for determining if
there is any feasible level of effort that would achieve these
The Gravel Edition of the Pentagon Papers continues (p. 120):
Having submitted a stinging condemnation of the bombing, the Study
Group was under some obligation to offer constructive alternatives
and this they did, seizing, not surprisingly, on the very idea
McNamara had suggested - the anti-infiltration barrier. The product
of their summer's work was a reasonably detailed proposal for a
multi-system barrier across the DMZ and the Laotian panhandle that
would make extensive use of recently innovated mines and sensors.
The central portion of their recommendation follows:
The barrier would have two somewhat different parts, one designed
against foot traffic and one against vehicles. The preferred
location of the anti-foot-traffic barrier is in the region along the
southern edge of the DMZ to the Laotian border and then north of
Tehepone to the vicinity of Muong Sen, extending about 100 by 20
kilometers. This area is virtually unpopulated, and the terrain is
quite rugged, containing mostly V-shaped valleys in which the
opportunity for alternate trails appears lower than it is elsewhere
in the system.
The location of choice for the anti-vehicle part of
the system is the area, about 100 by 40 kilometers, now covered by
Operation Cricket. In this area the road network tends to be more
constricted than elsewhere, and there appears to be a smaller area
available for new roads.
An alternative location for the
anti-personnel system is north of the DMZ to the Laotian border and
then north along the crest of the mountains dividing Laos from North
Vietnam. It is less desirable economically and militarily because of
its greater length, greater distance from U.S. bases, and greater
proximity to potential North Vietnamese counter-efforts.
The air-supported barrier would, if necessary, be supplemented by a
manned "fence" connecting the eastern end of the barrier to the sea.
The construction of the air-supported barrier could be initiated
using currently available or nearly available components, with some
necessary modifications, and could perhaps be installed by a year or
so from go-ahead. However, we anticipate that the North Vietnamese
would learn to cope with a barrier built this way after some period
of time which we cannot estimate, but which we fear may be short.
Weapons and sensors which can make a much more effective barrier,
only some of which are now under development, are not likely to be
available in less than 18 months to 2 years. Even these, it must be
expected, will eventually be overcome by the North Vietnamese, so
that further improvements in weaponry will be necessary.
envisage a dynamic "battle of the barrier," in which the barrier is
repeatedly improved and strengthened by the introduction of new
components, and which will hopefully permit us to keep the North
Vietnamese off balance by continually posing new problems for them.
This barrier is in concept not very different from what has already
been suggested elsewhere; the new aspects are: the very large scale
of area denial, especially mine fields kilometers deep rather than
the conventional 100-200 meters; the very large numbers and
persistent employment of weapons, sensors, and aircraft sorties in
the barrier area; and the emphasis on rapid and carefully planned
incorporation of more effective weapons and sensors into the system.
The system that could be available in a year or so would, in our
conception, contain [sic] the following components:
Gravel mines (both
self-sterilizing for harassment and non-sterilizing for area
Possible, "button bomblets" developed by Picatinny Arsenal to
augment the range of the sensors against foot-traffic*
SADEYE/BLU-26B clusters, for
attacks on area-type targets of uncertain location
Acoustic detectors, based on improvements of the "Acoustic Sonobuoys"
currently under test by the Navy
P-2V patrol aircraft, equipped
for acoustic sensor monitoring, Gravel dispensing, vectoring
strike aircraft, and infrared detection of campfires in
Gravel Dispensing Aircraft (A-1's or possible C-123's)
(Possibly) ground teams to plant mines and sensors, gather
information, and selectively harass traffic on foot trails.
The anti-troop infiltration system (which would also function
against supply porters) would operate as follows. There would be a
constantly renewed mine field of non-sterilizing Gravel (and possibly
button bomblets), distributed in patterns covering interconnected
valleys and slopes (suitable for alternate trails) over the entire
The actual mined area would encompass the equivalent
of a strip about 100 by 5 kilometers. There would also be a pattern
of acoustic detectors to listed for mine explosions indicating an
attempted penetration. The mine field is intended to deny opening of
alternate routes for troop infiltrators and should be emplaced
On the trails and bivouacs currently used, from which mines
may - we tentatively assume - be cleared without great difficulty, a
more dense pattern of sensors would be designed to locate groups of
infiltrators. Air strikes using Gravel and SADEYES would then be
called against these targets. The sensor patterns would be monitored
24 hours a day by patrol aircraft.
The struck areas would be
reseeded with new mines.
The anti-vehicle system would consist of acoustic detectors
distributed every mile or so along all truckable roads in the
interdicted area, monitored 24 hours a day by patrol aircraft, with
vectored strike aircraft using SADEYE to respond to signals that
trucks or truck convoys are moving. The patrol aircraft would
distribute self-sterilizing Gravel over parts of the road net at
dusk. The self-sterilization feature is needed so that road-watching
and mine-planting teams could be used in this area.
Photo-reconnaissance aircraft would cover the entire area each few
days to look for the development of new truckable roads, to see if
the transport of supplies is being switched to porters, and to
identify any other changes in the infiltration system. It may also
be desirable to use ground teams to plant larger anti-truck mines
along the roads, as an interim measure pending the development of
effective air-dropped anti-vehicle mines.
The cost of such a system (both parts) has been estimated to be
about $800 million per year, of which by far the major fraction is
spent for Gravel and SADEYES.
The key requirements would be (all
numbers are approximate because of assumptions which had to be made
regarding degradation of system components in field use, and
regarding the magnitude of infiltration):
20 million Gravel mines
possible 25 million button bomblets per month
SADEYE-BLU-26B clusters* per month
1600 acoustic sensors per month
(assuming presently employed batteries with 2-week life), plus 68
appropriately equipped P-2V patrol aircraft
a fleet of about 50
A-1's or 20 C-123's for Gravel dispensing (1400 A-1 sorties or 600
C-123 sorties per month)
500 strike sorties per month (F-4C
sufficient photo-reconnaissance sorties, depending
on the aircraft, to cover 2500 square miles each week, with an
appropriate team of photo interpreters
Even to make this system
work, there would be required experimentation and further
development for foliage penetration, moisture resistance, and proper
dispersion of Gravel; development of a better acoustic sensors than
currently exists (especially in an attempt to eliminate the need for
button bomblets); aircraft modifications; possible modifications in
BLU-26B fusing; and refinement of strike-navigation tactics.
For the future, rapid development of new mines (such as tripwire,
smaller and more effective camouflaged Gravel, and various other
kinds of mines), as well as still better sensor/information
processing systems will be essential.
Thus, not only had this distinguished array of American
technologists endorsed the barrier idea McNamara had asked them to
consider, they had provided the Secretary with an attractive, well
thought-out and highly detailed proposal as a real alternative to
further escalation of the ineffective air war against North Vietnam.
But, true to their scientific orientations, the study group members
could not conclude their work without examining the kinds of
counter-measures the North Vietnamese might take to circumvent the
Thus, they reasoned:
Assuming that surprise is not thrown away, countermeasures will of
course still be found, but they may take some time to bring into
The most effective countermeasures we can anticipate are
mine sweeping; provision of shelter against SADEYE strikes and
Gravel dispersion; spoofing of sensors to deceive the system or
decoy aircraft into ambushes, and in general a considerable step-up
of North Vietnamese anti-aircraft capability along the road net.
Counter-countermeasures must be an integral part of the system
Apart from the tactical countermeasures against the barrier itself,
one has to consider strategic alternatives available to the North
Vietnamese in case the barrier is successful. Among these are: a
move into the Mekong Plain; infiltration from the sea either
directly to SVN or through Cambodia; and movement down the Mekong
from Thakhek (held by the Pathet Lao-North Vietnamese) into
Finally, it will be difficult for us to find out how effective the
barrier is in the absence of clearly visible North Vietnamese
responses, such as end runs through the Mekong plain. Because of
supplies already stored in the pipeline, and because of the general
shakiness of our quantitative estimates of either supply or troop
infiltrations, it is likely to be some time before the effect of
even a wholly successful barrier becomes noticeable.
stepped-up intelligence effort is called for, including continued
road-watch activity in the areas of the motorable roads, and patrol
and reconnaissance activity south of the anti-personnel barrier.
This, then, was the new option introduced into the Vietnam
discussions in Washington at the beginning of September.
Their work completed, the Jason Group met with McNamara and
McNaughton in Washington on August 30 and presented their
conclusions and recommendations. McNamara was apparently strongly
and favorably impressed with the work of the Summer Study because he
and McNaughton flew to Massachusetts on September 6 to meet with
members of the Study again for more detailed discussions.
before going to Massachusetts, however, McNamara had asked General
Wheeler to bring the proposal up with the Chiefs and to request
field comment. After having asked CINCPAC for an evaluation, Wheeler
sent McNamara the preliminary reactions of the Chiefs.
with the Secretary's suggestion to establish a project manager
(General Starbird) in DDR&E, but expressed concern that,
substantial funds required for the barrier system would be obtained
from current Service resources thereby affecting adversely important
The conservatism of the military
hierarchy was overcome by
The new project, given the deliberately vague
name of Defense Communications Planning Group (DCPG), was set up
under the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E).
The Director of Defense Research and Engineering since 1965 has been
Dr. John S. Foster, Jr., PhD in physics from Berkeley, and director
of UC Livermore Lab 1961-65.
The directors of DCPG (later
re-named Defense Special Projects Group) have been:
1966-68: Lt. Gen. (Army) Alfred D. Starbird; he later was put in
charge of the ABM project.
1968-70: Lt. Gen. (Air Force) John D. Lavelle; he was later the
commander in Indochina held responsible for "unauthorized" air raids
over North Vietnam.
1970--: Maj. Gen. John R. Deane, Jr., who gave extensive testimony
to the Senate hearings on the electronic battlefield.
Under DCPG the development of the electronic battlefield has been
rapid. The details have been mostly secret, but we can piece
together bits from such sources as Congressional hearings
(particularly the Report of the Electronic Battlefield Subcommittee
of the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee of the Committee on
Armed Services, U.S. Senate, 92nd Congress first session, Government
Printing Office, Washington, 1971).
Within a year and a half (late 1967), one part of the
anti-infiltration scheme was in operation in much the form proposed
by Jason. This was IGLOO WHITE, the air-supported anti-vehicle
system extending into Laos from South Vietnam.
In the latest version of this system which has been released,
acoustic and seismic sensors are strewn by F-4 jet planes. Each
sensor has its own transmitter. A patrol plane (now often an
unmanned "drone" YQU-22B) picks up signals from sensors over a wide
area and relays them to Infiltration Surveillance Center. This is an
IBM 360/50 computer installation in Nakon Phanom, Thailand, where
summaries of the sensor data are prepared for planning air strikes
The computer output may be presented in sophisticated
forms such as oscilloscope display on a map.
Computers are also
involved in the choice of ordnance and allocation of targets to
specific planes. Pilots ordinarily never see their targets, and
indeed it is intended to replace manned bombers by unmanned drones.
(Electronic Battlefield Report, p.9; Michael Klare, War Without End,
pp. 185-187; George L. Weiss, "The Air Force's Secret Electronic
War", Military Aviation. 1971.)
Both sensors and bombs have been
provided with new camouflages, as recommended by Jason; here is a
seismic detector whose antenna masquerades as a forest plant.
[picture labeled ADSID - right image]
FENCE ADAPTED TO ENDLESS WARFARE
At the same time that the vision of the Jason study was being
brought to reality, it was expanding and ramifying. Far from
substituting for general bombardment of populations, the new weapons
and the new method of automated intelligence and tactics became
welcome reinforcements to everything the military was doing.
The ramifications began as early as February 1968. The NLF's general
offensive at Tet had taken many towns and military posts, and the
U.S. Marine stronghold at Khesanh was under sustained heavy attack.
For several days there was a persistent rumor that the U.S. might be
preparing to use tactical nuclear weapons. This rumor was based on a
brief visit to Vietnam by a team of American civilian scientists
with experience in military technology.
The White House vehemently
denied that it was considering any use of nuclear weapons, and the
Pentagon said the scientists' trip was "to assist in the appraisal"
of new non-nuclear weapons; there was speculation in Washington that
the role of the group was related to the use of electronic devices
to impede the infiltration of North Vietnamese into the South. (See
New York Times, 2/11/68, p. 70.)
Two of the people in this group of
scientists were Richard Garwin and Henry Kendall, physicists in the
Jason Division. The other two appear to have been technical experts
from the Pentagon and the electronics industry.
The new sensors were judged a useful adjunct of ground troop
operations. Hand-emplaced acoustic sensors became standard equipment
for U.S. ground forces in Vietnam, according to Gen. Deane's
The once-dubious military seized on automation as the cure for the
crisis of its conventional war. If the U.S. Army in Vietnam was "in
a state approaching collapse" (Armed Forces Journal, 6/7/71) and the
U.S. public was impatient for Nixon to proceed with troop
withdrawals, then it was just the moment to turn over as much as
possible of the surveillance to electronic devices and as much as
possible of the shooting to remote-controlled bombers.
If, moreover, the U.S. and its allays had failed to "win the hearts
and minds" of the Vietnamese rural population, then weapons which
made the countryside uninhabitable became more acceptable.
strategy of "generating refugees" was described admirably by
Professor Samuel Huntington in 1968:
"In an absentminded way the United States in Vietnam may well have
stumbled upon the answer to 'wars of national liberation'. The
effective response lies neither in the quest for a conventional
military victory, nor in esoteric doctrines and gimmicks of
counterinsurgency warfare. It is instead forced-draft urbanization
and modernization which rapidly brings the country in question out
of the phase in which rural revolutionary movements can succeed."
(Foreign Affairs, July 1968, p. 655.)
Not only does the uprooting of the people from their productive
resources undercut a prime motive force of revolution in
underdeveloped countries, agrarian reform; but the forced
concentration of millions of refugees into cities sets the stage for
the development of an infant capitalist economy, dependent, of
course, on U.S. corporations.
The population of Saigon, which has swelled from 300,000 to over 3
million people, is being overwhelmed by this type of development,
including CocaCola, prostitution, and inflation.
AND NOW A WORD
FROM THE SPONSORS
"Whatever the outcome of the war, America has embarked on a career
of imperialism in world affairs and in every other aspect of her
-- Virgil Jordan
President of National Industrial Conference Board
to the Investment Bankers Association, December, 1940
"Here in Venezuela you have the right to do what you like with your
capital. The right is dearer to me than all the political rights in
-- A U.S. businessman quoted in Time magazine
September 21, 1952
"Businessmen are increasingly deciding that markets abroad, not
those in this country, offer the biggest potential for future
growth. The feeling grows that the U.S. market, while huge, is
-- U.S. News and World Report
"You're in a saturated market here in the U.S., where new products
are the only answer to growth. Abroad there are millions of people
each year who reach the state in their cultural, social and economic
development where they buy soap, toothpaste, and other things we
-- Official of Colgate Palmolive
quoted in U.S. News and World
Report, June 1964
"The best thinkers on the subject in business and government agree
that magnificent business opportunities await in Vietnam, Laos,
Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. As the situation in Vietnam
improves they expect the flow of business to double, triple, and
quadruple... Vietnam is without a doubt one of the prime investment
points for Southeast Asia."
-- Nation's Business
Automated warfare also has attractive domestic economic
To maintain a large ground force in some foreign
territory means an outflow of American capital, which is harmful to
the U.S. economic position in relation to other industrialized
nations. It also means unemployment for American workers. On the
other hand, if the military dollar is spent for the production of
equipment - airplanes, electronics, munitions - then the domestic
economy is given a boost. (In the latter case military spending is
still a profound inflationary pressure.)
Reliance on automation has come to dominate the thinking of some of
the generals, not only about Vietnam, but about all future wars, as
In a remarkable address on October 14, 1969, then Chief of Staff
Gen. W.C. Westmoreland gave the first public report on the
development of the electronic battlefield.
After reviewing the
success of the new method of locating an enemy "naturally elusive
and cunning in his use of dense jungle for concealment" in Vietnam,
and explicitly giving credit to the scientists' contributions to
this success, he rhapsodized over the vistas before us:
"Comparing the past few years of progress with a forecast of the
future produces one conclusion: we are on the threshold of an
entirely new battlefield concept...
"On the battlefield of the future, enemy forces will be located,
tracked and targeted almost instantaneously through the use of data
links, computer assisted intelligence evaluation, and automated fire
control. With first round kill probabilities approaching certainty,
and with surveillance devices that can continually track the enemy,
the need for large forces to fix the opposition physically will be
"Today, machines and technology are permitting economy of manpower
on the battlefield, as indeed they are in the factory. But the
future offers more possibilities for economy. I am confident the
American people expect this country to take full advantage of
technology - to welcome and applaud the developments that will
replace wherever possible the man with the machine."
Notice the broadening of scope to other theaters of war in this
testimony of Dr. John S. Foster, Jr. (Hearing before Senate Armed
Services Committee, 5/14/69, p. 1853):
On pages 1-17 of your statement you speak of
battlefield sensors that have revolutionized land combat. Do you
believe these sensor barriers will be useful anywhere outside of
Southeast Asia? I would be interested to know what you think about
them being used in Europe.
Yes, I have thought about this matter a great deal,
Senator Smith, and I believe these sensors are applicable to other
areas. Let me just indicate very quickly the types of things that
are being accomplished in Southeast Asia.
Soldiers on the ground carry these sensors to particular places on
trails where they suspect that the enemy will pass. They bury them
there. They then retire to some nearby observation point, protected
by trenches and behind sandbags, where they wait for enemy
movements, When they hear the enemy come through those sensor fields
they signal to our artillery, by telephone line, and artillery
rounds are fired and fall on the enemy. They can hear the enemy
screaming and yelling, and then they wait for the next intrusion.
This system has been so effective, and there is more detail in the
back of my statement, that there has been no case where the enemy
has successfully come through the sensor field. In most instances,
by the use of this technique, the enemy has been forced to abandon
these approaches and use others. It is a very, very successful
system, whether it is delivered by air or by poor soldiers on the
With regard to Europe, the kind of things one could do there would
be to utilize aircraft to seed sensors in forested areas.
Immediately after that, ground commanders would know whether or not
there are enemy soldiers, trucks, or tanks in these large forested
He will constantly know this because the entire area would be mined
with these sensors. The enemy will not be able to move tanks in
Europe over large areas without making so much acoustic noise that
these sensors would detect the movement. Either seismic or acoustic
types of sensors can be used.
This enthusiasm for the wide application of the new concepts led to
a change in plans. In 1970 Gen. Lavelle, then director of DCPG, had
told Congressmen that he expected it to be closed out the following
year, since its initial mission - to prove that the instrumented
battlefield was a workable system - had been completed.
when Gen. Deane, DCPG's new director, appeared before the Committee
the following year, he told a different story. The Secretary of
Defense had decided not to abolish DCPG but to give it a new
Under the new name of Defense Special Projects Group (DSPG),
his organization was to focus on,
"expanding the sensor technology to
provide the world-wide capability in both tactical combat
applications and installation security."
Also included in Gen.
Deane's request for funds from the Congress were one or more special
development projects of "high priority."
The details of these high
priority projects have been deleted from the public testimony. One
of these special projects seems to be an unmanned aerial platform
for observation and fire-control [aiming and firing of weapons]
using lasers, television, and other advanced electronic means;
another seems to deal with making this or some other sensor system
work in some special location or environment, which is secret.
Congressman Whitten of the House Appropriations Committee was
unhappy about this new mission for DSPG and questioned Gen. Deane
about it (Hearings, 6/4/71):
"Last year, my recollection is that you told the Congress you were
planning to phase this operation out, and Congress agreed to phasing
it out. Instead you have changed the name, enlarged it, and now the
world is your playground. You are going to take on the world and do
this around the world. Where is the support for any such expansion
as this? ...
"General Deane: When I arrived at this organization last July, the
plan was to phase it out, sir. A number of people prevailed upon Dr.
Foster to reconsider that decision.
"Mr. Whitten: Do you have the names of those people? We would like
to know who they are and find out if they are within their rights. I
don't know if they stand in a better position than the folks who
have to sign your checks. Who are they?
"General Deane: They were people who were members of the Scientific
Advisory Committee of the DSPG, sir.
"Mr. Whitten: Could you give us some of their names for the record?
"General Deane: Dr. Garwin, Dr. Slichter, Dr. Caldwell, Dr.
Buchsbaum, Dr. Lewis, and Mr. Deitchman."
Three of these names appear on the Jason membership list: Garwin,
Caldwell, and Lewis. (Harold Lewis is the chairman of Jason.)
names - Garwin, Slichter, Buchsbaum - appear on a list of PSAC
Sy Deitchman is identified by Foster, in other testimony,
as one of the originators of the idea of the instrumented
Solomon Buchsbaum is an executive for Bell Labs and a
former vice-president of Sandia Corporation, a major weapons
Charles Slichter is a physics professor at the University
Thus we are drawn to conclude that the clique of top-level
scientific advisors were instrumental not only in initiating the
electronic battlefield ideas (1966), not only in helping the
implementation of the system in Vietnam (1968), but also in
extending this new warfare system to a world-wide capability (1970).
The overall picture is not one of a sudden miraculous cure of a
specific American military crisis.
New devices have been adopted in
many cases reluctantly; and they have not always worked very well;
and the NLF has met ingenuity with ingenuity, as Jason foresaw,
sometimes quickly nullifying a technological marvel with a homely
organic countermeasure (for example, an open pail of urine left in
the forest smells like a platoon of Viet Cong to a helicopter-borne
"people-sniffer"). (See Jack Anderson's column of July 10, 1970;
interviews with U.S. soldiers quoted by Ann Rosenberg in The
Technological Warlords, 1971.)
Even IGLOO WHITE (image below) did not seem so
infallible after the North Vietnamese went on the offensive in the
spring of 1972, using tanks and other heavy equipment within South
Vietnam. (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/16/72, p. 10; Electronics,
The picture is, rather, one of continual involvement of U.S. science
in the proliferation of new weapons.
A former Berkeley professor,
now a director of a major research lab and a member of Jason, once
remarked that there is no such thing as an experiment that fails; if
you do not get the results you wanted in the first program, take
what you have learned and use it as the basis for a new, larger
The technological wing of the military-industrial complex does not
necessarily win wars.
We have seen that it certainly can help
prolong them. Each new gadget can be used as an excuse for a new
escalation - as the laser-guided "smart bomb" (though it had seen
combat before) was presented as one of the justifications for the
most recent bombing escalation in North Vietnam. (New York Times,
The impressive and expensive technological arsenal does transfer the
burden of the U.S. military effort from men to machines, as General
Westmoreland said. The other side, which already had near-monopoly
on public support in Indochina, has also a near-monopoly on
traditional military virtues; and, of course, on casualties. If a
sensor can't tell the difference between soldiers and civilians, (Klare,
War Without End, p. 173; Congressional Record, 3/23/71, p. s3621),
the air-strike that it brings forth may still kill someone, and it
is sure to contribute to the destruction of the countryside.
Today Indochina, tomorrow the world!
The new technology has already
contributed to the capture of Che Guevara in Bolivia, and we have
seen that it is considered adaptable to use in other theaters. The
Army gives sensor system research "number two priority, following
only the Vietnam war." (Klare, War Without End, p. 205.)
Such is the
key position occupied by the scientific weapon-makers.
We have concentrated on the Electronic Battlefield because it is an
especially clear instance of Jason's intervention contributing
decisively to the prolongation of the Indochina war.
Hints of what
is hidden appear in annual reports published by IDA (from copies
supplied by New York Regional Anti-war Faculty and Students):
1965 Report: areas of Jason interest..."counterinsurgency, including
the problem of personnel detection."
1966 Report: "Increased Government attention to such problems as
counterinsurgency, insurrection, and infiltration led to the
suggestion that Jason members might be able to provide fresh
insights into problems that are not entirely in the realm of
1967 Report: "Jason's work during 1966 related primarily to two of
the larger current issues of national security:
missile (ABM) systems for the United States
the war in
"Jason continued work on technical problems of
counterinsurgency warfare and system studies with relevance to
1970 Report: In 1969 IDA established an Office of Civil Programs to
supervise its work in the "civilian sector". Mr. Seymour J.
Deitchman was appointed Director of this new office. (Deitchman has
already been identified as deeply involved in the electronic
battlefield development; and he was also identified, by Foster in
earlier Congressional testimony, as director of ARPA's Project
Agile, the organization which conducts world-wide counter-insurgency
research. Thus, we may draw some parallel between IDA's expected
role in the domestic civil sector and the well-known "civilian
programs" executed by the United States in Vietnam.)
In some of these reports we can find listed titles of a few Jason
research papers that seem to be relevant to Vietnam:
"A Study of Data Related to Viet Cong/ North Vietnamese Army
Logistics and Manpower" (1966)
"Explosively Produced Flechettes" (1966) * [picture]
"Interdiction of Trucks from the Air at Night" (1966)
"Air Sown Mines for Specialized Purposes" (1967)
"Manned Barrier Systems - A
Preliminary Study" (1967)
Some studies with suggestive titles were:
A list of IDA (unclassified) seminars includes the following
"The Electronic Soldier; Concepts For The Future Infantryman" (1969)
"Operations of the D.C. Executive Command Center During the
Inauguration Weekend" (1969)
"The Value of Life In Combat Risk Situations" (1969)
"Crime and Its Correction In D.C." (1969)
"Insurgency Patterns In India Today" (1969)
Since most Jason work is highly classified, and it is customary to
keep secret the titles and even the very existence of most highly
classified reports, we can conclude that this information represents
only the tip of the iceberg.
Ida's current recruiting brochure lists many technical areas of
Tactical Systems, Strategic Systems, Sea Warfare, Weapons Effects,
Missile Defense, Strategic Offensive and Defensive Systems, Military
Force Application Studies, Economic Analysis, Strategic Missile
Survivability and Penetration, Nuclear Effects, Regional Security
Studies, Political-Military Analyses, Government Organization and
Crisis Management, Advanced Sensors, Climate Modification, Laser
Technology, Advanced Avionics, ...
These topics cover applications of advanced technology to several
areas of interest to military-government interests.
These may be categorized as:
Strategic War (nuclear war,
presumably with Russia)
Tactical or Limited War (such as
Police Actions Abroad
(counterinsurgency at lower levels)
Domestic Policing, Surveillance
and Control Methods
Economic, Political and Social Analyses of domestic or foreign
One of the distant branches of the sensor development has been
described by Joseph A. Meyer, a computer specialist working for the
National Security Agency and funded by the Department of Defense
("Crime Deterrence Transponder Systems", IEEE Transactions AES-7 no.
1, January 1971):
"A transponder surveillance system is based on three ideas. First,
parolees, bailees, or recidivists will each carry a small radio
transponder, which cannot be removed, as a condition of their
release. This transponder will emit a radio signal which gives a
positive and unique identification. Second, a network of
surveillance transceivers will interrogate transponders in a
neighborhood. Third, a real-time computer will receive the
transponder reports, update location and tracking inventories for
each subscriber, and control the surveillance process.
subscriber must be accounted for at all times... For urban areas,
a mesh of transceivers would scan the streets, communicating with
central computers to provide a public surveillance network."
Meyer goes on to discuss special problems: Harlem
- "a high crime
area"; group actions and large-scale confrontations; juveniles; etc.
Among the references cited by Meyer to back up his ideas are several
Jason people have often stresses that Jason does non-military as
well as military work, mentioning studies in air traffic control and
the SST. However, since they will not tell us about current military
projects there is no fair way for us to assess the balance.
The following assessment was given in a magazine interview by Dr.
Alexander H. Flax, then IDA's vice-president for research and
presently president of IDA:
"'We don't expect to divert the forces
of IDA into civilian projects. That would be inappropriate.' Nor
will the think tank cultivate more basic research. 'That is not IDA's cup of tea,' said Flax... 'I doubt this year if funding from
other than DOD will get up to $1 million,' said Flax. The
Institute's overall budget is about $13 million a year. 'Probably,
in the future, we'll have greater flexibility in seeking out new
horizons,' Flax added. But those horizons do not presently encompass
a time when civilian work will outweigh IDA's military commitment."
(Scientific Research, 8/18/69, p. 29 ff.)
In the fall of 1971, Professor Watson gave a seminar in Berkeley (at
the Rad Lab) on the results of the Jason summer study project that
he had just finished working on.
This was an overall review of the
national research and development work in the field of lasers.
Watson reviewed for his audience the academic and industrial areas
of interest in laser research covered in the unclassified part of
the Jason report. His figures indicated, however, that of the
government's $100 million annual outlay for laser work 90% was
directed to military projects.
Watson could not discuss the military
part of Jason's report because it is all classified.
According to IDA's 1970 report, 90% of their government income comes
from the Department of Defense.
Back to Contents
The Jason people are "insiders". They
have access to secret information from many government offices and
they expect their advice to be at least seriously considered, if not
followed, by top-level policy-makers. Those who engage in criticism
of government policies without the benefit of such inside access are
SESPA (Scientists and
Engineers for Social and Political Action) people are outsiders, along with plenty of
When a debate arises between insiders and outsiders, invariably the
argument is used that only the insiders know the true facts and that
therefore the outsiders' positions should not be taken seriously.
In our efforts to learn as much as possible about the work of Jason,
we have not only gone over various published sources of information,
but we also personally interviewed as many Jason people as we could
find locally. What we learned was hardly anything new and concrete
about Jason projects (the interviewees were very secretive about
anything that might conceivably be classified information), but a
great deal about the attitudes and perspectives these men hold
toward their services to the government and the military.
In May, June and July, 1972, several Berkeley SESPA people arranged
interviews with U.C. physics Professors Kenneth Watson and Charles
Townes, molecular biology and physics Professor Donald Glaser, and
Princeton physics professor Marvin Goldberger, who was visiting
Berkeley; Professor Luis Alvarez (Berkeley physics) would not agree
to a meeting but did engage in some individual conversations;
Stanford physics Professor Sidney Drell was confronted with some
questions during an October visit to this campus.
The following is a
summary of these encounters.
Professor of Physics, UC, Berkeley
Watson was one of the group that founded Jason in 1959. At first
they were thinking of forming their own private consulting company,
but they finally decided to let IDA be their business manager; this
avoided the problem of profits (taxes).
There is usually a 6-week
summer study session and then a couple of long weekend meetings
during the school year. Government people come and outline problems
they would like Jason to solve. Most of the work is for the Defense
Department. The purpose of Jason is to supply purely technical
information for the government; it is non-political. Jason has never
taken a position on any subject, as an organization: We are just a
group of individuals.
When asked what projects Jason had worked on, he would consistently
refuse to comment on any specifics, because of the official secrecy
of their work. He would even refuse to comment on those things about
Jason which have already appeared in public (through the Pentagon
As to his personal attitude about the military, he said that since
it is an $80 billion budget he couldn't make a blanket statement.
When pressed to give some averaged evaluation, he said, "If I felt
very strongly against [the military], I wouldn't be in Jason. It's a
thousand dimensional space. It's much more complicated than to give
a simple answer to such a complicated question."
At a faculty meeting during the time of the Cambodian invasion,
1970, Watson was heard to comment,
"Why is everyone getting so upset
about such a little war?"
It is generally believed that Watson is heavily involved in
military-related outside consulting work beyond Jason, but no
detailed information on this is available.
During our interview he said that there was often a close continuity
between the problems he worked on for Jason and the pure research he
carried out in the University; and he pointed out that therefore
there was often no clear-cut separation between the time he spent on
one thing and the time he spent on the other.
Professor of Physics, UC, Berkeley. Nobel
Prize, 1964, for work leading to invention of the maser and the
Townes is undoubtedly the most involved and the most influential of
the science advisers we have spoken with. In addition to his
original and continuing association with Jason and IDA, he has
served on PSAC and on special advisory committees for the President,
has consulted for the AEC and the State Department, planned NASA
policy, and helps direct affairs of the National Academy of
Sciences. He also accepted a position as chairman of a new top-level
science advisory committee for General Motors Corporation.
As vice-president for research of IDA, Townes helped set up the
entire IDA service, as well as its Jason division. He felt that the
in-group of scientists who had been influential in the government
during World War II were getting rather old and some new blood was
needed; so Jason was formed, with some of the country's best young
physicists, in the expectation that they could have an influence
from inside the government.
In an earlier discussion, Townes described the government science
advising business generally. He said that there was a good deal of
incest, in that people with the most experience would be re-used;
and there was a practice of bringing younger people into subsidiary
committees where they could learn by experience how to handle
things, then gradually move up if their performance was found
He listed the criteria as: talent, objectivity and
willingness to work; it is also basic that the adviser accept the
idea that he works privately for the agency or the person whom he is
advising, complete secrecy is required even though the scientific
recommendations given are often not followed.
He stated that the
human element - the personal relations between the adviser and the
advisee - is very important to the success of the advising process;
yet he continually stressed that the advising was strictly
objective, non-political, and related only to technical evaluations.
He measured the success of IDA and Jason by the fact that several of
its people were advanced to serve on PSAC.
Regarding Jason's major work on questions of strategic weapons,
Townes saw their role as working effectively between the two rivals:
the Defense Department and the State Department. Defense, concerned
primarily with the security of the U.S., was usually in favor of
more weapons; State, concerned with keeping other countries happy,
was more interested in arms control. Jason's job was to transfer
information between the two while making both parties feel that you
were helpful to them.
Townes was involved in Vietnam war issues more through PSAC than
through Jason. He claims that the Jason 1966 report recommending an
end to the bombing of Noth Vietnam was not followed by the
Administration because it had certain flaws - some of the
statements in that report came "from the depth of the heart" rather
than from objective analysis.
PSAC later did another study of this
same problem and was more careful in its evaluation of the
effectiveness of the bombing. Their report was delivered to
President Johnson just a few months before the bombing was stopped
(1968). When asked what he thought about Nixon's present bombing
campaign in North Vietnam, Townes replied that the situation is
different now and he is not in close touch with all the facts. His
personal feeling is that he is against the bombing, but he would not
make a public statement against Nixon's bombing policy because he is
not well informed technically.
Philosophizing broadly, Townes said he thought the world would be
better off if we didn't have military establishments; but, since
this is not the way the world is, since we don't like to be kicked
around, we do need a military.
Townes spoke about his feelings regarding the use of laser-guided
bombs in Vietnam. His original research led to the invention of the
laser, although he states that he has not had anything to do with
laser-guided bombs. He would like to see the U.S. get out of Vietnam
or arrange a truce. But this has not happened, and one has to accept
the fact that a bombing policy is in effect.
Laser-guided bombs allow one to pinpoint on the target rather than
scatter bombs all over the countryside. Thus, although it is a
difficult decision, Townes felt that laser-guided bombs were a good
and humane contribution.
In his office, on campus, Townes has a heavy steel file cabinet with
a dial-combination safe lock.
The nameplate reads, "General Services
Administration Approved Security Container, Mosler". Another sticker
reads, "Institute for Defense Analyses - IDA #1998; P.O. 14425".
Another notice on the safe asks that anyone discovering this cabinet
to be open should immediately contact Townes, giving his home
address and phone number.
Townes told us he thinks it is important
to have a classified safe here on campus so that he can work with
classified documents. In this way, he explained, the University
makes useful contributions to the government.
Professor of Physics and Molecular
Biology, UC, Berkeley. Nobel Prize, 1960, for the invention of the
Glaser joined Jason about 1960; there were ten or fifteen members at
that time, and he was recruited by Ken Watson. He joined because he
wanted to be more effective in helping the government; also, through
IDA they could be paid higher higher consulting fees than the
government was allowed to pay directly.
An important motivation for
scientists participating in Jason was the view that the Pentagon was
often irresponsible in proposing large new weapons systems that
would be very wasteful of money and/or would escalate the arms race,
and Jason could hope to argue convincingly against such programs.
Jason had extremely high levels of clearance to government
information: Top Secret is a low level of clearance.
Among Jason members there were a variety of political points of
view, and one could also see considerable changes in individual
political outlooks over the years, according to Glaser. He admits
that politics was not a small and incidental part of their
considerations, and at various stages social and political
scientists, economists, and others joined the conversations in an
attempt to balance as many of the recognized factors in
decision-making as they could deal with.
Glaser himself took part in the Jason 1966 summer study analyzing
the effectiveness of the U.S. bombing in North Vietnam. Their
report, which recommended a halt in the bombing, was greeted with
favor by McNamara, but President Johnson did not follow that advice.
In such cases when Jason's advice was not taken, Glaser explained,
the government felt that "non-technical factors" deserved overriding
In a more relaxed moment he expressed his feeling,
now think it was a con job - they used us technically but didn't
listen to us."
Since that time (1966), Glaser stated, he has not
participated in Jason activities, but he has not officially resigned
because he would like to maintain his security clearance in case he
should want to return to government service.
His general evaluation of his Jason work is as follows: Smart
scientists make better weapons than dumb ones. If you prune out some
bad projects, you definitely help the government: Jason was able to
help both the military and civilian parts of the government.
Regarding the political implications of helping the military, Glaser
felt that the military has a legitimate role and it is better if
that role is done well.
He is not in favor of enormous nuclear
overkill but he is in favor of effective weapons serving purposes
such as those in World War II., the defense of western Europe after
that war, blocking nuclear missiles from Cuba, and supplying fighter
planes to Israel. He disagrees with U.S. policies in Vietnam and in
Greece but overall he supports the idea that the U.S. carries a
responsibility for development of much of the world.
His current scientific research is in bacterial genetics. This could
very well lead to some form of biological warfare but you can't
foresee the applications of science. You need the government to
control this. Certainly science can be used for dangerous purposes,
On the whole, as Glaser saw it, our society is successful, people
don't want revolution. And it is necessary that we constantly
improve our weapons to be prepared to defend ourselves against the
When asked if the next Hitler might arise in America,
he expressed confidence that it would more likely be in China or
Professor of Physics, Princeton
Goldberger was chairman of Jason's steering committee from 1959
through 1966. He was appointed to PSAC in 1965 and his last
full-time participation with Jason was the summer study of 1967. He
is at present not a member but is an Advisor to the steering
committee. While chairman, he had a major responsibility for
choosing topics of Jason summer study programs, including the 1966
study and report on the Vietnam war.
Jason had been concerned about
the war in Southeast Asia for a number of years and had an informal
study group during the summer of 1964. Prior to 1966, however, there
was no actual involvement in specific war-related areas.
mid-1965, Goldberger himself was becoming disillusioned about the
U.S. involvement in the war. In early 1966, the steering committee
decided that Jason should become involved more deeply and joined
forces with the "Charles River Gang" (Kaysen, Kistiakowsky, Wiesner
and Zacharias) who had independently proposed an involvement by the
The combined group met for three weeks
briefing on the war at Wellesley and two major study areas were
An analysis of the effectiveness of the bombing of
The feasibility of construction of an
anti-infiltration barrier, an idea originally suggested by Roger
It was this latter topic that was pursued by the true Jason
Group at Santa Barbara. The whole effort was attributed to Jason,
but this is incorrect.
Goldberger regarded the barrier project as a serious attempt to end
U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The bombing campaign was a failure and
a military victory by ground forces was impossible. By this time,
Goldberger regarded the U.S. role in the war as completely immoral
and was trying in some realistic way to work towards U.S.
With regard to the part of the study dealing with the air war,
Goldberger stated that the conclusions reached were obvious at the
outset. It simply was an ineffective method, militarily, of
achieving the military objective of cutting off the flow of men and
materiel. The problem was the reluctance on the part of the military
to give it up. Even if it contributed 1 or 2% effectiveness to the
total war effort, the military saw it as worthwhile.
Goldberger saw the barrier idea as something that could be
substituted for the air war which would drastically reduce civilian
casualties and which might lower the overall temperature of the war.
McNamara liked the idea and in the wake of the Jason report, set up
a large project in the Pentagon to develop and implement it. The
current electronic battlefield is a much more sophisticated
evolution from the Jason barrier concept.
The original Jason outline
used only "state of the art" devices consisting of existing mines,
sensors, and anti-truck, anti-personnel weapons designed to be
deployed in the shortest possible time. The idea was to block the
truck supply routes and to make travel over the Ho Chi Minh trail
system sufficiently hazardous to slow down infiltration.
Goldberger and others hoped that the barrier, if successful, would
lead to some sort of reasonable resolution of the war. This might
take various forms, one of which would have been the withdrawal of
U.S. ground forces either totally or into enclaves around the
populated areas but disengaged from offensive actions with a
reduction of the fighting to a level that it would be reported only
on page 34 of the New York Times.
That is, barring a political
solution, the war might just peter out.
With regard to the Jason Group more generally, Goldberger feels that
overall it is a good thing. Since it is unfortunately necessary for
the U.S. to maintain a defense establishment to deter strategic
wars, we should have the benefit of the best technical advice. In
addition, it is valuable to have an impartial critical group
familiar with defense problems to counterbalance technically absurd
Jason members are and have been the most
effective and vocal opponents of the Safeguard ABM system and their
credentials have made their opposition credible. (However, when
asked about their failure to stop the U.S. deployment of MIRV - the
multiple warhead nuclear missile - Goldberger said, "It (our
advising) is a one percent effect; we're not very important.")
group is currently involved in projects on behalf of the Arms
Control and Disarmament Agency as well as in many other unclassified
civilian activities (such as air traffic control).
Goldberger is currently not working for the government except as a
consultant to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He and many
others would probably be willing (and in some cases anxious) to
return to Washington if McGovern were elected. He said that working
at high levels of the government is "very seductive" in many ways.
But it is often much harder to try to work constructively within the
system than to be an outside critic.
Good people are needed for both
Professor of Physics, U.C. Berkeley; Nobel
Prize, 1968, for contributions to elementary particle physics
Alvarez has repeatedly refused to meet with SESPA people to discuss
his involvement with Jason, although he has engaged in conversations
with three of us individually. He states that his position in Jason
is as one of the eight-man group of "Jason Advisors", along with
Herbert York, W.K.H. Panofsky and Marvin Goldberger. Alvarez feels
that Jason is a young man's organization and he can help it best by
keeping in touch with their activities and offering advice based
upon his World War II experiences.
He has acknowledged his contribution to the development of
"star-light viewing devices" that have been widely used by the U.S.
military in Vietnam. As a member of a government advisory committee
in the early sixties, he urged the government to push the
development of this technology because he saw that it would be an
important weapon to use against guerrilla soldiers, who often use
the night-time darkness to cover their movements.
President Nixon has recently appointed Alvarez to serve on PSAC.
When SESPA started compiling its material on Jason for this
publication, we wrote to each of the above five Jason professors,
saying, "Enclosed is a draft version of our summary of discussions
that were held with you. We invite you to comment on this draft; and
we would be interested in any additions or corrections that you
think should be made to this draft."
From Professors Alvarez, Glaser and Goldberger we received
cooperative replies; and a number of their comments have been
incorporated into the final versions we have presented.
From Professor Watson, we have received the following letter (dated
October 10, 1972):
"This is in reply to your request for comments on your SESPA report
following our conversation. This report contains several
misrepresentations and/or quotations out of context. More
significantly, it violates the conditions under which I agreed to
meet with SESPA, which were that I would listen and you people would
You do not have my permission to issue this report of our
Kenneth M. Watson"
From Professor Townes, we received the following letter (dated
October 6, 1972):
"I am replying to your note of September 29 enclosing a statement
which you say is a summary of discussions held with me and you are
considering publishing. The whole statement is so different in fact
and in meaning from my information and from views I expressed that I
find it difficult to see how it can be adequately corrected.
Relatively few sentences in the statement are free of some
substantial error or misrepresentation. You do not have my
permission to publish such a misrepresentation. In addition to
ethical issues, a publication of this type would raise serious
questions of damage to academic freedom and of libel.
Charles H. Townes"
Many SESPA members were delighted with this response. ("Great. If he
wants to sue us for libel, then we can get more discussion of this
whole business in open court.")
However, in an attempt at
accommodation, a second letter was sent to these professors, urging
them to point out in detail any portions of our material which they
thought were inaccurate. Townes' reply was a reiteration of his
earlier position: condemning the entire piece and "strongly request(ing)" that we do not attribute these views and statements to
him; but he did not cite even one example of anything in our summary
that he objected to.
Watson has not replied at all.
Professor of Physics at Cal. Tech.
Gell-Mann is presently a member of PSAC. Nobel Prize, 1969, for
contributions to the theory of elementary particles
In 1970, the Student Mobilization Committee published a set of
secret minutes it had obtained on a 1967 Jason seminar on problems
of counter-insurgency. The regular Jasonite participating was Dr.
Murray Gell-Mann and the main thrust was to find ways of getting
social scientists usefully involved in solving problems of interest
to the military.
"Gell-Mann: Can we find out what effect increasing police density or
ear cutting, or other negatives have on villager attitudes?"
"The assembled experts also occasionally strayed to the subject of
whether a Jason social science (SS) division was necessary or
possible." ..."A Jason S.S. group could focus on domestic as well as
foreign countries. M. Gell-Mann suggested a focus on third (world)
"Gell-Mann: The Jason idea has these advantages:
Jasons have a choice of problems.
The government has the use of their time.
They choose their own colleagues.
They can affiliate with agencies more readily.
The Jason prestige helps corruption and makes S.S. available to
"Gell-Mann: There are appeals: congenial group, money. interesting
problems - like the existence of Thai communists."
Gell-Mann has recently become involved in the ecology movement:
can see a need for humane rationality and, in some cases, an
opportunity for scientists to participate..."
(Physics Today, May,
One question put to Gell-Mann in his Paris confrontation was:
"How could he be interested in the preservation of the American
countryside from pollution by highways, without worrying about some
20 million bomb craters that pit the Vietnamese earth?"
There is a story, widely circulated among physicists, that at some
time several years ago Gell-Mann made a personal visit to Vietnam to
study U.S. military problems there first hand.
Professor of Physics at Stanford, and
Deputy Director of Stanford's Linear Accelerator
On October 2, 1972, Drell visited Berkeley and gave a physics
lecture at the Radiation Laboratory. Several SESPA people wanted to
question him about his Jason work and, after his planned lecture, he
stayed on to defend his work for the government.
Californian reported the discussion with SESPA as follows:
"SESPA: I am very concerned with the role of science and its effect
on warfare. Science helps the warfare. Science helps the war go on.
How do you feel about the structure of science and the Vietnam War?
Do you contribute to the electronic battlefield?
Drell: The organization I work for - Jason - is accused of this and
that. Jason is a very secretive organization. I know very little
about it. Since I've been in Washington, I've seen the government do
things I like and things I dislike. We need to have critics not just
on the outside, but on the inside too.
SESPA: What do you work on exactly?
Drell: I don't feel obligated to tell you. Look at the record
though. If one has any confidence in one's government, one must do
something, I think.
SESPA: There's a problem though: there is no record of what you do
in Jason. Oh, excuse me, there is about a one percent record. It's
nice to say, Sid (Drell), that the responsibility rests with the
president, but that's not all true. We have to ask about our
scientists who advise the President (about the Vietnam War).
Drell: There's a system in which all scientists are involved: some
are on the outside; some are on the inside. I am on the inside, and
you and other scientists are on the outside. I like this system of
critics in and out of the government.
SESPA: Explain why you feel you must support Nixon.
Drell: Mr. Nixon is our President, and I will do anything, within
reason, to support him. Take, for example, the SALT talks.
SESPA: The SALT talks aren't really the point. When you say 'support
the President' does that mean you'd kill Vietnamese?
Drell: Oh, Charley, why don't you debate someone else? I thought
this would be serious."
Earlier we told of the 1968 trip of Garwin and Kendall (two Jason
people) to Vietnam, apparently to work on the implementation of the
electronic battlefield system.
A private source has informed us that
Kendall, upon his return from that trip, stopped off at Stanford and
had a long discussion with Drell on these problems. (Drell at this
time was on PSAC.) SESPA asked Drell to comment on this report. He
would neither confirm nor deny that he had met with Kendall on that
occasion. He stated only that he had conferred many times with
Kendall on many topics.
When pressed to be more specific, Drell
finally admitted that he was "not totally ignorant" of the episode
in question, but he refused to talk to SESPA about it.
While Gell-Mann was being confronted by young scientists in Paris
last summer over his Jason work, Drell had similar experiences in
Rome and in Corsica.
As reported in Physics Today (Oct. 1972, p.63),
"Drell was asked to denounce his participation in Jason and to
condemn publicly 'American war crimes.' Drell refused, offering
instead to discuss Jason with the students any time after giving his
first physics lecture. This offer was rejected, and then Drell asked
those who wanted him to start lecturing to stand. Only about five
students rose, and Maurice Levy, director of the institute, said
that if Drell could not talk the school would terminate."
And so it
The current chairman of the Jason Group is Professor Harold Lewis,
Professor of Physics at U.S. Santa Barbara. On September 28, 1972,
SESPA wrote to Dr. Lewis asking if he could supply an up-to-date
list of the people who are part of the Jason Group.
previous source we had was a list of the Jason members (43)
published in 1970 by NACLA, and we asked Lewis if he would at least
indicate what corrections should be applied to up-date that
His reply follows:
October 4, 1972
Dr. Charles Schwartz
Department of Physics
University of California
Berkeley, California 94720
Were it not that hard experience has taught me the consequences of
the release of people's names, I would have no objection whatever to
correcting your list (the number of correct names on it exceeds the
number of incorrect ones, but the preponderance is by no means
Unfortunately, however, SESPA has compiled a
miserable record, especially in New York, in its disregard for both
truth and for minimal standards of human decency. When the personal
harassment of individuals reaches the point at which a family
receives anonymous phone calls threatening the lives of the
children, I think that you and other honest people ought to
seriously consider the Pandora's box you have opened by giving this
harassment some legitimacy.
You have no monopoly on outrage about
the war in Vietnam, and history shows us what happens to a movement
when it provides a haven for thugs. Gresham's law is applicable.
SESPA often asks people whether they are concerned about the uses to
which their work will be put, and I ask you the same question with
regard to lists of names.
I really regret having to write such a negative letter, because I
know that you and I could discuss the issues (fewer than you
probably think) on which we differ in substance. The world has been
making grudging and halting progress toward peace, and SESPA is more
of a hindrance than a help.
H. W. Lewis
Our response to Lewis' refusal to make public the membership of
Jason is reproduced below:
November 30, 1972
Dr. H. W. Lewis
Department of Physics
University of California
Santa Barbara, California 93106
Dear Dr. Lewis,
As justification for refusing to help us up-date our list of Jason
members, you cite alleged phone threats against a physicist whom
SESPA had exposed. We find it absurd to compare these actions on the
part of a few frustrated and powerless people to the bombing,
burning, maiming and killing of millions of Asian people, which has
been deliberately facilitated by the privileged Jason scientists who
hide behind a veil of "scientific objectivity" and military secrecy.
You ask us to think about the consequences of making the work of
Jason public knowledge. This we have done. SESPA is in favor of
democracy; of public officials, including science advisors, who can
be held accountable and responsible for their actions by the
American public, whom they supposedly serve. A prerequisite for this
is an informed and alert populace. Our aim, then, in publishing this
information, is to aid in the process of accountability through
normal political channels.
SESPA does not advocate threats against individuals. On the
contrary, it is the arrogant and anti-democratic withholding of
knowledge and power from citizens which may frustrate some to the
point of desperate acts.
As for your comments on the prospects for world peace, the facts are
clear. SESPA and SESPA members have been leaders in the active
opposition to the war in South-East Asia, and the policies which
engendered that war. In stark contrast, Jason scientists have been
instrumental in providing the genocidal technology required for
prosecuting the un-ending war in South-East Asia. While many of
them, today, publicly profess to be against the war, they continue
to contribute their scientific talents to the military.
In the last analysis, the difference between you and ourselves is a
basic political difference. You seem to believe that world peace can
be brought about only by the secretive manipulations of Nixon,
Kissinger and the Jason scientists. We believe that it is the right,
and indeed, the obligation, of the American people, working with the
people of other nations, to bring about peace and justice in the
Science For The People!
Martin Brown Charles Schwartz
Norman Christ, Henry Foley, Richard Garwin*, Leon Lederman, Malvin
Calif. Institute of Technology
Murray Gell-Mann*, Frederick Zachariasen, George Zweig
University of Chicago
Robert Gomer, S. Courtnay Wright
New York University
University of Rochester
Sidney Drell*, Wolfgang Panofsky*, Allen Peterson
M. I. T.
Henry Kendall, Steven Weinberg
National Bureau of Standards
Princeton University and Institute for Advanced Studies
Roger Dashen, Freeman Dyson, Val Fitch*, Edward Frieman, Sam Treiman,
John Wheeler, Eugene Wigner, Marvin Goldberger*
Luis Alvarez*, Donald Glaser, Charles Townes*, Kenneth Watson
U. C. Santa Barbara
David Caldwell, Harold Lewis
U. C. Santa Cruz
U. C. San Diego
Norman Kroll, Walter Munk, Willian Nierenberg, Herbert York*
* indicates someone who has also served on
PSAC - President's Science Advisory
Basic source: List of Jason members published in "The
University-Military-Police Complex: A Directory and Related
Documents", published, 1970, by the North American Congress on Latin
America, Inc., NACLA, P.O. Box 226, Berkeley, Ca. 94701. We have
updated the locations of several people and added two names (Christ
and Lederman: given in PHYSICS TODAY, 10/72, p. 63).
Four names have
been removed from the 1970 list: one person (Christofilos) is
deceased; three persons (Bjorken, Blankenbecler and Salpeter) are no
longer members, according to private information we have received.
A number of Jason scientists also involve themselves in the
interaction of science with politics through non-governmental
organizations. Drell, Goldberger, Glaser and Townes are all leading
figures in the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), a 26-year
old group of liberal, establishment scientists which tries to
influence government policies on weapons development through
In a recent mailing, FAS Chairman Goldberger asks scientists to
"join with us in asking the Administration for a full accounting of
past and present Executive Branch actions" concerning work on
weather-modification in Vietnam and elsewhere.
We can wholeheartedly
agree with Goldberger that,
"American pioneering in the use of
weather modification as a weapon of war is, all in all, an
intolerable misuse of science."
SESPA would also ask FAS whether
they also judge American pioneering in the use of the automated
battlefield to be an intolerable misuse of science, and whether the
many former (and current) Jason and PSAC people in the FAS should be
expected to cooperate in a "full disclosure" of these and other
weapons they have studied for the military.
Certainly not all Jasons agree with FAS politics. Kenneth Watson was
identified (by Senator Fulbright during Senate subcommittee hearings
in 1969) as a member of the right-wing American Security Council.
Mostly, the work, and even the existence, of Jason has been shielded
from public view. Most scientists who know of their colleagues'
association with Jason take an attitude of "each is free to do as he
pleases." The first student protests against IDA occurred in 1967,
at Princeton University, which hosts IDA's communications research
facility. Since that time, the SMC publication (1970) and the
Pentagon Papers (1971) have done much to increase the awareness of
Since last spring, the SESPA group at Columbia University in New
York has been conducting a campaign around the five Columbia physics
faculty members who work for Jason. SESPA has picketed and
distributed informational leaflets not only at the campus physics
building but also at the homes of some of the individual professors.
On April 24, 1972, a group including professors from twenty colleges
and universities in the New York area joined with SESPA people and
other Columbia students and supporters to occupy the physics
building at Columbia for four days.
This non-violent act of civil
"a protest against the intensification of the air
war in Indochina and the participation of physics professors at
Columbia in the activities of the Jason division of I.D.A."
Today, cited above; see also SESPA magazine Science for the People,
Sept. 1972, p.36.)
Killed, Wounded, and Refugeed
Under Johnson (1964-1968)
Monthly Civilian Toll
Under Johnson (1964-1968)
Killed, Wounded, and Refugeed
Under Nixon (1969-Aug., 1971)
Monthly Civilian Toll
Under Nixon (1969-Aug., 1971)
Back to Contents
Why They Do It
There is nothing new about great
scientists working at new weapons: Archimedes, Leonardo, Kelvin all
served their princely masters well in warfare.
In our time this
service has become endemic, with regiments of scientists in every
advanced nation working at new generations of weapons. And it should
not be thought that these scientists work only at the instigation of
the military; quite the contrary, the most novel weapons can not be
anticipated by non-scientists and are often resisted by a
conservative majority of career soldiers.
The atom bomb, the
hydrogen bomb, intercontinental missiles, nuclear submarines,
chemical and biological agents, the automated battlefield - all of
these had, and needed, first-rate scientists to champion them, not
just to supply them to the Pentagon's order.
It is tempting to classify scientists, as other people concerned
with political and military affairs, according to the labels Hawk or
Dove. Indeed there are a number of scientists who show extreme
xenophobia or bellicose anti-communism, and may fairly be called
Hawks. Such was the late John von Neumann, and such, of course, is
Edward Teller. But doves have been responsible for some of the most
lethal innovations in modern warfare.
One thinks of the gentle and
socially conscious J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Many of the Jason people fall into the second group. Some of them
will speak clearly against the Vietnam war; a number of them have
done so publicly. Some of them have given Congressional testimony
critical of some Pentagon project. Some of them have done good work
on some environmental problems. They are all creative scientists and
often admired teachers.
In the interviews they commonly expressed
concern about working for the good of humanity, and hope that Jason
gave them a way to do so.
We detect several main types of justification for their work for the
1. THE MODEST COVER-UP
Jason's work must be harmless because the government so often does
not follow their advice.
This argument is belied by (for one) Dr. John Foster, the chief
scientist for the Department of Defense, in testimony before the
Senate Armed Services Committee, May 14, 1969 (p.1782).
"I hope you will not be misled by those who suggest that DOD's
academic research represents a sort of 'sandbox for scholars,'
irrelevant to Defense missions, unproductive technically, and, worst
of all, inimical to the best interests of universities. The facts
are quite different, and the historical record shows how
authentically important academic research has been in serving
"How have universities assisted in preserving the national security?
It is not just the significant research results that have been
produced, nor just the advanced training of thousands of students in
technical areas central to defense, nor even the ability of scarce
specialists who consult with you and us on the Nation's most
critical defense problems.
It is more fundamental. It is the great
national advantage we possess because we are able to bring together
essentially independent and well-informed people - from government,
industry, and universities - over long periods for voluntary work
on our tough problems. This is the core of our capacity for
Although many liberal academic scientists, even government advisers,
find themselves opposed to Dr. Foster on numerous issues, they
understand and cultivate his crucial role in maintaining a high
level of government support for academic research.
by which "independent" academic scientists serve the federal
government and the government generously pays for the kind of
abstract research that the scientists enjoy conducting on their
campuses is relatively subtle and indirect.
arrangement is implied in Foster's testimony (this is what that word
"independent" boils down to); it is more frankly spelled out in this
letter, dated February 26, 1964, from the Army Office of Research
and Development to the chairman of the Department of Physics at
Columbia University (copy supplied by N.Y. Regional Anti-War Faculty
"Any outright statement as to our ability to support specific work
at the University is, of course, not possible. Nevertheless, the
possibility exists that from time to time we may be able to directly
support an effort or to assist the University in getting support
from other Army agencies. To this extent then the assistance we
request need not be a unilateral arrangement."
The modest writing off of Jason's war advising does not carry
conviction. Granted that Jason members' advice is not always
followed, still it is clear that it is highly valued and it is
sometimes followed, with far-reaching consequences; and it is even
clearer that it is intended to be followed.
Jason's 1966 plan for Vietnam:
"20 million Gravel mines per month;
possibly 25 million button bomblets per month; 10,000 SADEYE-BLU-26B
clusters per month; 1600 acoustic sensors per month," along with
assorted aircraft to mine, monitor and attack over an area of many
hundreds of square miles.
A more realistic defense of scientific consulting through Jason is:
THE COUNTERBALANCE THEORY
which in its more extreme form might be called the
boring-from-within theory. Jason people claim to moderate the
excesses of the military by providing a liberal outlook, and by
their independent perspective, free of vested interest in projects
proposed by particular government agencies.
One aspect of this concerns the few occasions on which these
informed "insiders" take issue publicly with some government policy.
Most often mentioned are the names of Bethe, Garwin, York and
Panofsky who were prominent in the public debate over the ABM
(anti-ballistic missile system) in 1968-69.
The case of Richard Garwin is particularly interesting in this
connection. At age 44, he is one of the younger stars of the
government scientific advisory system, having extensive service with
Jason and PSAC while a professor of physics at Columbia University
and director of the affiliated IBM Watson Laboratory. Alvarez
described Garwin as one of the brightest and most knowledgeable
people in the advising business, an opinion which seems to be widely
Several Jasons have pointed out that Garwin was appointed to
a second term on PSAC even after he had published (with Bethe) the
famous article in Scientific American which publicly criticized the
Pentagon's plans for the ABM system. This is offered as proof that
Jason and PSAC people retain their independence.
A second story about Garwin concerns the SST (super-sonic transport
airplane). Apparently, he knew of a secret PSAC report which was
critical of the government's plans for the SST; by leaking
information to some Congressmen, Garwin eventually forced the White
House to release the report.
What interests us particularly about Garwin is the fact that it was
his name which came up most consistently in our research on the
development of the automated battlefield. Garwin was placed on
Jason's steering committee in 1967; he was the leader of the 1968 (Tet)
scientist group visiting Vietnam, and he was later identified as one
of the members of the scientific advisory committee to the DCPG
On the basis of this meager evidence alone we could conclude that
Garwin's secret service for the Pentagon and for the White House has
been so rewarding to them that they are willing to tolerate his
occasional public deviations.
In any case, the "insider" style of criticism appears to be limited
to means rather than ends. There is no evidence that Jasons advised,
say, that the U.S. start abiding by the Geneva Agreement of 1954, or
even that it abstain from any of the cruelest excesses of the war.
Jason's counsel to stop the bombing of the North was on the basis
that it wasn't working, not on the basis that it was better for
Vietnamese to live than to die.
The objectives of the military
effort were not open to question in the mind of the Pentagon, who
was paying for the advice. Jason seems to have accepted this
definition of the bargain. Not whether to suppress guerrillas in
Thailand, but only how.
Indeed, many scientists argue that their professional role is to
answer scientific questions, and only as citizens can they influence
policy. Though the Jason scientists did not rely on this argument,
it is more in tune with the "neutral technician" role they seem to
take: using their objectivity and perspective on the military
endeavor, not to influence what it is doing, but to help the
military do whatever it is doing better.
Now we see a still more convincing explanation for working in Jason:
3. THE EFFECTIVENESS THEORY
The government should act on the basis of the best available
information. If Jason didn't offer scientific advice, someone else,
less competent, would. "Smart scientists make better weapons than
Now there is no doubt that both the scientific excellence of these
top advisors and their relative objectivity can help the earnest
McNamaras and their generals to accomplish their objectives better.
If we agree, and many of the Jasons do, that those objectives have
been noxious, then this would seem a strange reason to justify their
service to them! More explanation is required.
3A. THE PLEA OF IGNORANCE
or, we didn't know it was loaded. Perhaps Jason members assumed
through the early years of their involvement that the American
presence in Vietnam was benign? After all, politics is not their
field. Indeed, in some of them, we detect a certain alacrity to
excuse (even exaggerate?) their own political naiveté.
This seems a mere pose
- and one which they do not sustain, for at
other moments they concede that politics is of the essence. By 1966,
they had available to them the writings of Jean Lacouture, Bernard
Fall, and David Halberstam, as the rest of us did, and in addition
they had all the secret reports which we could see only in
tendentiously censored versions.
They could get the true story of
Ngo Dinh Diem's installation in power, of his Strategic Hamlet
program, of his overthrow, of the activities of the CIA - things
which the public learned only later, after much effort.
We may agree that Jason politics were somewhat weak, in that knowing
what was going on in Indochina they abetted it. But it would be
embarrassing for these highly skilled scientists, with access to so
much information, to claim that their politics are so weak that they
did not know what was going on in Indochina!
There is no need for us to belabor the plea of ignorance because
they do not make much of it. Even Donald Glaser, who is not pleased
with the use the government made of his Jason work in 1966 and does
not report having done any since, seems perfectly sanguine about
offering his services to the Pentagon in the future and taking his
chances on the consequences.
This is an instance of
3B. THE POSITIVE-INTEGRAL THEORY
This concedes that something went awry somehow in Vietnam but
maintains that this is more than offset by all the good the U. S.
military is doing elsewhere - in Europe and the Mid-East, maybe, or
in deterring the Soviet Union, or even (some would say) in Taiwan.
Or if you can't manage to cite enough good it's doing now, then
throw in the good it may do in the future.
Thus Charles Schwartz describes the underlying assumptions when he
worked at IDA (1962):
"Basically the assumptions boiled down to something like this: war
is bad and nuclear war is terrible; the U.S. is the major force for
good in the world; and communism - either in the form of Soviet
power plays or in the form of scattered guerrilla movements - represents the major force for evil. Thus all questions of overall
purpose are assumed answered."
Now we do not agree that the Vietnam war is a unique lapse from a
generally constructive U.S. policy.
We do not find the Yankee dollar
so much less imperialistic in Latin America than in the Far East; we
do not see that much less corruption in Chiang Kai-shek's government
than in Ngo Dinh Diem's; we do not see any reason to expect Nixon to
fight his next war any more altruistically or mercifully than the
one in Indochina (though he will certainly try to fight it more
But even if the Jason doves regard the Vietnam war as an aberration,
their appeal to the positive-integral theory puts them in a peculiar
position. It is as if they witnessed inexcusable police brutality,
and instead of choosing to expose it, joined in the crime, on the
grounds that other policemen somewhere else were helping nice old
ladies across the street. Non sequitur!
To help the government do evil more effectively is not a way to
induce it to do good.
Above all, to arm the government for counter-insurgency does not
strengthen it for defense of liberty. Counter-insurgency research is
by definition research on how to support unpopular regimes, on how
to subject lightly armed populations to the will of heavily armed
minorities. True, popular regimes may need defending in some future
war, but the techniques that will be needed will be techniques of
defending civilians, not of bombing and "resettling" them.
Techniques developed perhaps by the North Vietnamese - not by
We are left with a depressing conclusion. The liberal physicist has
no basis at all to think he is doing any good by his eager service
to the war machine.
Maybe he doesn't care.
J. Robert Oppenheimer described his amorality frankly:
see something that is technically sweet you go ahead and do it and
you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your
technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb. I do
not think anybody opposed making it."
The context is relevant:
Oppenheimer was pleading innocent to the charge of having applied
moral standards when he later opposed the thermonuclear bomb! But
his self-analysis seems incomplete, for he must have had
"technically sweet" alternatives open to him in 1939 - say,
If it was not a moral, social objective which made the
Manhattan Project seem more important, what then?
It seems clear that it was power. The confirmation that one can
raise one's hand and make a city appear - or make a city disappear,
and that is likely to be easier.
In short, there is one plausible
motive for the Jason dove:
4. BEING WHERE THE ACTION IS
The Kissinger complex.
He is attracted by the secrecy, by feeling
close to the real center of power, by the gratification of having
been admitted, by the size of the appropriations being discussed, by
the sense of urgency, by the thrill of making history.
Back to Contents
One comment heard from several Jason
people was that they were men deeply concerned over the possibility
of their talents being used for harmful ends. This concern was
usually phrased in terms such as,
"I have to make the decision,
according to my own conscience, of whether I should continue to
consult for the government."
This seems to us to be a wholly inadequate way to put the question.
A person's conscience is not formed in a vacuum but needs to be
responsive to the opinions and desires (and the rights) of others in
the community; yet this needed dialogue is prevented from taking
place because of the adherence to the secrecy rules of the military.
More important, however, in refuting this criterion of "personal
conscience" is the fact that the work being done by these scientific
advisors has major impact on policies that will spell life or death
for people all over the world. In such circumstances, a posture of
"I will decide what is best" is enormously arrogant.
In contrast to the Jason's criterion of "private conscience" we
propose that their work should be evaluated through a process of
public accountability. As scientists, these men have taken the
fruits of all science - past and current - to use in their secret
designs for the military establishment: thus they should stand
accountable to all scientists.
As professors at the universities
(which most of the Jasons are) these men have taken the credentials
of esteem and achievement from the entire academic community to
propel themselves into their positions of influence with the
government: thus they should stand accountable to all teachers,
students and researchers who comprise the academic corpus.
finally, as the results of their work are critical in determining
policies of this nation, and those policies are often of vital
significance to people across the globe, these men must stand
accountable before all citizens of America and all people of the
An issue which arises in any campus controversy of this type is the
appeal to academic freedom. When students try to stop, interfere
with, or even question too closely, some university function (class,
lecture, research project) that has a connection to some political
controversy - they are accused of violating the academic freedom of
those who scheduled the activity in question.
Such squabbles over
"time, place and manner" often obscure the desired debate over the
political substance. In the same way, our assertion that professors
are answerable to the community for their Jason work may be obscured
by charges that we want to restrict their academic freedom to engage
in research of their choice.
Indeed, the cry of "academic freedom" has already been raised by
Professor Townes in his letter asking us not to publish the summary
of our discussions with him. Townes does not explain what aspect of
academic freedom he sees as relevant to this situation. It would
appear, however, that he is claiming the right, under academic
freedom, to keep his Jason, and other, outside consulting activities
a secret from the public view. In fact, it is academic privilege
which Professor Townes so staunchly defends.
claimed by the professor but not offered to the graduate student.
The freedom of the big shot to do whatever he pleases without
concern to his obligations to the University or anybody else. Are we
to expect that a professor's secret, paid, highly political work
will have no effect, even covert or unconscious, on the "objective"
knowledge he imparts in the classroom? Can students evaluate
classroom presentations from highly respected experts without
knowing what they are paid for on the side?
This issue of outside consulting by university faculty goes beyond
the immediate issue of Jason. The universities abound with faculty
who consult, not only for the military, but for many governmental
agencies and private corporations as well; consulting which takes
time away from legitimate academic pursuits while adding
significantly to the personal income of the consultant professor.
"Academic freedom" cannot be a legitimate excuse for not revealing
the full scope of one's outside consulting activities - the point of
academic freedom was originally to protect the powerless and
sometimes unpopular scholar from the tyranny of the establishment.
Professor Townes, and his like, have no right to use this tradition
to conceal the establishment's secrecy and their choice in selling
out to it.
Clearly we cannot depend on the institutions of establishment
science to correct the abuses of consulting privilege.
contrary, a committee of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science recommended the following "cannon of ethics
for applied scientists and technicians":
"Absolute secrecy where patients and industrial advantages are
concerned; discretion in diplomatic matters where secrecy is
essential during preliminary negotiations so that the negotiators
are free to change their minds; security in matters of defense;
confidentiality towards clients and patients; and loyalty to
employing institutions where institutional aims are at stake."
(Science, Vol 163, 1969, p.787)
With a few notable exceptions (such as radiation physicists
John Gofman and Arthur Tamplin), it is clear that academic consultants
will not spontaneously become accountable and responsible to the
It is up to those of us in the scientific and academic
community, and in the general public, who see the dangers of
unbridled academic privilege to bring about academic accountability
by our own initiative.
Back to Contents
In summary, we have seen that Jason
scientists not only drew up the original plans for the automated
battlefield in Vietnam, they also pointed the way for the future
refinements of the system, continued to write study reports on
particular aspects, made some personal visits to the field of battle
to observe implementation of the scheme, and persisted in
encouraging the military to expand its development of this new kind
of warfare capability for worldwide use in the future.
(One thing we can be certain of: what we have presented in this
booklet is only a small part of the whole story of scientists'
complicity with the military. There is undoubtedly more secret work
on the Vietnam war that Jason has carried out which has been kept
from outside view; there is more than Vietnam that Jason works on
for the military; and there is more than just the Jason Group
through which academic scientists work for war.)
(Most of the Jasons we spoke with would rather talk, and boast, of
their contributions toward peace through work on arms control -
concerning strategic nuclear bombs, missiles and submarines
vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. Some have pointed with pride to the
nuclear test ban treaty and the recent SALT agreement. A full
discussion of these issues is outside the scope of this booklet but
it should be noted here that the arms race has yet to be stopped and
the Nixon policy - peace through strength - calls for new
escalations in the technology of strategic armaments: and we may
expect scientists of the Jason calibre have been and will be
instrumental in helping the Pentagon get the "best" new weaponry
that this country can produce.)
The overall result of Jason's, and other government scientists'
contributions to the Vietnam war may be summarized as follows.
Science has not won the war for the U.S., but it has been essential
in preventing, or at least in postponing, a defeat for the U.S. aims
in Indochina. (At this writing, it is unclear whether the "peace"
which was announced to be "at hand" just before the Presidential
election will prove to be a reality or a fraud.)
Certainly, for the
people of Indochina, the new style of American warfare, relying on
high technologies and enormous firepower, has exacted a very painful
price for their resistance to Nixon-America's idea of peace with
It is also clear that the new military capabilities developed in
Vietnam - automated devices to locate, track and, when desired, to
destroy any object - will be available for use in the future. These
devices, and their refinements, will stand as a potent threat to
liberation movements abroad and at home.
If we were reading a Greek tragedy, we might say that the Jason
scientists cannot be blamed for the monsters they have created, they
are merely fulfilling the destiny laid out by Orwell in his
prophetic book, 1984.
But, being alive now, in the midst of this
story, we would rather act than weep.
WHAT CAN WE
The European scientists and students who confronted Gell-Mann, Drell
and other Jasons last summer asked that these men acknowledge their
contributions to the U.S. war effort in Vietnam and asked them to
denounce this continuing criminal war.
From us - American citizens, American scientists, American students
and teachers - the demands upon these of our own colleagues should
be no less. We have a right, indeed a duty, to demand from the
Jasons full accountability for their service to the military.
Just what this accounting should encompass and just what political
processes should be employed to attain this end is something that
needs to be widely discussed.
The first step should be to circulate
the information in this booklet so that the people on each campus
can confront the Jason-types who reside or visit in their midst. The
second step should be to undertake intensive research in order to
uncover the full extent of outside consulting by faculty; then the
people in each location can decide the best ways for them to move on
We will present, below, a few of our own thoughts on
Many of us, like the authors of this booklet, are already
convinced that the U.S. military establishment, as it is now,
constitutes the dominant force for death, destruction and the
suppression of popular movements for liberation throughout the
capitalist ruled world.
What we say to the Jason scientists is,
Cease all your services for the Pentagon; repudiate the U.S.
militaristic policies and the corruptions of science in that
service; reveal whatever inside information you have about the
military. Ellsberg did.
Those scientists who continue to work actively in support of
imperialistic and warlike policies must be viewed, in some sense, as
our enemies; we shall oppose them politically, as we have opposed
Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and their many henchmen, both in and
out of uniform, who have been their willing agents in prosecuting
To members of the scientific profession as a whole, we speak as
follows. Silence, acquiescence, laissez-faire attitudes toward the
military involvement of a few scientists cannot be a sufficient
reply to the questions of social responsibility in science. If we
are to maintain our own hopes that science can really amount to more
good than evil, if we are to keep - or to regain - the respect of
the non-scientific public, then we must take some actions to offset
the desecrations that our profession has incurred through the
We call on all scientists to follow, not the
highest bidder or the biggest dealer, but the worthiest uses of
science and technology. The call for a more humane re-orientation of
scientific efforts has been heard before; perhaps the story of
Jason, because it is such a clear and odious example of the misuse
of science, can serve as a pivot for a new turning.
We ask all our
fellow scientists to adopt these minimum habits:
Gather, and publicize information on the misuses of science
Reject the rule of secrecy,
insist on public accountability for all scientific
Maintain dialogue on these
issues with your colleagues, both in and out of
government service, and do not shy away from letting the
Jason-types know what you think of them and their work
To the general academic community we ask the questions:
What do you think about professors who consult for war-making?
Is it even known how much outside consulting is done by your local
What special outside interests do they consult for?
What justifications can there be for maintaining secrecy about
either the extent or the substance of this consulting work?
Isn't it paradoxical to allow secret military consulting by
faculty members on campuses where secret military research projects
When faculty members, such as Jason people, consult outside the
university, whose interests do they serve?
Back to Contents
Air War: The Third Indochina War, A
handbook prepared by Project Air War and the Indochina Resource
Center; Indochina Resource Center, 1322 18th Street NW,
Washington, D.C. 20036. (1972)
Automated Air War, a slide show and script prepared, with much
background material, by NARMIC, a project of the American
Friends Service Committee, 160 North 15th Street, Philadelphia,
Pa. 19102. (1972)
Ecocide in Indochina: The Ecology of War, Barry Weisberg,
Editor; Canfield Press, San Francisco, 1970.
The Enemy: What Every American Should Know About Imperialism, by
Felix Greene, Vintage Books, New York, 1971.
The Pentagon Papers, New York Times version, Quadrangle Books,
New York, 1971. Senator Gravel Edition, (Vol. IV), Beacon Press,
The Technological Warlords, by Ann Rosenberg; Computer People
for Peace, 291 Sterling Place, Brooklyn, New York 11230.
War Without End, by Michael Klare, Vintage Books, New York,
Back to Contents
Inside Front Cover
Physicists have consistently
underplayed the major extent to which their subject is
responsible for the modern horrors of war.
generations have a dramatically changed attitude to the world in
direct consequence of what, even 27 years after, remains a
terrifying sword of Damocles. A threat, moreover, whose fearful
reality is in no sense diminished by lesser technological evils.
It was physicists who produced laser
bombing; it was physicists who invented the electronic
battlefield; it was physicists who devised plastic
anti-personnel bombs. "Gravel", Spider Mines", "Daisy Cutters" -
and a plethora of other perversions. Why shouldn't the public
distrust them as a race?
They do little to purge their own
ranks of the monsters who contrive such appalling inhumanities.
- Peter Stubbs
Editor of NEW SCIENTIST, in NEW
SCIENTIST, August 24, 1972.
Inside Back Cover
Professor Hans Bethe of
Cornell University wrote to the physicists at the Trieste
meeting, defending his Jason friends from what he felt were some
inaccurate statements that had been circulated about Jason's
work for the Vietnam war.
The following reply was written by the
young French physicist, Daniel Schiff, of the University of
Paris Laboratory at Orsay.
Dear Professor Bethe,
I have read your letter
to Bruno Vitale, and distributed to all the participants to
the Symposium at Trieste, and after reading it I was
wondering whether we are not progressively losing any sense
of reality: imagine a discussion on the chemists who advised
the Nazis as to which gas to use in the gas-chambers, and
people starting to distinguish between those who worked on "cyclon
A" and those who worked on "cyclon B"...
It seems that, concerning the overwhelming atrocity of the
sufferings imposed on the Vietnamese by the US bombs, we are
no longer horrified: it may be that we have been given so
many figures, so many technical details that we can no
longer think about the human beings on which all these bombs
fall. Or is it, as Chomsky puts it in "American Power and
the New Mandarins", that we have become totally immune to
the sufferings of others?
You inform Vitale that Jason has never worked on plastic
fragmentation bombs. Is this really relevant? Should one not
rather be appalled by scientists recommending that be
dropped on the Vietnamese "10000 SADEYE-BLU-26B clusters"
(i.e. steel fragmentation bombs) per month (Pentagon Papers,
Gravel edition, vol. IV, page 122)?
To quote Chomsky again:
"By entering into the arena of
argument and counterargument, of technical feasibility and
tactics, of footnotes and citations, by accepting the
presumption of legitimacy of debate on certain issues, one
has already lost one's humanity."
Perhaps moral statements
of that kind can awaken us, could have helped awaken the
physicists at Trieste, more than the technical information
contained in your letter.
Back to Contents