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. Dr. 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. Gell-Mann’s response to this challenge was, “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 Mende, 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 OUR 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 THEM-SELVES IN THE WAGING OF THIS WAR: WE ASK THAT THESE ISSUES SHOULD BE HONESTLY FACED WITHIN THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY, WHEREVER IT MEETS.
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 — mostlv 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). Only 21 scientists signed out of over 700; and most of the signers were European.
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 more influential. 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 reports, 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. This system, adapted 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 “piece with honor;” it is being readied for other, future wars.
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 trancing 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 1972.
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. These relationships facilitate the routine implementation of policy decisions of sweeping social consequences without the knowledge or consent of the people or their elected representatives.