Hasten, Jason, Guard the Nation

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Hasten, Jason, Guard the Nation

By the New York Regional Anti-War Faculty and Student Group (NYRAWFAS)

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 4, No. 5, September 1972, p. 36—39

We represent a  group from the academic community of New York City. We have been alarmed for some time with the strong and increasingly symbiotic relationship between our universities and the military complex. Recently we constituted a  group to attack this relationship and expose its often inhuman ends, ends which we consider completely opposed to the proper purposes and functions of a university. One of our fisrt targets was the Jason Project, and in particular the complicity of Columbia University and faculty members in this project. We have acquired correspondence between the Department of the Army and members of Columbia University. This correspondence, coupled with reports from the Institute of Defense Analysis (IDA) and excerpts from the Congressional Record, has convinced us that our attack on Jason and alarm at university complicity is entirely justified. We are including copies of the documents for you because we believe that a wider knowledge of their contents is most important for the health of our institutions and our country. We would like to invite you to make use of the documents as you see fit. In addition, any suggestions you may have for their use, or any additional data you may have, would be appreciated. Furthermore, if you care to join a public protest against Jason or against the wider issue of university complicity, we welcome your assistance and interest. We also call upon those of you who are scientists to consider whether there are files at your institution which should be open to the public.

Jason scientists in the past have helped create concepts for use in the “automated battlefield.” This has been hailed on the floor of the U.S. Senate as ” … one of the greatest steps forward in warfare since gun powder.”1 It includes a galaxy of automated anti-personnel weapons, which have indeed succeeded in bringing warfare to a new depth of inhumanity. Many of these weapons were developed and tested in the Vietnamese battlefield.

As we read the documents three major points emerge. Even though Jason members claim the contrary, we see that the Defense Department has been able to shape the direction of research undertaken by members of the academic community. An example of this is the increasing importance which Jason played in research on counterinsurgency from 1964 on. IDA Annual Reports document this as follows: “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 physical science … “2 The Defense Department’s general intent of influencing the direction of research is indicated by the enclosed letter of 28 February 1964, which reveals the existence of an annual Army Research Plan. This indicates “…promising areas of research…to assure that the Army’s effort is well represented in the main stream of scientific research in currently popular areas and in work considered to be rewarding to military requirements. Such research…could be considered indigenous to the Army and of relatively little value to the civilian economy…(i.e.) the field of military explosives and rocket propellants.”

Jason members and Columbia University officials have claimed that Jason members take part in projects as individuals, and that the university is not involved. In fact, the documents clearly indicate that there is both a direct and indirect quid pro quo relationship between the military and the university and that this is the intent of both parties. The services the university offers are indicated by the White House Fact Sheet of 10 September 1963: “…key scientists and other to be contacted are in positions in the scientific community which enable them to monitor thesis and other appropriate research work and to make available to the Army the generated information,”3 Fact 5 points out that “…Counsel of the Association of State Universities has been obtained for guidance in expansion of the program.”4 The letter of 15 October 1965 also demonstrates that the university allowed the army to store confidential documents in the Low Memorial Library.5

At the same time the Defense Department offers benefits to the university. As in the letter of 26 February 1964, “…the possibility exists that from time to time we (the Advanced Technology Group of the Army Research Office) may be able to directly support 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 (italics added).”6 On December 18, 1969, Congressman Daddario before the House of Representatives spoke of “… the unique dependence of the scientific community upon military support.” These quotations show that such a solid structure of interlocking needs exists, that some scientists and some universities have become the pawns of the military.

In attempting to deny any responsibility for the direction and acts of the military complex, Jason members have claimed that “military research would go on” (statement of Professors Ruderman and Foley), unhampered by Jason’s absence. In fact, the documents indicate that Defense Department analysts consider the efforts of academic scientists vital and indispensable. This is borne out by the entire White House Fact Sheet and the remarks of Congressman Daddario before the House of Representatives on December 18, 1969 as follows: “… we must be very careful that, in making program transfers our most talented young people are not adversely affected. It would be especially unfortunate if competition…resulted in alienation of these new young talents. We can ill afford a  lost generation of science skills (italics added).”7 The moral here is clear: if academic scientists in sufficient number chose to act in concert, they can bring considerable leverage to bear on the direction of the American military machine. Academic scientists cannot evade this responsibility. It is not necessary to cooperate from the inside to bring pressure to bear. Clearly, non-cooperation is what the military complex truly fears.

The poisonous effect of university-military cooperation is clearly evidenced in the documents when they reflect the increasing attempts at secrecy on both sides concerning the details of this cooperation. We note that Columbia University accepted the classified Army Research Plan.8 We note that IDA reports become increasingly elliptical and after 1968 are hard to come by. Surely if, as some universities claim, no harmful research is being done, then there is no excuse for harboring secret documents.

If, after you read these documents you decide that more work is needed in this cause, we hope you will send us your suggestions, inform us of other facts we lack, and join us in our effort.

On April 24, 1972, the New York Regional Anti-War Faculty, including professors from twenty colleges and universities in the New York area, members of the Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action (SESPA), and other supporters, including Columbia Students, occupied the physics building at Columbia University.

This non-violent act of civil disobedience was 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, Institute for Defense Analyses.

The civil disobedience at Pupin Hall was not directed against students, faculty, workers or President McGill. There was no demand that anyone be fired. The individuals sought, by dramatic moral witness, to call the university community’s attention to the war research of the Jason Division, and to appeal directly to the individual consciences of the Jason members.


On April 28, Spectator carried a  full-page advertisement signed by Professors Foley and Ruderman purporting to explain Jason. We urge the university community to read for themselves about Jason in the Senator Gravel Edition, The Pentagon Papers, Vol. IV, pp. 114-123. For the present, we offer the following corrections of the Faley-Ruderman statement.


Professors Foley and Ruderman implied that Jason did Vietnam war research only once, in 1966. In fact, Jason shifted to Vietnam research in 1964 when “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…” (IDA Annual Report, 1966, p. 15). Official IDA reports state that in 1967 “Jason continued to work on technical problems of counterinsurgency, warfare and system studies with relevance to Vietnam.” The Vietnam War was a major concern of Jason for at least four years, probably longer, and perhaps to this day.


Professors Foley and Ruderman imply that the major work of Jason in 1966 was a  condemnation of the bombing of North Vietnam, and that this was done for humanitarian reasons. A crucial correction is in order.

In 1966, Jason scientists did a  cold-blooded cost-benefit analysis of the effectiveness of U.S. Bombing of North Vietnam. They were led to reject the bombing strategy because, in their words, “we have not discovered any basis for concluding that the indirect punitive effects of the bombing will prove decisive” in destroying the North Vietnamese will to resist (Pentagon Papers, Gravel edition, Vol. IV, p. 117).

So they developed something more effective. At Defense Secretary McNamara’s behest, Jason’s 47 scientists met in June for ten days of high-level briefings by Pentagon, CIA, State Department and White House officials, then split into four sub-groups to work “from a technical (not a political) point of view” throughout the summer. What they devised was an ingenious combination of heinous weapons: Gravel mines, “button bomb-lets,” SADEYE/BLU-26B clusters, “explosively produced flechettes,” and the latest electronic and technological developments – sensors and acoustic sensor monitors – to “win” the war: Jason work was thus seminal in the development of the Electronic Battlefield, the Pentagon strategy for killing Asians at a distance without U.S. casualties (Pentagon Papers, Gravel edition, Vol. IV, p. 115).


Professors Foley and Ruderman insist that Jason members ”work as individuals; there are no collective Jason papers…” This is ingenious. The 1066 electronic battlefield project was clearly collective. In fact, IDA annual reports particularly stress the importance of Jason’s summer meetings, at which members come together to trade ideas. Available minutes of one such meeting, that of Jason’s “Thailand Study Group,” which took place in June and July 1967, at Falmouth, Massachusetts, bear this out. The Falmouth meeting saw social and physical scientists and government officials address themselves collectively to the problem of improving counterinsurgency in Thailand. It was there that the noted Cal Tech physicist Murray Gell-Mann suggested ascertaining “what effect increasing police density, or ear cutting, or other negatives have on villager attitudes” (The Student Mobilizer, Vol. 3, No. 4, April 2, 1970).


Jason’s two defenders protest that “members invent or choose their own problems…There is no pressure to work on particular subjects.” Yet one column later they cite the Pentagon Papers to the effect that Jason members were “obligated” to develop the electronic battlefield. They thus undermine their own position by admitting, in effect, that the framework in which Jason scientists work dictated that the only way to oppose the bombing was to come up with a  more lethal and convincing substitute. The Vietnamese are still paying for that “obligation.”

In fact, the initiative for Jason projects often comes from the government. The electronic battlefield study was ordered by Secretary McNamara in April 1966. At the Falmouth meeting, it was General Maxwell Taylor who laid down the line. After outlining his need for information and analysis relevant to the Thai counterinsurgency effort, he concluded, “I hope you can find a  way of setting up a structure in IDA which would draw in the services we need to get this job done” (The Student Mobilizer, April 2, 1970).

This then is the context in which the “independence” of Jason members must be understood.


Despite their bow to the principle of considering the consequences of one’s work, Professors Foley and Ruderman defend the creators of the electronic battlefield solely by vouching for their motives. That their work was instrumental in creating a  system that rains destruction from afar, is unable to distinguish combatant from civilian, and continues to kill by the thousands for political aims that Americans increasingly abhor, is conveniently ignored. That it did not bring an end to the war is treated as a kind of petty misjudgment on the part of the researchers. Why “condemn and shun” them for it? The answer is clear: because they inexcusably played with the lives of the Vietnamese people, and continue to lend Jason the weight of their intellectual powers. Professors Foley and Ruderman, meanwhile, devote their talents to providing this lethal organization with legitimacy, authority and hence longevity. One shudders to contemplate the future products of their good intentions.

If Jason members really considered the consequences of their actions, they would renounce Jason and, following the example of Daniel Ellsberg, throw their knowledge and experience into the fight to end this brutal war. Considering Jason’s record, we think no less should be demanded of them.

The New York Regional Anti-War Faculty and Student Group (NYRAWFAS)

c/o HDC
156 Fifth Avenue, Room 523
New York, N.Y. 10010

The IDA fact sheet was sent along with the article to SESPA, where it is now on file for any interested friends.


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  1. Senator Barry Goldwater, Congressional Record, September 23, 1970, p. 38483.
  2. IDA Annual Report 1966, p. 15 and ” .   . . during 1966 (and 1967) … Jason continued work on technical problems of counterinsurgency warfare and system studies with reference to Viet Nam.” IDA Annual Report, 1967, p. 19 and 1968, p. 26.
  3. Quoted from Fact 3. See also Fact 4: ” the scientist informally agrees to make copies of the research reports or thesis available as a matter of mutual professional interest and respect.”
  4. Also see the enclosed letter of 26 February 1964, 3rd paragraph: “A research program leading to the doctorate .   . . could conceivably be of such quality as to give rise to new theories and approaches.” Also paragraph 5 of the same letter: “We would .   . . appreciate your kindness in placing the Advanced Technology Group (of the Army Research Office) on your mailing list to receive periodic publications or other items relating to R(esearch) and D(evelopment) activities at the University (italics added).
  5. “In view of the fact that the document is confidential, I have sent it to the Low Memorial Library rather than directly to you.”
  6. Letter of 26 February, 1964, 5th paragraph: “We are taking the liberty of forwarding to you on a monthly basis the Army Research and Development News Magazine.” See also paragraphs 7 and 8 of the same letter: “At any time you or your colleagues are in the Washington area, we would be more than pleased to have you visit our office for a discussion. This, we trust, would prove mutually advantageous. We trust our association will provide benefits both for the University and the Army Research Office.” (italics added).
  7. By virtue of their position on Jason, Jason members have welcomed some of the most important scientific advisors of the government. The IDA Annual Report 1966 describes how Jason members ” .   . rise to positions where their influence on national policy can be closely felt,” and “as these men become more involved directly in government groups, the Jason project must refresh itself with new infusions and begin another cycle.”
  8. See letters of 15 October 1965 and 27 October 1965.