Theodore Postol

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Theodore A. Postol
Born April 1946
Brooklyn, New York
Residence United States Flag of the United States.svg
Nationality American Flag of the United States.svg
Alma mater MIT
Known for Criticism of U.S. missile defense effectiveness
Scientific career
Fields Physicist and Science and technology studies
Institutions MIT
Argonne National Laboratory
Office of the Chief of Naval Operations

Theodore A. Postol (1946 - ) is a professor of Science, Technology, and International Security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is a prominent critic of U.S. government statements about missile defense.

He received his undergraduate degree in physics and his PhD in nuclear engineering from MIT. Postol worked at Argonne National Laboratory, where he studied the microscopic dynamics and structure of liquids and disordered solids using neutron, x-ray and light scattering, along with computer molecular dynamics techniques. He also worked at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, where he studied methods of basing the MX missile, and later worked as a scientific adviser to the Chief of Naval Operations.

After leaving the Pentagon, Postol helped build a program at Stanford University to train mid-career scientists to study weapons technology in relation to defense and arms control policy. In 1990, Postol received the Leo Szilard Prize from the American Physical Society. In 1995, he received the Hilliard Roderick Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and in 2001, he received the Norbert Wiener Award from Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility for "uncovering numerous and important false claims about missile defenses."

Patriot missiles in Operation Desert Storm

The Patriot Missile was used in Operation Desert Storm to intercept descent-phase SCUD missiles fired by Iraq. The U.S. Army claimed a success rate of 80% in Saudi Arabia and 50% in Israel, claims that were later reduced to 70% and 40%. But President George H. W. Bush claimed a success rate of more than 97 percent during a speech at Raytheon's Patriot manufacturing plant in Andover, Massachusetts during the Gulf War, declaring, the "Patriot is 41 for 42: 42 Scuds engaged, 41 intercepted!"[1]

In April 1992, Postol told a House committee that "the Patriot's intercept rate during the Gulf War was very low. The evidence from these preliminary studies indicates that Patriot's intercept rate could be much lower than 10 percent, possibly even zero."[2]

The House Government Operations Subcommittee on Legislation and National Security later reported,

The Patriot missile system was not the spectacular success in the Persian Gulf War that the American public was led to believe. There is little evidence to prove that the Patriot hit more than a few Scud missiles launched by Iraq during the Gulf War, and there are some doubts about even these engagements. The public and the Congress were misled by definitive statements of success issued by administration and Raytheon representatives during and after the war. [3]

Postol later went on to criticize the Army's "independent" Analysis of Video Tapes to Assess Patriot Effectiveness as being "seriously compromised" by the "selective" and "arbitrary" use of data.[4] The Army ultimately downgraded its assessment of the systems' effectiveness.

National ballistic missile defense

In 1996, Nira Schwartz, a senior engineer at defense contractor TRW blew the whistle against TRW for exaggerating the capabilities of an antiballistic missile sensor.[5] The sensor was subsequently used in a "successful" missile test in 1997. The then-Ballistic Missile Defense Organization launched an investigation in 1998 and asked a Pentagon advisory board called POET (Phase One Engineering Team), which included two staff members from MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, to review performance of TRW software, using data from the 1997 flight test. These engineers concluded in their report that Schwartz's allegations were untrue and despite failure of the sensor, the software "basically worked the way TRW said it worked."[6] In December 1998, TRW's contract was not extended by the government, which chose a competing system built by Raytheon.

In 2000, Schwartz gave Postol an unclassified version of the POET report from which sensitive text and graphs had been removed. Based on this redacted report, he notified the White House[7] and senior MIT officials of possible fraud and research misconduct at TRW and MIT Lincoln Laboratory. The Pentagon responded by classifying the letter and dispatching Defense Security Service members to his office.[8]

Postol demanded the MIT administration under President Charles Vest and Provost Robert Brown investigate possible violations to MIT policies on research misconduct. The administration initially resisted,[9] but later appointed another faculty member to conduct a preliminary investigation. In 2002, this professor's investigation found no evidence of a credible error, but he subsequently recommended a full investigation when Postol provided a statement of additional concerns. In May 2006, a panel composed of MIT faculty members concluded that the investigator recommended a full investigation "because of his inability to exhaust all the questions that arose during the inquiry," not because it appeared likely misconduct had occurred, and that a full investigation had not been warranted.[10]

Under National Science Foundation regulations governing research misconduct, a preliminary inquiry should be completed within 90 days of an allegation, and a full investigation within 180 days subject to penalties as severe as suspension of federal funding.[11] By December 2004, four year later, no formal investigation had been performed, and the Missile Defense Agency formally rejected MITs request to investigate the classified data.[12] Postol asserts that the MIT administration has been compliant with the Pentagon's attempts to cover up a fiasco by dragging its feet on an investigation because defense contracts through Lincoln Laboratory constitute a major portion of MIT's operating budget.[13]

In early 2006, a compromise was reached whereby MIT would halt any attempt to conduct its own investigation and senior Air Force administrator Brendan B. Godfrey and former Lockheed Martin chief executive Norman R. Augustine would lead a final investigation.[14] Postol disputes the impartiality of this new investigation as Augustine was CEO while Lockheed was a contractor with NBMD.[15]

In May 2006, an MIT Ad-Hoc Committee on Research Misconduct Allegation concluded delays in the investigation were caused by a number of factors, including: "initial uncertainty about the applicability of MIT's research misconduct policy to a government [non-MIT] report"; government classification of relevant information, possibly in an attempt to make it unavailable to plaintiffs in the TRW whistle-blower trial; and Postol's failure to provided a clearly written summary of his allegations, which changed repeatedly during the investigation. The committee also found that Postol repeatedly violated MIT confidentiality rules "causing personal distress to the Lincoln Laboratory researchers, their families and colleagues".[16]

External links


  1. ^ "Remarks to Raytheon Missile Systems Plant Employees in Andover, Massachusetts". 1991-02-15. Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  2. ^ "Optical Evidence Indicating Patriot High Miss Rates During the Gulf War". 1992-04-07. Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  3. ^ Activities of the House Committee on Governmental Operations, One Hundred Second Congress First and Second Sessions, 1991 - 1992. "Performance of the Patriot Missiles System". Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  4. ^ Theodore Postol (1992-09-08). "Postol/Lewis Review of Army's Study on Patriot Effectiveness". Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  5. ^ 60 Minutes II (2000-12-26). "A Far-Off Dream?". Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  6. ^ Keith Winstein (2006-03-10). "Missile Dispute Enters 7th Year As Air Force Takes Over Inquiry". Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  7. ^ Theodore Postol (2000-05-11). "Letter to John Podesta regarding BMDO testing claims". Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  8. ^ Sanjay Basu (2000-07-012). "Ted Postol Involved in NMD Debate". Retrieved 2006-12-06. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. ^ Keith J. Winstein (2002-02-22). "Provost Denies Postol's Request for ABM Review". Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  10. ^ "Letter and Report of Ad Hoc Committee on Research Misconduct Allegation". Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  11. ^ "Research Misconduct Regulations" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  12. ^ "DoD Bars Inquiry on Fraud at Lincoln Lab". 2004-12-03. Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  13. ^ "Brown Book (Annual Report of Sponsored Research)". Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  14. ^ "Investigation of Alleged Research Misconduct by Lincoln Laboratory Members of the 1998-5 POET Study Team" (PDF). 2007-01-29. Retrieved 2007-12-17.
  15. ^ Keith Weinstein (2006-03-10). "Missile Dispute Enters 7th Year As Air Force Takes Over Inquiry". Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  16. ^ "Letter and Report of Ad Hoc Committee on Research Misconduct Allegation". Retrieved 2006-12-06.