Index

New York Times
July 7, 2000

Critics Asking Clinton To Stop Advancing Missile Plan

By Elaine Sciolino

WASHINGTON, July 6 -- A leading critic of national missile defense, Theodore A. Postol, said in a letter to President Clinton today that Mr. Clinton's advisers had made misleading statements about the proposed shield and urged creating an independent commission of top scientists to evaluate the plan.

Three major science groups also opposed the plan. The American Physical Society, with 42,000 physicists; the Federation of American Scientists; and the Union of Concerned Scientists jointly announced that they urged Mr. Clinton not to deploy a missile defense system, regardless of how its ground-based interceptor performs in a test on Friday night.

An antinuclear organization, Greenpeace, announced that it was sending a Dutch icebreaker, the Arctic Sunrise, to a "hazard zone" designated by the Air Force off the launching site at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., to try to stop the test.

"Mr. President, you have the finger on the Star Wars button," Greenpeace wrote in a letter to Mr. Clinton. "We urge you take it off and make the world a safer place."

To the Pentagon, the attacks might look like the revenge of the scientists. Fifty Nobel laureates have said any movement to deploy a missile defense system would be "premature, wasteful and dangerous."

The most relentless and detailed criticism has been from Dr. Postol, a professor of science and national security studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He contended in his letter Clinton that Pentagon officials have in recent weeks "made numerous technologically illiterate and highly misleading statements" about the missile proposal.

Dr. Postol said a statement by the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, Jacques Gansler, at a news conference on June 20 that the system's X-band radar could discriminate between a real target and a decoy was based on faulty science.

Dr. Postol added that the contention at that news conference by Lt. Gen. Ronald T. Kadish of the Air Force, director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization at the Pentagon, that the decoy to be used on Friday was "representative" of the expected decoy threat was also false.

In statements today, the Pentagon defended the integrity of its program without addressing Dr. Postol's specific statements.

"Dr. Postol has raised issues that the independent review team and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization are addressing," a spokesman for the Pentagon, Kenneth H. Bacon, said in a statement. "Developing a national missile defense system poses difficult technical challenges."

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen "is confident that his team is following a systematic and reasonable course to solve these problems," Mr. Bacon added.

A spokesman for the National Security Council, P. J. Crowley, said, "We've asked the Pentagon for an analysis of the questions he raises, and the Pentagon is in the process of getting back to us."

The Pentagon said that weather conditions appeared good and that the test on Friday was on schedule.