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'A Gag on Science'

August 04, 1988

Your editorial "A Gag on Science" (July 27) stirs me to action which I hope others will want to implement in ways of their own.

I am sending copies of the editorial, along with brief relevant comments in each case, to Energy Secretary John S. Herrington, to several members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives as well as our state Senate and Assembly, to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and to key people (including regents) at the University of California where, as an alumnus, I had always assumed that (to use your words) "academic freedom is the rule."

I take time and trouble to do this in hope that it may help prevent the gag on science from becoming a gag on a particular scientist who deserves high praise, not low-minded punitive action. If Roy Woodruff were to become a victim of vengeful retribution, if he were to lose a position earned over many years, I, by having committed the sin of silence, would have to share in bearing the burden of responsibility.

Democracy has been described as a device which guarantees one thing only: that those who have it get exactly what they deserve. Roy Woodruff--whom I have never met--deserves whatever support each of us can give him as our way of showing gratitude and respect for the selfless and courageous way in which he has fulfilled his role as a citizen. In the purest sense of the word "patriot" this man is an American patriot, in contrast to Herrington who, as the quintessential bureaucratic cipher, acts as though his highest allegiance belongs not to his country but to the institutional entity with which he is connected.

It is important to take note of the fact that the conflict between the patriot and the bureaucrat stems from the questionable conduct of another Livermore laboratory scientist, one far better known than Woodruff.

Edward Teller's name is widely recognized as belonging to the father of the hydrogen bomb, a parent so fond of his brainchild that his notion of national security seems to see comfort in having a hydrogen bomb in every garage. The more the better, Teller's actions and words have consistently indicated. And for people who pay more than casual attention to such matters, it has been clear from the outset that Teller is the man who "sold" his friend Ronald Reagan on the feasibility and desirability of the highly-expensive and highly-complex Strategic Defense Initiative system commonly known as "Star Wars." Now, some five years after the fact, there is reason to believe that Teller purposely oversold rather than just sold.

If that is indeed the case, then we have here a situation in which two foolish old men decided to do something more apt to destroy our country than defend it.

And if Teller did indeed deceive rather than objectively describe, then--because the fate of the earth is literally involved here--we may be dealing with a "Tellergate" that deserves intensive and extensive investigation similar to that directed toward Watergate and Irangate. Perhaps, fearing this, Herrington hopes to create a cover-up with his gag on science.

HAROLD WILLENS

Los Angeles

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