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'A Gag on Science'

August 04, 1988

As one who believes that the University of California has no business managing two laboratories whose primary function is the design of new nuclear weapons, I was struck by remarks made by Herrington at Livermore lab ("Energy Secretary Warns Weapons Scientists Not to Disagree in Public," Part I, July 23).

Speaking of the continuing controversy at the lab involving the bomb-pumped X-ray laser, overly optimistic appraisals of its effectiveness given by fellow scientists Teller and Wood, and attempted corrective measures taken by Woodruff, Herrington stated that, "I think there should be freedom of expression within the laboratory, but I don't favor having scientists going public on opposite sides of the issue if it's going to be damaging to the laboratory. I think this needs to be fought out inside the lab."

Yet, Livermore and Los Alamos pride themselves on their UC connections and scientists there praise the tremendous academic freedom afforded them through this affiliation. Members of Congress rely upon their supposedly impartial testimony on nuclear policy issues in a way they would not if the same scientists were employed by a defense contractor.

Officials did not criticize Teller when he told senior Administration officials that the X-ray laser was, in effect, just around the corner. But when Woodruff, who had the courage and character to place scientific responsibility above personal beliefs, complained that Teller's remarks were erroneous and unsupportable, he was subjected to unprecedented personal and professional harassment.

The message Herrington is sending to our weapons scientists is to either speak the government line or not speak at all. Funny, I always thought that's what we disliked so much about the Soviet system.

STEVE SCHWARTZ

Los Angeles

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