NEW YORK — Officials in the Pentagon's "Star Wars" project rigged a crucial 1984 test and faked other data in a program of deception that misled Congress and the Soviet Union, a newspaper reported today.
Quoting four former Reagan Administration officials, the New York Times said the deception had been designed to feed the Soviets "half-truths and lies" about the project, formally known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).
The massive deception helped persuade the Soviet Union to spend tens of billions of dollars to counter the U.S. effort to develop a space-based shield against nuclear attack proposed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, the unnamed officials told the newspaper.
Although the deception was aimed at the Kremlin, the report said, the false information also ended up in Congress, where it helped persuade lawmakers to spend more money on strategic defense.
One military officer quoted by the newspaper said the program had overstepped its boundaries.
"It wasn't designed to deceive Congress. . . . It was used improperly," the officer was quoted as saying.
The former Reagan officials told the newspaper the program of deception had been approved by Caspar W. Weinberger, secretary of defense from 1981 to 1987.
Weinberger would not confirm or deny that he had approved it, the newspaper said.
The paper cited three instances in 1984 in which scientists had tried to hit a target missile launched from California with an interceptor missile launched from the Pacific.
To ensure that the missile defense program would appear a success--and to assure that Congress would make available hundreds of millions of dollars--the fourth crucial test was rigged, according to scientists working on the project.
"The hit looked beautiful, so Congress didn't ask questions," one scientist was quoted as saying.
Despite the expenditure of more than $30 billion on "Star Wars," the program was proclaimed defunct in May by Defense Secretary Les Aspin.