MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XVIII No. 4
March/April 2006
Diversification of a University Faculty: Observations on Hiring Women Faculty
in the Schools of Science and Engineering
at MIT
Squeezing Out the Graduate Students
When Disasters Strike!
Faculty Roles in Administration:
A Critical Part of Institute Governance
Why Students Don't Attend Class
Life in the Lowlands
Provost Announces Government Inquiry
Into Lincoln Lab Misconduct Charges
International Students at MIT Post 9/11
A Failure in Communications
Peer Support: Taking Advice from a Friend
Students Need Dental Insurance Plan
International Students at MIT:
Top 10 International Countries Over 10 Years
International Students at MIT:
Top 10 International Countries (2005)
Printable Version

Provost Announces Government Inquiry
Into Lincoln Lab Misconduct Charges

In an e-mail letter to the MIT faculty on March 3rd of this year, Provost L. Rafael Reif announced that the federal government is going to investigate charges of research misconduct at MIT Lincoln Laboratory regarding the test results of the 1FT-1A (Integrated Flight Test 1A) missile conducted in June 1997. The investigation is in response to an MIT request for classified data that the Institute states it needs to complete its own inquiry into charges leveled by MIT Professor Ted Postol beginning in April of 2001.

In his letter to the faculty, Provost Reif writes: “Despite the difficulties in resolving the allegation, the MIT administration has never ceased to press for a satisfactory conclusion. To remind you, MIT had followed its procedures (which conform to federal guidelines) by completing an inquiry into the allegation. The inquiry did not find that misconduct had occurred, but concluded that further investigation into the facts was needed to address several open questions. MIT's subsequent attempts to initiate an investigation by non-MIT personnel have been stymied by the Defense Department's restrictions on access to certain documents essential to the investigation. This has led to the unfortunate delays.”

In announcing the federal investigation, Reif continues: “The Department of Defense has now agreed to conduct an investigation into the open questions enumerated in MIT's inquiry. . . . In this case, the Department has been willing to work with MIT to define a process that meets our concerns as well as theirs.”

In a letter to MIT President Susan Hockfield dated March 7th and made available to the Faculty Newsletter, Professor Postol takes exception to the Institute’s response to the announcement by the government.

“As you well know, I have been trying for nearly 5 years to get MIT to investigate a serious matter of scientific fraud and misconduct at MIT Lincoln Laboratory regarding national missile defense. Now a letter to the Faculty dated March 3, 2006 from Provost Reif states that MIT’s attempts to initiate such an investigation have been ‘stymied’ by the Defense Department’s restrictions on access to certain information ‘essential to address the questions identified in MIT's inquiry report.’ However, the fundamental question that really needs to be answered is why you refuse to proceed with an investigation and analysis of the ample existing public data that shows that fraud occurred.”

The structure of the investigation, states Reif, will be as follows: “The investigation will be conducted by Dr. Brendan Godfrey, a high-level, civilian employee of the Department with strong technical credentials who is independent of the Missile Defense Agency (which was the sponsor of the test that the Lincoln scientific staff reviewed). . . . The investigator will be granted access to all relevant documents, including documents for which the state secrets privilege was asserted in 2003. He will submit a report to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Mr. Kenneth Krieg, who under the federal guidelines makes the final decision on the question of research misconduct.”

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An additional key part of the investigation process is the appointment of an advisor and consultant to Dr. Godfrey. Continues Reif: “MIT has advocated, and the Department has agreed, that a mutually acceptable outside party act as an advisor and consultant to the investigator, to help assure an impartial and thorough investigation. This advisor will have full access to all classified and unclassified documents, except those specifically subject to the state secrets privilege asserted in 2003. We are extremely fortunate that Mr. Norman Augustine has agreed to serve as the advisor.”

The appointment of Augustine, a former Army undersecretary under President Ford, past Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation, and a past member of the MIT Corporation, draws nothing but rancor from Professor Postol in his letter to President Hockfield: “You have now decided to turn your responsibilities over to the Pentagon and have the ‘investigation’ watched over by a former CEO of Lockheed-Martin who wrote an editorial in The Wall Street Journal asserting falsely that the Patriot anti-missile defense had performed successfully during the Gulf War in 1991. Can anyone who knows about these biased and misleading claims and the lies the Pentagon tells about this and other programs expect an objective investigation of this matter? Can you?”

In The Wall Street Journal editorial referred to by Postol (“How We Almost Lost the Technical War,” June 14, 1991) Augustine writes: “Critics who for years have been telling us that our military technology won't work are now telling us that, in the Persian Gulf, it didn't work. Fortunately, Saddam and his troops didn't get the word. We are told that the cruise missile, the Apache helicopter and the Stealth fighter didn't perform up to par. Neither, it seems, did the Patriot missile – which some apparently would have us believe was repeatedly knocked out of the sky by Saddam's Scuds.” Augustine continues: “Perhaps the best example of all [of what the defense acquisition system can accomplish when it is unfettered] is the Patriot ‘Scudbuster.’ The Patriot missile is assembled by Martin Marietta under contract to Raytheon Corp., the system’s prime contractor.”

Provost Reif completed his letter to the faculty by promising to keep them informed.

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