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November 07, 1969 - Image 6

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Page Sixt


Friday, November 7, 1969


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Pentagon names hard-liner to arms panel


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Pentagon has quietly named a
hard-liner to serve as its chief
advisor on technical issues con-
fronting the upcoming disarma-
ment talks with the Soviet Un-
Dr. Richard Latter, a physicist
who has been working for the
Rand Corp. since 1949, has
been chosen to head the Penta-
gon's important Technical Sup-
port Group for the Strategic
Arms Limitation (SALT) dis-
cussions to begin soon in Hel-
sinki. As such, Latter will serve
as the key advisor on disarma-
ment to Dr. John S. Foster Jr.,
director of the Pentagon's re-
search and development pro-
The appointment has dismayed
those members of the academic
and scientific defense commun-
ity who are anxious for success-
ful SALT talks.
"He's been consistently not
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only a hard-liner. but has been
actively working against nego-
tiations of this kind for 14
years," one former high-ranking
defense official said of Latter.
The official compares Lat-
ter's role to that of Dr. Ed-
ward Telle, the leading expon-
e(t of more nuclear might. Like
Tell'er, the official said. "Lat -
ter was actively against the
1963 partial test ban treaty n,-
gotiated by the Kennedy admin-
Another former defense of-
ficial who has worked with Lat-
ter described him as "strict
hard-nosed, highly anti-com-
munist.' He registered in Dr.
Teller's course in advance an-
nihilation," the former official
said. Teller, most recently, was
the strongest supporter of the
ABM system that the Pentagon
could find among the scientific
Latter's views on disarmament
with Russia became well known
throughout government circles
during his years as a defense
adviser. He has served since the
1950's on classified Pentagon

study groups analyzing the com-
plex seismic problems connect-
ed with identifying and moni-
toring underground nuclear
testing. He also has been a
technical advisor to U.S. dis-
armament teams in Geneva.
Over the yars, Latter h a s
made most of the conventional
and now largely discredited
- arguments against entering
into a full scale nuclear test
ban treaty with the Soviet Un-
In 1960, he told the Joint
Committee on Atomic Energy
hearings that there was evi-
dence "that nuclear explosions
could not be identified by seis-
mic signals alone." He also said
then that the Russians could
cheat on a test ban by excavat-
ing enormous holes and trigger-
ing muffled nuclear explosions
inside them -- the so-called de-
coupling technique.
During the Joint Committee
hearings on technical aspects of
nuclear test inspection controls,
Latter incorrectly warned that
the future would be grim: "I
think there is in fact a techni-

cal reason to believe that con-
cealments t of underground nu-
clear tests I will improve or the
capability to conceal will i n-
crease, more rapidly than de-
tection methods."
Other sources report that Lat-
ter, while serving as chair-
man of a classified Pentagon
panel on underground detec-
tion, has been a leading critic
of recent research indicating
vast improvement in the U.S.
capability to detect and identify
underground Russian nuclear
Latter's caution apparently
dates back to before his testi-
mony to the Joint Atomic En-
ergy Committee in 1960. Form-
er White House Aide, Arthur
Schlesinger, Jr. wrote in "A
Thousand Days," his study of
the presidency of John F. Ken-
nedy, that the hard-line ap-
proach of Teller and his aids-.
among them Latter-apparently
prevented a major disarmament
agreement with Russia in the
late 1950s.
Many other historians a n d
analysts agreed that President
Eisenhower received bad advice
from his scientific advisors at
Geneva at a time when the Rus-
sians seemed anxious to nego-
tiate an embracing nuclear dis-
armament treaty. The Rus-
sian attitude toward such talk:
later hardened..
High in the list of the bad
examples of American advice
have been those offered by Lat-
ter. For example, Schlesinger
wrote, Latter's concern over the
possible Russian cheating on a
test ban treaty via the de-
coupling technique was clearly
One scientists' group estimat-
ed in 1960 that a hole big and
deep enough to explode a rela-
tively small nuclear bomb would
cost up to $450 m illi o n
to dig and call for the excava-
tion of material more than the
country's annual production of
anthracite coal.
In addition, a subsequent test
by the Atomic Energy Commis-
sion demonstrated that the big
excavation actually enhanced
the seismic signals in some di-
rections, making it easier -
and not more difficult -- to de-
tect an underground blast.
Ironically, Foster has gone
even farther than Latter in his
antagonism to a disarmament
pact. He testified against t h e
1963 limited test ban treaty,
telling the Senate Foreign Re-

lations Committee that. "I am
deeply concerned as to whe-
ther or not weapon laboratories
will be able to fulfill their re-
sponsibility to the nation under
the proposed treaty."
Foster was testifying in his
role as director of the Law-
rence Radiation Laboratory in
Livermore. Cal., a key developer
of atomic weapons. He did not
take his Pentagon job until
Secretary of Defense R o b e r t
McNamara named him to his
present job in 1965.
But Foster, too, has been com-
fortable with the classic Teller
approach. In 1963 he told the
Foreign Relations Committee
that Russia was ahead of the
United States in the technology
of high yield atomic bombs, a
fact that simply represented-
as committee chairman J. W.
Fulbright brought out with ques-
tions - the decision of U.S.
policymakers not to pursue such
Foster also told the commit-
tee that he believed there was
no significant danger from
atomic fallout due to atmos-
pheric testing. At that time,
doctors were estimating that as
many as 3,000 children in Utah
and Nevada had received haz-
ardous doses of atomic fallout
radiation, and some would suf-
fer thyroid defects.
Dr. Ralph Lapp, author of
"The Weapons Culture"/ and
long-time Pentagon arm's critic,
said in an interview that Fos-
ter's selection of Latter to lead
the technical support group for
the SALT talks represents an-
other example of what he term-
ed the Pentagon "mania."
"They are particularly de-
lighted with people with tunnel
vision; those who see it in the
Pentagon way," he said.
Lapp suggested that it would
be advisable for the Nixon ad-
ministration to name men like
George Rathjens, or Jerome
Weisner or Hans Bethe on the
advisory panel.
"These men are not going to
be influenced on the basis of
prejudice," Lapp said. All three
have served as key arms and
science advisors to the govern-
ment, yet all three split sharply
with the Pentagon over the
ABM issue.
"The trouble," Lapp added.
"is that good men of science and
clear thinking critics are being
pushed into a corner by the on
rush of Pentagon technology.
This is technical determinism at
its worse," he said.

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