Monday, June 13, 2011

Higher Education and National Security: The Targeting of Sensitive, Proprietary, and Classified Information on Campuses of Higher Education

"The KGB had the report published in a Swedish journal. In the intelligence world, this is called disinformation."--the FBI

UPDATE #1 Nuclear Winter and the KGB (Wikipedia User Talk)

UPDATE #2 The Soviet Approach to Nuclear Winter (CIA, December 1984)

UPDATE #3 Debunking Pete Earley's [Comrade J]

UPDATE #4 Brian Martin, "Nuclear Winter: Science and Politics." (Science and Public Policy, 10-88)

UPDATE #5 The Medical Implications of Nuclear War (Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, 1986)

UPDATE #6 Alan Robock, lead author. The Encyclopedia of Earth, "Nuclear Winter". (2009)

UPDATE #7 "Study on the Climatic and Other Global Effects of Nuclear War." (U.N. 1989)

UPDATE #8 John G. Hines Interviews Academician Vitalii Tsygichko (1990-91)

The Counterintelligence Strategic Partnership Unit of the FBI has published a white paper titled "Higher Education and National Security: The Targeting of Sensitive, Proprietary, and Classified Information on Campuses of Higher Education (April 2011)." [I think the print version is easier to read.]

The FBI white paper quotes the Russian KGB/SVR defector Sergei Tretyakov, who died exactly one year ago today, on June 13, 2010. Tretyakov's espionage exploits are detailed in Pete Earley's 2007 book Comrade J.

Tretyakov's unsubstantiated claim (pages 169-177) that the KGB fabricated the theory of nuclear winter in a failed attempt to prevent Pershing missiles from being deployed in Europe is quite controversial; never-the-less, this uncorroborated KGB defector's apocryphal boasting is uncritically repeated as fact in the FBI white paper on page 6 of the print edition:

According to Sergei Tretyakov, a former KGB/SVR officer, the KGB ordered the Soviet Academy of Sciences to come up with a report that would scare the Western public and keep NATO from placing Pershing missiles in Western Europe:

"The story, which had been approved by KGB propagandists, described experiments in the Karakum desert in South Central Asia that were being done by a Soviet specialist in atmospheric physics[Other Soviet] scientists claimed they had used a mathematical model to estimate how much dirt and debris would be blasted into the atmosphere during a nuclear attack in Germany." [In this paragraph, the FBI is quoting from Pete Earley's book Comrade J. pages 170-171.]

The KGB had the report published in a Swedish journal. In the intelligence world, this is called disinformation. Disinformation may be blatant deception or small fabricated kernels in a large milieu of reliable facts. In the academic arena where research is often based on previous research, when results from a study can be shared quickly and easily with other researchers, it is important to science that people share accurate results. If subsequent research is based on incorrect data, many of those subsequent conclusions could be inaccurate as well. Expanding scientific horizons is not always the main motivating factors for research or publications in other countries. Foreign researchers may be under pressure to make their research conclude what their government wants it to conclude, or they may be ordered to write completely fabricated studies.

This FBI white paper is recycling and even mischaracterizing vague, uncorroborated allegations that appear on pages 169-177 of Comrade J. (These pages are available at Amazon. Search the book using "Crutzen.") This book has no footnotes to the original sources or to briefly quoted scientists who cast doubt on the theory of nuclear winter.

The FBI claims, "The KGB had the report published in a Swedish journal." Exactly what report published in a Swedish journal is the FBI alluding to? The book Comrade J does not claim that this allegedly fabricated Russian scientific report was published in a Swedish journal; on the contrary, the book explicitly states that the Soviet report was not published in a scientific journal (171).

The book claims that a story, which is not identified or dated, was released by the Soviet Union's news service, picked up by the BBC, and "widely accepted as a scientific fact" (170). [A 1984 CIA report (p. 13) notes that the English-language service of Moscow News (4-19-84) published an important story about nuclear winter.]  

The FBI's quote from Comrade J is spliced together from two passages that appear on different pages (171-172), and important information is omitted.

The book Comrade J identifies a 1982 paper that was published in the Swedish journal Ambio. This paper, "The Atmosphere After a Nuclear War: Twilight at Noon," was written by Nobel prize winner Paul Crutzen and John Birks. Is the FBI implying that this 1982 paper is the allegedly fabricated KGB report published in a Swedish journal? Is the FBI implying that fabricated research was included in this 1982 paper? Is the FBI referring to another paper that was published in the same issue of Ambio, which was devoted to the subject of nuclear winter?

According to a December 1984 CIA report, Soviet research on nuclear winter did not begin until 1983 ("Key Judgements" page 1); however, during a series of interviews done in 1990-91, Soviet Academician and former GRU analyst Vitalii Tsygichko told John Hines that Soviet Military scientists were doing research on the climatic effects of nuclear war in the early 1970s, but that this work was ignored or repressed by over-classification.

Probably the truth is complicated. Kirill Kondratyev, who did a famous aerosol study on the atmosphere in the dusty Kara Kum desert that the FBI seems to be citing, did joint atmospheric research with the Americans, and the disappeared Soviet scientist Vladimir Alexandrov (whose name John Hines surprisingly did not know--see footnote on page 139) also worked with American climate experts in Colorado.

I looked at Comrade J, and the book claims that an allegedly fabricated story was published by the Soviet Union's news service, picked up by the BBC, and "widely accepted as a scientific fact." If this article is the 1984 Moscow News story cited by the CIA (p. 13), it is difficult to see how a story published in 1984 could have influenced the 1982 Ambio article by Crutzen and Birks. In addition, according to the 1984 CIA report (page 1) "Soviet research on Nuclear derived almost entirely from US ideas, data, and models." 

The book does not say, as the FBI claims, that this report was "published in a Swedish journal." The book alleges that members of the Soviet Academy of Sciences falsely "claimed they had used a mathematical model to estimate how much dirt and debris would be blasted into the atmosphere during a nuclear attack in Germany" (171). The book claims that "instead of publishing it in a scientific journal, the KGB began using...covert active disseminate the doomsday findings" (171).     

Chapter 21 of Comrade J closes with Tretyakov's rather terrifying claim that "no one in Moscow ever believed [nuclear winter] was true" (177).

According to the fantastic account of this covert operation detailed in Comrade J, the mighty KGB disseminated a scientific hoax via the Soviet news service (170) about “the anti-hothouse effect"  (170) that was “widely accepted as scientific fact"  (170), but “no one in Moscow ever believed [nuclear winter] was true” (177).

Perhaps the FBI should read the interview with Academician Vitalii Tsygichko (p. 139) who told John G. Hines that during the early 1970s the Soviet General Staff studied the climatic effects of a nuclear exchange, but that their work was ignored or repressed by giving it a high security classification for ideological, bureaucratic, or economic reasons. 

The FBI's source, Pete Earley's Comrade J, misspells the name of the Russian scientist who did experiments in the Kara Kum desert. His last name is Kirill Kontratyev, not Kirill Kondreyev (Early 170), and his experiments are published.

Supposedly, Kondratyev (14 June 1920 - 1 May 2006)  denied global warming, perhaps when he became very elderly. A Russian article (since removed from the Internet) titled "Global Warming is a Myth" is attributed to him, but that seems very strange. Kondratyev is also a co-author of a book titled Observing Global Climate Change (1998). Kirill Kondratyev is supposedly "quoted" on the denialist site CO2 Science (March 3, 2004), but this was shortly before his death at almost 86 years old. I guess all CO2 Science could get was the Russian economist Andrei Illarionov and the elderly Kondratyev. 

While the KGB certainly may have exploited scientific research on nuclear winter as part of a propaganda campaign against the deployment of Pershing missiles in Europe, it does not necessarily follow that nuclear winter is a KGB hoax.

The unknown author of this FBI white paper is spreading a KGB defector's misinformation about the origins of the research on nuclear winter and damaging the reputation of climate science. The paper even mischaracterizes information "cited" from Comrade J.
This paper is unworthy of the FBI.

Climate change is an important national security issue, but, this FBI white paper can only damage our national security by undermining public confidence in climate science. Why should scholars credit the cautionary tales of FBI counterintelligence "experts" who mischaracterize their sources and uncritically recycle a KGB defector's garbled and contradictory conspiracy theory about how the KGB manipulated western scientists with fabricated research about nuclear winter?

The FBI should not rely exclusively on some Russian defector or on apocryphal, uncorroborated KGB rumors for reliable scientific information about nuclear winter. The FBI has access to the resources of the U.S. government's scientific agencies, the National Academies, and our university researchers. For example, here is a 2007 paper on nuclear winter titled "Nuclear Winter Revisited With a Modern Climate Model and Current Nuclear Arsenals: Still Catastrophic Consequences" (April 2007).

Scientific research about nuclear winter helped end the arms war in the 1980s. The introduction to an article in Nature titled "Nuclear Winter is a Real and Present Danger" (5-18-2011) observes:

In the 1980s, discussion and debate about the possibility of a 'nuclear winter' helped to end the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. As former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev said in an interview in 2000: “Models made by Russian and American scientists showed that a nuclear war would result in a nuclear winter that would be extremely destructive to all life on Earth; the knowledge of that was a great stimulus to us, to people of honour and morality, to act. [See an account of the interview with Gorbachev at Salon (9-7-2000).]

The book Comrade J quotes the "physicist" Russell Seitz who claims that nuclear winter research is based on "a notorious lack of scientific integrity" (176). However, Seitz does not have a Ph.D. in physics. [See Lawrence Badash, A Nuclear Winter's Tale, page 249.]

I think it is possible that Seitz's ideas about nuclear winter were attributed to the KGB defector Tretykov in order to give Seitz's views credibility.

An Internet article titled "Debunking Pete Earley's Comrade J" claims:

Most of Earley's account is directly lifted from “The Scandal of Nuclear Winter” by Brad Sparks published in National Review (November 15, 1985), and “The Melting of 'Nuclear Winter'” by R. Seitz published in The World [Sic?] Street Journal (December 12, 1986). [See page 10, "General Remarks.]

The author (above) may have confused his dates, because this copy on the Internet of Seitz's article is dated November 5, 1986. [I went to this site recently, and my computer warned me that there was something risky about the site.] I will try to sort out the confusion about the Seitz article. See also this reprint of Seitz's article, which claims to be from the November 5, 1986 issue of the Wall Street Journal, a newspaper that is infamous for spreading mendacious canards about climate science.


Blogger Russell Seitz said...

God's teeth, Snapple- get with the program-- the Op-ed you point to is a precis of a 7,000 fully footnoted articel in the Fall 1986 issue of The National Interest.

Go read it and start publishing corrigenda to all the disinformation thet you have perpetrated.

10:32 PM  

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