The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 31.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

MIT Professors Blast Deutch

By Kevin R. Lang

While presidential hopeful John McCain has clearly dominated national headlines in recent weeks, Institute Professor John M. Deutch ’61 might be running a close second.

New developments and continuing controversy over alleged breaches of security have made Deutch a front page regular across the country. Deutch stepped down from his post as director of the CIA in December 1996.

Recently, The Boston Globe reported on MIT faculty and their thoughts on Deutch [“Back at MIT, Former CIA Chief Draws Criticism,” February 26, 2000]. Comments ranged from staunch defense to harsh criticism of both his security lapses and character.

Current Provost Robert A. Brown defended Deutch in the article, saying that he didn’t think “this situation is interfering with John Deutch’s duties as a professor at MIT.”

Globe casts Deutch in negative light

In the decidedly negative article, the Globe referred to Deutch as a “notorious figure” at MIT.

The article featured harsh criticism from Theodore Postol ’67, Professor of Science, Technology and National Security Policy in the Science, Technology, and Society program.

“I have very strong negative feelings about what Mr. Deutch did with this classified material,” Postol told The Tech. He criticized Deutch for potentially endangering the lives of covert agents and intelligence sources and his methods of gathering information. Postol also referred to Deutch’s “reckless disregard” for national security.

Postol said he was troubled by the fact that alleged Chinese spy Wen Ho Lee is being held without bail for improper handling of classified material, while Deutch has only had to deal with media scrutiny. Postol said that it was “not obvious” whether Deutch or Lee had mishandled more sensitive materials.

MIT remains uninvolved

In the Globe article, Postol said that “there’s a real problem with integrity at the top of the administration here ... I doubt the institution will do very much.” Institute officials have said they will not to take any disciplinary action against Deutch.

However, Postol said that his quote was taken out of context.

“I think that it’s very important to not mix up the question of potentially criminal activity and the professional position of a faculty member,” Postol said.

Postol emphasized that his feelings have nothing to do with Deutch’s standing at MIT.

“I would oppose any action on the part of MIT unless he gets charged and convicted,” Postol said. “I think that due process is a very important feature in our society.”

“If he’s charged at some point and found guilty,” MIT should review the situation, Postol said. Until then, “MIT should really have nothing to do with this.”

Faculty disapproval nothing new

Postol thought that other faculty members quoted in the Globe article were not as upset with Deutch’s CIA troubles as they were with his actions as Provost.

“I would say that there are many members of the faculty that have not been happy with John Deutch well before the security issues came up,” Postol said. “It’s caused him to be scrutinized in public, and people have made comments ... I just shared my views frankly.”

Professor of Biology Jonathan A. King criticized Deutch’s lack of accomplishments in chemistry. King could only be reached briefly, but he alluded to Deutch’s involvement in the decision to shut down the Department of Applied Biological Sciences.

He referred to the decision as a “debacle.”

Other faculty quoted in the story could not be reached for comment.

Housekeeper knew alarm codes

In addition to the Globe coverage, The Washington Post reported yesterday [“But Did She Do Windows?” February 28, 2000] that while Deutch was director, his housekeeper was given the deactivation code to his home alarm system. It has not been revealed whether Deutch or the CIA gave the code to his housekeeper, then a non-citizen.

The Agency’s Inspector General reported that the housekeeper was “permitted independent access to the residence while the Deutchs were away,” and that “CIA security database records do not reflect any security clearances being issued to the alien.”

The deactivation code reportedly allowed access to a closet in Deutch’s study which held a safe containing documents.