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MIT Professor Theodore Postol

I disagree with Mr. Vest’s statement that MIT cannot investigate my allegations of scientific fraud due to classification restrictions. His statement fails to account for basic scientific principles and publicly available information that together would allow the investigation to reach valid conclusions. As such, access to classified information is not needed to determine whether or not scientific fraud occurred.

Lincoln Laboratory made two key claims about the IFT-1A experiment. First, that the sensor in the IFT-1A provided valid scientific data and second, that the data was successfully used to identify warheads and decoys in the space experiment.

The key issue in determining whether or not scientific fraud occurred is whether or not the sensor worked properly. Information on the performance of the sensor is already in the public domain (e.g. the GAO published it in a report issued in March of 2002). If MIT chose to pursue an investigation, all they would need to do is to verify whether or not the sensor obtained valid data.

In March of 2002 the GAO reported that the sensor in the IFT-1A did not cool to its operating temperature and that it had lost “calibration.” The loss of calibration means that the sensor did not provide valid data and that Lincoln could not possibly have used the data to identify warheads and decoys.

The significance of this loss in calibration is easy to understand. It is analogous to a situation where a viewer must identify dots by color on a TV screen when the correct color balance has been totally lost. Unless the viewer can correct the color balance, that is, the “calibration” of the TV, the dots will not be shown in their true color and will never be identifiable by color.

An MIT investigation only needs to determine how Lincoln Laboratory could identify such dots by color when the sensor had completely lost calibration. Lincoln needs to explain why they failed to inform federal investigators about the loss of calibration and its consequences. MIT needs to explain why they allowed, or failed to correct, misleading briefings made by Lincoln Laboratory to senior members of the Senate armed services committee.

Mr. Vest has been on oversight boards for organizations like the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM), which is one of the premiere scientific institutions in the world that works on interpreting and analyzing data from infrared sensors of the kind used in the IFT-1A. It is difficult to understand how Mr. Vest would not know that the calibration issue is the key to determining the conclusions of an investigation. To not understand such basic scientific principles should be, and is, an embarrassment to MIT, the institution he represents when he made these statements.