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Giving Up Far Too Easily

Unless we’re missing something, MIT’s latest announcement in response to Professor Postol’s rather serious allegations about missile defense testing is far from acceptable. Professor Postol has made serious, direct claims about scientific research performed by MIT’s Lincoln Labs, specifically about the performance on one infrared sensor. The response of all parties has been to obfuscate, evade, and spin their way away from addressing his charges. No one has answered the simple issues he’s raised.

Every time Postol directly challenges on the grounds of freely published, unclassified scientific evidence, he convinces his audience. We’re not masters of the whole case -- but if the professor’s simple arguments are correct as they appear to be, sufficient unclassified evidence already exists to prove his case. Of course, a scientist familiar with the paper said “that we have data that proves that he’s wrong.” But such unverified protestations can prove little, and it is only a matter of time and Postol’s refusal to be silent, then, before the game comes crashing down on any attempt at cover-up.

All we can say that we hope that somehow, he’s wrong. MIT could have a very serious problem on its hands here, one that casts a terrible pall over the entire campus and all its research activities. Former President Vest’s legacy has been to increase federal funding for research -- but if this is the cost, that that research must get the “right” answer or else face repression, this is worse than a tragic legacy; it is a stain on MIT’s reputation with an unfortunate degree of permanence. There could be no worse crime than to turn scientific investigation into a parlor game. The allegations and MIT’s blatant refusal to address them cast doubt on the institution’s entire body of scientific research, and make Vest’s bargain with Washington appear truly Faustian.

Whatever the holiday rush, whatever the excitement over transition to a new President, this is a history that won’t change itself, and a problem that won’t go away. We’re not impressed with President Vest’s handling of this case, to say the least. We expect it to dominate the institute’s attentions in the near future, to our collective detriment.

Stay tuned.