Check Your Facts: Cox Report Bombs

By Cohen, Sam | Insight on the News, August 9, 1999 | Go to article overview

Check Your Facts: Cox Report Bombs


Cohen, Sam, Insight on the News


The inventor of the neutron bomb says the select committee doesn't even knew what a neutron bomb is. He asks: Did the Chinese steal the plans, or did the U.S. give them away?

According to an ancient saying, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will do." This is especially true for the efforts of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China, popularly known as the Cox committee. The chairman, Republican Rep. Christopher Cox of California, and the ranking member, Democratic Rep. Norman Dicks of Washington, have been barraged with criticism for their bipartisan conclusions about the impact of security breaches at U.S. national laboratories. Indeed, Cox has said that it is not fair to criticize the commission's report, since much of the evidence for its conclusions still is classified.

Nonetheless, it is clear that these boys didn't know where they were going and didn't get there.

As a professional nuclear physicist and researcher with 40 years of professional background in nuclear weapons and related fields, I believe that the first volume of the Cox report (which deals with security matters) says much too little of real substance. In nuclear matters, the report appears to be politically driven and to have taken the low road. It indulges in misinformation. It arrives at sweeping, ominous inferences based on little hard evidence. And even though Cox complains that the evidence to support his conclusions is classified, the report itself seems to have published highly classified information.

There is no room to give a fully comprehensive analysis of Vol. 1, so I will just highlight a few bothersome statements with a view to raising doubt about its general veracity. Consider:

"The stolen information includes classified design information for an enhanced radiation weapon (commonly known as the `neutron bomb'), which neither the United States nor any other nation has yet deployed" (p. iii.).

Having myself invented the neutron bomb in 1958 and closely following the subject ever since, I can say that the claim most likely is untrue that no nation has deployed this weapon. The U.S., the former Soviet Union, China, France (and very likely Israel) have developed such weapons for sound military and political reasons. The United States, during the Reagan administration, built up a very substantial stockpile of neutron bombs with the stated intention of deploying them to NATO Europe; but in the face of European political (not military) opposition, Washington reversed its decision and stockpiled the warheads back home. After the Persian Gulf War, President Bush ordered the destruction of the neutron-bomb stockpile and Congress passed legislation forbidding the development of advanced versions of these warheads.

However, to state unequivocally that Russia, China, France and Israel have refrained from deploying this type of weapon flies in the face of the logic underlying their national-security needs -- now and at some unpredictable time in the future. The report gives no reference to back up this allegation. Most likely the U.S. intelligence community, which always has been notoriously poor in assessing foreign nuclear-weapon capabilities, had no reliable evidence to offer the committee. The truth is that we don't know whether any of these nations have deployed neutron bombs in their national interest. And consider further from the Cox report:

"The first of these new Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) mobile ICBMs ... could be deployed as soon as 2002. These mobile missiles require small warhead designs, of which the stolen U.S. design information is the most advanced in the world" (p. v).

Again, in view of our very considerable intelligence ignorance of foreign nuclear-warhead technology, this statement that the U.S. designs are the most advanced in the world -- a statement that is not backed up with any evidence whatsoever -- not only may be wrong but reflects an unwarranted, chauvinistic arrogance. …

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