Conscience, Science and Security: The Case of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer

By Cushing Strout | Go to book overview

OPPENHEIMER: Yes. One day, and I believe you have the time fixed better than I do in the winter of 1942-43, Haakon Chevalier came to our home. It was, I believe, for dinner, but possibly for a drink. When I went out into the pantry, Chevalier followed me or came with me to help me. He said, "I saw George Eltenton* recently." Maybe he asked me if I remembered him. That Eltenton had told him that he had a method, he had a means of getting technical information to Soviet scientists. He didn't describe the means. I thought I said, "But that is treason," but I am not sure. I said anyway something, "This is a terrible thing to do." Chevalier said or expressed complete agreement. That was the end of it. It was a very brief conversation.

ROBB: In other words, you thought that the course of conduct suggested to Eltenton was an attempt at espionage; didn't you?

OPPENHEIMER: Sure. . . .

ROBB: Now let us go back to your interview with Colonel Pash. Did you tell Pash the truth about this thing?

OPPENHEIMER: No.

ROBB: You lied to him?

OPPENHEIMER: Yes.

ROBB: What did you tell Pash that was not true?

OPPENHEIMER: That Eltenton had attempted to approach members of the project--three members of the project--through intermediaries.

ROBB: What else did you tell him that wasn't true?

OPPENHEIMER: That is all I really remember.

ROBB: That is all? Did you tell Pash that Eltenton had attempted to approach three members of the project--

OPPENHEIMER: Through intermediaries.

ROBB: Intermediaries?

OPPENHEIMER: Through an intermediary.

ROBB: So that we may be clear, did you discuss with or disclose to Pash the identity of Chevalier?

OPPENHEIMER: No.

ROBB: Let us refer, then, for the time being, to Chevalier as X.

OPPENHEIMER: All right.

ROBB: Did you tell Pash that X had approached three persons on the project?

OPPENHEIMER: I am not clear whether I said there were 3 X's or that X approached 3 people.

ROBB Didn't you say that X had approached three people?

OPPENHEIMER: Probably.

ROBB: Why did you do that, Doctor?

OPPENHEIMER: Because I was an idiot.

ROBB: Is that your only explanation, Doctor?

OPPENHEIMER: I was reluctant to mention Chevalier.

ROBB: Yes.

____________________
*
A chemical engineer, who had lived in Russia, and an officer of a left-wing union (to which Lomanitz belonged) trying to organize technicians at the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory.

-12-

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Conscience, Science and Security: The Case of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Chronology v
  • I - Political Education 3
  • II - The Question of the Bomb 24
  • III - Trial of a Man and a System 37
  • IV - Verdict of Opinion 47
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