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Defending the Atom Scientists

In response to:

'Were the Atom Scientists Spies?': An Exchange from the September 22, 1994 issue

To the Editors:

In their letter to you [“Were the Atom Scientists Spies?” September 22, 1994] Jerrold L. and Leona P. Schecter say that book reviewer Thomas Powers “does not want to believe that Oppenheimer, Fermi, Szilard, and Bohr were manipulated and used by Soviet intelligence” (italics added).

Their charge that these scientists were “manipulated and used” reflects a vast retreat from the charges of their Special Tasks wherein the Schecters allege that Oppenheimer, Fermi and Szilard “helped us plant moles in Tennessee, Los Alamos, and Chicago as assistants in those three labs” (p. 190) and that these moles “copied vital documents to which they were allowed access by Oppenheimer, Fermi and Szilard, who were knowingly part of the scheme” (p. 192) (italics added).

Enormous publicity resulted from the unsubstantiated but dramatic charge that these famous scientists were “knowingly cooperating”—to use the Schecter’s oft repeated theme—with Russian intelligence, i.e., were witting. Now that the highly publicized charges have not panned out, an effort is evidently being made by the Schecters to retrench on the basis of a much lesser (also still unsubstantiated) charge that the scientists were, in effect, unwitting dupes, and to wait for more documents.

Jeremy J. Stone
President
Federation of American Scientists
Washington, DC

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