9. DEFENSE VULNERABILITY AND THE HIGH COST OF WHISTLE-BLOWING
The central nervous system of America's military machine is a data
processing network called Wimex. The prime function of Wimex is to provide
the President and the Secretary of Defense the means to 1) receive warning
and intelligence information, 2) apply the resources of the military
departments, 3) assign military missions, and 4) provide direction to
U.S. commanders based around the world.
Unfortunately, this mighty communications system does not work. The
35 Honeywell computers the Department of Defense bought in 1971 to serve
as the core of the Wimex system were obsolete before they were installed.
According to an agency report of March 29, 1976, the "network crashes
approximately every thirty-five minutes." In March 1977, an exercise
at six of the communications sites revealed that the network functioned
only 38% of the time at four of them. And the giant NORAD site in Colorado
has been plagued by false warnings of nuclear attacks, some of them
One person, John Bradley, an engineer originally charged with testing
the Wimex prototype, discovered the problem in 1973. Since then he has
been trying to convince people that the computers controlling the defense
of the nation are dangerous, incompetent, will not protect us in the
event of a nuclear exchange, and may, in fact, trigger a holocaust.
For his efforts, Bradley was first criticized, then transferred, and
later, after outlining his concerns to Air Force Colonel Robert Rosenberg
of the National Security Council, charged with "inefficiency, resisting
competent authority and making false and misleading statements about
(the system's) reliability." He was then fired. He has been unemployed
since 1977 and receives a government pension for emotional disability.
Nonetheless, he has persisted with his claims about the failure of the
On March 8, 1982, the House Government Operations Committee reported
that the U.S. missile attack warning system is plagued by "severe
and potentially catastrophic deficiencies" because of failings
in the Pentagon's procurement of computer equipment. It urged that Defense
Secretary Caspar Weinberger give urgent attention to the computer network
designed to warn of attack.
The media's failure to report the extraordinary story of the Pentagon's
refusal to listen to the man who tried to warn the nation qualifies
this story for nomination as a "best censored" story of 1981.
Inquiry, 9/81, "The High-Cost of Whistle-Blowing" by Rhonda
Brown and Paul Matteucci; S. F. Examiner, (AP), 3/9/82, "Our Feeble
Missile Attack Warning System."