MEMORANDUM FROM THE INTELLIGENCE SUBPANEL TO THE PANEL ON SCIENTIFIC COMMUNICATION AND NATIONAL SECURITY (UNCLASSIFIED VERSION)
J.Deutch, J.Killian, F.Lindsay, W.K.Panofsky, S.Phillips, E.Staats
The full Panel is charged to examine the question “What is the effect on national security of technology transfer to adversary nations by means of open scientific communications, either through scientific literature or by person-to-person communications…?” In effect the subpanel is to query “What has been the effect on national security of technology transfer…?” The subpanel has held two meetings with members of the intelligence community (on May 5, 1982, and June 21, 1982). The subpanel was not concerned with the effect of free scientific exchange on U.S. technology, scientific progress, and international goodwill; the only positive effect considered was that on U.S. intelligence. The subpanel’s function was to gather information on the assigned topic attainable at a security level higher than that accessible by the full Panel. The question of the effect on national security of either greater or lesser restraints than those now practiced, a matter of concern to the full Panel, was not examined by the subpanel.
While there has been a serious transfer of U.S. technology to the Soviet Union from many sources that is directly relevant to military systems, there is a strong consensus that the universities, as well as open communication involving the university community, appear to be a very small part of this problem up to the present time. At the same time open information on basic research, which is an essential part of
Appendix A is the unclassified version of a memorandum to the full Panel from the subpanel, which is made up of six members of the Panel who hold clearance at the highest level. Although the original memorandum is classified, it is available at the National Academy of Sciences to those who hold appropriate security clearance.
our open society and research process, has without doubt contributed to the scientific base of the Soviet Union as well as other nations.
This lack of concrete evidence linking the academic community and other scientific communication channels to specific losses of militarily relevant technology does not imply a lack of clear Soviet intent to use such open scientific communication channels to increase their military potential. The marginal evidence on our subject is submerged by the security losses through outright espionage targeted on U.S. systerns, in particular in foreign countries, by outright illegal conduct by individuals or corporations in international trade, and by secondary transfers of actual material from legal or illegal recipients abroad to adversary destinations. Intellience efforts have not specifically focused on the “open communication” component of the technology transfer problem, but have given highest priority to localizing the other, larger, channels of technology loss.
The exception is foreign visitors from Communist countries where the intelligence community, through the interagency Committee on Exchange (COMEX), has been active for many years. Person-to-person communication involving U.S. researchers is one of many channels for the transfer of sensitive technologies, and, compared to other transfer mechanisms, the potential loss there of sensitive technologies has been limited. In part this is because there have been for many years U.S. government mechanisms that try to assess the likely technology transfer balance of proposed exchange programs. When U.S. government monies are involved, the government has received and reviewed proposed research programs well before foreign Communist visitors have been due to arrive. When necessary, programs have been denied. In many more instances, the program have been modified in some way to lessen access to sensitive technologies.
Such efforts to limit access also have occurred regarding foreign Communist students whose financing did not involve U.S. government monies, but in these instances the effectiveness of proposed limitations relied even more on the cooperation of the academic hosts. Since the mid-1950s, COMEX has provided such information, analysis, and advice to the Department of State and other government agencies regarding technology transfer and other implications of the proposed programs of foreign Communist students and other visitors.
The fact that few demonstrable losses of direct military significance from U.S. academic and other free exchange sources have been detected in the past does not, of course, prove that more significant losses will not occur in the future; in particular, should university activities extend further into areas of direct military applicability. The intelligence community believes there is a clear trend toward greater Soviet bloc effort in acquiring basic technology associated with universities. Thus the problem of technology transfer from universities is dynamic; this may lead to greater Soviet emphasis on acquisition of technology with long-term applications in the future. However, this subpanel has seen little evidence that the issue which the full Panel is charged to address has been important in the past in the total context of the loss of military technology.
Acquisition of Western technology has been a goal of the Soviet state throughout its history and has been a facet of the Russian tradition before the revolution. However, the effort to collect foreign technology, including basic science and technology, has become highly organized and targeted in recent years. This effort is directed from the highest level of government, in particuar through the powerful Military-Industrial Commission (VPK), which is the coordinating agency for all military R&D, and the State Committee for Science and Technology (GKNT).
The Soviets and Eastern bloc deploy intelligence officers to many countries, including the United States, to collect scientific and technical information. Individual students and scholars nominated to participate in exchange programs in the West are most often screened by their respective intelligence services. Additionally, Third World students are often questioned by Soviet intelligence for open information and may be recruited for intelligence purposes.
Techniques for collecting science and technology information are both overt and covert. The Soviets gather whatever they can from open sources, and then target that which remains for illegal purchase or the use of classic espionage. One senior intelligence community official has publicly suggested that the Soviets and East European intelligence services have been involved in the acquisition of about 70 percent of the militarily useful, militarily related technologies that have been acquired from the West. They have used clandestine, technical, and overt collection techniques in the process. Of the remaining 20 to 30 percent of the acquisition of information of potential direct military value to the Soviets, most comes through legal purchases and open-source publications acquired by other Soviet organizations. The same offical advises that a very small percentage of such military technology is acquired from direct technical exchanges conducted by scientists and students. This subpanel agrees with that observation.
Since the late 1970s, there has been an increased emphasis on the acquisition of new Western technologies emerging from universities and other research centers. The Soviets presumably also make full use of access to advanced technologies provided by various exchange arrangements with Western European countries and with Japan.
A small percent of the several thousand Soviets entering the United States annually under some sort of exchange arrangement are known to have some intelligence affiliation. The number of individuals having intelligence tasks among the scientific exchanges is significantly higher. For example, a substantial number of these Soviet personnel have been identified participating in the International Research and Exchanges Board Graduate Student and Young Faculty program with various U.S. universities.
The Soviet Union devotes an enormous effort—perhaps involving 100,000 people—to sifting and systematically disseminating unclassified technical materials from the West and Japan, such as those available from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) in the United States.
EXAMPLES OF SOVIET COLLECTION FROM U.S. ACADEMIC SOURCES
Specific evidence of Soviet collection of technology information from U.S. academic and other free exchange sources relates almost exclusively to episodes of abuses by Soviet or Soviet bloc visitors of their guest status in the United States. These abuses are in a number of categories which might be tabulated in the order of severity as follows:
The visitor’s technical activities and studies go beyond the agreed field of study.
The visitor’s time during the period of study is poorly accounted for, or excessive time is spent in library activities collecting information not related to the agreed fields of study.
The visitor, either successfully or unsuccessfully, attempts to evade the restrictions imposed on the program itinerary.
The visitor participates in clearly illegal activities, such as intelligence “drops”; attempts to examine secure containers: etc.
The intelligence community remains concerned about Communist acquisition of sensitive technology even when nothing illegal outside the agreed upon study program is likely to take place.
The recognized episodes of abuse by Soviet visitors of their guest status have been disturbing but have not led to evidence of significant consequences. Inadequate handling of visitors by U.S. government or academic authorities has at times contributed to the potential for abuse. From examination of the episodes it is difficult to secure evidence that any significant losses of U.S. critical technology have occurred to the benefit of identifiable Soviet military systems. Part of this lack of evidence is, of course, due to the fact that all specifically traced technology losses of military importance, some of which have indeed been very serious, have occurred in a nonuniversity and nonfree communication context. Therefore, trying to identify the losses of relevance to the charge to the subpanel is a “needle in the haystack” problem. Moreover it must be acknowledged that tracing technology loss to a specific item of military hardware would be a most difficult matter.
EFFECTIVENESS OF SOVIET ASSIMILATION OF DATA FROM U.S. ACADEMIC AND OTHER “FREE EXCHANGE” SOURCES
While the subpanel has not examined this issue in detail, it has seen no meaningful intelligence data on the effectiveness of the internal transfer process to direct the data flow from the massive U.S.S.R. foreign technology collection effort into military application. The subpanel is skeptical that the organized Soviet effort involving tens of thousands of people charged with digesting the vast volume of open literature is an effective means to expedite technology transfer.
The broader question as to the ability of the Soviet military R&D process to absorb new technology—be it generated at home or acquired abroad—was not examined by the subpanel.
The lack of evidence of an identifiable significant detrimental effect to U.S. security from international scientific communication does not mean, of course, that the net information flow in the science and technology areas resulting from these exchanges between the United States and the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries is balanced. It is not. However, the imbalance is not different from what one would expect from the fact that on the whole, United States performance in most relevant fields of science is higher than that of the Soviet Union. The net information flow is that expected from the existence of openly available information in basic scientific areas and is not directly traceable to targeted collection activities. The imbalance in information flow is more significant in connection with exchanges involving personnel of lower skills. In contrast, the general consensus is that information exchange and intelligence collection is considerably more balanced in exchanges involving more advanced professional personnel. There the prebriefing and special selection of Soviet exchange visitors may provide some Soviet advantage.
The intelligence community also cautions that those exchanges removed from the umbrella of official interacademy and intergovernmental exchanges would be considerably more difficult to monitor. There has been significant intelligence reporting of Soviet military technology from U.S. participants in scientific exchange programs.
Privately sponsored exchange programs are increasing. The federal government has little leverage on these exchanges. Visas, up to the present, have not been denied on the basis of projected technology loss. Enforcement of travel restrictions on Soviets is difficult, and movement of East Europeans is not controlled by imposed travel restrictions.
Only a relatively small portion of the exchange arrangements screened by U.S. government mechanisms are judged to be of significant concern because of the potential for unwanted technology transfer. For example, COMEX has conducted formal reviews of the programs of only about 7 percent of the programs it screens, judging that the balance would not constitute a significant problem. Of those formally reviewed, about one-third are judged to pose significant technology transfer problems, and perhaps one-half are judged to offer “some” concerns. However, most often suggestions are offered by the government merely to modify the proposed program or itinerary to lessen the technology transfer concerns, and the exchanges proceed.
COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY AND THE RESEARCH COMMUNITY
The subpanel is impressed by the fact that some members of the intelligence community involved in assessing the technology transfer problem have little acquaintance with the workings of the research community or the conduct of basic research. We hasten to add that
there are notable and important counterexamples to this statement. The subpanel also notes that many members of the academic community have little appreciation of the constructive and necessary role of the intelligence community in assessing foreign activities.
This “communication gap” manifests itself in several respects. The subpanel finds that some members of the intelligence community interpret such activities as excessive use of the library or lack of total dedication by a Soviet visitor to his projected task to be suspicious conduct. By such criteria most American researchers would seem suspect at their own research campuses. Conversely, the subpanel observes that some members of the U.S. research community are at times totally insensitive to national security issues and uncooperative with representatives of U.S. intelligence agencies. Reports on visitor activities or on visits by U.S. scientists travelling abroad are frequently late and at times not made at all, even if required by government contract.