BOSTON — `I FEEL like someone who witnessed a drive-by shooting and now I'm a target."
So says Theodore Postol, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who first raised questions about the Patriot missile's performance in the Gulf war. The bearded, rumpled academic charges that the United States Army and Raytheon Company tried to intimidate him into ceasing his public attacks on the Patriot's capabilities.
Dr. Postol first presented his full-scale case against the Patriot in a 52-page article published in the winter 1992 issue of International Security, an academic journal. Raytheon officials argued that the article was based on classified material.
Postol has access to classified information as a part-time consultant to various government agencies, and he admits that he attended two classified briefings about the Patriot at Raytheon's Lexington, Mass., headquarters. But he adamantly denies using any classified information in his articles. His research, he says, was conducted entirely in publicly available videotape and newspaper stories.
After Postol's article came out, the Defense Investigative Service (DIS), an arm of the US Department of Defense, was ordered to investigate whether a security breach had occurred. A DIS investigator visited Postol at his office in March 1992. In an interview, the DIS man told the professor that his article was considered "classified." The investigator added that if Postol discussed his findings publicly, his security clearance could be revoked. After the interview with the DIS investigator, an outraged Postol testified at a House Government Operations Committee hearing. At that hearing, Rep. John Conyers (D) of Michigan, the committee chairman, asked military officials why Postol's article had been classified.
A week later, the Pentagon issued a statement saying that the Postol investigation had been discontinued because it could not be determined whether the professor's article was based on his own knowledge of physics or on classified information. "We didn't say he was completely blameless, we just said we wouldn't take any further action," says Maj. Peter Keating, an Army spokesman. He "emphatically denies" that there was any effort to intimidate Postol.
But Representative Conyers said in a statement: "Using the classification system to suppress public debate about the performance of the Patriot Air Defense System is just not acceptable."