[fa.arms-d] Arms-Discussion Digest V3 #50

arms-d@ucbvax.ARPA (06/25/85)

From: The Arms-D Moderator (Harold Ancell) <ARMS-D@MIT-MC.ARPA>

Arms-Discussion Digest Volume 3 : Issue 50
Today's Topics:

                Nuclear Terrorism & Doomsday Machines
                          Star Wars Software
                        Star Wars Arms Control
                 Detecting Nukes -- Is It Possible ?

Date: Sun, 23 Jun 85 18:30:51 pdt
From: Phil Lapsley <phil%ucbarpa@Berkeley>
Subject: Nuclear Terrorism

     A book which covers this subject, as well as many other ones
relating to nuclear weapons and power, is "The Curve of Binding
Energy" by John McPhee.  It is a sort of biography of Ted Taylor,
a theoretical physicist who worked on bombs at Los Alamos -- Taylor
is quite concerned about the possibility that terrorists could
build a nuclear weapon.

     If anyone knows what Taylor is up to these days, I'd appreciate
hearing about it.  Last I heard he was running his own company,
IRT (something like International Research Technology), but that was
about 1972 or so.  IRT does nuclear safety consulting, I believe.

					Phil Lapsley
				(...!ucbvax!phil; phil@Berkeley.ARPA)


Date: Sun, 23 Jun 85 23:44:02 EDT
From: Herb Lin <LIN@MIT-MC.ARPA>
Subject:  Nuclear Terrorism & Doomsday Machines

    From: Wayne McGuire <mdc.wayne%MIT-OZ at MIT-MC.ARPA>
         From _The New York Times_, 6/22/85, p. 28, by Richard Halloran:

         Specialists on terrorism and nuclear arms say that terrorists
    could obtain nuclear explosives with relative ease and that it may
    be only a matter of time before they do so....

         In a paper prepared for a conference here on nuclear
    terrorism, Mr. O'Keeefe asserts that smuggling nuclear explosives
    is not difficult.  ``A very powerful device will fit into a small
    trunk and, properly disguised, would be much easier to handle than
    a bale of marijuana, to which our borders are virtually
    transparent,'' he says.

All of this is true.  However, the problem is getting the nuclear
explosive, not transporting it.  Terrorists can get the bomb either by
buying it, stealing it, or making it.  We can't stop any nuclear power
from selling one (or giving one) to someone, but I think the nuclear
powers are responsible enough to refrain from this one.  The purpose
of Permissive Action Links is to keep a stolen bomb from going off (it
gets disabled when the wrong code is punched in).  Finally, bombs are
damned hard to make, even if the raw material is (relatively) easy to get.

         Mr. O'Keefe, author of the book ``Nuclear Hostages,'' an
    examination of nuclear war and nuclear terror, says, ``I believe
    that the greatest threat to civilization today is the prospect of
    a terrorist-implemented nuclear explosion.''

In my view, this is just nonsense.  I believe that this is the most
likely possibility for a nuclear bomb to be used, but to believe that
it would mark the end of civilization is absurd.  It does NOT threaten
civlization in the way that a 10 gigaton war does.

(By the war, Nuclear Hostages is not particularly compelling.  O'Keefe
makes several wrong statements in it, and is not very convincing about
politics, strategy, or military affairs.)

    Mr. O'Keefe's remark, that ``a very powerful device will fit into
    a small trunk and, properly disguised, would be much easier to
    handle than a bale of marijuana, to which our borders are
    virtually transparent,'' seems to undercut a comment made a few
    months ago on Arms-d (was it by Herb Lin?) that a small nuclear
    crazy state would find it difficult, if not impossible, to strike
    out in desperation and rage at the entire world.

I don't remember making that claim, but I believe it.  A small nuclear
crazy state could not strike at the entire world -- only the US and
the SU can.  They might strike at someone, but not everyone.

    Perhaps we should be worrying a good deal more about the potential
    behavior of small crazy states and groups, especially those
    motivated by religious extremism and apocalyptic belief systems,
    and somewhat less about the plans and actions of the superpowers.

One nuclear detonation will change the world, but it won't destroy all
of us.  I am worried about nuclear terrorism, and even believe in
pre-emptive strike to eliminate it, but I repeat, the main problem is
10 gigatons and no way of crontolling them.


Date: 24 Jun 1985 0654-PDT
Subject: Star Wars software - Jacky piece in Alantic

In the June "Atlantic" there is an article titled "The 'Star Wars'
Defense Won't Compute" by Jonathan Jacky, rsearch Assistant Professor
at the University of Washington School of Medicine.  Some quotes:

"...DoD is now subordinating computer science to military needs as
completely as nuclear physics, aeronautics, and rocketry were
subordinated in the 1940s.  An unprecedented flow of DoD dollars
is intended, in the Pentagon's words, to 'push' and 'pull' the
nation's computer scientists into working on ' carefully selected
military applications' ... The Pentagon admits that 'the magnitude
of this national effort could represent a very large perturbation
to the university community'...

DARPA's intent to delegate to computers the authority to fire missile
interceptors was reiterated by Keyworth and by Robert Cooper [head
of DARPA], before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April of 1984.
As reported by the Seattle Times they testified that the proposed system
would need to be triggered on extraordinarily short notice.

'Who's going to make that decision ?' said [Senator Paul] Tsongas.

'We don't know,' said Keyworth.  'By the year 1990, it may be done

Later, according to an Associated Press account, 'Sen. Joseph Biden,
D-Del, pressed the issue over whether an error might provoke the
Soviets to launch a real attack.  'Let's assume the president himself
were to make a mistake...,' he said.  'Why ?' interrupted Cooper.
'We might have the technology so he couldn't make a mistake.' '
The underlying assumption seems here seems to be that with refinements
and elaborations the computers within warning-and-launch systems could
replace human observers and decision-makers - whose judgements do not
now depend completely on the correctness and reliability of those
computers.  Experience suggests that this is a fundemental
misconception, potentially a mortally dangerous one. ...

DoD is proposing the most difficult programming efforts yet attempted.
According tp the department's own estimates, the Star Wars programs
alone will comprise about ten million lines of code.  DoD ...
promises that the programs will 'operate reliably, safely, and

In fact nobody knows how to develop such programs.  As programs grow,
it becomes disproportionately more difficult to ensure that they are
correct.  A ten-thousand-line program is much more difficult to debug
as a one-thousand-line program, because the pieces may interact in
subtle ways.  Further, when more programmers must be put to work for a
longer time, there are additional opportunities for misunderstandings.
As Alan Borning explains about today's large programs, 'Usually there
is NOBODY who understands the entire system completely.' ...

however conscientious and thorough the testers [of the programs] may
be, they cannot test a program's performance in contingencies that
they cannot foresee.

As a result, [start italics in original] all large programs contain
undiscovered errors and omissions that come to light only after
prolonged experience in actual use. [end italics] ...

it is impossible to find all the bugs by analysis alone - the program
must be tested under actual conditions. ...

As for missile defense, Ira Kalet, a University of Washington
researcher in medical applications for AI, asks, 'Do we understand and
have experience with nuclear warfare ?  Do we want to gain this
experience ? ' "


Date: 24 Jun 85 12:10:22 EDT
From: Hank.Walker@CMU-CS-UNH
Subject: WSJ article on SDI

The real problem with the Wall Street Journal article is that it
focusses exclusively on lasers, particle beams, etc.  Computers aren't
even mentioned.  This isn't surprising since most of the debaters are
physicists.  I have yet to meet a computer scientist who has the
faintest idea of how to write 10M lines of reliable real-time code.
In a nine page article in the June Physics Today, the SDI chief
scientist gave battle management only one paragraph, and simply stated
that much of the software would have to be written and debugged by
machine, and exhaustively tested.  This is probably true if we want a
reliable system, but no one knows how to do it.

The software problem seems like the weakest part of SDI.  The
physicists at least have demonstration systems of lasers, etc.  The
article also stated that a "go, no go" decision would be made in the
early 1990s.  Given the rate of improvement in software engineering, I
doubt that we'll be able to say anything more about the software then
than today, even with things like the Software Engineering Institute.

Apart from political issues, why waste tens of billions on development
when decades of basic research lie ahead?


Date: Mon, 24 Jun 85 13:43:21 EDT
From: The Moderator, Harold Ancell <HGA@MIT-MC.ARPA>
Subject: Quanity of Code

Does anyone have any idea what DARPA is planning on doing with 10
million lines of code?  That strikes me as a completely excessive
quanity; perhaps some dreamers really are planning on taking men
completely out of the loop, something I really doubt we'll ever do.

One thing to remember when considering the undoubtly large quanity of
code to be written: while it is clear that the battle management code
can't be given a real test (which is a strong argument for having men
in the loop to correct problems in real time) the code for specific
weapons can be fully tested ahead of time.  If you doubt this can
work, remember that the space shuttle didn't blow up.  And please
don't bring up the initial syncronization problems they had.  A SDI
system won't be \that/ closely coupled; I would think they'd do
something like "ZapSat 57, take out all the missles rising from rocket
field FOO, and tell 58 if you have any left over.  ZapSat 58, get
those from ...."


Date: Mon, 24 Jun 85 13:43:21 EDT
From: Jeff Miller AMSTE-TOI 4675 <jmiller@apg-1>
Subject: Terrorism

Reply to Mr McGuire:
     I can agree with the contention that more needs to be understood
by the American public concerning the Near East- but that has nothing
to do with the question of what comprises uncivilised behavior.

     I believe you take cultural relativism perhaps a bit too far.
You bridle at my description of Nabih Berri as a thug and a terrorist,
and you repeatedly refer to him as a moderate.  Yes he is a moderate,
insofar as the Amal goes.  I suppose any Shiite terrorist who
threatens the lives of innocent hostages only after somebody else does
the dirty work of siezing them can be considered a moderate.  When it
comes to terrorism I dont give a damn how moderate, conservative, or
whatever a thug is within his own cultural context. If the nations of
the world can't decide what constitutes civilised behavior in absolute
terms we might as well hang it all up.
     - By the way, concerning the use of the word "thug"; I consider
terrorists the lowest of all human beings- I would love to express my
true descriptive feelings about this man, but decorum on a public
medium prevents me.  As far as I'm concerned, the only people anywhere
with a legitimate complaint at my use of the term to describe Berri
are- thugs.

     I sincerely doubt that the government officials you cited are as
convinced of Berri's honorableness as you seem to think.  What has
been said is that the U.S. holds him *responsible* for the lives of
the hostages. My reading of this is; "We know you and some other hard
to manage murderers are holding our citizens. You decided to milk this
incident for whatever vicarious esteem you thought you could get out
of it, so our sights are on you.  If anything happens to our people
you'd best change your name to Cohen and find a deep, dark hole."

     At this stage of the game I don't advocate the use of force
against the terrorists- this situation seems to have the hallmarks of
being solvable.  But lets not kid ourselves.  This man Berri might be
educated, articulate, and disarmingly concerned about our people's
safety. But no matter how wonderful he is, he is holding the hostages
under threat of death. That is terrorism, period. Terrorism is not
justified under any excuse- save me the alligator tears about the
terrible conditions and injustices which prompted Berri to become the
leader of a terrorist army.  If we start excusing such behavior due to
real and perceived injustices where are we left?  With all of the
problems involved in trying to build a counter-terrorist policy,
balancing the need to save hostages against future security, and other
hard questions, the last thing needed is for the public, inspired by
the media, to make romantic heroes out of thugs.

     --Since everyone from the KKK to TASS likes to take a shot at the
Israelis, I'll put in my $.002.  Yes, the Israelis invaded Lebanon,
and the results were disastrous for them. They should never have
stayed. Should they have invaded? I believe so.  While we sit on our
pampered American butts, the Israelis are at war.  A large scale
invasion into a neighboring geographic entity with no coherent
government to counter terrorist groups the size of conventional
brigades and divisions is reasonable to me.  Should they have taken
those Shiite men prisoner while withdrawing? No, I don't believe so.
But to compare their intentions, to release the prisoners gradually (
I challenge you to show me a report by even the most irresponsible of
journalists that the Israelis ever threatened to kill these men if
demands weren't met.) to the intentions of the poor, wronged Amal
terrorists, still hot and tired from the hard labor of massacring
their Palistinian brothers- No sir, your cries of "foul" in comparison
are exceedingly weak.  Is Ariel Sharon the mad-dog war criminal you
make him out to be?  He is a hawk.  He is insufferably obnoxious.  He
made a tactical blunder which led to the massacre of Palistinians by
Lebanese Christians.  Is he a terrorist?  Would he kill innocent
people in cold blood to prove a political point?  Berri would.  Maybe
if Sharon would you'd be sympathetic to him too?



Date: 24 Jun 1985 0651-PDT
Subject: Star Wars arms control

Senator Gore* recently proposed a scheme for bringing Star Wars into
the arms control process.  It's clear that research into Star Wars
technology cannot be adequately verified; what can be verified is
testing in space.  Both the US and USSR maintain extensive detection
and tracking systems for keeping track of objects outside the earth's
atmosphere; any attempt to position and test Star Wars type things
(mirrors, lasers, rail guns, etc.) should be fairly easy to detect.

It should not be hard to write extensions to the existing ABM treaty
controlling Star Wars component testing in space; such treaty
propvisions would go a long way toward preventing the arms race in
space toward which we now seem to be heading.

* - Gore proposed it in a recent Op Ed piece in the New York Times;
I can't put my hands on it right now.


Date:     Mon, 24 Jun 85 08:38 CDT
From:     Mike_Linnig <linnig%ti-eg.csnet@csnet-relay.arpa>
Subject:  Detecting Nukes -- Is it possible ?

Folks have talked about the danger of nuclear weapons being smuggled
into the country as easily as drugs are.  It seems that I have heard
of devices that the U.S. Government has that can detect the inherent
radiation that these devices generate.  I think it was in the "we've
placed a nuke somewhere in NY City" type scenerio.  The device would
be flown over the city and could confirm that there was a bomb down
there somewhere (perhaps even locate it).

Can anyone confirm that such detectors are possible, or that they

Could we not ring our border with them, to prevent the smuggling of
nukes into our country ?

	-- Mike Linnig

[End of ARMS-D Digest]