Antony C. Sutton

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Suppression of information critical of the Soviet Union and our military assistance to the Soviets may be traced in the State Department files from this 1917 House cable down to the present day, when export licenses issued for admittedly military equipment exports to the USSR are not available for public information. In fact, Soviet sources must be used to trace the impact of some American technology on Soviet military development. The Soviet Register of Shipping, for example, publishes the technical specifications of main engines in Russian vessels (including country of manufacture): this information is not available from U.S. official sources. In November 1971, Krasnaya Zvezda published an article with specific reference to the contribution of the basic Soviet industrial structure to the Soviet military power — a contribution that representatives of the U.S. Executive Branch have explicitly denied to the public and to Congress.

Even today U.S. assistance to the Soviet military-industrial complex and its weapons systems cannot be documented from open U.S. sources alone because export license memoranda are classified data. Unless the technical nature of our shipments to the USSR is known, it is impossible to determine their contribution to the Soviet military complex. The national security argument is not acceptable as a defense for classification because the Soviets know what they are buying. So does the United States government. So do U.S. firms. So do the deaf mute blindmen. The group left out in the cold is the American taxpayer-voter.

From time to time bills have been introduced in Congress to make export-license information freely available. These bills have never received Administration support. Nonavailability of current information means that decisions affecting all Americans are made by a relatively few government officials without impartial outside scrutiny, and under political pressure from internationlist businessmen. In many cases these decisions would not be sustained if subjected to public examination and criticism. It is argued by policy-makers that decisions affecting national security and international relations cannot be made in a goldfish bowl. The obvious answer to this is the history of the past seventy years: we have had one catastrophic international problem after another — and in the light of history, the outcome would have been far less costly if the decisions had been made in a goldfish bowl.

For instance, little more than a decade after House’s appeal to Wilson, Senator Smoot inquired of the State Department about the possible military end-uses of an aluminum powder plant to be erected in the Soviet Union by W. Hahn, an American engineer. State Department files contain a recently declassified document which states why no reply was ever given to Senator Smoot:

No reply was made to Senator Smoot by the Department as the Secretary did not desire to indicate that the Department had no objection to the rendering by Mr. Hahn of technical assistance to the Soviet authorities in the production of aluminum powder, in view of the possibility of its use as war material, and preferred to take no position at the time in regard to the matter.7

Congressional action in the Freedom on Information Act and administrative claims of speedy declassification have not changed this basic situation. Major significant documents covering the history of the past seventy years are buried, and they will remain buried until an outraged public opinion puts some pressure on Congress.

Congress has on the other hand investigated and subsequently published several reports on the export of strategic materials to the Soviet Union. One such instance, called “a life and death matter” by Congress, concerned the proposed shipment of ball bearing machines to the USSR.8 The Bryant Chucking Grinder Company accepted a Soviet order for thirty-five Centalign-B machines for processing miniature ball bearings. All such precision ball bearings in the United States, used by the Department of Defense for missile guidance systems, were processed on seventy-two Bryant Centalign Model-B machines.

In 1961 the Department of Commerce approved export of thirty-five such machines to the USSR, which would have given the Soviets capability about equal to 50 percent of the U.S. capability.

The Soviets had no equipment for such mass production processing, and neither the USSR nor any European manufacturer could manufacture such equipment. A Department of Commerce statement that there were other manufacturers was shown to be inaccurate. Commerce proposed to give the Soviet Union an ability to use its higher-thrust rockets with much greater accuracy and so pull ahead of the United States. Subsequently, a congressional investigation yielded accurate information not otherwise available to independent nongovernment researchers and the general public.

Congressional investigations have also unearthed extraordinary “errors” of judgment by high officials. For example, in 1961 a dispute arose in U.S. government circles over the “Transfermatic Case” — a proposal to ship to the USSR two transfer lines (with a total value of $4.3 million) for the production of truck engines.

In a statement dated February 23, 1961, the Department of Defense went on record against shipment of the transfer lines on the grounds that “the technology contained in these Transfermatic machines produced in the United States is the most advanced in the world,” and that “so far as this department knows, the USSR has not installed this type of machinery. The receipt of this equipment by the USSR will contribute to the Soviet military and economic warfare potential.” This argument was arbitrarily overturned by the incoming Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Secretary McNamara did not allow for the known fact that most Soviet military trucks came from two American-built plants even then receiving equipment from the United States. The Transfermatic machines approved by McNamara had clear and obvious military uses — as the Department of Defense had previously argued. Yet McNamara allowed them to go forward.

Yet another calculated deception of the American public can be traced to the Johnson Administration. In 1966 the U.S. Department of State produced a beautiful, extravagantly illustrated brochure of American hand tools. This was printed in Russian, for distribution in Russia, with a preface — in Russian — by Lyndon Johnson. Requests to the State Department for a copy of this brochure went unanswered. The book is not listed in official catalogues of government publications. It is not available or even known to the general public. No printer’s name appears on the back cover. The publisher is not listed. The author obtained a copy from Russia. Here is the preface:

Hand Tools — USA9

Welcome to the “Hand Tools — USA” exhibit — the eighth consecutive exhibit arranged for citizens of the Soviet Union.

At this exhibit you will see samples of various hand tools currently manufactured in the United States — tools that facilitate manual work and make it possible to produce better-quality industrial goods at a much lower cost.

Since the very early days of the history of our country, Americans of all ages have worked with hand tools. In industry and at home, in factories and on farms, in workshops and schools, the hand tool has become indispensable in our lives.

Some of these tools have retained their original simplicity of design; others have acquired entirely new forms and are now used to perform new functions.

We sincerely hope that this exhibit will lead to a better understanding of the American people and their way of life.

/s/ Lyndon B. Johnson

Why all the secrecy? Imagine the public reaction in 1966, when the Soviets were supplying the North Viets with weapons to kill Americans (over 5,000 were killed that year), if it had become known that the State Department had published lavish booklets in Russian for free distribution in Russia at taxpayers’ expense.

However, the point at issue is not the wisdom of publication, but the wisdom of concealment. The public is not told because the public might protest. In other words, the public cannot be trusted to see things in the same light as the policymakers, and the policymakers are unwilling to defend their positions.

Further, what would have been the domestic political consequences if it had been known that a U.S. President had signed a document in Russian, lavishly produced at the taxpayers’ expense for free distribution in Russia, while Russian weapons were killing Americans in Vietnam with assistance from our own deaf mute blindmen? The citizen-taxpayer does not share the expensive illusions of the Washington elite., The political reaction by the taxpayer, and his few supporters in Congress, would have been harsh and very much to the point.

The Deaf Mute Blindmen

The key party interested in concealment of information about our export to the Soviet Union is, of course, the American firms and individuals prominently associated with such exports, i.e., the deaf mute blindmen themselves.

In general, the American public has a basic right to know what is being shipped and who is shipping it, if the Soviets are using the material against us. The public also has a right to know about the personal interests of presidential appointees and previous employment with firms prominent in trade with the USSR.

Until recently, the firms involved could publicly claim ignorance of the use to which the Soviets put imported Western technology. It is not a good claim, but it was made. From the 1970’s on, ignorance of end-use is not a valid claim. The evidence is clear, overwhelming, and readily available: the Soviets have used American technology to kill Americans and their allies.

The claim that publication of license information would give undue advantage to competitors is not the kind of argument that an honest businessman would make. It is only necessary to publish certain basic elementary information: date, name of firm, amount, destination in the USSR, and a brief statement of the technical aspects. Every industry has a “grapevine” and potential business in an industry is always common knowledge.

In any event, suppose there was adverse comment about a particular sale to the Soviets? Is this a bad thing? If our policies are indeed viable, why fear public opinion? Or are certain sectors of our society to be immune from public criticism?

Soviet dependency on our technology, and their use of this technology for military purposes, could have been known to Congress on a continuing basis in the 1950s and 1960s if export license information had been freely available. The problem was suspected, but the compilation of the proof had to wait several decades until the evidence became available from Soviet sources. In the meantime, Administration and business spokesmen were able to make absurd statements to Congress without fear of challenge. In general, only those who had already made up their minds that Soviet trade was desirable had access to license information. These were the deaf mute blindmen only able to see their own conception of events and blind to the fact that we had contributed to construction of Soviet military power.

In 1968, for example, the Gleason Company of Rochester, New York shipped equipment to the Gorki automobile plant in Russia, a plant previously built by the Ford Motor Company. The information about shipment did not come from ‘the censored licenses but from foreign press sources. Knowledge of license application for any equipment to be used to Gorki would have elicited vigorous protests to Congress. Why? Because the Gorki plant produces a wide range of military vehicles and equipment. Many of the trucks used on the Ho Chi Minh trail were GAZ vehicles from Gorki. The rocket-launchers used against Israel are mounted on GAZ-69 chassis made at Gorki. They have Ford-type engines made at Gorki.

full book here