Friday, June 09, 2017

The Suspect

Once master atom bomb spy Klaus Fuchs had been revealed the FBI started looking hard for the "other" spy they had reason to believe was at Los Alamos. Suspicion fell upon uber hawk Edward Teller.

Teller was a “close associate of . . . Fuchs at Los Alamos.” Mici Teller had traveled to Mexico City with Fuchs and Rudolf and Genia Peierls “in the latter part of 1945.” “The Tellers had Fuchs at their home for dinner when Fuchs returned to this country in 1947.” “Dr. Teller had considerable contact with Fuchs in England in the summer of 1949.” Besides his affiliation with Fuchs, Teller also had recommended for postwar graduate study at the University of Chicago a man with whom he had worked at Los Alamos who “has been identified as a Soviet espionage agent while at Los Alamos.” Teller’s name had appeared on a list of possible espionage recruits that the man had compiled.1983 Teller had traveled to New York during the time periods bracketed in the NKVD cable decode and “made frequent trips away from the Los Alamos Project and could have furnished information to the Russians on a regular basis.” And, oddly, “Dr. Teller is outspoken against furnishing atomic energy information to Russia, which appears strange in view of the fact that his parents and other relatives are in Hungary under Communist domination.”

Had its agents investigated further, the FBI could have learned much more about Edward Teller that might have appeared suspicious. Teller had refused to work on important implosion calculations at Los Alamos in the spring and summer of 1944 and his refusal had led directly to the decision to bring British scientists, including Klaus Fuchs, to Los Alamos. Teller had left Los Alamos to return to private life in 1946 even though he was the leading theoretician responsible for thermonuclear work; his departure had undoubtedly delayed the progress of that work. Teller had insisted on the development of a particular design of thermonuclear weapon, the Super, which had not been determined to be feasible on basic physical principles, when another design, his Alarm Clock, was unquestionably feasible on basic physical principles. The Super design Teller had insisted upon Los Alamos pursuing had recently been shown to be almost certainly inadequate. He had continued to insist on its development, and had encouraged a major commitment of people and funds which the President himself had endorsed, even though the Super was at best a marginal design and even though its development would deprive the country of a large number of atomic bombs which might otherwise be produced. Adding hypothetical charges such as these to the evidence it had already assembled of Teller’s associations with Fuchs, the FBI might have built a powerful case that the brooding, volatile Hungarian-born physicist was a Soviet spy.

Rhodes, Richard. Dark Sun: The Making Of The Hydrogen Bomb (pp. 429-430). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Rhodes adds:

Teller and like-minded patriots such as Lewis Strauss and William Borden would not hesitate to compile similarly hypothetical charges against Robert Oppenheimer in the years to come.

Rhodes, Richard. Dark Sun: The Making Of The Hydrogen Bomb (p. 430). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

And that's about as close as Rhodes comes to dissing any of the atom scientists.