JASON Group | Membership list
Part-time defense think tank for university professors
The JASON scholars are a select group of scientists who conduct studies for different parts of the U.S. government. The group is referred to as the JASON Defense Advisory Group or simply the JASON Group. Today their headquarters are located at the JASON Program Office at the MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit federally funded research and development company.
JASON was founded in 1958-1959 by scientists as Sidney Drell, Kenneth Watson, John Wheeler, Charles Townes and Marvin Goldberger (1). It was created as a special part-time division within the newly-established Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a federally-funded academic think tank that acted as a counterweight to research done by the different military branches, private corporations and the CIA. According to the official history of IDA:
"IDA traces its roots to 1947, when Secretary of Defense James Forrestal established the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group (WSEG) to provide technical analyses of weapons systems and programs. In the mid-1950s, the Secretary of Defense [Charles E. Wilson] and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff [likely Admiral Radford] asked the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to form a civilian, nonprofit research institute. The Institute would operate under the auspices of a university consortium to attract highly qualified scientists to assist WSEG in addressing the nation's most challenging security problems... IDA only works for the government... IDA does not work directly for the military departments... IDA does not work for private industry." (2)
To provide a bit more detail: In 1956, James R. Killian Jr., president of the MIT Corporation and a close associate of Vannevar Bush, suggested to Eisenhower that the country's best scientific talents should be brought together in an effort to break all Russian encryption systems. In response, Eisenhower appointed Bell Labs president of research, Dr. William O. Baker, as head of a commission to see what could be done with Killian's proposal. In February 1957, the Baker Commission announced its support for Killian and one of the responses of Eisenhower and his secretary of defense, Charles E. Wilson*, was to ask Killian, as president of MIT, to set up the Institute for Defense Analyses, which was to be done in cooperation with such universities as Caltech, Columbia and Stanford. Vannevar Bush, who used to be vice president of MIT before the war, briefly returned to MIT to take the chairmanship, from 1957 to 1959.
* Wilson was CEO of General Motors and proposed a "permanent war economy" after WWII to prevent another great depression. Together with John Foster Dulles he had been responsible for picking the committee members that turned the Psychological Strategy Board into the Operations Coordinating Board.
The purpose of IDA was to take over WSEG from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to supply it with new ideas and technology concepts. Killian became chairman of the board of trustees of IDA. Other early members of the think tank were Eric A. Walker, mainly associated with the Office of Naval Research, and later JASON scholar Charles H. Townes, who had recently co-invented the maser, the predecessor of the laser. Both became leading officers of IDA, just as General Maxwell D. Taylor and the CIA's Richard M. Bissell, Jr. in later years. Someone like Admiral Harry Train also became involved with IDA after his retirement, although only as a regular trustee. The official history of IDA continues:
"In 1958, at the request of the Secretary of Defense, IDA established a division to support the newly created Advanced Research Projects Agency. Shortly thereafter, the mandate of this division was broadened to include scientific and technical studies for all offices of the Director of Defense, Research and Engineering. Subsequent divisions were established to provide cost analyses, computer software and engineering, strategy and force assessments, and operational test and evaluation... Throughout its history, IDA also has assisted other federal agencies." (3)
Although several subsidiary groups were created within IDA, it is almost certain that the newly created division to support the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA; later DARPA) was the JASON Group. ARPA appears on JASON documents under the heading 'Controlling Office Name' and JASON was created in the same 1958-1959 time period. IDA also talks about the mandate of the division expanding to perform studies for the DoD and such, which is also what happened with the JASON Group.
Three different JASON studies: 1967, 1978, and 1988. JASON started out at IDA. SRI became independent of Stanford University in 1970 and at this moment JASON might have moved over there until about 1978-1979 when its headquarters were relocated again, this time to the MITRE Corporation. A leaked 1973 membership list of the JASON Group, which is accurate, shows JASON had already been incorporated within SRI in 1973.
The above compilation of three different JASON studies shows how the organization it was part of changed over time (4). In the late 1960s it was incorporated within IDA; in the late 1970s it had been moved to Stanford Research Institute International (SRI); and in the late 1980s the JASONs had become part of the MITRE Corporation. Most studies were commissioned by DARPA, but other contractors have been the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army Research Office, the NRO, and a few other organizations.
James Killian was the most central player in the creation of all these civilian research institutions under Eisenhower. He not only founded IDA in 1957, but also the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), both of which he became chairman. In 1958, he founded ARPA and as head of IDA, he approved the proposal to create the JASON Group. In 1958, Killian was also asked to create the Communications Research Division (CRD) within IDA, a Princeton-located top secret think tank for the NSA. Then, in 1959, Killian oversaw the creation of MITRE. He became a trustee of MITRE in 1960 and from 1967 to 1969 he was chairman of the board of trustees of this think tank, which was very similar to IDA and RAND. He remained on the board until 1982. In 1960, together with the earlier-mentioned William O. Baker and JASON scholars Richard Garwin and Sidney Drell, Killian was a co-founder of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), an intelligence agency that remained secret for about a decade; although its existence was only announced officially after the Cold War had ended (5). Back in 1957, Vannevar Bush is said to have suggested Killian as the follow-up of defense secretary Charles E. Wilson. That didn't go through as Neil McElroy became Eisenhower's new secretary of defense.
Vannevar Bush was chairman of MIT from 1957 to 1959 and would be followed up by Killian. Both had long careers at MIT. Killian was involved in founding PSAC, DARPA, MITRE, NRO, IDA, JASON, CRD, and possibly IDA's Research and Engineering Support Division and its Economic and Political Studies Division. JASON, as a part time group, would do studies for many of these organizations.
Most JASON studies have to do with the development of new cutting edge technology concepts for the electronic battlefield. The contractors evaluate the papers written by JASON members and then decide whether or not to do something with it. Many other studies have to do with the nuclear weapons arsenal. In the early 1990s, a couple of studies were done on climate change; in the mid 1990s studies started into the human genome; and still a couple of years later this science was combined with nanotechnology. Almost all studies are conducted to see if these technologies can be used to maintain a military advantage over the enemy. Recent studies have also involved the concept of Homeland Security. A good example of this is the 2002-2003 study 'Biodetection Architectures'. Since a lot of JASONs are university professors, most studies are conducted in the summer months when students are on leave. It is believed that each year about 15 studies are conducted, half of them classified. A study can be done by as little as two or three JASON members to as many as 17 or 18.
In the JASON membership list you will find 11 Nobel prize winners, usually received for achievements in physics (6). The vast majority of JASONs have Ph.D.'s in this field although some have chosen to specialize in electrical engineering, mathematics, oceanography, chemistry, or biological sciences. Generally, JASONs, especially the older ones, are very well rounded and can be involved in a wide variety of studies spanning multiple decades. One of its founders, Sidney Drell, was still active in 2003. Freeman Dyson is another member whose career with the JASONs spans four decades. Some other long time members are Stanley Flatte, Richard Garwin, Curtis Callan, and Alvin Despain. These were active since the 1970s or the early eighties and were still performing studies at the beginning of the 21th century. According to different sources, JASON consisted of about 45 to 50 members at any given time. Counting the members manually per decade in the membership list confirms that and seems to indicate the list is almost complete. Information about the 1960s remains scarce though, but the group started out with about 15 members and rapidly expanded. The universities below are represented by the 119 JASON members that can be found in the membership list. The list below refers to the universities these individual JASON
Princeton, Princeton (NJ) 14%
Stanford, Silicon Valley (CA) 13%
Harvard, Boston 8%
MIT, Boston 8%
Columbia, New York 7%
Cornell, Ithaca (NY) 4%
Rockefeller, New York 2%
Yale, New Haven 1%
Dartmouth, Hanover (NH) 1%
members have been employed, not where they got their education.
Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, Caltech, the Scripps Institution for Oceanography, and a bunch of faculties in the Los Angeles area are all managed by the University of California. This is one reason for the large amount JASONs affiliated with this university. A second reason is that Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore are the most important labs in the United States for research in nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, which has always been a primary occupation of JASON members. The South-West is also the location where most of the weapons systems and other cutting edge technology is
developed. Stanford, although many times smaller than the UC complex, is another university really focused on science and technology. It is located right in the middle of Silicon Valley and quite a few JASON members have been employed at its Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC); and more often than not, they held the senior positions. Another significant portion of JASON members have been employed at Princeton and some of its most veteran members worked at the physics lab of this university: Curtis Callan, Freeman Dyson, and Francis Perkins. They were all active for JASON from the sixties or the early seventies until the turn of the century. Another prominent physicist at Princeton was John Wheeler.
Most JASONs never played any significant role in politics. There are a few exceptions of course and these exceptions tend to be members of the Council on Foreign Relations. Of the 119 individuals in the membership list, only 11 are members of the CFR. These 11 are the ones who usually chair all kinds of national science committees, advise presidents on scientific matters, and work for a variety of large corporations. Non-CFR JASONs often have impressive biographies too, but they tend to focus on other things than Washington politics or Wall Street business.
Even though there are not a whole lot, below you can find a short list of some of the more interesting individuals in the JASON Group. Take a look at the membership list for additional details.
Name JASON Description
Luis W. Alvarez 60's-70's Developed the detonators for 'Fat Man' during the Manhattan Project. On board the Enola Gay as it dropped the bomb. Pushed for the development of thermo-nuclear weapons. Together with J. Allen Hynek he was a member of the January 1953 Durant Panel Report in which the recent UFO waves were debunked as paranoia and considered no threat to national security. According to the panel the phenomenon should be ignored because the "irrelevant reports" were "clogging the channels of communication". According to Hynek the Pentagon wouldn't allow any other position on the subject. Joined the board board of IDA and stayed until 1967. In 1965, Alvarez X-rayed the great pyramid of Khafre (Giza) in search for hidden chambers. Initially the team reported all kinds of anomalous behavior which made their data unreadable, but quickly thereafter they reported that there weren't any problems. Analyzed the Zapruder film in 1967, which convinced the Church Committee in 1976 that Kennedy's headshot could have been caused by a bullet from behind, indicating Oswald was the sole assassin. Received the Nobel Prize in 1968. In 1980, together with his son, Alvarez published the theory that an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Lewis M. Branscomb 1960's Recipient of the Vannevar Bush Award of the National Science Board and the Rockefeller Public Service Award in 1957. Vice president and chief scientist of IBM Corporation. Director at IBM. President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) 1964–1968. Has been a director of Mobil Corp., RAND, MITRE, Lord Corp., C.S. Draper Laboratories and Arcturus Pharmaceutical. Member of the American Ditchley Foundation. Prominent in the War on Terror movement since 9/11.
Sidney D. Drell 60's - 21th Member of the CFR and the President's Science Advisory Committee (PASC). Co founder of the NRO and the JASON Group. Worked with the CIA. Member National Security Council. Very influential individual, especially in things pertaining to the nuclear weapons arsenal.
Richard L. Garwin 60's - 21th Co founder of the NRO. Director of Science and Technology of the CFR. Served on the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) and chaired its panels on Military Aircraft, Anti-submarine and Naval Warfare. Informed Henry Kissinger on certain science topics. Expert in electromagnetic weaponry, but admitted he didn't have access to all the of the compartmented programs that are going on.
Murray Gell-Mann 60's - 80's Received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1969 for his work in creating the 'standard model' in physics. Concerned with global policy matters such as population growth, conservation and biodiversity, sustainable economic development, and geopolitical stability. Co-chairman of the Science Board of the Santa Fe Institute. Member of the CFR and the Royal Society of London. Trustee of the World Conservation Society together with the Astors, Rockefellers, Phipps, Schiffs and other elite Pilgrims Society families. In February 2006, Gell-Mann attended The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas, a benefit for the James Randi Educational Foundation. Phil Plait (the "bad astronomer" and nemesis of Richard Hoagland) also spoke at the conference.
Joshua Lederberg 1980's Member of the CFR. Throughout his career a science advisor to the government and employed by the Rockefellers. President of the Rockefeller University 1978-1990. Chairman of Jimmy Carter's President's Cancer Panel in 1979. In 1994, he headed the Defense Science Board Task Force on Persian Gulf War Health Effects, which investigated Gulf War Syndrome. It concluded that there was no evidence of a "specific Gulf War Syndrome" and no evidence of biochemical exposures.
Gordon J.F. MacDonald 70's - 90's Member of the CFR. Consultant to NASA. President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC). Expert in weather control technology who predicted it would be able to cause droughts or severe rain by the year 2018. In the 1970s, according to Nexus Magazine, Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote: "Political strategists are tempted to exploit research on the brain and human behavior. Geophysicist Gordon J. F. MacDonald-specialist in problems of warfare-says accurately-timed, artificially-excited electronic strokes 'could lead to a pattern of oscillations that produce relatively high power levels over certain regions of the Earth... In this way, one could develop a system that would seriously impair the brain performance of very large populations in selected regions over an extended period..."
William A. Nierenberg 70's - 90's Member of the CFR. Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography from 1965 to 1986. Member of the Board of Science Advisors at Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP). Science advisor to NATO and the U.S. State Department. Served on the advisory board of the Electric Power Research Institute. Chairman of the first National Academy of Sciences study (1983-1984) on the greenhouse effect, possible sea-level rises, and climate change, which was conducted in the early part of the eighties (titled: 'Changing Climate' and 'Acid Rain'). Frequent visitor of New York and well known at the Rockefeller University. He was a protege of Detlev Bronk, president of the Rockefeller University.
Back in early 1970s there was a group called Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action (SESPA). They criticized the JASONs for their support of the Vietnam war. Some myths were helped in the world by this group, mainly that the JASONs were an "elite group" with "extremely high levels" of clearance. They indicated that JASONs had above top secret clearances by adding that "Top Secret is a low level of clearance" (7).
JASON scholar Richard Garwin, director of Science and Technology at the CFR, basically summarizes the story of JASON in the following statement:
"In my analyses of the effect of radiowaves on people [for the DoD], I have never found any significant effect other than heating of the tissues... So I don't think there is much in the threat of electromagnetic signals to control or disorient people by the effect on the human brain... [but] there are always 'compartments' to which even people with high-level security clearances do not have access." (
Most JASONs do not have any significant background in the military, in intelligence or as engineers and directors in private defense-oriented corporations as TRW, Lockheed, Northop, E-Systems, Bechtel or SAIC. Quite a bit of evidence has surfaced to indicate this is where all the real action has been going on, at least since the 1950s and 1960s. In case of electromagnetics, someone like Col. John Alexander would be much better suited to be put in charge of these black projects. Not only his high level background in Military Intelligence would qualify him for that, but also his controversial history and associates at, for example, the US Global Security Council, a private institution filled with generals, admirals, directors of every intelligence agency, SAIC executives, politicians, hawkish neoconservatives, Opus Dei members, Knights of Malta and supporters of the Unification Church. Edward Teller, a friend of Col. Alexander, used to be a member of that think tank (9).
The career of JASON scholar Luis W. Alvarez, one of the more interesting early members. Update, Dec. 2008: Alvarez was also part of a Los Alamos committee in 1979 which in all likelyhood covered up Israeli nuclear bomb tests in the Indian Ocean by claiming the detected flashes could have been due to "unusual weather conditions". (2006, Michael Karpin, 'The Bomb in the Basement'). It is known that one of Alvarez's colleagues, the rabid anti-communist hardliner and father of the hydrogen bomb, Edward Teller, was close to the Israeli leadership and advised this country on nuclear matters. It is also known that Israel received enormous support from elements in French and U.S. intelligence in setting up a secret nuclear weapon program.
A small portion of the JASONs might have been privy to the nation's biggest secrets back in the 1950s and maybe 1960s, but there's no indication of that in the past few decades. They are a group of university professors doing defense-oriented research for the DoD on a part-time basis. Their papers indicate they are working on what is generally considered the cutting edge of science; but these are still the kind of things you can read about in every popular science magazine. It's a far cry from technology descriptions that have come from the deep black programs located in the military-industrial complex. The problem of course of that last category is that you can never be completely sure where misinformation and disinformation ends and reliable statements begin. In any case, the academic-civilian structure from which JASON emerged remains interesting as this was established during the exact time when president Eisenhower is said to have lost control over the blackest programs within the US government. As the story goes, his intention was that the civilian-government structure, represented by such institutions as IDA and MITRE, were at all times aware of the nation's deepest secrets. Something seems to have gone wrong with that idea (10), hence Eisenhower's last speech to the nation in January 1961 in which he warned for the rise of the military-industrial complex. An excerpt of that speech can be read in the column on the left.
References February 10, 1986, American Institute of Physics, Interview with Kenneth M. Watson (Drell is mentioned as a co-founder in some of his biographies)
 2005, Institute for Defense Analyses, IDA's History
 Federation of American Scientists (FAS), 'JASON Defense Advisory Panel Reports'
 August 18, 2000, NRO news, 'NRO Honors Pioneers of National Reconnaissance'
 Storming Media, 'MITRE CORP MCLEAN VA JASON PROGRAM OFFICE'
If you click on the link to Storming Media you will find a list of JASON studies. In each individual description you can find several of the authors. When you compare all these names with other sources you'll find the same names. It turned out to be so easy it's almost embarrasing.
 December 1972, Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action (SESPA), 'Science Against the People - The Story of Jason'
 Email conversation between Mind Justice and Richard Garwin
 More information and sources in PEHI's article on Le Cercle
 Disclosure Project testimony of Master Sergeant Dan Morris, USAF (Retired)/ NRO Operative:
"Now, Eisenhower wanted somebody to be in charge, he tried the CIA Director, and it didn’t work. The CIA was working primarily for itself. Most of the intelligence directors of the services were working for themselves. So he said, “I want it to be independent, I want it to be civilian. I want it to be some of our top scientists.” So it was organized but the name of the NRO was kept secret for years."
Disclosure Project testimony of Brigadier General Steven Lovekin, who was part of Eisenhower's and Kennedy's staff:
"I served under Eisenhower from May of 1959 until he got out of office and then I served under Kennedy until I left the service in August of 1961... Bluebook was discussed quite openly in the office... One afternoon when we were just about ready to finish up training, Colonel Holomon brought out a piece of what appeared to be metallic debris... He went on to further explain that this was the material that had come from a New Mexico crash in 1947 of an extraterrestrial craft... When he would get these [UFO] reports it would excite him [Eisenhower]. He was just a kid. He would get so excited and give orders like D-day was happening all over again. He was very, very interested in the shapes and sizes of the UFOs and what made them go... But what happened was that Eisenhower got sold out. Without him knowing it he lost control of what was going on with the entire UFO situation... I think he felt like he trusted too many people. And Eisenhower was a trusting man. He was a good man. And I think that he realized that all of a sudden this matter is going into the control of corporations that could very well act to the detriment of this country. This frustration, from what I can remember, went on for months. He realized that he was losing control of the UFO subject. He realized that the phenomenon or whatever it was that we were faced with was not going to be in the best hands. As far as I can remember, that was the expression that was used, “It is not going to be in the best hands”."
Additional references  March 1967, Jason Division of IDA, 'Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Southeast Asia'
 March 3, 1968, New York Times, Sane Bids the U.S. Uphold Atom Ban'
 April 29, 1972, New York Times, 'Lab Occupation Ends'
 June 6, 1985, Washington Post, 'CIA Studies Sub Vulnerability'
 November 12, 1985, LA Times, 'Scientists Dispute Test of X-Ray Laser Weapon Livermore Lab...'
 June 4, 1986, LA Times, 'X-Ray Laser Test Data Inaccurate, GAO Study Finds'
 June 20, 1986, LA Times, 'Defense Expert Physicist Expected to Be Named as Scripps Director'
 February 18, 1990, Washington Post, 'Board Responded to a Narrow Question'
 November 1994, JASON & The MITRE Corporation report, 'Science Based Stockpile Stewardship' (JSR-94-345)
 August 4, 1995, JASON & The MITRE Corporation report about Nuclear Testing (JSR-95-320)
 August 15, 1995, Washington Post, 'Relevancy, at Last'
 October 1, 1995, Washington Times, 'Should we sign on to a nuclear test ban treaty?'
 October 28, 1995, San Francisco Chronicle, 'Bechtel Lands Nuclear Test Job'
 November 26, 1997, Washington Times, 'Ratifying the nuclear test ban treaty is a step toward nonproliferation'
 September 27, 1999, United Press International, 'US Not Ready for Bio-War Attack'
 December 17, 1999, LA Times, 'Adrift at a Tender Age'
 September 18, 2001, San Francisco, Chronicle, 'Bacteria, viruses pose grave threat, experts say'
 March 9, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle, 'Battlefield nukes Secret Vietnam-era report, just declassified, highlighted dangers'
 March 9, 2003, LA Times, 'MILITARY STRATEGY; Making the Case Against Calamity'
 March 9, 2003, LA Times, 'NUCLEAR WEAPONS; A Bad Idea in Vietnam, an Even Worse Idea Today'
 March 9, 2003, Washington Post, ''67 Study Discouraged Use of Nuclear Weapons in Vietnam War'
 December 15, 2004, United Press International, 'Report: Govt secrecy hurting warfighters'
 December 19, 2004, United Press International, 'Group slams unwieldy security'
 May 26, 2005, FAS, 'JASON on Sensors to Support the Soldier'
 Wikipedia, 'JASON Defense Advisory Group'
Author: JoŽl van der Reijden
Original: August 20, 2005
Version 2.0: November 17, 2006
All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately