Copyright 2000 National Broadcasting Co. Inc.
NBC News Transcripts
SHOW: SATURDAY TODAY (7:00 AM ET)
July 8, 2000, Saturday
LENGTH: 585 words
JOHN PIKE DISCUSSES FAILURE OF MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM
ANCHORS: DAVID BLOOM; SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
DAVID BLOOM, co-host:
On CLOSE UP this morning, the controversial national missile defense system.
Overnight the Pentagon suffered a major setback when a crucial test of the
proposed missile shield ended in failure. Will the $ 60 billion system
designed to protect the United
States from nuclear attack ever be built? Among the leading critics is
John Pike, defense analyst with the Federation of American Scientists. Good morning, Mr.
JOHN PIKE (Federation of American Scientists): Good morning, David.
BLOOM: As simply as you can, explain to us what happened last night. Why did
this test fail?
Mr. PIKE: Well, what happened is this is a three-stage interceptor. The
booster fired successfully, apparently the second stage fired successfully, but
then the third stage, the part that's actually supposed to collide with the
bomb, didn't separate from the second stage, so the whole thing fell into the
BLOOM: What does the...
Mr. PIKE: ...it never attempted to do an intercept.
BLOOM: And what does the failure of this intercept say to you, a leading critic
of this plan?
Mr. PIKE: Well, what it says to me is that this is obviously an enormously
system, far more complex than any other weapons system that we've built to
date. There are an awful lot of things that can go wrong, and even in these
extremely simple tests a lot of those things are going wrong.
BLOOM: Mr. Pike, earlier...
Mr. PIKE: This is not
something they're going to bet the country on.
BLOOM: Mr. Pike, earlier this week your organization wrote a letter signed by
50 Nobel laureates to President Clinton calling the system, quote,
"premature, wasteful and dangerous." Why do you say that?
Mr. PIKE: Well, basically the threats that have been
driving the system have been reduced certainly in the last several weeks.
We've seen the summit in...
BLOOM: You're talking about North Korea and Iran and the long-range missiles
that they might have?
Mr. PIKE: Absolutely. We've seen a significant improvement in relations in
no further developments in Iran. What we've seen in the test program is that
there've been a lot of failures, not very much success. There's been a lot of
concern about the future of the arms control agreements that are going to have
to be changed for this system. So overall it doesn't look like this
system is going to solve any problems. It clearly looks like it's going to
BLOOM: Mr. Pike, let me ask you this, your organization, the Federation of
American Scientists, was founded by members of the Manhattan Project, who built
the first atomic bomb.
Mr. PIKE: Right.
BLOOM: If they would have been held to the same strict requirements--that is,
prove that it works before we begin the project that you want this project held
to, the atom bomb would never have been built. This country is engaged in a
lot of endeavors, like putting a man on the moon, where we've set off on them
knew whether they would be successful or not.
Mr. PIKE: Well, we did--they did set off an atomic bomb in New Mexico before
they dropped one on Japan. I think that the bottom line is that it's an awful
lot easier to build an atomic bomb to blow up a
city than it is to intercept that bomb before it gets to the city. And that's
what I think last night's test demonstrated.
BLOOM: Final quick question, can President Clinton put this project on hold
without hurting Vice President Al Gore's chances? Couldn't George W.
Bush then say you're exposing the country to nuclear blackaail?
Mr. PIKE: I think that that's exactly what's going to happen. President
Clinton's probably going to make a political decision to deploy this, and it's
going to be up to the next president to actually try to figure out what that
was supposed to mean.
John Pike, thank you so much for joining us.
Mr. PIKE: Thank you.
BLOOM: And now here's Soledad.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, co-host:
David, thank you very much.