The Secret History of the JASONs

04.06.06 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

One of the lacunae in the history of defense policy and science advice to government concerns the role of the JASON advisory panel. A fascinating new book on the JASONs helps to fill in that mysterious gap.

Established in 1960, the JASONs first gained unwelcome public attention as the result of a reference in the leaked Pentagon Papers. They have only rarely since been heard from in public.

Their membership is not publicized. Their meetings are closed. The publications are mostly classified. Their impact is hard to assess.

Author Ann Finkbeiner interviewed 36 JASONs, “roughly half of the membership,” and gleaned more about their activities than has ever appeared on the public record before, beginning with a definitive account of the origin of the JASON name (it was coined by Mildred Goldberger, the wife of Murph Goldberger, who is a JASON founding member and a friend of Secrecy News).

In her engaging and highly readable book, Finkbeiner traces the work of the JASONs over four decades and introduces many of the group’s original, eccentric and hyper-intelligent members.

See “The JASONs: The Secret History of Science’s Postwar Elite” by Ann Finkbeiner, Viking, April 2006.

A selection of unclassified JASON reports may be found here.