Date: Tue, 24 Jun 1997 09:22:16 EST

The following is a speech given by Alan Kohn, 30-year NASA veteran, retired in 1994, at Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice demonstration outside the gates of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on June 14th, 1997.

Please post this to as many sites as possible. Kohn has emerged as an important whistleblower in the Cassini challenge.

"I haven't given a public speech for a long time. In the favorite biblical phrase of the late President Johnson, `Come, let us reason together.'

"I have great respect for Joel Reynolds, the safety director at KSC [Kennedy Space Center]. He is a real gentleman; he was a pleasure to work with. And I want to tell you that the pressure does not come from the Kennedy Space Center. They're obeying orders from higher up. This is not a little story, this is a national or even an international story. The pressure comes from NASA headquarters. The orders come down-- and when the orders come down, if you work for a bureaucracy, particularly a government bureaucracy, you do what you're told, you say what you're told to say, and you even think despite your intelligence the way you're taught to think. I've never understood the voluntarily surrendering of intelligence and I certainly can't put up with surrendering the moral requirements of justice and protection for each other.

"Specifically, I was the emergency preparedness operations officer--in NASA-ese I was called the EPO--on the Galileo and Ulysses missions...

"I was also a member of the Radiological Emergency Force Group and the RTG Contingency Working Group. My responsibilities were as already defined: I was responsible for the safety of the government employees on both sides of the river: CCAFS [Cape Canaveral Air Force Station] right over here and KSC right over there.

"Let me tell you, they didn't even let me do that job. I was told that the job was cosmetic, that nothing was going to happen and I should just sit and counsel everyone in the radiation control center and do nothing, and in case of disaster, the unlikely event of disaster would take place, I could take all protective measures real time. The only protective measure I could have taken at that time, of course, would have been to wet my pants. And my own immediate management told me: lay off, keep a low profile, don't let the public know, above all don't let the protest groups know that there is any danger at all.

"I disobeyed orders. I provided that all the buildings should be turned into fall-out shelters, that air conditioning be shut off, that buildings be sealed, the doors be sealed, that people who were going to work outside would be put in bunny suits and given gas masks with HEPA filters. I provided washdowns. I told them no visitors.

"They brought visitors out anyway. And by the way, in the mission control center when I said no visitors, I got an ovation from the people....The people applauded me because they agreed with me. They didn't agree with me publicly but the applause was enough to show me that on the government side of those fences, there are a lot of people who agree with you, but out of misguided loyalty they don't have the freedom-- they think they don't have the freedom-- to speak out.

"I disagree. The first loyalty is to the public. The first loyalty is to the taxpayer. The first loyalty is to each other, to our own families. These are your friends and neighbors here. They feel the same way you do but they're not going to say so....We were told by NASA that the odds against the Cassini blowing up and releasing radiation is 1,500 to one. Those are pretty poor odds. You bet the lottery and the odds against you there one in 14 million--1,500 to one are unacceptable odds. You can't in good conscience do a thing like that.

"I call for the people who live in this community to protect themselves, their families and their children, to protect their neighbors. And I call on the people on the other side of the fence, the government side of the fence, who have families and friends and neighbors in the area also: don't let this launch go forward with 72-plus pounds of plutonium. That is not really a sane alternative. I expect people to speak out regardless of what the cost is.

"If you're going to keep quiet about an issue like this, then your jobs aren't worth a bucket of warm spit. If you're going to give up your soul and your conscience just to keep your jobs, the jobs aren't worth it.

"Now I'm going to tell you: they think their hands are tied, their hands are not tied. They have a freedom to speak out, too. I had resistance from many in management when I converted the buildings to fall-out shelters and when I did all the other work I did to protect the government workers. But I had a lot of support also. The support unfortunately was quiet. I got away with doing the job I did against opposition and then I got rewarded with all kinds of awards and thank yous after I had done the job. That didn't take away the fact that we were willing to risk the public doing these launches. How would we had protected the public? We had representatives from, I forget whether it was fourteen to seventeen government agencies including FEMA and Brevard Emergency Management associations, and what they were going to do was they were going to go out there and they were going to monitor the fall-out as the plutonium fell on your heads, you here in Brevard County.

"And what could they have done to stop that plutonium from falling on your heads if it was a real-time emergency? Exactly nothing. They couldn't have erected an umbrella like I see out here over all of Titusville, for example. And I saw the footprints of potential fall-outs which depended on wind, speed and direction and height at which the explosion took place. They call the RTG's indestructible; they're indestructible just like the Titanic was unsinkable. And they are committing the lie, the sin of omission, in not telling you the whole truth. There should be public hearings. I don't see the Congress holding public hearings. I don't see NASA holding public hearings. I don't see anyone addressing the issues. They figure if they keep it quiet, if they and just pacify everyone, they can get away with everything they want to do. And they have gotten away with everything they wanted to do up until now. It is time to put a stop to their freedom to threaten the lives of the people here on the Earth and particularly the people here in the vicinity of the space centers. I don't know know they can do this. I don't know what in a democracy they think gives them the right to do a thing like this. They have no such right. There is no right in the government. This is not a combat situation. You are not soldiers You cannot put at risk because someone makes a decision that nothing is going to happen. As I said, they themselves say the odds are 1,500 to one, wherever they got those numbers from I don't believe any numbers they give me because they're all speculations. I have been in weapons systems analysis groups. I've done figures, too. The figures are always phony, they're just pulled out of a series of formulas which are nothing but presumptions. The Titan IV has blown up before. If it blows up this time and it releases plutonium it will be too late to do anything about it whatsoever. I call on my former co-workers to speak up. I call on the people who know the truth to speak up.

"If it means your jobs, so what? Who cares about a job? Health and the lives of the public are more important than any job on this Earth including the presidency of the United States. The job of the government is to protect the people, not to put the people at risk. I expect better from my co-workers and former employers. I expect honesty, I expect complete hearings, I expect testimony, and after that I expect them to cancel this launch until they can do it safely."