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Note from Elias:  The Report From Iron Mountain is a hotly-contested piece of work. Most thinkers declare that it is a hoax, but other very notable persons contend that the report may be a genuine work, commissioned by the U.S. government, which was "leaked" to the public. The argument is carried forward to this day, with plausible "proofs" offered by both sides. Whichever the case may be, this piece is very educational in many ways.

But one point is made very nicely by G. Edward Griffin, in his book The Creature From Jekyll Island: A Second Look At The Federal Reserve.  (See Bibliography) What Mr. Griffin notes is that if one stands today with a newspaper in one hand and the Report From Iron Mountain in the other, the significance of this document is beyond doubt. Much of today's sound-bite headline "news" can be re-interpreted anew once a reader has read the Report From Iron Mountain.

I have re-typed the Report from shoddy Internet copies which were full of typographical errors, and have placed the Report here in five installments for ease of locating parts a reader may wish to re-visit.




Its objective was to determine, accurately and realistically, the nature of the problems that would confront the United States if and when a condition of "permanent peace" should arrive, and to draft a program for dealing with this contingency.

Part One



With introductory material by Leonard C. Lewin
The Dial Press, Inc. 1967
New York...
Library of Congress Catalog card Number 67-27553 Printed in the U.S.

Foreword -- vii
Background Information -- xvii
Statement by "John Doe" -- xxxi
The Report of the Special Study Group


"John Doe," as I will call him in this book for reasons that will be made clear, is a professor at a large university in the Middle West. His field is one of the social sciences, but I will not identify him beyond this. He telephoned me one evening last winter, quite unexpectedly; we had not been in touch for several years. He was in New York for a few days, he said, and there was something important he wanted to discuss with me. He wouldn't say what it was. We met for lunch the next day at a midtown restaurant.

He was obviously disturbed. He made small talk for half an hour, which was quite out of character, and I didn't press him. Then, apropos of nothing, he mentioned a dispute between a writer and a prominent political family that had been in the headlines. What, he wanted to know were my views on "freedom of information"? How would I qualify them? And so on. My answers were not memorable, but they seemed to satisfy him. Then, quite abruptly, he began to tell me the following story:

Early in August of 1963, he said, he found a message on his desk that a "Mrs. Potts" had called him from Washington. When he returned the call, a man answered immediately, and told Doe, among other things, that he had been selected to serve on a commission "of the highest importance." Its objective was to determine, accurately and realistically, the nature of the problems that would confront the United States if and when a condition of "permanent peace" should arrive, and to draft a program for dealing with this contingency. The man described the unique procedures that were to govern the commission's work and that were expected to extend its scope far beyond that of any previous examination of these problems.

Considering that the caller did not precisely identify either himself or his agency, his persuasiveness must have been a truly remarkable order. Doe entertained no serious doubts of the bona fides of the project, however, chiefly because of his previous experience with the excessive secrecy that often surrounds quasi-governmental activities. In addition, the man at the other end of the line demonstrated an impressively complete and surprisingly detailed knowledge of Doe's work and personal life. He also mentioned the names of others who were to serve with the group; most of them were known to Doe by reputation. Doe agreed to take the assignment --- he felt he had no real choice in the matter --- and to appear the second Saturday following, at Iron Mountain, New York.

An airline ticket arrived in his mail the next morning.

The cloak-and-dagger tone of this convocation was further enhanced by the meeting place itself. Iron Mountain, located near the town of Hudson, is like something out of Ian Fleming or E. Phillips Oppenheim. It is an underground nuclear hideout for hundreds of large American corporations. Most of them use it as an emergency storage vault for important documents. But a number of them maintain substitute corporate headquarters as well, where essential personnel could presumably survive and continue to work after an attack. This latter group includes such firms as Standard Oil of New Jersey, Manufacturers Hanover Trust, and Shell.

I will leave most of the story of the operations of the Special Study Group, as the commission was formally called, for Doe to tell in his own words ("Background Information"). At this point it is necessary to say only that it met and worked regularly for over two and a half years, after which it produced a Report. It was this document, and what to do about it, that Doe wanted to talk to me about.

The Report, he said, had been suppressed --- both by the Special Study Group itself and by the government inter-agency committee to which it had been submitted. After months of agonizing, Doe had decided that he would no longer be party to keeping it secret. What he wanted from me was advice and assistance in having it published. He gave me his copy to read, with the express understanding that if for any reason I were unwilling to become involved, I would say nothing about it to anyone else.

I read the Report that same night. I will pass over my own reactions to it, except to say that the unwillingness of Doe's associates to publicize their findings became readily understandable. What had happened was that they had been so tenacious in their determination to deal comprehensively with the many problems of transition to peace that the original questions asked of them were never quite answered. Instead, this is what they concluded:

Lasting peace, while not theoretically impossible, is probably unattainable; even if it could be achieved it would almost certainly not be in the best interests of a stable society to achieve it.

That is the gist of what they say. Behind their qualified academic language runs this general argument: War fills certain functions essential to the stability of our society; until other ways of filling them are developed, the war system must be maintained -- and improved in effectiveness.

It is not surprising that the Group, in its Letter of Transmittal, did not choose to justify its work to "the lay reader, unexposed to the exigencies of higher political or military responsibility." Its Report was addressed, deliberately, to unnamed government administrators of high rank; it assumed  considerable political sophistication from this select audience. To the general reader, therefore, the substance of the document may be even more unsettling than its conclusions. He may not be prepared for some of its assumptions -- for instance, that most medical advances are viewed more as problems than as progress; or that poverty is necessary and desirable, public postures by politicians to the contrary notwithstanding; or that standing armies are among other things social-welfare institutions in exactly the same sense as are old-people's homes and mental hospitals. It may strike him as odd to find the probable explanation of "flying saucer" incidents disposed of en passant in less than a sentence. He may be less surprised to find that the space program and the "controversial antimissile missile and fallout shelter programs are understood to have the spending of vast sums of money, not the advancement of science or national defense, as their principal goals, and to learn that "military" draft policies are only remotely concerned with defense.

He may be offended to find the organized repression of minority groups, and even the re-establishment of slavery, seriously (and on the whole favorably) discussed as possible aspects of a world at peace. He is not likely to take kindly to the notion of the deliberate intensification of air and water pollution (as part of a program leading to peace), even when the reason for considering it is made clear. That a world without war will have to turn sooner rather than later to universal test-tube procreation will be less disturbing, if no more appealing. But few readers will not be taken aback, at least, by a few lines in the Report's conclusions, repeated in its formal recommendations, that suggest that the long-range planning--and "budgeting" -- of the "optimum" number of lives to be destroyed annually in overt warfare is high on the Group's list of priorities for government action.

I cite these few examples primarily to warn the general reader what he can expect. The statesmen and strategists for whose eyes the Report was intended obviously need no such protective admonition.

This book, of course, is evidence of my response to Doe's request. After carefully considering the problems that might confront the publisher of the Report, we took it to The Dial Press. There, its significance was immediately recognized, and, more important, we were given firm assurances that no outside pressures of any sort would be permitted to interfere with its publication.

It should be made clear that Doe does not disagree with the substance of the Report, which represents a genuine consensus in all important respects. He constituted a minority of one -- but only on the issue of disclosing it to the general public. A look at how the Group dealt with this question will be illuminating.

The debate took place at the Group's last full meeting before the Report was written, late in March, 1966, and again at Iron Mountain. Two facts must be kept in mind, by way of background. The first is that the Special Study Group had never been explicitly charged with or sworn to secrecy, either when it was convened or at any time thereafter. The second is that the Group had never-the-less operated as if it had been. This was assumed from the circumstances of its inception and from the tone of its instructions. (The Group's acknowledgment of help from "the many persons....who contributed so greatly to our work" is somewhat equivocal; these persons were not told the nature of the project for which their special resources of information were solicited.)

Those who argued the case for keeping the Report secret were admittedly motivated by fear of the explosive political effects that could be expected from publicity. For evidence, they pointed to the suppression of the far less controversial report of then-Senator Hubert Humphrey's subcommittee on disarmament in 1962. (Subcommittee members had reportedly feared that it might be used by Communist propagandists, as Senator Stuart Symington put it, to "back up the Marxian theory that war production was the reason for the success of capitalism.") Similar political precautions had been taken with the better-known Gaither Report in 1957, and even with the so-called Moynihan Report in 1965.

Furthermore, they insisted, a distinction must be made between serious studies, which are normally classified unless and until policy makers decide to release them, and conventional "showcase" projects, organized to demonstrate a political leadership's concerns about an issue and to deflect the energy of those pressing for action on it. (The example used, because some of the Group had participated in it, was a "While House Conference" on intended cooperation, disarmament, etc., which had been staged late in 1965 to offset complaints about escalation of Vietnam War.)

Doe acknowledges this distinction, as well as the strong possibility of public misunderstanding. But he feels that if the sponsoring agency had wanted to mandate secrecy it could have done so at the outset. It could also have assigned the project to one of the government's established "think tanks," which normally work on a classified basis. He scoffed at fear of public reaction, which could have no lasting effect on long-range measures that might be taken to implement the Group's proposals, and derided the Group's abdication of responsibility for its opinions and conclusions. So far as he was concerned, there was such a thing as a public right to know what was being done on its behalf; the burden of proof was on those who would abridge it.

If my account seems to give Doe the better of the argument, despite his failure to convince his colleagues, so be it. My participation in this book testifies that I am not neutral. In my opinion, the decision of the Special Study Group to censor its own findings was not merely timid but presumptuous. But the refusal, as of this writing, of the agencies for which the Report was prepared to release it themselves raises broader questions of public policy. Such questions center on the continuing use of self-serve definitions of "security" to avoid possible political embarrassment. It is ironic how oftern this practice backfires.

I should state, for the record, that I do not share the attitudes toward war and peace, life and death, and survival of the species manifested in the Report. Few readers will. In human terms, it is an outrageous document. But it does represent a serious and challenging effort to define an enormous problem. And it explains, or certainly appears to explain, aspects of American policy otherwise incomprehensible by the ordinary standars of common sense. What we may think of these explanations is something else, but it seems to me that we are entitled to know not only what they are but whose they are.

By "whose" I don't mean merely the names of the authors of the Report. Much more important, we have a right to know to what extent their assumptions of social necessity are shared by the decision-makers in our government. Which do they accept and which do they reject? However disturbing the answers, only full and frank discussion offers any conceivable hope of solving the problems raised by the Special Study Group in their Report from Iron Mountain.

L.C.L. New York June 1967


[The following account of the workings of the Special Study Group is taken verbatim from a series of tape-recorded interviews I had with "John Doe." The transcript has been edited to minimize the intrusion of my questions and comments, as well as for length, and the sequence has been revised in the interest of continuity. L.C.L.]


...The general idea for it, for this kind of study, dates back at least to 1961. It started with some of the new people who came in with the Kennedy administration, mostly, I think, with McNamara, Bundy, and Rusk. They were impatient about many things....One of them was that no really serious work had been done about planning for peace---a long-range peace, that is, with long-range planning.

Everything that had been written on the subject [before 1961] was superficial. There was insufficient appreciation of the scope of the problem. The main reason for this, of course, was that the idea of a real peace in the world, general disarmament and so on, was looked on as utopian. Or even crack- pot. This is still true, and it's easy enough to understand when you look at what's going on in the world today....It was reflected in the studies that had been made up to that time. They were not realistic...

The idea of the Special Study, the exact form it would take, was worked out early in '63...The settlement of the Cuban missile affair had something to do with it, but what helped most to get it moving were the big changes in military spending that were being planned.....Plants being closed, relocations, and so forth. Most of it wasn't made public until much later....

[I understand] it took a long time to select the people for the Group. The calls didn't go out until the summer......


That's something I can't tell you. I wasn't involved with the preliminary planning. The first I knew of it was when I was called myself. But three of the people had been in on it, and what the rest of us know we learned from them, about what went on earlier. I do know that it started very informally. I don't know what particular government agency approved the project.


All right---I think it was an ad hoc committee, at the cabinet level, or near it. It had to be. I suppose they gave the organizational job--making arrangements, paying the bills, and so on---to somebody from the State Department or Defense of the National Security Council. Only one of us was in touch with Washington, and I wasn't the one. But I can tell you that very, very few people knew about us.... For instance, there was the Ackley Committee. It was set up after we were. If you read their report---the same old tune---economic re-conversion, turning sword plants into plowshare factories... I think you'll wonder if even the President knew about our Group. The Ackley Committee certainly didn't.


Well, I don't think there is anything odd about the government attacking a problem at two different levels. Or even about two or three [government] agencies working at cross-purposes. It happens all the time. Perhaps the President did know. And I don't mean to denigrate the Ackley Committee, but it was exactly that narrowness of approach that we were supposed to get away from.......

You have to remember -- you've read the Report---that what they wanted from us was a different kind of thinking. It was a matter of approach. Herman Kahn calls it "Byzantine"--no agonizing over cultural and religious values. No moral posturing. It's the kind of thinking that Rand and the Hudson Institute and I.D.A. (Institute for Defense Analysis.) brought into war planning... What they asked us to do, and I think we did it, was to give the same kind of treatment to the hypothetical nuclear war... We may have gone further than they expected, but once you establish your premises and your logic you can't turn back....

Kahn's books, for example, are misunderstood, at least by laymen. They shock people. But you see, what's important about them is not his conclusions, or his opinions. It's the method. He has done more than anyone else I can think of to get the general public accustomed to the style of modern military thinking..... Today it's possible for a columnist to write about "counterforce strategy" and "minimum deterrence" and "credible first-strike capability" without having to explain every other word. He can write about war and strategy without getting bogged down in questions of morality.......

The other big difference about our work is breadth. The Report speaks for itself. I can't say that we took every relevant aspect of life and society into account, but I don't think we missed anything essential...


I think that's obvious, or should be. The kind of thinking wanted from our Group just isn't to be had in a formal government operation. Too many constraints. Too many inhibitions. This isn't a new problem. Why else would outfits like Rand and Hudson stay in business? Any assignment that's at all sophisticated is almost always given to an outside group. This is true even in the State Department, in the "gray" operations, those that are supposed to be unofficial, but are really as official as can be. Also with the C.I.A....

For our study, even the private research centers were too institutional... A lot of thought went into making sure that our thinking would be unrestricted. All kinds of little things. The way we were called into the Group, the places we met, all kinds of subtle devices to remind us. For instance, even our name, the Special Study Group. You know government names. Wouldn't you think we'd have been called "Operation Olive Branch," or "Project Pacifica," or something like that? Nothing like that for us---too allusive, too suggestive. And no minutes of our meetings---too inhibiting.... About who might be reading them. Of course, we took notes for our own use. And among ourselves, we usually called ourselves "The Iron Mountain Boys," or "Our Thing," or whatever came to mind........


I'll have to stick to generalities.... There were fifteen of us. The important thing was that we represented a very wide range of disciplines. And not all academic. People from the natural sciences, the social sciences, even the humanities. We had a lawyer and a businessman. Also, a professional war planner. Also, you should know that everyone in the Group had done work of distinction in at least two different fields. The interdisciplinary element was built in.

It's true that there were no women in the Group, but I don't think that was significant.....We were all American citizens, of course. And all, I can say, in very good health, at least when we began. You see, the first order of business, at the first meeting, was the reading of dossiers. They were very detailed, and not just professional, but also personal. They included medical histories. I remember one very curious thing, for whatever it's worth. Most of us, and that includes me, had a record of abnormally high uric acid concentrations in the blood. None of us had ever had this experience, of a public inspection of credentials, or medical reports. It was very disturbing.

But it was deliberate. The reason for it was to emphasize that we were supposed to make all our own decisions on procedure, without outside rules. This included judging each other's qualifications and making allowances for possible bias. I don't think it affected our work directly, but it made the point it was supposed to make, that we should ignore absolutely nothing that might conceivably affect our objectivity.

At this point I persuaded Doe that a brief occupational description of the individual members of the Group would serve a useful purpose for readers of the Report. The list which follows was worked out on paper. (It might be more accurate to say it was negotiated). The problem was to give as much relevant information as possible without violating Doe's commitment to protect his colleagues' anonymity. It turned out to be very difficult, especially in the cases of those members who are very well known. For this reason, secondary areas of achievement or reputations are usually not shown.

The simple alphabetical "names" were assigned by Doe for convenient reference; they bear no intended relation to actual names. "Able" was the Group's Washington contact. It was he who brought and read the dossiers, and who most often acted as chairman. He, "Baker," and "Cox" were the three who had been involved in the preliminary planning. There is no other significance to the order of listing.

"Arthus Able" is an historian and political theorist, who has served in government.
"Bernard Baker: is a professor of international law and a consultant on government operations.
"Charles Cox" is an economist, social critic, and biographer.
"John Doe."
"Edward Ellis" is a sociologist often involved in public affairs.
"Frank Fox" is a cultural anthropologist.
"George Green" is a psychologist, educator, and developer of personnel testing systems.
"Harold Hill" is a psychiatrist, who has conducted extensive studies of the relationship between individual and group behavior.
"John Jones" is a scholar and literary critic.
"Martin Miller" is a physical chemist, whose work has received international recognition at the highest level.
"Paul Peters" is a biochemist, who has made important discoveries bearing on reproductive processes.
"Richard Roe" is a mathematician affiliated with an independent West Coast research institution.
"Samuel Smith" is an astronomer, physicist, and communications theorist.
"Thomas Taylor" is a systems analyst and war planner, who has written extensively on war, peace, and international relations.
"William White" is an industrialist, who has undertaken many special government assignments.]


We met on the average of once a month. Usually it was on weekends, and usually for two days. We had a few longer sessions, and one that lasted only four hours. .... We met all over the country, always at a different place, except for the first and last times, which were at Iron Mountain. It was like a traveling seminar....Sometimes at hotels, sometimes at universities. Twice we met at summer camps, and once at a private estate, in Virginia. We used a business place in Pittsburgh, and another in Poughkeepsie, [New York]....We never met in Washington, or on government property anywhere....Able would announce the times and places two meetings ahead. They were never changed.....

We didn't divide into subcommittees, or anything else that formal. But we all took individual assignments between meetings. A lot of it involved getting information from other people.... Among the fifteen of us, I don't think there was anybody in the academic or professional world we couldn't call on if we wanted to, and we took advantage of it..... We were paid a very modest per diem. All of it was called "expenses" on the vouchers. We were told not to report it on our tax returns.... The checks were drawn on a special account of Able's at a New York bank. He signed them....I don't know what the study cost. So far as our time and travel were concerned, it couldn't have come to more than the low six-figure range. But the big item must have been computer time, and I have no idea how high this ran......


Yes, it is. I can understand your skepticism. But if you had been at any of our meetings you'd have had a very hard time figuring out who were the liberals and who were the conservatives, or who were hawks and who were doves. There IS such a thing as objectivity, and I think we had it... I don't say no one had any emotional reaction to what we were doing. We all did, to some extent. As a matter of fact, two members had heart attacks after we were finished, and I'll be the first to admit it probably wasn't a coincidence.


The most important were informality and unanimity . By informality I mean that our discussions were open-ended. We went as far afield as any one of us thought we had to. For instance, we spent a lot of time on the relationship between military recruitment policies and industrial employment. Before we were finished with it, we'd gone through the history of western penal codes and any number of comparative psychiatric studies [of draftees and volunteers]. We looked over the organization of the Inca empire. We determined the effects of automation on underdeveloped societies....It was all relevant....

By unanimity, I don't mean that we kept taking votes, like a jury. I mean that we stayed with every issue until we had what the Quakers call a "sense of the meeting." It was time-consuming. But in the long run it saved time. Eventually we all got on the same wavelength, so to speak.....

Of course we had differences, and big ones, especially in the beginning... For instance, in Section I you might think we were merely clarifying our instructions. Not so; it took a long time before we all agreed to a strict interpretation.... Roe and Taylor deserve most of the credit for this... There are many things in the Report that look obvious now, but didn't seem so obvious then. For instance, on the relationship of war to social systems. The original premise was conventional, from Clausewitz. .... That war was an "instrument" of broader political values. Able was the only one who challenged this, at first. Fox called his position "perverse." Yet it was Fox who furnished most of the data that led us all to agree with Able eventually. I mention this because I think it's a good example of the way we worked. A triumph of method over cliché...... I certainly don't intend to go into details about who took what side about what, and when. But I will say, to give credit where due, that only Roe, Able, Hill and Taylor were able to see, at the beginning, where our method was taking us.


Yes. It's a unanimous report... I don't mean that our sessions were always harmonious. Some of them were rough. The last six months there was a lot of quibbling about small points. We'd been under pressure for a long time, we'd been working together too long. It was natural.....that we got on each other's nerves. For a while Able and Taylor weren't speaking to each other. Miller threatened to quit. But this all passed. There were no important differences...


We all had a hand in the first draft. Jones and Able put it together, and then mailed it around for review before working out a final version... The only problems were the form it should take and whom we were writing it for. And, of course, the question of disclosure.... [Doe's comments on this point are summarized in the introduction.]


I wanted to say something about that. The Report barely mentions it. "Peace games" is a method we developed during the course of the study. It's a forecasting technique, an information system. I'm very excited about it. Even if nothing is done about our recommendations--which is conceivable--this is something that can't be ignored. It will revolutionize the study of social problems. It's a by-product of the study. We needed a fast, dependable procedure to approximate the effects of disparate social phenomena on other social phenomena. We got it. It's in a primitive phase, but it works.


You don't "play" peace games, like chess or Monopoly, any more than you play war games with toy soldiers. You use computers. It's a programming system. A computer "language," like Fortran, or Algol, or Jovial.... Its advantage is its superior capacity to interrelate data with no apparent common points of reference.... A simple analogy is likely to be misleading. But I can give you some examples. For instance, supposing I asked you to figure out what effect a moon landing by U.S. astronauts would have on an election in, say, Sweden. Or what effect a change in the draft law--a specific change--would have on the value of real estate in downtown Manhattan? Or a certain change in college entrance requirements in the United States on the British shipping industry?

You would probably say, first, that there would be no effect to speak of, and second, that there would be no way of telling. But you'd be wrong on both counts. In each case there would be an effect, and the peace games method could tell you what it would be, quantitatively. I didn't take these examples out of the air. We used them in working out the method....Essentially, it's an elaborate high-speed trial-and-error system for determining working algorithms. Like most sophisticated types of computer problem-solving...

A lot of the "games" of this kind you read about are just glorified and conversational exercises. They really are games, and nothing more. I just saw one reported in the Canadian Computer Society Bulletin, called a "Vietnam Peace Game." They use simulation techniques, but the programming hypotheses are speculative....

The idea of a problem-solving system like this is not original with us. ARPA 1 (the Advanced Research Projects Agency, of the Department of Defense DoD.) has been working on something like it. So has General Electric, in California. There are others..... We were successful not because we know more than they do about programming, which we don't, but because we leaned how to formulate the problems accurately. It goes back to the old saw. You can always find the answer if you know the right question.....


Certainly. But it would have taken many times longer. But please don't misunderstand my enthusiasm [about the peace games method]. With all due respect to the effects of computer technology on modern thinking, basic judgments must still be made by human beings. The peace games technique isn't responsible for our Report. We are.

(end part one)



1) EA note: today that agency is known as "DARPA" for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency".


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