James Harris and Josh Scheer

Truthdig speaks with Sharon Weinberger, whose book “Imaginary Weapons” looks into why the Pentagon has spent billions of dollars on fantastical weapons programs, some of which defy the laws of physics.

Click here to listen to this interview.


James Harris:

This is Truthdig. James Harris here with Josh Scheer. We are talking to the author of “Imaginary Weapons,” Sharon Weinberger . In this book, Sharon, you remind us of the vast amount of money that is spent on the technology of war.

Sharon Weinberger: Right. We’ve had a number of books and articles, even congressional hearings over the years, about the spiraling costs of weapons technology. Some of this goes back to the anecdotal or clichéd $200 hammers or $600 toilet seats, or whatever those numbers were. Some of those concerns were very real and some of them were overplayed, but the core concern was that our weapons that we were investing in were spiraling out of control in cost. And particularly with the end of the Cold War, there were a number of questions being raised about whether we needed some of the technologies more appropriate for the Cold War in the current environment. My book wanted to look at this but from a slightly different angle in that it came out of conversations with colleagues about a smaller but also important tendency you see in some Pentagon and national security circles, which is, the problem of investing in technologies that are fantastical or beyond even the laws of physics, or things that have been so ridiculous that they’ve been tried before, discarded, or laughed at. So the particular weapon I focused on was this mythical isomer bomb, this next-generation, future weapon that had been sort of bandied about the national laboratories and the national security institutions for a number of decades, looked at, maybe explored, then laughed at and discarded. And the story I focused on was an incarnation of this isomer bomb around 2003 in the Pentagon and how it got millions of dollars in funding and what took place for that to happen.

Harris: So the isomer is an example of the inflated spending across the board.

Weinberger: Exactly. It was to look at one, perhaps smaller, but also frightening case in that it sort of reached the highest levels of the Pentagon. Also, it illustrated for me this sort of underworld you sometimes get in the Pentagon and national security institutions where you could have a small group of die-hard supporters who, no matter how ridiculous their cause, are able to get funding, and in some cases a lot of funding. And you see this in the billions of dollars in some incarnations of missile defense and you see it in the tens of millions of dollars in the case of the isomer bomb. What links the two is that the people who attach themselves to these far-fetched ideas tend to hop from one project to the next. So it might be a fantastical laser for missile defense in one decade, and the next decade it’s the isomer bomb, and the next decade it’s something even more ridiculous.

Josh Scheer: Sharon, … I want to talk about DARPA and I want to know what your take on them is, and kind of a brief history for the listener.

Weinberger: In fact, this is a good time to start talking about DARPA. DARPA, of course, stands for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which has altered names between ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency, and DARPA, which is its current name. Basically, DARPA, in 2008, will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Like a lot of changes in our national security institutions, it arose from the idea of technological surprise, i.e. that 50 years ago the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite, which really surprised the national security institutions in the United States and heralded a lot of energy on action. “How can we make sure that our science and technology base is prepared for these sorts of threats?” So you had the creation of DARPA, you had the creation of NASA, you had a greater focus on science and technology. This issue is, 50 years later, we often hear about the successes of DARPA, and there are a lot of successes in the military sphere as well as in the civilian. I think most often you’ll hear about the Internet. You’ll hear about microelectronics, which was sponsored by DARPA. What you don’t hear so much about is the failures. Which is not to say that DARPA is a failure. By no means is it a failure. But we need to learn the lessons from both sides, from the successes and the failures.

Scheer: We see the major successes in civilian life such as the Internet or the microchip and things like that. But isn’t that like a lot of directed research for the government where it helps in a way that wasn’t supposed to help? What are the failures? What are the major failures for DARPA?

Weinberger: It’s a step backwards. Part of DARPA’s legacy is, it’s supposed to be able to fail, meaning, at any one time, they might be investing in tens, dozens or hundreds of projects. And the idea is, in the military services, the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, they need to invest. They can tolerate some degree of risk, but they’re not as able — they have more scrutiny, oversights. The idea is, “Suppose we centralize our research development budget in one agency, give them more flexibility so that they can pursue a lot of projects.” As to what the failures are, there are many failures DARPA admits to. UAVs, Unmanned Air Vehicles, before we had the “successes” that are flying today, there were many decades of failures. To some extent you need failure to get to success. If you want to talk about more ambiguous legacies, you don’t see so much DARPA emphasizing its role in missile defense, in antiballistic missile defense. And this is not to say that all missile defense programs are failures, but, certainly, this is one of the more controversial areas of weapons technology, and it’s a much more ambiguous legacy. So when you see DARPA directors get up at conferences, they tend not to emphasize missile defense in their legacy.

Scheer: Do they talk about the Internet a lot?

Weinberger: Yes. You will hear about the Internet a lot. In fact, DARPA should be given a lot of credit for the Internet, as should the scientists who worked on it, as should the National Science Foundation. But DARPA certainly was a leading actor in that.

Scheer: But with something like the Internet, it’s just funny when you hear things like that … James, when you hear things like that, but — . You hear about the Internet. But that wasn’t what it was intended to do, right? The blogosphere? It wasn’t supposed to be e-mail. It was supposed to be a way of connecting spies? Or connecting troops?

Weinberger: Well, it had military applications, and that is the beauty of DARPA and the beauty of all basic science and technology. The idea is you’re supporting a lot of projects that may have applications in the civilian realm or in the military realm but are completely unexpected. Another good example of that, and one that’s had military support, is GPS, the Global Positioning System .

Scheer: Mm-hmm.

Weinberger: Again, it was developed for military needs, is still used by the military, but has enormous civilian benefit.

Scheer: Definitely.

Weinberger: That is in fact the hope of DARPA and part of the ongoing legacy debate: How much should they purposefully be trying to get things into the civilian sphere, and how much should they be acted on as spin-offs?Scheer: Now, in your book you talk about that we are spending $50,000 a second. Is that number still true?

Weinberger: I think actually that number would be relevant to when I conducted the interviews, which would’ve been back in about 2005. I think if you added in the supplementals, including the most recent supplemental that was requested in Congress for the war, that number would be much higher. I’d have to sit down and do the math. A number of years ago we were talking about an annual defense budget, the core budget, of around 400 billion. Now when you add in the supplementals, you’re talking almost half a trillion a year, and I haven’t even done the latest numbers. That number, I can only say, has gone up.

Harris: We’re talking with Sharon Weinberger, author of “Imaginary Weapons.” Sharon, fewer dead troops are coming home than came home dead after Vietnam. Anywhere we’re engaged, we seem to be doing this much better than we did before. What would you say to someone who makes that contention, and clearly that’s a contention that flies with President Reagan, President Bush, President Clinton, and Bush II, of course.

Weinberger: That we’re doing better — I suppose that would measure how you mean by doing better. Certainly we have developed technologies, body armor, that is saving more lives of our soldiers, of our Marines, of our airmen, than in previous wars. And I think that’s been pointed out in the press. You may not see the deaths as much, but then again, you’re seeing people come home with brain injuries because they have survived. So there’re split sides to this. Whether the casualty count is a measure of success, that’s much harder to argue. I think even the military would say you need to look at what has been accomplished on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Certainly in Iraq progress to date has really not been all that encouraging. That’s almost a separate issue from the casualty count.

Scheer: Going back to the money that universities get and the money overall, we were talking to a person who’s worked in the military and worked with, say, UC Berkeley and the labs there. He said it’s a relatively small amount, like in the neighborhood of millions and not [large] when you think about the Iraq war [costs]. Do you think it’s a small amount? Do you think something like UC Berkeley, are they a defense contractor in the same vein as Lockheed or Boeing?

Weinberger: Oh, no, no, no, not at all. In fact, I would say that, whoever you spoke with, it depends on what numbers they’re talking if they’re right. The Pentagon, on one hand, they are one of the largest funders of science and technology for the universities. They do support university research. That number is going down. It has been going down as a percentage of the Pentagon budget in years. And part of that is, you have a war going on, so everyone’s budgets are being constrained. There are some universities that have tended, historically, to do more work with the military than others. In general, I’m very supportive of the Pentagon supporting basic research. A lot of it has many wonderful civilian applications, it supports graduate students, it supports the work of professors. These universities are really not on the par of the billions of dollars that a Lockheed Martin, a Northrop Grumman or a Raytheon get, and part of that is simply the function that they do. University researchers probably don’t need the millions of dollars to support a lab. Producing a modern aircraft, a modern fighter, a bomber, is going to take in the billions of dollars. And that’s why it’s all the more important, when you spend money on basic research, it’s really important how you spend it. In the example of the isomer bomb, one of the comments that people brought up is, “They were only talking about, in the beginning stages, 10, 20, 30 million dollars.” And what is $30 million compared to $250 million for a fighter? But the issue is, for universities, and for basic research, that is an enormous amount of money. I remember one scientist telling me that a Nobel Prize winner — that a million-dollar budget would be a windfall for them. So when you talk about $30 million for a dubious science project, that’s actually a large amount considering the constraints that funding is under.

Scheer: I know that USC, a couple of years ago, got a four-year, $45-million deal to study robots for the military, and I know with Berkeley. But my point was more towards Berkeley with obviously controlling the labs they get a lot of federal financing, and since the labs are the No. 1, they produced nuclear weapons, they produced weapons, as you were talking about earlier. They produced weapons like this isomer bomb; if it ever came out, it probably would be produced there, right? Are they supporting what Lockheed supports? Lockheed builds planes. Aren’t nuclear weapons worse? They cost more, they do more damage, right? So are they pushing?

Weinberger: Let me break it down. I think I see what you’re getting at. Let me break it down to two different areas. You have universities like Berkeley, also … the University of California system, which gets funding to manage some of the national laboratories, some of which are nuclear weapons laboratories. So you have the University of California, for example, which has the contract for Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos, which are nuclear weapons laboratories. You have Berkeley, which — I’m not an expert in this area, but I believe they have a Department of Energy contract for a laboratory which is not a nuclear weapons laboratory. But, regardless. You have those contracts in place. Those are management contracts, and traditionally there’s been support within the national laboratories and also contentions within the university. There’s something to be said for having a university sponsor weapons laboratories because it promotes a scientific atmosphere. You want to have scientific debate. You don’t necessarily want your weapons laboratories controlled by defense contractors.

Separate from that, there are universities — . DARPA, for instance, supports a number of university researchers. I don’t know the breadth of all their contracts, but I’m quite sure there are many in the University of California system. And so you have those two separate issues: a management contract and then the direct support. And I know that there’s been debate within the University of California system over the years about whether universities should be running nuclear weapons laboratories, and I think there’s a lot of arguments on both sides of the debate. Me, personally, I think that there’s something to be said for the honesty you get out of a university running a weapons laboratory that, perhaps, is more conducive to scientific debate than the alternative, which is a defense company, running it. Whether that does harm for the university is really something for the students, the faculty and the university administration to hash out.

Scheer: What I’m getting at — . I know the debate is a good issue, but if they’re not like a Lockheed, why don’t we let Lockheed do it? Because they are professionals. It would be more — . Weinberger: You’re right. In fact, you remember there was the huge coverage of security violations at the Los Alamos lab in New Mexico, and the contract was put up for competition, and there was a Lockheed-led team against a University of California team. One of the arguments is essentially what you …

Scheer: Hold on.

Weinberger: … said.

Scheer: But also to clarify on that one contract that Bechtel was also with the University of California — .

Weinberger: Exactly. Yes.

Scheer: So they bet up a little bit.

Weinberger: Right. It’s not that either side was devoid of a defense contractor element. And ultimately the University of California, that’s [unintelligible] the defense contractor. But regardless. The issue is — . There’s two different issues: what’s best for perhaps the universities and what’s best for the laboratories. At some point the University of California system may decide that they don’t want to run the laboratory, and that’s their choice. I think there’s a strong argument to be made that while their efficiencies and perhaps some advantages of having a traditional defense company to run the labs, the nuclear weapons enterprise is important enough that you want to make sure you have the highest level of scientific debate, of scientific expertise. Then, again, Lockheed has run Sandia with an excellent record over the years. So it’s not a debate that’s easy for you to decide. As I said, I fall down on the side that — I think there’s a strong argument to be made that scientific credibility is best preserved under a university-led contract. Is that a 100 percent correct now and in the future? I don’t know.

Scheer: I understand your point, but I go with the scientist — with debate and science. We see with, like Albert Einstein — . You have these people, they think about science in scientific terms; they don’t think of the humanities. And then, years later, after these terrible things have been invented. They think about, “Oh, God, we shouldn’t have built that.” And I know you know more scientists than I do, but I know a few physicists, and their dream — and these people were not militant people — but their dream was to work for Raytheon, their dream was to work for Bechtel, work for these kinds of companies, Lockheed, to design weapons systems. And they never thought — even with the good scientific debate. … They were great physicists, but they’d never debated, “Oh, God, maybe I’m creating something that’s going to kill thousands of people.”

Weinberger: It’s a personal issue. I think there are certainly scientists who, if you look at some of the Manhattan Project veterans who have given interviews, a lot of them were — they were very focused on the task at hand. I certainly think there was a lot of debate among scientists after the war [World War II]. And that’s why, in fact, you have things like the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Federation of American Scientists, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. You had scientists who did not want to work on nuclear weapons. You have had scientists who have left the laboratories. But I think that goes back to the basic question. I’m not saying — I’m not an advocate for the universities controlling the weapons laboratories, and in fact their legacy and record of controlling laboratories, of managing laboratories, have been mixed at best. But I guess I would raise the question of — . You want precisely what you talked about. You want scientists to question the things they’re working on, the science of it and perhaps also the morality of it. And so I guess I would raise the question of what sort of atmosphere is better going to promote that debate. Is it going to be a defense company running a laboratory or is it going to be a university running a laboratory? And as I said, right now, in the here and now, I think that perhaps university management promotes that debate. I’m certainly open to changing my mind on that, depending on what happens. And I think one of the unfortunate things of the re-compete, is that, as you pointed out, it was a University of California-Bechtel team …

Scheer: Yeah.

Weinberger: … and it’s now being run as an LLC, so it’s not really a university — it’s not a university alone running the labs anymore.

Scheer: I want to talk about — . I know you wrote, obviously, this book, but you also write for the Danger Room, Wired’s blog …

Weinberger: Right.

Scheer: … military blog. And you do a pretty good job there. And I want to know: what kind of ideas — I know you wrote recently about the Air Force bomber. “Will it fly in 2018?” [subscription required] is one of your pieces, and a few other ones. What are the big ideas? What are — the next 20 years, scientific — DARPA’s putting money into now to try and get out there? What are the big ideas? What are we going to spend our money on and what are we going to be seeing?

Weinberger: I think because they’re so costly, we’re still going to see a lot of funding going into major weapons systems. That means fighters. That means this bomber if indeed it goes forward. Satellite systems, intelligent satellites are extremely costly. We’re seeing a lot more money going into that. If you want to talk about — it’s not as much money but an interesting focus that the Pentagon is looking at as well as other agencies. There’s this concept of the human terrain, this idea that perhaps we can develop science and technology to better understand the human problem. We’re not talking billions of dollars, but we are talking perhaps in the hundreds of millions of dollars, which is everything from software to understand what are the ethnographic and anthropological problems in some of these countries, to mathematical programs that can try to predict who is going to join a terrorist insurgency or who is going to become a counterinsurgent. And it’s this idea that if only we have enough information about all of the people who are potential adversaries, that we can pinpoint the terrorists among us or the terrorists among them. I think some of this work is interesting. I think some of it is far-fetched.

Scheer: [There is] a Web site that’s really doing a hatchet job — right? — against your book, and on Amazon you have a mixed review of five stars to one star.

Weinberger: Oh yeah.Scheer: Where’s the hate coming from? Because it doesn’t sound like, “OK, this book is a little boring,” or whatever. There’s one like that. But most of them are, like, “This woman’s completely wrong. She made up the whole story.” Where does that come from? Is it just people — ?

Weinberger: The main Web site against the book is, of course, run by the wife of the main protagonist. There’s this professor in Texas, Carl Collins, who did the controversial experiment in 1998, which led to the idea of a hafnium bomb. And this is where he basically had a used dental X-ray machine, a sample of hafnium, this radioactive material, a nuclear isomer, and he claimed results that were immediately criticized by the scientific community but led this cadre of true believers to support the isomer bomb. He has an unusual history. He has definite opinions, and after the book came out, his wife created this unusual Web site that attacks me. It attacks the book. On one hand, coming out of writing the book, it wasn’t a surprise because Carl Collins’ MO was to very much attack the people who attacked his work, so it wasn’t that surprising for me that they created a Web site to attack me and attack the book. I would say that, probably — there certainly are people who like the book and dislike the book, but I think certainly some of the reviews posted on Amazon could well be sock puppets, but I won’t say to whom. This is part of what led me to write the book. It was an interesting group of people, very hard-core, true believers who promoted the hafnium bomb and in some cases other far-fetched concepts. I think people who look at the Web site will see that he not only attacks me; he attacks anyone who’s ever written a good review of the book, including a former presidential science adviser. It’s entertaining to see the aftermath. On the other hand, the book is quite critical of his work and he certainly has the right to answer that criticism in a public forum.

Scheer: We’ve had authors on here that Publishers Weekly has tarnished and said, “This book is not worth reading,” but every Amazon review — there’s hundreds of them with five stars. Whereas Publishers Weekly on Amazon likes your book quite a bit. But, yes, some of the reviews — it was shocking to me because I hadn’t seen something like that. I mean, a bad review is a bad review, but where it goes from five stars where it’s “This book’s a must-read,” to …

Weinberger: The book speaks for itself. Certainly what I would divide between are homemade Web sites by a protagonist in the book versus — . There have been a slew of published reviews of the book, some of which have been — The New York Times Book Review reviewed the book. They had some compliments of it, they had some criticism. Science Magazine gave it a really, really nice review of the book. There have been things in between. But certainly none of the published reviews have attacked the book the way Carl Collins’ wife’s Web site attacks the book. And there have been similar high jinks on Wikipedia. My opinion is: The book speaks for itself. People will read it and they’ll like it or not like it. What people post anonymously or not anonymously is up to them.

Scheer: Yeah.

Weinberger: It’s a free world out there.

Scheer: I want to get on to something else now, something different, about a piece you wrote in 2005 called “Xtreme Defense” for the [Washington] Post and I want to talk about the ideas. It seems to me — I don’t know about James — that sometimes you can sell these ideas — obviously the guy in this book — who can sell these ideas … better salesmen, and you invest many, many years into it, and you realize at some point — . When do people wake up and go, “That’s a bad idea”? Or do they ever, and we end up procuring nuclear hand grenades 15 years from now?

Weinberger: That’s a recurring theme in my work, and not just in “Imaginary Weapons,” but also in a number of articles that I’ve written for The Washington Post Magazine, for Wired and for other outlets. Part of the problem is that these ideas never go away. Be it a nuclear hand grenade, be it a lightning weapon, be it a mind-control device — .

Scheer: [Laughs.]

Weinberger: It’s the old adage: There’s a sucker born every minute. The Pentagon does not speak with one voice, and if you get turned down in one part of the Pentagon, there’s an endless number of other agencies and funding sources you can go to and you’ll get many, many very smart bureaucrats in the Pentagon, but eventually you might find that one who just ain’t tried that yet. And that’s unfortunate, and the question is, is that problem getting worse, has it always been there? I think in some ways it is getting worse. It’s certainly very troublesome.

Scheer: Yeah.

Weinberger: And certainly — . You have to tolerate some waste in a system because any system is going to have waste, but that doesn’t mean you should not look at it or try to eliminate it. And when you see these things come back again and again and again, you wonder, “Why haven’t they learned the lesson before?”

Scheer: I was laughing before because when you were talking about mind control, I read on your Web site that you didn’t want people contacting you because they’d had mind-control devices put in their head. That was just a funny aside that I’d read, but I just liked it.

Weinberger: A lot of that came out of — I wrote an article that came out earlier this year. It was a story for The Washington Post Magazine, again, on people who say that they are mind-control victims, and the irony you get out of the situation is that the Pentagon really has worked on a lot of these mind-control technologies. That doesn’t mean these people’s claims are true. But part of the problem is, they get on the Internet, they start googling things and they find the Pentagon really has invested in weapons that send voices into people’s heads, and so they’d come to this conclusion. And there’s a lot of people who believe this.

Harris: We are talking to the author of “Imaginary Weapons,” Sharon Weinberger. Sharon, is this really a conversation about who should be building? Is this really a conversation about what scientists should be doing and how these projects should be born and thought out, or is this a question about, you just feel like funds are being misappropriated and there’s a better way to do it but you don’t really have an answer as to how to do it?

Weinberger: Well, that’s like the question of things getting better. Yes, technology goes forward. In some cases claims have been made for decades, like the advent of deployable laser weapons. Well, we’re now 30 years on and we still don’t have that deployable laser weapon. So, yes, technology moves forward, but it doesn’t always fulfill the promises that some people claimed some decades back.Harris: “So where should we be going?” is the question.

Weinberger: Here’s the question. In my opinion, regardless of where one stands on being for weapons spending or against weapons spending, I think what both sides of the debate would agree on is, is that if we’re going to spend money on these things, we want to spend things on credible science, on credible technologies. We don’t want to be investing in boondoggles, we don’t want to be investing in pseudo-science, or bad scientists or in charlatans. And the issue is, we need to have a system of reviews, of checks and balances — even if it’s high-risk research — that people agree is a good system. In basic science that may be peer review. There may be times that we may fund things that don’t get stellar peer review, but at least let’s know when we want to do that. If it’s technology, let’s, again, have standards. How many years? How much funding? What do we want to put into it? Can we have credible outside reviews? There’s no silver-bullet solution, but I think outside scientific and technical reviews is a healthy thing. I think having the highest level of scientific and technical expertise within the Pentagon is a good thing. And, basically, oversight from Congress also has to play a role.

Harris: That’s an elaborate process. We can’t even fix the walls after Hurricane Katrina. We can’t even figure out what to do and not to do in Iraq. It seems to be very ideal.

Weinberger: A system that in many ways is broken right now.

Harris: Absolutely. So to request that these things be fixed on the scale that you are, is it far-fetched? It’s hopeful, and we need people like you, but is it so far-fetched that our government could never comply?

Weinberger: Well, it starts from the top. You need to have an administration that values experts. When it comes to New Orleans, that it values experts in engineering. Whether we’re talking about global warming or about defense or about technology, you have to be willing to listen — not always take their advice but at least to listen and value the people who have scientific, technical or maybe even political or social expertise in these areas. This country’s …

Harris: Sharon, you just …

Scheer: No, no — .

Weinberger: … not lacking in experts.

Harris: You just threw three strikes at the president because he does none of those things. So we’ve got a long way to go.

Weinberger: I try to avoid being political. I would rather talk about the things that I would like to see an administration do.

Scheer: Yeah.

Harris: Well, you mentioned the administration, and he’s the head.

Scheer: First of all, James, you were being mocking of the ideal, but there has to be an ideal. We have to go to that ideal. She’s saying some, I have some — . Yes, maybe the head of FEMA shouldn’t be in a position that the president just gives it to his friend who’s a failure in life, and then maybe we have someone who knows something about emergencies, someone from the Mississippi — .

Weinberger: I think, actually, that FEMA is an excellent example. Not to pick on any people personally, but — good Lord! — this is an important agency, particularly after 9/11. It’s important at any time, and you want to have people — . And maybe it’s not technical expertise; maybe it’s management experience, but it should be relevant management experience. You should value expertise over loyalty. Loyalty should not be the highest standard in appointing people.

Scheer: Not just loyalty, though, and also with the oversight question. Congress never does its oversight, never will, so there’s probably a system forever broken. So you need people who have that kind of ideal. I don’t know; maybe Sharon’s different than I am. I want someone who’s doing that kind of oversight and saying, there’s a woman in South Carolina who charges the Pentagon $700,000 for something that you or I can pick up at Home Depot for $15. And she talked about it from the beginning here: the $600 toilet seat. And James and I were talking about that right before this. A toilet seat shouldn’t cost $600, and there should be oversight, and if there was oversight through the Pentagon and Congress, which, again, these are idealistic. …

Harris: But they are basic requirements, and I don’t disagree with what you guys are saying; I’m saying you’ve got a tall mountain to climb. If you really think that those things are going to happen and happen with any rapidity.

Scheer: I enjoy pissing up a rope. Just to let you know.


Weinberger: You see this as well now with the contractor scandal and the questions being raised about Blackwater. It’s good these questions are being raised, but, as a lot of people are saying, this problem didn’t start last year. It was made much worse by the war in Iraq. But why did it take this long for Congress to exercise its oversight role? You shouldn’t have a citywide disaster in New Orleans. You shouldn’t have a disaster and controversies over contractors to the point you have if Congress is doing its role. They’re not to blame totally, but they provide the money and they have a role of oversight that should be fulfilled.

Scheer: Thank you very much, Sharon. It was really enjoyable talking to you.

Weinberger: Great. I appreciate it.

Scheer: And, again, look her up on the Danger Room and with the book, “Imaginary Weapons.”

Harris: So that’s Danger Room, “Imaginary Weapons.” Sharon, it was a pleasure. Sharon Weinberger. Pick up a copy. Give it a read. “Imaginary Weapons” is the title. You can buy it at all the normal places. Thank you for spending time with us today.

Weinberger: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Harris: All right. For Josh Scheer, for Sharon Weinberger, this is James Harris, and this has been a very interesting Truthdig.

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