A government nuclear scientist who has read the Progressive magazine's article on the H-bomb says a competent physicist could get no more information out of it than is available from a diagram "prepared by Dr. Edward Teller for his article on the hydrogen bomb in the Encyclopedia Americana."
The views of Dr. Theodore A. Postol, an employe of the Departme t of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, were contained in one of eight affidavits filed Friday by attorneys for the Progressive in response to a civil suit brought March 8 to the Justice Department.
The government is seeking to prevent the magazine from publishing an article on the H-bomb written by freelance writer Howard Morland.
As now written, according to the government, the article and its accompanying diagrams contain information about basic concepts underlying the design and operation of the H-bomb that have not been published before and are considered classified under provisions of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954.
In another affidavit, Progressive managing editor Samuel Day Jr. said a draft copy of the Morland article was sent by an outside source to the DOC's director of classification, John A. Griffin, on Feb. 16, 11 days before the government affidavits first say the article came to the attention of any official.
Government officials, including Griffin, have refused to comment on what actions, if any, were taken when this firs copy of the Progressive article arrived in Washington.
It was Griffin who reportedly started the activities Feb. 27 that led to the lawsuit. His affidavit in the case says publication "could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security of the United Staes."
Five other scientists and teachers in the nuclear energy field who have not read the Morland article supported the Progressive argument that the basic concepts of the H-bomb are known to many physicists inside and outside the government.
Postol, who co-authored a Progressive article last year with the magazine's editor, Erwin Knoll, on how an H-bomb would destroy Chicago, was sent a draft of the Morland piece in mid-February to review for technical accuracy.
Postol called the Morland piece "technically less sound" than the Teller encyclopedia article. He said Morland destribed "no information or ideas that are not already common knowledge among scientists, including those who do not have access to classisfied information."
Apparently to prove his point, Postol wrote a second affidavit in which he described how a review of the Teller article "would result in a physicist quickly coming to the same conclusion as Morland."
Postol does not work on nuclear weapons, and says in his affidavit that he has never had access to classified information.
Nonetheless, his second affidavit, Postol says, has "far more scientifically useful information that the Morland article." It is being reviewed by the government to see if it, too, contains classified material.
Postol illustrated his idea that information classified by the government can be developed by outsiders by showing how one physicist, using pictures of the first atomic bomb in Life magazine, determined its yield -- then considered top secret.
Progressive managing editor Day said in his affidavit that DOE Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs Duane Sewell told him on March 2 that the Morland "captioned sketches" and 20 percent of the article's text were considered classified.
He also quoted Sewell as saying that there were some inaccuracies in the piece but that they were "not substantial."
Day also disclosed that Morland had come to his attention in June 1978 as someone "studying unclear weapons production." At that ime, Morland gave Day sketches of a nuclear artillery shell which Morland labeled as a neutron version of the 155mm shell.
Also included was a sketch of an Hbomb.
Day called these early materials "erroneous" in part and the sketches "rudimentary." He commented in his affidavit that a comparison of this early material with the Morland article led him "to conclude that Morland gained most of his know ledge in this area... on assignment for the Progressive."
Knoll said in his affidavit that the Morland article "cannot be used as a 'how-to-do-it' kit for the construction of a thermonuclear weapon."
He said the article was to be printed to show how readily available so-called secrets are in the nuclear weapons program.
"Such secrecy," Knoll said in his affidavit, "not only failed to promote national security but prevented the dissemination of knowledge and inhibited debate on issues of public concern."