Copies of the Progressive magazine article that a judge blocked from publication in the United States because it allegedly contained secrets about the hydrogen bomb have surfaced-but not yet been published-in Australia.
Peter Isaacson, editor in chief of the Melbourne Sunday Observer said in a phone interview last night that he had given his paper's copy of the article to Australian intelligence officers after being asked to do so Friday by a cabinet miniester. This apparently occured after the State Department asked the Australian government to intervene.
A front-page story in today's edition of the Observer, headlined "H-Bomb Plan in Melbourne" says at least one other copy of the article is known to be in Australia. Dr. Helen Caldicott, an antinuclear activist who now practices medicine in Boston, gave a copy of the Progressive story to the newspaper, the story said.
News of the spread of the banned Progressive article didn't reach the U.S. government until Friday, a Justice Department spokesman said last night. The State Department quickly confirmed that the article in the Observer's possession was genuine, apparently from reading the copy Isaacson surrendered to his government, according to Robert Havel, the Justice Department spokesman.
A Justice Department attorney and a Department of Energy scientist left for Australia yesterday afternoon, Havel said, "to help the Australian government determine how to proceed."
Today's Observer story said Caldicott showed the article at a Melbourne news conference two weeks ago and quoted her as saying, "I could be in trouble when I get back to Boston because they know I've got it." Caldicott's office said she is in Australia. She could not be reached for comment.
Havel said he didn't know why it took two weeks for her remarks to be forwarded to Washington.
The Observer story about the H-Bomb article made it clear that the management of the Progressive managazine did not know about the proliferation of its controversial story.
Progressive editor Erwin Knoll said in a phone interview from Madison, Wis., last night that he knew Caldicott and had printed an excerpt from her book, "Nuclear Madness: What You Can Do," in his December issue. But he said he had not given her a copy of the article by freelance writer Howard Morland. "We have rigidly obeyed the court order," Knoll said.
A federal judge in Milwaukee blocked publication of the article-the first such prior restraint of the press in American history-on March 26.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Warren took the action after the government argued in a series of sworn affidavits by scientists and nuclear experts that publication of the article would hasten the spread of nuclear weapons to countries that don't have them.
Attorneys for the Progressive said they will appeal the order. They say Morland's article was written without access to classified government material. One affidait supporting the magazine's position said more comprehensive discussion of the H-Bomb already was in the public domain-in an encyclopedia.
Robert Oakley, a deputy assistant secretary of state, said last night that the U.S. government made its "concerns" about the Progressive article known to the Australian government on Friday and cabled copies of affidavits supporting the U.S. court position to Canberra.
"Sure we asked them to stop it (publication) if it was a real threat," Oakley said.
It was unclear last night whether the Melbourne newspaper gave up its copy of the H-Bomb story voluntarily or under threat of some kind of government court action.
Observer owner Isaacson said he never had any intention of publishing the article. His paper's story said the 40-page Morland article and accompanying diagrams had been stored in a bank vault.
"The government asked and I believed it was our responsibility to turn the story over," Isaacson said. "Keeping it would not have been a service to my country or yours. I'm not going to try to hang onto something just to beef up a story.
"Besides, we had the exclusive story about the story anyway. None of my readers are interested in reading page after page of how, ostensibly, to build an H-Bomb."