Harold Green; Drafted Oppenheimer Disloyalty Charges
Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 1, 2008; B07

Harold P. Green, 86, who drafted disloyalty charges against controversial Manhattan Project director J. Robert Oppenheimer and then resigned over the Atomic Energy Commission's handling of the case, died of congestive heart failure July 19 at the Life Care Center of Evergreen, Colo.

Mr. Green was a staff attorney at the AEC security division in 1954 when he was asked to draft charges against Oppenheimer, who was known as the "father of the atomic bomb." Oppenheimer's interest in socialist and communist ideologies and his opposition to the development of the hydrogen bomb raised suspicions about his political allegiance during the anti-communist "Red Scare" era.

As he reviewed the investigative files, Mr. Green told author Philip M. Stern for The Oppenheimer Case: Security on Trial (1969), he became uncomfortable with the AEC director's enthusiasm for investigating the renowned physicist. The AEC director was supposed to act essentially as a judge in the case, and the FBI also uncharacteristically volunteered assistance, he said.

Although Mr. Green was told not to include Oppenheimer's opposition to the hydrogen bomb in the charges, he decided to try adding a few questions about the physicist's truthfulness in explaining why he opposed the H-bomb. His superiors left the questions intact.

"The inclusion of the H-bomb controversy as part of the Oppenheimer security case -- in a sense as a sort of afterthought -- had an enormous effect on the nature of the hearing that was to follow," Stern wrote. "Had it been omitted... the chances seem overwhelming that... the course of events 'in the matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer' would have been profoundly different."

Mr. Green left the AEC shortly after as a matter of conscience, he subsequently told his family, because he thought the pursuit of the case became political and Oppenheimer was being railroaded.

Oppenheimer's security clearance, which was about to expire, was suspended as a result of the hearing, and his government career and reputation were greatly harmed for many years. He worked at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., and died in 1967.

Mr. Green joined the legal staff of a Senate subcommittee on government operations and also became a partner in the local law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Kampelman, a position he held until 1983. His family said he worked on many cases involving security clearances.

He began teaching at George Washington University's law school in 1964 and resigned in 1979 to focus full time on his private practice. He returned to the university in 1983 and stayed there until 1992. He introduced science and technology policy issues in the school's curricula and directed a school project studying the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy.

In 1984, Mr. Green was the head of a committee at the law school that recommended closing GWU's night law school program, a major part of the university's offerings for at least the past 80 years, as part of an effort to improve the college's national image.

Six months later, after a major outpouring of opposition by alumni, the board of trustees rejected the plan. But in response to criticism that the quality of part-time students had declined, the board ordered that applicants to day and night classes meet the same admission requirements.

Harold P. Green was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and graduated from the University of Chicago. During World War II, he served in the Army in Europe, working with German prisoners of war. He returned to the University of Chicago, receiving a law degree in 1948. Two years later, he joined the AEC general counsel's office in Washington.

Mr. Green published extensively on legal issues involving science and technology and served on committees of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Institutes of Health. He was a founding fellow and a board member at the Hastings Center bioethics research institute. During the Carter administration, he was chairman of the Energy Department's environmental advisory committee.

He was also a founding member of Temple Shalom, a reform synagogue in Chevy Chase.

His wife of 41 years, Pauline Green, died in 1987.

Survivors include his wife of 13 years, Verneil English of Pasadena, Calif.; three children from his first marriage, Nancy Balter of Golden, Colo., Philip Green of Arlington County and Ellen Minick of Louisville, Colo.; and seven grandchildren.

Shortly before he died, Mr. Green wrote to his family that his "most gratifying professional accomplishment was advising and representing perhaps 25 individuals who had been denied, or who were vulnerable to denial of, security clearance, and whose careers were in every instance salvaged through my efforts."