Scientists get CIA honors, but can't reveal reason

January 05, 1994|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

LIVERMORE, Calif. -- The "Woodpecker Project" was a great success.

The CIA says so and invited a team of scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and their families to a brass-band ceremony at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., where the Woodpeckers received the Intelligence Community Seal Medallion.

So what was Project Woodpecker?

Don't ask. It's a state secret.

"Here we have this great recognition, but we can't say anything about it," said Ellen Raber, who started up the project in 1985 and gave it its name. "It's a really nice award, a brass medallion."

A news release from the lab says Woodpecker is "a classified project to improve information gathering techniques."

The lab can't even say for whom it built this equipment. It could be the CIA, the National Security Agency, the military or the people who analyze spy satellite photos.

Fair enough. But where did the name come from?

"I can't tell you," Ms. Raber said with a laugh. "But at that time, we had a lot of projects with bird names."

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