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Disarmament Diplomacy No. 73, Cover design by Paul Aston

Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 73, October - November 2003

News Analysis

US Policy: WMD, Good and Bad

By Stephen Pullinger

I. The Hunt for Iraq's WMD

Questions surrounding the extent of Iraq's pre-war weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capability and whether or not the US administration exaggerated it refuse to go away.

In parallel developments the US continues to consider the enhancements of its own WMD capabilities.

According to the US's top weapons hunter, David Kay, the search for Iraq's WMD is making considerable progress, with Iraqi informants leading searchers to sites not previously known to have been part of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's weapons programmes. Although he indicated that a surprise announcement may be forthcoming he did not deny that, to date, evidence of Iraqi chemical or biological weapons stockpiles is lacking. Citing the previously elaborate Iraq efforts at deceiving the inspectors, Kay said that some of those responsible for implementing that deception were "now telling us how they did it".1 As this issue went to press, however, fresh doubts were swirling around the findings obtained by Kay's inspection teams.2

According to the White House, a high-ranking Al Qaeda operative in custody has disclosed that Iraq supplied the Islamist militant group with material to build chemical and biological weapons (CBW).3 This operative has been described as a senior Al Qaeda terrorist responsible for the group's training camps in Afghanistan. He claims that Osama bin Laden turned to Iraq after concluding his group could not produce chemical or biological weapons on its own in Afghanistan. Iraq agreed to provide CBW training for two Al Qaeda associates starting in December 2000, the report said.

Nevertheless, critics of the case for war persist in their scepticism. In a report from the Council for a Livable World,4 its President, John Isaacs, accused the US administration of engaging "in a widespread and consistent pattern of selectively choosing evidence in order to inflate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein". These sentiments were echoed by Senator Carl Levin, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, who told the Senate on July 15 that there was "troubling evidence of other dubious statements and exaggerations by the intelligence community and administration officials". 5

In a substantial article in the Washington Post on August 106, Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus concluded that the US government not only made allegations depicting Iraq's nuclear weapons programme as more active, more certain and more imminent in its threat than the data they had would support but also withheld evidence that did not conform to their views. Moreover, the White House seldom corrected misstatements or acknowledged loss of confidence in information upon which it had previously relied.

One example of such behaviour was when President Bush used the contents of an IAEA report from 1996 (updated in 1998 and 1999) as present evidence that the Iraqis were six months away from developing a weapon. Yet in those accounts, the IAEA described the history of an Iraqi nuclear weapons programme that arms inspectors had systematically destroyed. Although the White House later acknowledged that Bush was relying on US intelligence rather than the IAEA, the claim remains dubious. US intelligence reports had only one scenario for an Iraqi bomb in six months to a year, premised on Iraq's immediate acquisition of enough plutonium or enriched uranium from a foreign source. "That is just about the same thing as saying that if Iraq gets a bomb, it will have a bomb," said a US intelligence analyst who covers the subject. "We had no evidence for it."7

Engineering experts from the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) now believe that the most likely use for two mysterious trailers found in Iraq was to produce hydrogen for weather balloons rather than to make biological weapons, government officials say.8 The classified findings by a majority of the engineering experts differ from the view put forward by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the DIA on May 28. Nevertheless, the two intelligence agencies still stood by that original finding.

An alternative explanation as to why no weapons of mass destruction have yet been found in Iraq has been offered by a close aide to Saddam.9 The official, whose job provided him with daily contact with the dictator and insight into the regime's decision-making process, said that the Iraqi dictator got rid of his country's WMD but deliberately kept the world guessing about it in an effort to divide the international community and stave off a US invasion. The strategy, which turned out to be a serious miscalculation, was designed to make the Iraqi dictator look strong in the eyes of the Arab world, while countries such as France and Russia were wary of joining a US-led attack. At the same time, Saddam retained the technical know-how and brainpower to restart the programmes at any time.

In light of the US government's grave concerns about the dangers posed by Iraq's WMD capability, its negligence in failing to ensure the security of nuclear materials at the al-Tuwaitha site is extraordinary. The rampant looting of these materials (discovered by US marines on April 7), which could be used to make "dirty" bombs, has resulted in them being offered for sale in a Basra souk for $250,000. Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that "as many as 400 potentially lethal radioactive sources are still missing from the inventory at al-Tuwaitha".10

US Army officials who checked the al-Tuwaitha site soon after the marines arrived, encountered high radiation levels in the storage building and withdrew. For three weeks prior to this, hundreds of villagers in the surrounding area had been bathing in and drinking water laced with radioactive contaminants from barrels they had stolen, emptied and used as containers. The barrels, experts say, had held uranium ores, low- enriched uranium "yellowcake", nuclear sludge and other by-products. Some villagers have since contracted symptoms attributed to radiation contamination. Ever since, atomic agency officials have pressed for access to the site, but American officials have resisted. "They say that the mandate of the agency in Iraq has expired and that allied forces are in charge," said Fleming.11

II. Developing US WMD

On August 7, US government scientists and Pentagon officials gathered at a Nebraska air force base to discuss the development of a modernised arsenal of small, specialised nuclear weapons.12 The Pentagon believes that more than 70 states now have some 1,400 underground command posts and sites for ballistic missiles and WMD. It wants to develop a class of relatively small nuclear weapon that could pierce rock and reinforced concrete and turn strongholds into radioactive dust. "With an effective earth penetrator, many buried targets could be attacked," the administration said in its Nuclear Posture Review, which it sent to Congress last year. Major Michael Shavers, a Pentagon spokesperson, said the meeting would involve some 150 people from the three main weapons labs, the Defence and State Departments, the Energy Department, its National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the White House. Requests by Congress to send observers were rejected.

Keith Payne, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Forces Policy from April 2002 to May 2003, said that the arms might dissuade an enemy from ever building deep bunkers and challenged the idea that small weapons would lower the threshold for nuclear war, saying America had deployed very small atomic arms in the past.

If the arms are ever built, critics say, the biggest hurdle to bunker busting may be targeting. Atomic intelligence is notoriously crude, as the failed weapons hunt in Iraq suggests. Recently, America's spies have also had trouble tracking nuclear arms production in Iran and in North Korea, which has a maze of secret sites and buried bunkers.

Congress, too, is uneasy about the new weapons, which are still in the research stage. A House appropriations subcommittee recently cut back on the administration's 2004 budget request for the arms.

The Nebraska meeting was also expected to have debated whether development of the weapons will require the White House to end the US moratorium on nuclear testing declared in 1992. Shavers said: "The meeting will give some thought to how we guarantee the efficacy of the [nuclear] stockpile". Secretary of State Colin Powell said that a resumption of US nuclear testing could not be ruled out forever but there was no need to test now.13 While insisting that it has no plans to resume testing, the administration has asked Congress for funds for a project that would cut down - from 24-36 months to 18 months - the amount of time it would take for the Cold War-era test site in Nevada to start functioning again.

C. Paul Robinson, the head of the Sandia National Laboratories, who attended the meeting, believes that America's new adversaries would be more successfully deterred if the line between conventional and nuclear weapons was blurred. He argued in a recent commentary in the Albuquerque Tribune that "military strategy is evolving to consider combinations of conventional and/or nuclear attacks for pre-emption or retaliation".14

In April, the United States produced a weapons-grade plutonium pit - the core of a fission bomb - for the first time in 14 years. According to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the move "restores the nation's ability to make nuclear weapons," and was needed so the Energy Department could replace pits found unsafe or destroyed through regular check-ups.

According to Shavers, the outcome of the Nebraska meeting will be a report to the departments of Defence and Energy, possibly outlining the content of the discussions, research questions going forward and other issues.

Director of Nuclear Lab Speaks Out

In an interview with the National Journal, Sandia Director C. Paul Robinson provided some interesting insights into the direction of US nuclear weapons and counter-proliferation policy.15 When asked if the laboratories were developing new nuclear weapons, Robinson answered that this depended on how one defined "new." He said that the US would probably have to manufacture new copies but that this would not be a new design, nor would the US need to test it. This applied to the so-called 'bunker-buster' bombs as well. Nevertheless, although the US was a "long way" from going back to nuclear tests, Robinson reminded us that the safeguards written into the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) ratification protocols - the US has signed but not ratified the treaty, and remains committed to a moratorium currently being observed by all five nuclear-weapon states - do allow the US President to withdraw from the accord and return to testing if a serious problem developed in the US nuclear arsenal that required testing for a solution. In other words, the US will adhere to the basic ban stipulated in the CTBT - unless and until such a stance conflicts with its security posture.

Robinson pointed out that other states were seeking to thwart US conventional military capabilities by moving their high-value targets out of the reach of the US by locating them in deeply buried tunnels and inside mountains. North Korea, Iran, Syria and Libya have all done so. Although the weapons laboratories' primary focus is still to be able to reach such targets with conventional weapons, tests show that they do not work very well. If these continued to prove ineffective the US would need to look at what can be accomplished with a nuclear earth-penetrator that causes the least possible amount of collateral damage. The type of weapon here would be smaller-yield, lighter and with high reliability.

Robinson then set out how he envisaged that these new capabilities would make nuclear weapons more 'usable': "A national command authority confronted in a crisis with the prospect of killing 40,000 people with a thermonuclear weapon in order to take out a bunker is probably going to decide not to. If we could design a bunker buster that would kill an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people, on the other hand, the answer would probably be yes if the situation was critical. Those are the weapons the Bush administration gave us the OK to begin researching about a year ago, because our scientists felt handcuffed by restrictions that were in place at the time."

Robinson believes that the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was intended more as a confidence-building measure than as a real arms-control treaty. He described the Treaty's verification provisions, which missed the programmes in Iraq and Iran, as "ridiculous". He also called for the extension of the nuclear umbrella further from Japan to encompass Southeast Asian nations such as South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines.

Former Democratic Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore, commenting on recent developments in US nuclear weapons policy, said: "This administration has rejected [the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] and now, incredibly, wants to embark on a new program to build a brand new generation of smaller (and it hopes, more usable) nuclear bombs. In my opinion, this would be true madness."16

ElBaradei Criticises US Nuclear Stance

Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the IAEA, is calling on the US to set an example to the rest of the world by cutting its arsenal of nuclear weapons, suggesting Washington is employing a double standard by demanding other nations be prevented from possessing atomic weapons.17 He also said that President George W. Bush is unjustified in pushing a space-based missile-defence plan. Reuters reported him as saying: "In truth there are no good or bad nuclear weapons. If we do not stop applying double standards we will end up with more nuclear weapons". ElBaradei wants the world's five original nuclear powers to send a clear message to the rest of the world by disarming themselves.

US Closes Nuclear Watchdog

At the end of July, NNSA Advisory Committee - a US Department of Energy panel of experts providing independent oversight of the development of the American nuclear arsenal - was quietly disbanded by the Bush administration.18 The decision to close down the committee - required by law to hold public hearings and issue reports on nuclear weapons issues - came just days before the Nebraska meeting. Ed Markey, a Democratic Representative and co-chair of a congressional taskforce on non-proliferation, said: "Instead of seeking balanced expert advice and analysis about this important topic, the Department of Energy has disbanded the one forum for honest, unbiased external review of its nuclear weapons policies." "The Bush administration is considering policy changes that will alter the role of nuclear weapons in national defence," Mr. Markey added: "Given the importance and sheer complexity of the issues raised ... why was the only independent contemplative body studying nuclear weapons disbanded - and disbanded in such a surreptitious fashion?"19

Daryl Kimball, the head of the independent, Washington-based Arms Control Association (ACA), said: "This will make the Department of Energy and the NNSA even more opaque. It will be all the more difficult to understand what they are planning to do."20

Rocky Flats Clean-Up Completed

On August 19, US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced that the Department of Energy has completed a major cleanup milestone of its Rocky Flats weapons facility, located near Denver, Colorado, marking the departure of the final shipment of nuclear weapons-usable material from the site. The plant was responsible for the fabrication of all the plutonium triggers currently at use in the nation's nuclear stockpile. An Energy Department statement21 observed:

"In the mid-1990s, the goal was set to remove bomb-making material from the site by 2015. The site is now scheduled to be cleaned and closed in 2006. The removal of the weapons-usable material at the site, a full 12 years ahead of schedule, reduces one of the greatest risks to human health and the environment. The material will be turned into fuel for nuclear reactors, thereby meeting a key non-proliferation goal of the United States. ... Early forecasts estimated that it would take more than 60 years and $37 billion dollars to complete a cleanup and closure that is now on track to be finished in 2006, at a total cost of approximately $7 billion, thereby saving the taxpayers nearly $30 billion dollars. When Rocky Flats was designated for closure, a daunting task was the removal of more than 12 metric tons of plutonium, the demolition of hundreds of aging and contaminated buildings, and the disposal of thousands of tons of radioactive and hazardous waste materials. To date, the closure project is more than halfway done. Rocky Flats operated for more than 40 years. When cleanup work is complete, the site will become a National Wildlife Refuge."

III. US Missile Defence Policy

The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has decided to delay tests of competing booster rockets being developed by defence contractors Lockheed Martin and Orbital Sciences for use in the Ground-based Missile Defense system.22 Once those tests have been conducted, the agency plans to test the boosters carrying payloads in two integrated flight tests, which were originally scheduled to be held in the third and fourth quarters of fiscal 2003. Those tests are now set to be held in the autumn at the test site on Kwajalein Island, the Agency said. If the integrated flight tests are successful, the Agency plans to conduct an intercept test using one of the two booster designs. That test had originally been scheduled for the first quarter of fiscal 2004, but is now scheduled for the second quarter of fiscal 2004.23

US military officials have been presenting mixed signals on how well Patriot missile defences worked during the Iraq war, with the release of details on a much-awaited US Army study on the performance experiencing delay and a second review, by the Army's Inspector General, underway.24

For several months since Patriots were fired against nine Iraqi missiles during the conflict, some officials have characterized its performance as nearly or fully effective. Two senior missile defence officials, however, have publicly said such judgments should wait for the conclusion and release of results from a formal performance review.

The aim of the Army review has been to determine whether those nine reported successful engagements were caused by Patriot "intercepts," where Patriot missiles or Patriot warhead fragments hit the Iraqi missile, possibly "killing" the Iraqi warhead, as opposed to bad Iraqi technology or aim. The review, officials have said, includes surveying the desert for signs of warhead explosions and reviewing recorded "black box" and radar data.

On August 15, the MDA announced that it had selected Adak, Alaska, as the Primary Support Base (PSB) for the Sea-Based X-Band (SBX) radar, as part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. An MDA statement25 elaborated:

"The selection of Adak was the result of extensive analysis of numerous factors relating to operations, support and sustainability, including easy access to potential operating areas and available support infrastructure. The SBX vessel, a self-propelled semi-submersible modified oil-drilling platform, will be modified and payloads installed. It is scheduled to begin supporting GMD operations in 2005. The SBX will provide detailed ballistic missile tracking information to the GMD system, as well as advanced target and countermeasures discrimination capability for the GMD interceptor missiles. The ability of the SBX to deploy to operating locations under its own power allows it to support actual GMD operations as well as realistic testing. The SBX is approximately 390 feet long and 250 feet high, and has a displacement of 50,000 tons."

The following day, the MDA announced26 that it had "successfully completed a test flight of a developmental booster rocket design planned for use with the GMD system." The statement continued:

"The test did not involve the intercept of a target warhead, and did not carry an Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), which, in an intercept test, is the system component that collides directly with the target warhead using 'hit to kill' technology. The three-stage developmental booster was launched from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base... The objectives for the mission included demonstrating the vehicle's silo launch capabilities, verifying the vehicle design and flight characteristics, and confirming the planned performance of its guidance, control and propulsion systems. A post-test analysis is underway, but initial indications show nominal booster performance. Another booster design by Lockheed Martin will participate in a similar test launch from this autumn. As part of a continuing development and testing effort leading to an initial defensive capability against a limited long-range missile attack beginning in 2004, both booster systems are scheduled to participate in flight tests that will test integrated system performance during both actual and simulated intercepts of a ballistic missile target."

US-India Cooperation

The US-India Defense Group, consisting of senior defence officials from the two increasingly close allies, met in Washington on August 6-7. Topics covered included the response to terrorism, cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries, the threat from weapons of mass destruction, the role of missile defence in enhancing security and stability, and the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.27 Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith hosted the meeting and Defence Secretary Ajay Prasad led the Indian delegation.

The two sides agreed to establish a high-level dialogue on defence technology security issues and reaffirmed the shared view that missile defence enhances cooperative security and stability. They decided to hold a missile defence workshop in India in the next six months as a follow-on to an international workshop attended by US and Indian delegations at the June 2003 Multinational Ballistic Missile Defense Conference held in Kyoto, Japan. The Indian delegation also accepted invitations to the July 2004 Multinational Ballistic Missile Defense Conference in Berlin and the 2005 Roving Sands Missile Defense Exercise.

US-Danish Cooperation

After months of delay, missile defence talks between Copenhagen and Washington are poised to move forward. Inside Missile Defense28 reports that discussions regarding planned upgrades to the Thule radar base in Greenland - stymied in recent months by domestic opposition - could resume as early as next month. The Danish government has already signalled its preliminary approval for the Thule upgrades, which constitute an important element in the Bush administration's planned global anti-ballistic missile architecture. Formal approval from the country's parliament, however, is still pending.

Congressional Funding

When Congress returns in September, missile defence funding is likely to become a strongly disputed issue between the Senate and the House of Representatives. The White House is pushing hard for an operational system to protect the US from ballistic missile attack by September 2004, in time for that year's presidential election.29 This timeline, however, requires additional funding to be allocated for the ground-based segment of the Pentagon's missile defence effort. And while the Senate, under the leadership of Appropriations Committee Chair Ted Stevens (Republican), has apportioned the necessary funds, the House of Representatives so far has not.

APS Study Points to Severe Limits on Boost-Phase Missile Defense

A two-year study by the American Physical Society (APS) challenges many of the assumptions behind the Bush administration's $600 million boost-phase programme.30 Boost-phase missile defence, the strategy of destroying a hostile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as it climbs into the sky during the first few minutes of flight, is virtually impossible in all but a few limited circumstances, according to the 476-page report released in July. Although the report's authors were careful not to make any policy statements or recommendations, they did conclude that "when all factors are considered none of the boost-phase defence concepts studied would be viable for the foreseeable future to defend the nation against even first-generation solid-propellant ICBMs".

Physicists Frederick Lamb of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Daniel Kleppner of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), co-chairs of the study, said they were careful to deliver an impartial report based entirely on scientific and technical aspects of the boost-phase concept. Lamb said the report, which relied on unclassified material, was intended to be both "compelling and sophisticated" in the depth of its analysis and "bullet proof" to scientific challenge.

For the 2004 budget, the Bush administration has proposed more than $600 million for boost-phase work as part of a $9 billion request for missile defence funding. Of the $600 million, about $60 million is for research on a high-speed interceptor rocket. The remainder is for continuing work on an airborne laser.

After the APS study was released, the MDA issued a statement saying it was studying the report but remained confident in its programme: "We continue to believe that boost-phase technology has great potential for playing a vital role in a layered missile defense," the statement said.31 The layered defence includes attacking missiles during their boost phase, midcourse flight in space, and the termination phase as their warheads re-enter the atmosphere. Members of the APS study team briefed MDA officials about the report in private meetings last October.

The two-volume report analyzes boost-phase defensive systems involving very high-speed hit-to-kill interceptors, a space-based hit-to-kill system, and an airborne laser. The report's six conclusions are as follows:

1. Defence of the entire US against relatively slow liquid-propellant ICBMs "may be technically feasible" using land-, sea-, or air-based interceptors, but "the interceptor rockets would have to be substantially faster (and therefore necessarily larger) than those usually proposed."

2. Defence against faster solid-propellant missiles "is unlikely to be practical."

3. Space-based interceptor rockets could work, but the interceptors would have to be fairly large to attain the speed needed to be effective. Although the technology for such a system could become available within 15 years, "defending against a single ICBM would require a thousand or more interceptors. . . . Deploying such a system would require at least a five to ten fold increase over current US space-launch rates."

4. The airborne laser now under development might have some capability against slower liquid-fuelled ICBMs, but "it would be ineffective against solid-propellant ICBMs, which are more heat-resistant."

5. The US Navy's existing Aegis missile defence system "should be capable of defending against short- or medium-range missiles launched from... platforms off the US coast." To work, however, the interceptors would have to be within "a few tens of kilometers" of the attacking missiles.

6. Although a successful intercept could prevent a warhead from reaching its designated target, the warhead would continue on a ballistic trajectory. As a result, "live nuclear, chemical, or biological munitions [could] fall on populated areas short of the target. . . . Timing intercepts accurately enough to avoid this problem would be difficult."

The report also contained findings, which, in essence, gave an overview of the myriad problems boost-phase defence faces. Key findings include the following:

  • In a hit-to-kill defence system, the time remaining after an interceptor is fired is so short - less than 170 seconds against a liquid-fuelled ICBM and 120 seconds against a solid-propellant rocket - that "that the defence could fire only once".
  • Even solid-propellant ICBMs based on 40-year-old technology would have short enough boost-phase burn times to "call into question the fundamental feasibility of any boost-phase intercept". The report also notes that US intelligence estimates state that both North Korea and Iran, the nations most often cited as threats in the missile defence debate, could deploy solid-propellant ICBMs within the next decade. "Boost-phase defences not able to defend against solid-propellant ICBMs risk being obsolete when deployed," the report says.
  • In regard to building a boost-phase system, "few of the components that would be required for early deployment (within 5 years)... currently exist. Moreover, we see no means for deploying an effective boost-phase defence against ICBMs within 10 years".

Lamb said he expects challenges to the report to focus on political judgments rather than technical criticisms. The report looked at the performance required to defend all 50 states, the lower 48 states, the major US cities, and either the East or West Coast. "If you don't demand defence of most of the US, then it gets slightly easier," Lamb said. "If North Korea developed an early version of a long-range missile that could reach Hawaii, then defending against that might be doable [with a boost-phase system]," he continued. While defending Hawaii may not be a basis for moving ahead with an extensive system, he said, for proponents it represents a feasible first step.


If terrorists attacked using dangerous chemical agents, laboratories would not be prepared to test environmental samples and provide crucial information on contaminated areas, according to a report from the Association of Public Health Laboratories. While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has taken steps to test victims in a chemical attack, environmental testing has lagged, the Association says. Although public health laboratories are being asked to evaluate chemical terrorism threats, they are not equipped to do so safely. Echoing a common complaint, the Association said the nation public health infrastructure is under-funded and that an attack would stretch already scarce resources.32 The US Army began destroying more than 2,200 tons of nerve agent at the Anniston Army Depot, Alabama, in August. The announcement came one day after the Alabama Department of Environmental Management issued a permit allowing the Army to start up its $1 billion incinerator. The order was given to begin destroying the deadly nerve agent and mustard gas on August 6, despite worries from many nearby residents and environmental groups that incineration is not safe enough for such a heavily populated area. About 35,000 people live within nine miles of the depot, and more than 250,000 live within a 30-mile circle.33

Chemists in the US have modified a common bacterial enzyme so that it pulls apart the lethal nerve agent soman. A more efficient version could form part of a mask to protect against nerve agents. Soman was thought to be the main agent in the Soviet Union's chemical-weapon stockpiles, and may have been used by Iraq in its war with Iran in the 1980s.34

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) won't release an anonymous letter, which in the days before the 2001 fatal anthrax mailings, accused an Egyptian-born scientist of plotting bio-warfare against the US, saying it would divulge secret sources in the continuing investigation.35 In a July 7 note citing the sources, the FBI denied Ayaad Assaad, the letter's subject, access to the evidence. Mr. Assaad said he is convinced it is linked to a person or a group responsible for the anthrax mailings that killed five people.

Asked about the anonymous letter, a spokeswoman at the FBI's Washington field office said it is "unrelated to the anthrax mailings". However, that assertion has not stopped the Bureau from withholding it for nearly two years from Mr. Assaad. About two weeks before the anthrax mailings became known, the FBI was given the unsigned letter describing Mr. Assaad, who once worked at the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, as an anti-American religious fanatic with the means and expertise to unleash a bio-weapons attack. He has been seeking a copy of the letter ever since agents with the FBI's Washington field office questioned him about it on October 3, 2001.36

Postscript: US CW Destruction Woes

On September 3, the US Department of Defense announced37 "that the United States will not meet the 45 percent chemical weapons stockpile destruction deadline of April 29, 2004, as set down by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)." Consequently, the administration is "requesting [that] the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) grant an extension of the 45 per cent destruction deadline. The revised destruction date is December 2007. The request will be made in accordance with the provisions of the CWC and is based on the status of destruction operations at US chemical weapons demilitarization facilities and projection of future operations." The announcement continues:

"The revised destruction date is based on historical destruction data from US chemical weapons demilitarization facilities that have already operated and the estimates of the forecast contribution of facilities planned to be operating in the near future. This date also takes into account legal and procedural barriers as well as technical and operational factors unique to each of the facilities. The request for extension is permitted under the CWC, provided it is made at least 180 days before the deadline with a detailed explanation of the reasons for the request and plans for achieving destruction by the revised extension date. Approximately 23 per cent of the declared US stockpile has been destroyed since the CWC entered into force in April 1997."

In terms of prospects for meeting subsequent destruction deadlines, the announcement clearly signals potential trouble ahead: "[T]he United States reached its previous milestones well in advance of the deadlines set by the CWC, and it has been trying to complete destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile in order to meet the CWC's final 2007 deadline to destroy the entirety of their stockpiles, but there have been significant obstacles. The United States will address the extension of the 100 per cent deadline at a later date, as allowed under the convention. The convention allows member states to request up to a five-year extension of the final deadline. The US chemical demilitarization program has had several delays due to unresolved political and operational issues that forced operational shutdowns or postponed start-up dates. At the Tooele Chemical Destruction Facility in Utah, no destruction occurred for eight months due to an investigation of safety practices following an incident where a worker was exposed to a minute quantity of chemical agent during a maintenance operation."

Doubtless anticipating a harsh reaction to the news from the many critics of the management of the US CW-destruction programme hitherto, the Pentagon announcement finishes on a determinedly reassuring note: "The United States is a strong proponent of the CWC and provides an important leadership role to member states and the OPCW. The United States fully intends to honor all of its commitments to the CWC and fulfil all chemical weapons destruction obligations."

Notes and References

1. 'Top US Weapons Hunter Cites Progress', Bioweapons Focus by Joe Fiorill, Global Security Newswire, Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), August 1, 2003.

2. On September 14, The Sunday Times reported that the publication of David Kay's report, scheduled for later in the month, had been postponed indefinitely, and possibly even cancelled, due to the lack of solid evidence regarding Iraqi WMD. The article notes: "In July Kay suggested on US television that he had seen enough evidence to convince himself that Saddam Hussein had had a programme to produce weapons of mass destruction. He expected to find 'strong' evidence of missile delivery systems and 'probably' evidence of biological weapons. But last week British officials said they believed Kay had been 'kite-flying' and that no hard evidence had been uncovered." See David Leppard, 'Iraq Weapons Report shelved', The Sunday Times, September 14, 2003. On September 15, ABC television reported that a draft report by Mr. Kay contained no firm proof of Iraqi possession of chemical or biological weapons at the time of the US-led invasion; see 'No Solid Evidence in Draft on Iraq Arms Search, ABC Reports', Reuters, September 15, 2003. On September 9, Hans Blix, former Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), told CNN: "With this long period [since the end of the war], I'm inclined to think that the Iraqi statement that they destroyed all the biological and chemical weapons, which they had in the summer of 1991, may well be the truth"; see 'Blix says Iraq's weapons declaration may have been true', Agence France Presse, September 9, 2003.

3. 'Al Qaeda henchman says Iraq furnished chemical, biological arms aid: White House', Agence France-Presse/SpaceWar.com, August 9, 2003.

4. '16 Distortions: Not 16 words', at http://www.clw.org/16distortions.html.

5. http://levin.senate.gov/for/071503fs1.htm

6. 'Depiction of Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence', Washington Post, August 10, 2003.

7. Ibid.

8. 'Iraqi Trailers Said to Make Hydrogen, Not Biological Arms', Douglas Jehl, New York Times, August 9, 2003.

9. 'Hussein was bluffing, aide says', Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press, August 2, 2003.

10. 'Looted and For Sale in Iraq: The Deadly Core of Nuclear Weapons', David Pratt and Felicity Arbuthnot, The Sunday Herald, August 8, 2003.

11. Ibid.

12. 'US Holds Nuke Brainstorm Session', Jarrett Murphy, CBS, New York, August 7, 2003; 'US presses program for new atom bombs', William J Broad, New York Times, August 4, 2003; '"Dr Strangeloves" meet to plan new nuclear era', Julian Borger, The Guardian, August 7, 2003.

13. 'Powell Says No Need for Nuclear Tests Now', by Barry Schweid, White House - Associated Press Cabinet & State, August 7, 2003.

14. Albuquerque Tribune Online: News, August 24, 2003.

15. 'United States I: The Pros and Cons of New Nuclear Weapons', by James Kitfield, National Journal, cited in Global Security Newswire, NTI, August 8, 2003.

16. Federal News Service transcript, August 8, 2003.

17. 'UN nuke Czar to US: Disarm', 2003 WorldNetDaily.com, posted August 26, 2003.

18. 'US scraps nuclear weapons watchdog', Julian Borger in Washington, The Guardian, July 31, 2003.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21.'Energy Secretary Abraham Says Rocky Flats Weapons Complex Is Now Free Of Nuclear Weapons Usable Material', US Department of Energy, August 19, 2003.

22. 'Pentagon Delays GMD Booster Rocket Tests', Global Security Newswire, NTI, August 6, 2003.

23. Inside Missile Defense, Thomas Duffy, August 6, 2003.

24. 'Officials Providing Mixed Signals on Patriot's Record in Iraq', David Ruppe, Global Security Newswire, NTI, August 6, 2003.

25. 'Missile defense radar site chosen', US Missile Defense Agency statement, August 15, 2003.

26. 'Missile defense booster rocket test flight successful', US Missile Defense Agency, August 16, 2003.

27. United States Department of Defense News Release, August 8, 2003.

28. Inside Missile Defense, August 20, 2003.

29. Inside the Ring column, Washington Times, August 15, 2003.

30. Available at http://www.aps.org/public_affairs/popa/reports/nmd03.html.

31. Quoted at: http://www.physicstoday.org/pt/vol-56/iss-9/p26.html

32. 'US Response: Report Says Laboratories Unprepared for Chemical Attack', David McGlinchey, Global Security Newswire, NTI, August 1, 2003.

33. 'Army Sets Aug. 6 Date For Beginning Chemical Weapons Burns', NBC, August 1, 2003.

34. 'Artificially evolved protein destroys nerve gas', Philip Ball, Nature, July 31, 2003.

35. 'Accused Scientist Says Letter Links to Anthrax Mailers', Guy Taylor, Washington Times, August 10, 2003.

36. Ibid.

37. 'US Chemical Weapons Destruction Extension Requested', US Department of Defense News Release, No. 650-03, September 3, 2003.

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© 2003 The Acronym Institute.