Statement of Chairman Henry J. Hyde

Hearing on Russia, Iraq, and Other Potential Sources of Anthrax,

Smallpox and Other Bioterrorist Weapons

December 5, 2001

 


The hearing will come to order.

Our subject today is "Russia, Iraq, and Other Potential Sources of Anthrax, Smallpox, and Other Bioterrorist Weapons."

I scheduled today’s hearing for two reasons. First,

I thought we could all benefit from an update on what foreign countries are doing in the area of biological weapons development.

Second, we are all interested in learning as much as we can about the likely source of the anthrax that was mailed to Senators Daschle and Leahy and others.

The threshold question regarding the source of the anthrax is whether it is of a type that could have been produced by an individual or a group working alone. In other words, could someone like the UNABOMBER or Al-Qaeda have produced this anthrax without the involvement of a state?

If the answer to that question is no, we confront the prospect that a nation with a biological weapons program either knowingly decided to unleash this poison on the American people, or has so little control over its biological weapons that they were able to fall into terrorist hands. The $64,000 question: Which state could this be?

Are there any physical characteristics of the anthrax sent through our mails that either point toward or away from the biological weapons programs of which we are aware?

Press reports suggest that the anthrax had at least three distinctive characteristics. First, it was derived from the Ames strain of anthrax. Second, it appears to have been treated to make it float in the air more readily -- to the point where lab workers have been unable to force the spores to remain still on a slide. And third, it was highly concentrated -- up to one trillion spores per gram, according to one report.

Our witnesses may know of additional unique characteristics. But how does it all add up? Do the characteristics of the anthrax sent through our mail rule

in or rule out the biological weapons programs of such countries as Iraq, Russia, and the United States as sources of the anthrax?

No matter the conclusion we come to, relying on the learned scientists with us today, we cannot escape one glaring fact.

It is possible to terrorize the innocent people of any nation with a small amount of weapons-grade anthrax. Anthrax, not to speak of other horrible biological agents, is an integral part of the biological weapons programs of several rogue states.

In essence, what stands between the people of this nation and terrorists armed with biological weapons is the willingness of Saddam Hussein and his ilk to share that weapon. And that is a risk that I, for one, am not willing to take.

We are fortunate to be joined today by some of the leading experts on the biological weapons programs of these countries, who can hopefully shed some light on these issues.