INTELLIGENCE STATEMENT BY

ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE

FOR INTELLIGENCE AND RESEARCH CARL W. FORD, JR.

BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS

HEARING ON REDUCING THE THREAT OF CHEMICAL

AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS MARCH 19, 2002

 

Chairman Biden, Senator Helms, I am particularly pleased to come before you today, as I spent many years working for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. I enjoyed those years, and am pleased now to contribute to your work again, if in a different way.

More states have credible chemical and biological warfare (CBW) capabilities than ever before. Advanced CBW capabilities and the widespread public understanding of U.S. vulnerabilities since the anthrax attacks which followed on the events of September 2001 makes their use all the more likely . CBW threats challenge not only our homeland and Americans overseas, but our allies as well. Collaborative international efforts to meet, reduce and defeat the use of chemical or biological weapons have become essential. The United States remains committed to enacting new domestic laws and strengthening treaties and international WMD- regimes to prevent and deter CBW development and use. I will highlight those countries not in compliance with their international obligations. The Administration has raised this important issue with a number of countries bilaterally.

Since the worldwide CBW threat is growing in breadth and sophistication, the use of these weapons anywhere in the world would affect the United States. Crude but lethal attacks can be small and could strike us in our homes here or in American communities abroad. More than a dozen nations, including China, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Russia and Syria have the capabilities to produce chemical and biological agents. Former Soviet biological and chemical facilities still exist in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, though none is active now. Many have been engaged by U.S. threat reduction programs to try to control proliferation of equipment, materials and knowledge. Nevertheless, it will always remain difficult to assess how successful we have been in preventing proliferation -- especially since basic CBW production does not require large, sophisticated programs or facilities. Additionally, the worldwide exchange of information via the Internet facilitates this process.

How likely is the use of CBW?

Compared to nuclear weapons, chemical weapons (CW) and biological weapons (BW) are easier to acquire and the inherently dual-use nature of many goods and technologies needed to produce BW and CW makes their assembly easier. That makes it likely that we will confront such a threat in the future—again most likely by terrorists. Chemical agent development is threatening, and the development and production of traditional chemical agents may be easier because their formulations are more widespread than biological compounds. The building blocks of any chemical weapons program come from the chemical industry. Precursor chemical procurement can be difficult for a state that cannot produce them indigenously. Nevertheless, World War l-era CW agents are not difficult to acquire and diagrams and descriptions of chemical weapons from expired patents remain available in public libraries or on the Internet.

Virtually all the equipment, technology and materials needed for biological agent research and development and production are available on the open market as well as in the secondary markets of the world. Vaccine research and disease treatment require essentially the same equipment. Because biological weapons are relatively cheap, easy to disguise within commercial ventures, and potentially as devastating as nuclear weapons, states seeking to deter nations with superior conventional or nuclear forces find them particularly attractive. Therefore BW will probably continue to gain importance since it can kill or incapacitate military forces or civilian populations, while leaving infrastructure intact but contaminated. Its great disadvantage, that it can also attack one's own side, may be blunted by advanced vaccination programs. Traditional controls, similar to those used for fissionable material or delivery systems, cannot be effective when dangerous pathogens occur naturally and do not depend on manufacturing settings for production. Procuring BW agents and using them can be done in different ways with different effects. While developing an effective biological weapon is more difficult than popular discussion may indicate, the degree of difficulty depends on the agent chosen and the sophistication of the delivery method. Biological weapons have been developed by states for many operational uses, as well as by terrorist groups.

In addition to direct threats to the American people The United States is vulnerable to indirect attack. For example, the United States relies on modern intensive farming production methods that involve large numbers of healthy susceptible livestock in geographically concentrated areas, a centralized feed supply, and rapid movement of animals to markets. In addition, US crops generally lack genetic diversity, leaving them vulnerable to disease. An anti-livestock BW attack could result in multiple outbreaks throughout the United States before the disease is diagnosed. In most cases, confirmation of a foreign animal disease would result in immediate termination of exports and potential banning of US livestock products by foreign governments, probably accompanied by killing infected and exposed livestock. The economic impact would be enormous; as many as one in eight U.S. jobs is directly involved in some form of agriculture, from food production to deliver to retail sales.

Chemical and Biological weapons have been used throughout history, and we are keenly aware of the recent anthrax attacks as well as past Iraqi use of chemical weapons against the Kurds in 1988 as well as the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway. The threat is real, dangerous and likely to occur again.

Which nations possess weaponized stocks of chemical and biological agents?

Iraq

Given Iraq's past behavior, it is likely that Baghdad has reconstituted programs prohibited under UN Security Council Resolutions. Since the suspension of UN inspections in December of 1998, Baghdad has had more than enough time to reinitiate its CW programs, programs that had demonstrated the ability to produce deadly CW before they wre disrupted by Operation Desert Storm, Desert Fox, and UNSCOM inspections. Iraq's failure to submit an accurate Full, "Final, and Complete Disclosure (FFCD) in either 1995 or 1997, coupled with its extensive concealment efforts, suggest that the BW program also has continued. Without inspection and monitoring of programs, however, it is difficult to determine their current status.

Since the Gulf war Iraq has rebuilt key portions of its chemical production infrastructure for industrial and commercial use at locations previously identified with their CW program. Iraq has also rebuilt a plant that produces castor oil, allegedly for brake fluid. The mash left over from this production, however, could be used to produce ricin, a biological toxin. Iraq has attempted to purchase numerous dual-use items for, or under the guise of, legitimate civilian use. This equipment—in principle subject to UN scrutiny—also could be diverted for WMD purposes. Since the suspension of UN inspections in December 1998, the risk of diversion has increased. After Desert Fox, Baghdad again instituted a reconstruction effort on those facilities destroyed by the US bombing, including several critical missile production complexes and former dual-use CW production facilities. In addition, Iraq appears to be installing or repairing dual-use equipment at CW-related facilities. Some of these facilities could be converted fairly quickly for production of CW agents.

UNSCOM reported to the Security Council in December 1998 that Iraq also continued to withhold information related to its CW program. For example, Baghdad seized from UNSCOM inspectors an Air Force document discovered by UNSCOM that indicated that Iraq had not consumed as many CW munitions during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s as had been declared by Baghdad. This discrepancy indicates that Iraq may have hidden an additional 6,000 CW munitions.

In 1995, Iraq admitted to having an offensive BW program and submitted the first in a series of FFCDs that were supposed to have revealed the full scope of its BW program. According to UNSCOM, these disclosures are incomplete and filled with inaccuracies. Since the full scope and nature of Iraq's BW program was not verified, UNSCOM has reported that Iraq maintains a knowledge base and industrial infrastructure that could be used to produce quickly a large amount of BW agents at any time. Iraq also has continued dual-use research that could improve BW agent R&D capabilities. With the absence of a monitoring regime and Iraq's growing industrial self-sufficiency, we remain concerned that Iraq may again be producing biological warfare agents.

Iraq has worked on its L-29 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program, which involves converting L-29 jet trainer aircraft originally acquired from Eastern Europe. In the past, Iraq has conducted flights of the L-29, possibly to test system improvements or to train new pilots. These refurbished trainer aircraft are believed to have been modified for delivery of chemical or, more likely, biological warfare agents.

Iran

Iran, a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), already has manufactured and stockpiled chemical weapons — including blister, blood, choking, and probably nerve agents, and the bombs and artillery shells to deliver them. Tehran continues to seek production technology, training, expertise, equipment, and chemicals from entities in Russia and China that could be used to help Iran reach its goal an indigenous nerve agent production capability.

Tehran continued to seek considerable dual-use biotechnical materials, equipment, and expertise from abroad—primarily from entities in Russia and Western Europe— ostensibly for civilian uses. We believe that this equipment and know-how could be applied to Iran's biological warfare (BW) program. Iran probably began its offensive BW program during the Iran-Iraq war, and likely has evolved beyond agent research and development to the capability to produce small quantities of agent. Iran may have some limited capability to weaponize BW.

North Korea

North Korea has a long-standing chemical weapons program. North Korea's domestic chemical industry can produce bulk quantities of nerve, blister, choking, and blood agents. We believe it has a sizeable stockpile of agents and weapons. These weapons could be on a variety of delivery vehicles, including ballistic missiles, aircraft, artillery projectiles and unconventional weapons. North Korea has not acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), nor is it expected to do so any time soon.

While North Korea has acceded to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), it nonetheless has pursued biological warfare capabilities over the last four decades. North Korea likely has a basic biotechnical infrastructure that could support the production of infectious biological agents. It is believed to possess a munitions production infrastructure that would allow it to weaponize agents and may have biological weapons available for military deployment.

Libya

Libya continues its efforts to obtain technologies and expertise from foreign sources. Outside assistance is critical to its chemical and biological weapons programs, and the suspension of UN sanctions in 1999 has allowed Tripoli to expand its procurement effort with old -- primarily West European -- contacts with expertise, parts, and precursor chemicals for sale. Libya still seeks an offensive CW capability and an indigenous production capability for weapons. Evidence suggests Libya also seeks the capability to develop and produce BW agents. Libya is a state party to the BWC and may soon join the CWC, however this likely will not mean the end to Libya's ambition to develop CBW.

Syria

Syria has also vigorously pursued the development of chemical -- and to a lesser extent biological -- weapons to counter Israel's superior conventional forces and nuclear weapons. Syria believes that its chemical and missile forces deter Israeli attacks

Syria has a long-standing chemical warfare program, first developed in the 1970s. Unlike Iran, Iraq, and Libya, Syria has never employed chemical agents in a conflict. It has a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin and may be trying to develop advanced nerve agents as well. In future years, Syria will likely try to improve its infrastructure for producing and storing chemical agents. It now probably has weaponized sarin into aerial bombs and SCUD missile warheads, giving Syria the capability to use chemical agents against Israeli targets. Syria has not signed the CWC.

Syria is pursuing biological weapons. It has an adequate biotechnical infrastructure to support a small biological warfare program. Without significant foreign assistance, it is unlikely that Syria could advance to the manufacture of significant amounts of biological weapons for several years. Syria has signed the BWC.

Syria depends on foreign sources for key elements of its chemical and biological warfare program, including precursor chemicals and key production equipment. The U.S. has pressed possible supplier states to Syria to stop such trade, thereby making acquisition of such materials more difficult. The 33-nation Australia Group coordinates adoption of stricter export controls in many countries.

Cuba

The United States believes that Cuba has at least a limited, developmental offensive biological warfare research and development effort. Cuba has provided dual-use biotechnology to rogue states. We are concerned that such technology could support BW programs in those states. We call on Cuba to cease all BW-applicable cooperation with rogue states and to fully comply with all its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention

Russia

Serious concerns remain about the status of Russian chemical and biological warfare programs, the accuracy of the information Russia provided in its declarations, and the willingness of the Russian defense establishment to eliminate these capabilities. Further, given that Russia still faces serious economic and political challenges and the large number of weapons involved, the possibility that some Russians might sell chemical and biological materials, technologies and knowledge to other countries or groups continues to exist.

Russia has stated publicly that it opposes proliferation of chemical and biological weapons. Because of its economic situation and serious financial shortfalls, Russia remains concerned about the costs of implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. It believes the high destruction costs of its large chemical weapons stockpile requires Western assistance.

Moscow has declared the world's largest stockpile of chemical agents: 39,969 metric tons of chemical agent, mostly weaponized, including artillery, aerial bombs, rockets, and missile warheads. U.S. estimates of the Russian stockpile generally are still larger. The inventory includes a wide variety of nerve and blister agents in weapons and stored in bulk. Some Russian chemical weapons incorporate agent mixtures, while others have added thickening agents to increase the time of contamination on the target.

According to the Russian CWC declaration, all former Soviet chemical weapons are stored at seven locations in Russia, mostly in the Volga/Ural section of the country. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, it carried out an extensive consolidation process of chemical warfare material, from sites within Russia and from non-Russian locations.

Russian officials do not deny research has continued but assert that it aims to develop defenses against chemical weapons, a purpose that is not banned by the CWC. Many of the components for new binary agents developed by the former Soviet Union are not on the CWC's schedules of chemicals and have legitimate civil applications, clouding their association with chemical weapons use. However, under the CWC, all chemical weapons are banned, whether or not they are on the CWC schedules.

The former Soviet offensive biological program was the world's largest and consisted of both military facilities and nonmilitary research and development institutes. This program employed thousands of scientists, engineers, and technicians throughout the former Soviet Union, with some biological warfare agents developed and weaponized as early as the 1950s. The Russian government has committed to ending the former Soviet BW program. It has closed or abandoned plants outside the Russian Federation and these facilities have been engaged through cooperative threat reduction programs. Nevertheless, we remain concerned about Russia's offensive biological warfare capabilities remain.

Key components of the former Soviet program remain largely intact and may support a possible future mobilization capability for the production of biological agents and delivery systems. Moreover, work outside the scope of legitimate biological defense activity may be occurring now at selected facilities within Russia. Such activity, if offensive in nature, would contravene the BWC, to which the former Soviet government is a signatory. It would also contradict statements by top Russian political leaders that offensive activity has ceased.

The United States remains concerned by the threat of proliferation, both of biological warfare expertise and related hardware, from Russia. Russian scientists, many of whom either are unemployed or unpaid for an extended period, may be vulnerable to recruitment- by states trying to establish biological warfare programs. The availability of worldwide information exchange via the Internet facilitates this process.

Russian entities remain a significant source of dual- use biotechnology, chemicals, production technology, and equipment for Iran. Russia's biological and chemical expertise makes it an attractive target for Iranians seeking technical information and training on BW and CW agent production processes.

China

I believe that the Chinese have an advanced chemical warfare program, including research and development, production, and weaponization capabilities. Chinese military forces have a good understanding of chemical warfare doctrine, having studied the tactics and doctrine of the former Soviet Union. Chinese military forces conduct defensive chemical warfare training and are prepared to operate in contaminated environments. In the near future, China is likely to achieve the necessary expertise and delivery capability to integrate chemical weapons successfully into overall military operations.

I believe that China's current inventory of chemical agents includes the full range of traditional agents, and China is researching more advanced agents. It has a wide variety of delivery systems for chemical agents, including tube artillery, rockets, mortars, landmines, aerial bombs, sprayers, and SRBMs. China signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in January 1993, and ratified it shortly after the U.S. ratification in April 1997.

China acceded to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in 1984, though many believe its declarations under the BWC confidence-building measures inaccurate and incomplete. China has consistently claimed that it has never researched, manufactured, produced, or possessed biological weapons and that it would never do so. However, China possesses an advanced biotechnology infrastructure and the biocontainment facilities necessary to perform research and development on lethal pathogens. It is possible that China has maintained the offensive biological warfare program it is believed to have had before acceding to the BWC.

What is the potential access of international terrorist groups to these stocks and capability to produce and employ CBW?

Terrorist interest in chemical and biological weapons has been growing and probably will increase in the near term. The threat is real and proven. The ease of acquisition or production of some of these weapons and the scale and terror they can cause, will likely fuel interest in using them to terrorize. The transport and dispersal techniques also are manageable and can be made effective easily, as seen recently in using the mail as a delivery system to spread anthrax.

Many of the technologies associated with the development of chemical and biological agents, have legitimate civil applications. The increased availability of these technologies, particularly if a group is already in the United States and therefore not subject to many of the controls in place that monitor and limit the export of these technologies, coupled with the relative ease of producing chemical or biological agents, makes the threat very real.

In addition, the proliferation of such weapons raises the possibility that some states or rogue entities within these states could provide chemical or biological weapons to terrorists. It remains unlikely that a state sponsor would provide such a weapon to a terrorist group. But an extremist group with no ties to a particular state (but which likely does have friends in state institutions) could acquire or steal such a weapon and attempt to use it.

How well can the U.S. monitor the threat?

The proliferation of chemical and biological weapons continues to change in ways that make it more difficult to monitor and control, increasing the risk of substantial surprise. Countries and terrorists determined to maintain and develop these capabilities are demonstrating greater proficiency in the use of denial and deception efforts.

State programs have been placing significant emphasis on self-sufficiency. In bolstering their domestic production capabilities, and thereby reducing their dependence on others, they can better insulate their programs against interdiction and disruption. Although these indigenous capabilities may not always substitute well for foreign imports—particularly for more advanced technologies—in many cases they may prove adequate.

In addition, as their domestic capabilities grow, traditional recipients of technology could become new suppliers of technology and expertise to others. We are increasingly concerned about "secondary proliferation" from maturing state-sponsored programs, such as those in Iran and North Korea. These countries and others not members of the Australia Group do not adhere to its export constraints. Apart from governments, private companies, scientists, and engineers from countries such as China and Russia may provide CBW-related assistance to countries or terrorist organizations. Weak or unenforceable national export controls, especially on dual-use technology and goods, coupled with the growing availability of technology, makes the spread of CBW easier, and therefore more likely.

Unfortunately, Mr. Chairman, I cannot assure you that we can predict and protect against the threats of CBW attack on the Homeland or American bases, embassies, and interests abroad. The technology for CBW is too widely available and the precursors too widespread for us to track. Such weapons tend to be clumsy, subject to vagaries of wind, weather, and ventilation systems. Moreover, the users rarely have any immunity from them. We must worry, however, that in the hands of a fanatic, CW or BW agents could cause great loss of life.

I look forward to you questions.