Date: May 8, 2002
Source: Sunshine Project
Abstract: US Navy and Air Force biotechnology laboratories are proposing development of offensive biological weapons. The weapons, genetically engineered microbes that attack items such as fuel, plastics and asphalt, would violate federal and international law. The proposals have been made by the Naval Research Laboratory (Washington, DC) and the Armstrong Laboratory (Brooks Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas). They date from 1997; but were recently submitted by the Marine Corps for a high-level assessment by a panel of the US National Academies of Science (NAS). The NAS panel (members) has prepared a draft report; but it has not been released to the public.
The uncovering of these proposals for an offensive biological weapons program comes at a critical political juncture. The US has rejected a legally-binding system of United Nations inspections of suspected biological weapons facilities. At the same time, the Bush administration is aggressively accusing other countries of developing biological weapons and expanding its so-called "Axis of Evil" based in large part on allegations of foreign biological weapons development.
But it is increasingly apparent that there are serious questions about the United States’ own compliance with the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). While US allegations against other countries are generally undocumented, the proposals described in this press release were recently released to the Sunshine Project under the Freedom of Information Act and have been placed on the internet for independent analysis.
In the murky world of biological weapons research, many technologies are "dual use", that is, they have both offensive and peaceful applications. The alleged transfer of dual use technologies, such as vaccine research, is a basis of charges made against Cuba on May 6th by US Under Secretary of State John Bolton. The US armed forces documents released here, however, are not about "dual use" technology, they are explicit proposals for offensive weaponsmaking.
According to the Naval Research Laboratory, "It is the purpose of the proposed research to capitalize on the degradative potential of… naturally occurring microorganisms, and to engineer additional, focused degradative capabilities into [genetically modified microorganisms], to produce systems that will degrade the warfighting capabilities of potential adversaries." The Air Force proposes "genetically engineered catalysts made by bacteria that destroy... Catalysts can be engineered to destroy whatever war material is desired." The proposals indicate these weapons might be used by all the armed forces, including the Special Forces and in peacekeeping and anti-narcotics operations (See the Resources Page for copies of these documents).
These proposals are probably only the tip of the iceberg. For over one year, the Marine Corps has delayed response to a Sunshine Project Freedom of Information Act request that now includes 147 unclassified documents. The two proposals described here are part of a recent first release of 8 items from that request. 139 related legal and weapons development documents are unreleased. The Marine Corps says the delay is due to a lack of manpower.
The National Academies are also suppressing related documents. As part of the Marine Corps-commissioned study, in 2001 at least 77 apparently chemical and biological weapons-related documents were deposited in the NAS Public Access Records File, a library open for inspection and copying by all persons (see a bibliography here). After the Sunshine Project requested copies of these documents on March 12th 2002, the National Academies placed a "security hold" on the public file. High-ranking NAS officials have refused to explain who ordered the hold, or to offer a credible explanation as to why it exists (see correspondence here). The Sunshine Project believes that NAS is under pressure from high-ranking US officials to “Enron” the public record to avoid release of politically sensitive material. Rather than assist a purge of the public record, NAS - a leading US non-profit scientific body - must condemn and release the proposals for illegal weapons that is has received.
The research proposed by the Air Force and Navy raises serious legal questions. Under the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act, development of biological weapons, including those that attack materials, is subject to federal criminal and civil penalties. The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, which the US and 143 other countries have ratified, prohibits development, acquisition, and stockpiling of any biological agents not justifiable for peaceful or prophylactic purposes. There is no such justification for the offensive research proposed by the Navy and Air Force. The proposals are certain to weigh heavily on all countries’ minds as they prepare for November’s reconstituted 5th Review Conference of the BTWC (Sunshine Project, 2002).
Title: US Military Operating A Secret Chemical
Date: September 24, 2002
Source: Sunshine Project
Abstract: The Sunshine Project today accuses the US military of conducting a chemical weapons research and development program in violation of international arms control law. The charges follow an 18 month investigation of the Department of Defense's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD). The investigation made extensive use of the US Freedom of Information Act to obtain Pentagon records that form the primary basis of the allegations. An array of documents, many of which have been posted on the Sunshine Project website, demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that JNLWD is operating an illegal and classified chemical weapons program.
Specifically, the Sunshine Project accuses the JNLWD of:
1. Conducting a research and development program on toxic chemical agents for use as weapons, including anesthetics and psychoactive substances, in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention;
2. Developing long-range military delivery devices for these chemicals, including an 81mm chemical mortar round, that violate the Chemical Weapons Convention.
3. Pursuing a chemical weapons program while fully cognizant that it violates the Chemical Weapons Convention and US Department of Defense regulations;
4. Attempting to cover up the
illicit program by classifying as secret even its own legal interpretations of
the Chemical Weapons Convention and attempting to block access to documents
requested under US information freedom law.
These charges are detailed in the attached Annex to this news release, in the accompanying map and fact sheet, and the Sunshine Project's JNLWD documents web page,
which has full text of more than two dozen documents. Specific citations are in footnotes below.
The Weapons: JNLWD's secret program is not focusing on highly lethal agents such as VX or sarin. Rather, the emphasis is on "non-lethal" chemical weapons that incapacitate. JNLWD's science advisors define "non-lethal" as resulting in death or permanent injury in 1 in 100 victims.(1) JNLWD's Research Director told a US military magazine "We need something besides tear gas, like calmatives, anesthetic agents, that would put people to sleep or in a good mood." (2) These weapons are intended for use against "potentially hostile civilians", in anti-terrorism operations, counterinsurgency, and other military operations.
The major focus of JNLWD's operation is on the use of drugs as weapons, particularly so-called "calmatives", a military term for mind-altering or sleep inducing chemical weapons. Other agents mentioned as militarily useful in the documents are convulsants, which are dangerous cramp-inducing drugs, and pharmaceuticals that failed development trials due to harmful side-effects. (3) This interest in so-called "calmatives" has been discussed in previous Project publications. (4)
New documents prove the existence of an advanced development program for long range delivery devices for the chemicals, in particular a "non-lethal" 81mm mortar round with a range of 2.5 kilometers and which is designed to work in standard issue US military weapons (the M252 mortar) (5). Photos of testing of this round and a gas generating payload canister are posted on the Sunshine Project's website. (6) JNLWD has recently asked the company building the gas canister, General Dynamics, to develop methodologies to characterize the aerosols it generates, and to calculate the ground area coverage of gas clouds created by an airburst at different altitudes. (7) A chemical mortar round with a 2.5 kilometer range has solely military applications, and cannot possibly be justified for a US military domestic riot control purpose.
1) UN Inspectors into the US: The Sunshine Project, while urging the United States to immediately halt this chemical weapons program, also announces its intention to take its allegations and evidence to the 7th Session of the Conference of the States Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention, scheduled to start in The Hague on October 7th. There, the Sunshine Project will present its case to governments and request tthe Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons send a UN weapons inspection team to the US to investigate.
2) US Oversight: The Sunshine Project calls upon the US Congress to investigate JNLWD's arms control violations, to conduct public hearings, to hold JNLWD and its superiors responsible for their actions, to freeze all JNLWD funding, and to immediately declassify all JNLWD documents.
Says Edward Hammond, director of the Sunshine Project US, "We can present hard evidence for an illicit and shameful chemical weapons program in the US. If the US invades Iraq and uses these weapons, we may witness the depravity of the US waging chemical warfare against Iraq to prevent it from developing chemical weapons."
Jan van Aken, Director of the Sunshine Project in Germany says "The US administration 'names names' of alleged violators at arms control meetings. We have written documentation that the British government told JNLWD that its program violates the CWC in private talks. (8) However, Europe must publicly denounce American chemical weapons violations in The Hague. Those who remain silent will bear part of the guilt."
Escalation danger: JNLWD's chemical weapons program not only violates international law, it presents an escalation threat. Any use of chemical weapons in a military situation - even if the agents are purported to be "non-lethal" - carries the inherent danger of escalation into an all out chemical war and heightened violence. If attacked with a chemical of unknown nature with a fast incapacitating effect, victims may assume that lethal chemicals have been used, leading to heightened violence or even retaliation in kind. This rapid escalation danger is one of the key reasons why the Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits the use of even tear gas or pepper spray as a method of warfare.
The Road to a Chemical Arms Race: In addition, JNLWD's program might easily be used to disguise lethal chemical weapons development. Deadly chemicals are the former specialty of JNLWD's partner in the program, the US Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground. Long range delivery devices may easily be converted to use biological agents or other chemicals, including lethal nerve gas. Design and development of new delivery devices, production facilities or delivery experiments - all key parts of a lethal chemical weapons program - might easily be performed by the US or other countries if the buzz-word "non-lethal" is used as a cover. If non-lethal chemical warfare programs are not banned, the basic principles of the CWC could fall apart, resulting in new full blown chemical arms race even before Cold War stocks are destroyed (Sunshine Project, 2002).
Title: US Army Patents
Biological Weapons Delivery System, Violates Bioweapons Convention
Date: May 8, 2003
Source: Sunshine Project
Abstract: The United States Army has developed and patented a new grenade that it says can be used to wage biowarfare. This is in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention, which explicitly prohibits development of bioweapons delivery devices.
US Patent #6,523,478, granted on February 25th 2003, covers a "rifle launched non lethal cargo dispenser" that is designed to deliver aerosols, including – according to the patent’s claims - “crowd control agents, biological agents, [and] chemical agents...”
The development of biological weapons delivery devices is absolutely prohibited - “in any circumstance” - by Article I of the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, to which the US is a party. There is no exemption from this prohibition, neither for defensive purposes nor for so called non-lethal agents.
“The development of weapons for biological payloads produces great uncertainty about the US commitment to the Biological Weapons Convention.” says Edward Hammond of the Sunshine Project US, “Thirty four years after the US renunciation of biological weapons, the Pentagon is back in the bioweapons business.”
"Hans Blix might have an easier time finding illegal weapons if he were inspecting near Baltimore instead of Baghdad," says biologist Jan van Aken from the Sunshine Project Germany, referring to the fact that two of the inventors work at the Army’s Edgewood Arsenal north of Baltimore, Maryland. Other inventors work at an engineering firm in Orlando, Florida, where the US Special Forces operate from MacDill Air Force Base.
This grenade is yet another indication of
prohibited biological and chemical weapons development projects in the US. It
stands in a row with an illegal chemical weapons program focusing on so called
non-lethal agents (see below), uncovered last September by the Sunshine
Project, with research activities on material degrading microorganisms by the
US armed forces (see below), and with a range of questionable biodefense
activities that may well suit offensive purposes (see New York Times, 4
September 2001) (Sunshine Project, 2003).
Title: US House Votes To Advance Offensive
Biological Weapons Plan
Date: March 15, 2006
Source: Sunshine Project
Abstract: In an titanic fit of myopia, the US House of Representatives has passed a bill that advances a US plan to wage biological warfare against Colombia and other countries where illicit narcotics are produced. If passed by the US Senate, the bill (HR 2829) will require the US Drug Czar to quickly formulate a plan to field test biological weapons designed to eradicate illicit crops.
The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) prohibits all biological warfare, including attacks on crops. The BWC has no exemptions - not for the Drug War, nor for the US Congress. The US eradication project thus violates the BWC's Article I, which prohibits development and stockpiling of biological weapons.
The Sunshine Project will call upon the BWC to prevent violation of the treaty by the United States. In April, the Sunshine Project will distribute an Agent Green dossier to governments attending a preparatory meeting for the BWC's upcoming 6th Review Conference. If the US bill is signed into law, the Sunshine Project will press for multilateral action by the BWC 6th Review Conference itself, when it meets in November.
Opposition in South America, the primary target of the plan, spans the political spectrum. When first confronted by US biowarfare pressure in 1999-2000, the Colombian government decided against testing and use of biological agents to eradicate illicit crops. Other Andean countries also oppose the plan, as do many environmental and peace NGOs. So do indigenous peoples who grow coca for cultural purposes unrelated to the drug trade, a constituency that includes Evo Morales, the recently-elected President of Bolivia.
Speaking to the Colombian daily El Tiempo on Monday, former Colombian President Andrés Pastrana, now Bogotá's Ambassador in Washington, emphatically reiterated Colombia's opposition to the plan, telling the paper, "During my government we opposed it. And Colombia's position, now under President Álvaro Uribe, has not changed."
The main biological weapons agents under US consideration are strains of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum that attack coca and other illicit crops. With its serious human health and environmental risks, F. oxysporum has been dubbed "Agent Green" by civil society opponents, who liken it to the defoliant Agent Orange that was used by the US in Vietnam. In the US conception, huge amounts of specially-formulated Fusarium would be sprayed from large military aircraft to blanket large portions of Colombia and, potentially, other countries.
The HR 2829 provision does not specifically mention Colombia or Fusarium, although it does specify that the testing plan should be for a "major drug producing nation". This opens the possibility that the tests could be conducted elsewhere, such as Central Asia, where the US has supported development of biological weapons for use against opium poppy. Given past events, however, the bill's language is widely interpreted to refer to Colombia.The Sunshine Project hopes that the US Senate will catch this egregious mistake and that the provision will be struck from any related bill that it considers. With US fear about a biological weapons attack and spending on biodefense both at unprecedented levels, it is difficult to envision a more unwise US policy than for it to field test biological weapons and to seek to perpetrate a biological attack on other countries (Sunshine Project, 2006).