A US firm, American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) was found to have provided biological weapons stock, exempt from export laws because the White House and State Department intervened to allow the sale to Iraq
VIDEO: Donald Rumsfeld Shakes Hands with Saddam Dec 20, 1983
Congressional Record Reflects Aid Given To Saddam Hussein
Congressional Record: September 20, 2002 (Senate) Page S8987-S8998
The last time Donald Rumsfeld saw Saddam Hussein, he gave him a cordial handshake. The date was almost 20 years ago, Dec. 20, 1983; an official Iraqi television crew recorded the historic moment.
It is hard to believe that, during most of the 1980s, America knowingly permitted the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission to import bacterial cultures that might be used to build biological weapons. But it happened. America's past stumbles, while embarrassing, are not an argument for inaction in the future. Saddam probably is the "grave and gathering danger" described by President Bush in his speech to the United Nations last week. It may also be true that "whoever replaces Saddam is not going to be worse," as a senior administration official put it to Newsweek.
After Rumsfeld's visit to Baghdad in 1983, U.S. intelligence began supplying the Iraqi dictator with satellite photos showing Iranian deployments. Official documents suggest that America may also have secretly arranged for tanks and other military hardware to be shipped to Iraq in a swap deal--American tanks to Egypt, Egyptian tanks to Iraq. Over the protest of some Pentagon skeptics, the Reagan administration began allowing the Iraqis to buy a wide variety of "dual use" equipment and materials from American suppliers. According to confidential Commerce Department export-control documents obtained by NEWSWEEK, the shopping list included a computerized database for Saddam's Interior Ministry (presumably to help keep track of political opponents); helicopters to transport Iraqi officials; television cameras for "video surveillance applications"; chemical-analysis equipment for the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC), and, most unsettling, numerous shipments of "bacteria/fungi/protozoa" to the IAEC. According to former officials, the bacterial cultures could be used to make biological weapons, including anthrax. The State Department also approved the shipment of 1.5 million atropine injectors, for use against the effects of chemical weapons, but the Pentagon blocked the sale. The helicopters, some American officials later surmised, were used to spray poison gas on the Kurds. The United States almost certainly knew from its own satellite imagery that Saddam was using chemical weapons against Iranian troops. When Saddam bombed Kurdish rebels and civilians with a lethal cocktail of mustard gas, sarin, tabun and VX in 1988, the [[Page S8988]] Reagan administration first blamed Iran, before acknowledging, under pressure from congressional Democrats, that the culprits were Saddam's own forces.
Profile: Helping Saddam; Iraqi government ordered anthrax and botulism- producing bacteria from United States in late 1980s 02/22/1998 60 Minutes CBS, Inc. Burrelle's Information Services (Copyright (c) 1998 CBS, Inc. All rights reserved.) HELPING SADDAM MORLEY SAFER, co-host: Exactly what weapons Saddam is hiding and where he's hiding them remains a mystery. Where he got them and how he developed them is not. He got a lot of help from the British, the French, the Germans, the Russians and from us. Back in the late '80s when Saddam was considered by some as our friend or at least the enemy of our enemy Iran, we provided Iraq with two of the deadliest substances known to man, bacteria that produces botulism and anthrax . Among those who thought that what we were doing was all wrong was a former deputy undersecretary of defense named Dr. Steven Bryen. Dr. STEVEN BRYEN (Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense): Well, it was very complicated before the Gulf War because the administration was trying very hard to be friends with Saddam Hussein, largely because of the great concern about Iran and the fear of Iran. And Iraq was seen as a--a balancer and as a moderate force, whereas Iran was an Islamic force. So there was a lot of pressure to release technology to Iraq ; technology that shouldn't go there, in my opinion. SAFER: Were people out saying, `Look, this guy is not a very stable ally'? Dr. BRYEN: People were not saying, `This guy is not a very stable ally.' That was the problem. Official Washington turned a blind eye to that sort of thing because it really wanted very badly to establish a positive relationship with Saddam. (Footage of Steven Bryen; Department of State building; Saddam Hussein; vintage footage of Kurdish village after nerve gas attack) SAFER: (Voiceover) Dr. Bryen was the Pentagon's top cop, the man whose job it was to ensure that sensitive technology would be kept from enemies, potential enemies and questionable allies. But he was up against a formidable adversary: the US State Department, who wanted to satisfy Saddam's appetite despite the clear and present danger. Dr. BRYEN: (Voiceover) Even as late as 1988 when the Kurdish village in- -in Iraq was attacked by helicopters carrying nerve gas, the Washington reaction was still hands off. SAFER: He realized `Look, I could bomb Kurdish villages with nerve gas, I could use chemical agents against the Iranians.' Dr. BRYEN: `And the Americans won't say anything about it.' There was no official condemnation by the United States of these attacks. At that point, Saddam had to think we were a heck of a good ally because here we are letting him get away with these things. (Footage of American Type Culture Collection building; ATCC sign; vials of cultures; storage containers; infectious substance label; photograph of document with close-up of text: 881215 Iraq Atomic Energy Commission) SAFER: (Voiceover) Getting away with it was easy. The bacteria was simply ordered from this facility, The American Type Culture Collection of Rockville, Maryland, a non-profit supplier of microbes to the world. They're generally used for public health research. The Iraqi orders, including 34 batches of the deadliest bacteria, did not pass through Pentagon watchdogs. They were simply approved by the Commerce Department. Dr. BRYEN: I was shocked to see that biological samples would be going to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission because in--it was absolutely clear that--that--that the at--Is--Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission was involved in their nuclear weapons programs and God knows what other weapons programs. SAFER: I--in very precise terms, what was the--the policy about shipping bacterial cultures like anthrax and botulism to Iraq ? Dr. BRYEN: I don't think there was a policy in--in--in the administration at the time. I think there was a--a general understanding that a shipment of these kinds of materials was sensitive, required a license. SAFER: And yet the Commerce Department signed off on them? Dr. BRYEN: The Commerce Department approved all these licenses. There were a number of licenses. We're not talking about one got through and the others got stopped; we're talking about they all got through, un-- untouched, unstopped. (Footage of person at computer; ATCC order form coming out of printer; anthrax ) SAFER: (Voiceover) And to find out how to order up some anthrax , just dial up ATCC 's Web site, as we did today, and with the flip of a printer, your order form. Visa and MasterCard accepted. By the way, the effect of inhaled anthrax : one day of flu symptoms, followed by a few days of pneumonia symptoms, followed by death. Dr. BRYEN: The one experience we have with anthrax in Sverdlovsk in Russia where some of this leaked into the air is that it killed people and animals for over 40 miles from where--where the damage occurred. SAFER: We do know it was a relatively small amount. Dr. BRYEN: A relatively small amount and it wasn't because the place was bombed; it was because something leaked and it escaped into the a-- air. So when you hit it with a bomb, you potentially could release everything. So it's worrisome to me that we might set loose some of this kind of material. SAFER: When you were in that job as--as the--the Pentagon's cop to oversee what was going where, did you get into any confrontations? Dr. BRYEN: Oh, yes. Oh, yeah. I had a big confrontation over the shipment of atropine injectors to Iraq . I blocked it. And atropine is an antidote for nerve gas. And so far as I knew, the only nerve gas in the region was Iraqi nerve gas, so it was clear that they wanted one-- they wanted this for offensive purposes, not for defense. SAFER: To protect their own troops? Dr. BRYEN: To protect their own troops, and--and to allow them to use it in fairly close-in situations against--against other forces, Iranians or Americans or whoever. SAFER: You got into confrontations with whom? Dr. BRYEN: Well, the--the--the fight was mostly with the State Department. It was a million and a half injectors they were talking about, 1.5 million injectors, and these were militarized injectors; the same ones are used by the US Army. And I will--I just said no. It took me three months of--of quarreling, and--and--and finally, I threatened to have a press conference if they wouldn't stop. But in the intervening period, the news of the Kurdish attacks came out, and I think that discouraged the enthusiasm in the State Department for promoting this transaction. (Footage of Bryen with Safer) SAFER: (Voiceover) But the export of biochemical technology was not the only source of conflict with the State Department. Dr. BRYEN: Well, there were a number of licenses that we had blocked for the Iraqi missile programs. Some of them were computers that were used for testing this--the missile track and trajectory. Some of them were equipment to build missile cases and things like that. And--and we blocked them. The State Department didn't like that very much. This