The Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention ( news
sites) sent samples directly to several Iraqi sites that U.N.
weapons inspectors determined were part of Saddam Hussein ( news
sites)'s biological weapons program, CDC and congressional
records from the early 1990s show. Iraq had ordered the samples,
claiming it needed them for legitimate medical research.
The CDC and a biological sample company, the American Type
Culture Collection, sent strains of all the germs Iraq used to make
weapons, including anthrax, the bacteria that make botulinum toxin
and the germs that cause gas gangrene, the records show. Iraq also
got samples of other deadly pathogens, including the West Nile virus
The transfers came in the 1980s, when the United States supported
Iraq in its war against Iran. They were detailed in a 1994 Senate
Banking Committee report and a 1995 follow-up letter from the CDC to
The exports were legal at the time and approved under a program
administered by the Commerce Department ( news
"I don't think it would be accurate to say the United States
government deliberately provided seed stocks to the Iraqis'
biological weapons programs," said Jonathan Tucker, a former U.N.
biological weapons inspector.
"But they did deliver samples that Iraq said had a legitimate
public health purpose, which I think was naive to believe, even at
The disclosures put the United States in the uncomfortable
position of possibly having provided the key ingredients of the
weapons America is considering waging war to destroy, said
Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd ( news,
record). Byrd entered the documents into the Congressional
Record this month.
Byrd asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld about the germ
transfers at a recent Senate Armed Services Committee ( news
sites) hearing. Byrd noted that Rumsfeld met Saddam in 1983,
when Rumsfeld was President Reagan's Middle East envoy.
"Are we, in fact, now facing the possibility of reaping what we
have sown?" Byrd asked Rumsfeld after reading parts of a Newsweek
magazine article on the transfers.
"I have never heard anything like what you've read, I have no
knowledge of it whatsoever, and I doubt it," Rumsfeld said. He later
said he would ask the Defense Department and other government
agencies to search their records for evidence of the transfers.
Invoices included in the documents read like shopping lists for
biological weapons programs. One 1986 shipment from the
Virginia-based American Type Culture Collection included three
strains of anthrax, six strains of the bacteria that make botulinum
toxin and three strains of the bacteria that cause gas gangrene.
Iraq later admitted to the United Nations ( news
sites) that it had made weapons out of all three.
The company sent the bacteria to the University of Baghdad, which
U.N. inspectors concluded had been used as a front to acquire
samples for Iraq's biological weapons program.
The CDC, meanwhile, sent shipments of germs to the Iraqi Atomic
Energy Commission and other agencies involved in Iraq's weapons of
mass destruction programs. It sent samples in 1986 of botulinum
toxin and botulinum toxoid � used to make vaccines against botulinum
toxin � directly to the Iraqi chemical and biological weapons
complex at al-Muthanna, the records show.
Botulinum toxin is the paralyzing poison that causes botulism.
Having a vaccine to the toxin would be useful for anyone working
with it, such as biological weapons researchers or soldiers who
might be exposed to the deadly poison, Tucker said.
The CDC also sent samples of a strain of West Nile virus to an
Iraqi microbiologist at a university in the southern city of Basra
in 1985, the records show.
On the Net:
The documents are available at: http://rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/ap/ap_wo_en_po/inlinks/*http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2002_cr/s092002.html