The United States is not being hypocritical when it tries to stop nations such as Libya from producing chemical arms but at the same time begins itself to make new chemical weapons, CIA Director William Webster told Congress Wednesday.
The nation recently began making new "binary" chemical arms, which were tested at Utah's Dugway Proving Ground. Some components are stored at Tooele Army Depot, which also houses 42 percent of the nation's older chemical weapon arsenal."We may raise questions of consistency, but it is not hypocrisy," Webster told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"We have fully acknowledged our plans . . . and they are defensive in nature," he said, explaining that the United States maintains a chemical stockpile only to allow retaliation if attacked by such arms.
But Webster said intelligence shows that other nations do not have such defensive plans for their growing chemical arsenals - as was shown when Iran and Iraq used them against each other, and when, he said, Libya used them briefly against Chad.
He said the terrorist-sponsoring nations of Syria, Iran and Iraq have been "quietly producing and amassing a variety of munitions that can be used as delivery systems for chemical agents. Bombs, artillery shells, artillery rockets and - in some cases - battlefield missiles have been filled with chemical agents."
The United States has been trying to stop Libya from beginning such production in its first chemical arms plant.
He said that plant and those operated by Iran, Iraq and Syria would not have been able to make the weapons without materials and technical assistance from Japan and western European countries.
Webster favored proposed legislation to punish such help with trade restrictions and to punish countries that use such weapons. He said it would help raise moral conscience in the world to prevent use of such "hideous" weapons.
Still, Webster said CIA intelligence shows as many as 20 countries may be aggressively developing and producing chemical weapons, possibly because "chemical weapons are thought to offer a cheap and readily obtainable means of redressing the military balance against more powerful foes. Some see them as the poor man's answer to nuclear weapons."
Webster added that "at least 10 countries are working to produce both previously known and futuristic biological weapons," which he said are "more potent than the most deadly chemical warfare agents and provide the broadest area coverage per pound of payload of any weapon system."
Also of note, international treaties ban the stockpiling of biologic weapons, but not chemical arms.
But Webster said, "With currently available technology, biological warfare agents can be produced at such a rate that stockpiles are no longer as essential as in the past. . . . Actually, any nation with a modestly developed pharmaceutical industry can produce biological warfare agents if it chooses."
The only country he would name publicly as working on such germ warfare was the Soviet Union.