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THE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS ANTI-TERRORISM ACT OF 1989-S. 993
WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 1989
3 U.S. SENATE, COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY, Washington, DC.
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:30 p.m., in Room SD-226, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Herbert H. Kohl (acting chairman of the committee), presiding.
Also present: Senators Metzenbaum, Thurmond, Simon, and Heflin.
OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR HERBERT KOHL
Senator KOHL. This hearing is called to order.
I would like to welcome all of you to this hearing on S. 993, which is the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989. We have a very distinguished group of witnesses to discuss the need for such legislation and to analyze this proposal.
At the outset, I would like to thank the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Joe Biden, for seeing to it that S. 993 received such a speedy hearing.
I would like at this time to call upon the senator who authored this bill with me, David Pryor, to make his statement. Senator Pryor has been kind enough to come over here. He is at the Hastings impeachment trial this week and last week and the week before and next week, but he was kind enough to take a few minutes out and come over and say a few words to us.
STATEMENT OF HON. DAVID PRYOR, A U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF ARKANSAS
Senator PRYOR. Mr. Chairman, thank you, Mr. Chairman and Senator Metzenbaum.
I want to come today and offer my strong support for the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act, Mr. Chairman, and I think it should be noted that it has been almost a decade since the Senate gave this type of legislation any serious consideration.
And I think, Mr. Chairman, you have truly broken new ground by introducing this bill. You have demonstrated great leadership organizing this hearing and securing cosponsors of this legislation. For example, Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico just a few moments ago asked me if I would inform you that he would like to be
a cosponsor of this legislation, and I am sure that you will see that Senator Bingaman becomes a cosponsor.
My interest goes back a long time in this particular concern. A scientist, who had been a consultant in the Pentagon's chemical and biological program described to me how a terrorist, with relative ease and little sophistication, could develop a small, but lethal stockpile of biological agents. The scientist then described to me how the terrorist could easily disperse those toxins in a city such as New York or Washington, DC, wreaking uncontrollable death and panic, which is a terrorist's stock in trade.
According to one source, Mr. Chairman, when dumped into a water supply, one gram, one gram of typhoid culture has an impact roughly equivalent to 100 grams of the "V" chemical nerve agent, or almost 40 pounds of potassium cyanide.
The point is that a minute tiny amount of biological toxins can have the same lethal effect of a larger amount of a chemical weapon. Lethality and availability create the potential for biological weapons to become a tool of terrorists.
Mr. Chairman, I would like that my statement be submitted for the record. I would like to close by saying that, today, under our present statutes, an individual found to be trafficking or stockpiling lethal biological agents might be charged with a violation of something like the Public Health Service Act or the Federal Insecticide Act. There is no statutorily effective way that we can punish the use, nor the stockpiling, or the development of these agents for this very illegal use.
It is a legal void. It is inexcusable. It demands our attention. And you have created the environment, Mr. Chairman, for us to act and to act now, and we should do it.
We are very indebted to you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Kohl, Senator Metzenbaum, and I am very grateful that I have had the opportunity to become an original cosponsor with you. I am very, grateful for the chance to come for a few moments this afternoon to voice my strong support.
And I do thank you for scheduling me up front and now I must depart and go continue in my duties as a juror, I guess you would say, in the Alcee Hastings trial.
[The statement of Senator Pryor follows:]
Senator David Pryor
Germ Warfare Danger
Mr. Chairman, I am proud to be the prime cosponsor of your bill and the subject of this hearing, the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act.
It should be noted that it has been almost a decade since the Senate gave this type of legislation serious consideration. You have truly broken new ground by introducing this bill and you have demonstrated great leadership by organizing this hearing.
Mr. Chairman, I come today bearing a gift of sorts. Just yesterday our colleague and an Armed Services Subcommittee Chairman, Senator Jeff Bingaman, asked me to offer to you his cosponsorship of this bill.
My interest in your legislation dates back several years to a discussion I had with a respected scientist. The scientist, who is a consultant in the Pentagon's chemical and biological programs, described how a terrorist, with relative ease and little sophistication, could develop a small but lethal stockpile of biological agents. He then described how the terrorist could easily disperse the toxins in a city such as New York or Washington, wreaking uncontrollable death and panic, a terrorist's stock and trade.
For example, according to one source, when dumped into a water supply, one gram of typhoid culture has an impact roughly
equivalent to 100 grams of the "V" chemical nerve agent, or almost 40 pounds of potassium cyanide. The point is that a minute amount of a biological toxin can have the same lethal effect as a larger amount of a chemical weapon. Lethality and availability create the potential for biological weapons to become a tool of terrorists.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, my scientist friend pointed out that although the U.S. government observes a 1972 treaty that prohibits the development of biological weapons, there is no law on the books that proscribes specific penalties for biological weapons development in the private sector.
Today an individual found to be trafficking or stockpiling lethal biological agents might be charged with violation of something like the Public Health Service Act or the Federal Insecticide Act. This legal void is inexcusable and demands our
Mr. Chairman, I do not need to go further into the reasons why this legislation is needed, the excellent witnesses to follow will create a much needed record on the point.
I simply want to commend your efforts here today, to promise you my support in future, and to thank you for giving me this opportunity to testify before the Committee.
Senator KOHL. Thank you, Senator Pryor.
Senator KOHL. Your presence means a great deal to us.
Senator KOHL. Thank you very much.
With Senator Pryor, I introduced this bill for three important reasons. First, there is a loophole in our criminal law. Under current law, a private individual, even a terrorist, can legally manufacture a biological weapon. If that weapon is used to kill someone, the aggressor can be prosecuted for murder. But there is no law right now that permits the authorities to stop the weapon from being built in the first place. This bill would close this loophole. Accordingly, it would enhance our safety.
Second, our bill is a nonproliferation measure. It would make it a crime for an individual to help a foreign nation acquire biological weapons. This is particularly crucial at a time when some smaller countries are looking for ways to fight more powerful neighbors.
Biological weapons are much easier to develop than nuclear arms. We cannot allow our science and technology to be exploited by those who are searching for a "poor man's nuclear bomb.'
Finally, S. 993 is an arms control initiative. It would implement the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. The Senate unanimously ratified that treaty in 1974 and it has been signed by 111 nations, including the Soviet Union. The Convention prohibits countries from having biological agents, toxins, and delivery systems that have no peaceful purpose.
Under article IV of the Convention, nations shall "take any necessary measures" to prevent the development of bioweapons at home. S. 993 represents such a measure. Ît would put the Convention's prohibitions into our domestic law and in so doing, it would send a strong message that the United States remains committed to the original treaty.
We continue to abhor germ warfare and we continue to believe in the importance of international arms agreements.
I would like to solicit opening statements from my fellow members on this committee, and would like to recognize Senator Thurmond.
OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR STROM THURMOND, A U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Senator THURMOND. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Today, we are present to hear testimony regarding the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989. This legislation, which was recently introduced by Senator Kohl, is intended to complete implementation of the 1972 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction. This legislation would amend current law to prohibit certain conduct related to biological war fare.
The United States was one of 103 countries to sign this Convention, as was the Soviet Union, and the Convention was ratified by unanimous vote of the Senate in 1974.