Munitions Found in Iraq Meet WMD Criteria, Official Says

The 500 munitions discovered throughout
Iraq since 2003 and discussed in a National Ground Intelligence Center
report meet the criteria of weapons of mass destruction, the center's
commander said here today.

"These are chemical weapons as defined under the Chemical Weapons
Convention, and yes ... they do constitute weapons of mass destruction,"
Army Col. John Chu told the House Armed Services Committee.

The Chemical Weapons Convention is an arms control agreement which
outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. It was
signed in 1993 and entered into force in 1997.

The munitions found contain sarin and mustard gases, Army Lt. Gen.
Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said. Sarin
attacks the neurological system and is potentially lethal.

"Mustard is a blister agent (that) actually produces burning of any
area (where) an individual may come in contact with the agent," he said.
It also is potentially fatal if it gets into a person's lungs.

The munitions addressed in the report were produced in the 1980s,
Maples said. Badly corroded, they could not currently be used as originally
intended, Chu added.

While that's reassuring, the agent remaining in the weapons would be
very valuable to terrorists and insurgents, Maples said. "We're talking
chemical agents here that could be packaged in a different format and
have a great effect," he said, referencing the sarin-gas attack on a
Japanese subway in the mid-1990s.

This is true even considering any degradation of the chemical agents
that may have occurred, Chu said. It's not known exactly how sarin breaks
down, but no matter how degraded the agent is, it's still toxic.

"Regardless of (how much material in the weapon is actually chemical
agent), any remaining agent is toxic," he said. "Anything above zero
(percent agent) would prove to be toxic, and if you were exposed to it long
enough, lethal."

Though about 500 chemical weapons - the exact number has not been
released publicly - have been found, Maples said he doesn't believe Iraq is
a "WMD-free zone."

"I do believe the former regime did a very poor job of accountability
of munitions, and certainly did not document the destruction of
munitions," he said. "The recovery program goes on, and I do not believe we
have found all the weapons."

The Defense Intelligence Agency director said locating and disposing of
chemical weapons in Iraq is one of the most important tasks
servicemembers in the country perform.

Maples added searches are ongoing for chemical weapons beyond those
being conducted solely for force protection.

There has been a call for a complete declassification of the National
Ground Intelligence Center's report on WMD in Iraq. Maples said he
believes the director of national intelligence is still considering this
option, and has asked Maples to look into producing an unclassified paper
addressing the subject matter in the center's report.

Much of the classified matter was slated for discussion in a closed
forum after the open hearings this morning.

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