Matthew S. Meselson, "History and Future of Biological Weapons” - Whitehead Lecture Series: Biology and the Future

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PRESENTER: This is the first in a series of lectures sponsored by the Whitehead Institute. It arose because there are now new techniques in molecular biology that have made it possible to diagnose hidden genetic disorders, redesign farm animals, produce plants with new and unusual characteristics. It's clear that these techniques will lead to new approaches to problems outside of the laboratory-- hunger, environmental pollution, and disease.

But they also raise important social and ethical questions. For example, who will have access to the results of genetic tests? What does it mean to patent a new life form? How will new technologies affect the likelihood of biological warfare?

The discussions at the Institute, and specifically between Eric Lander and myself, led us to organize this series, which is titled "Biology in the Future." Basically to explore the social, ethical, and environmental consequences of the revolution in molecular biology.

It's supported by a generous grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, with the specific charge that we not limit this solely to biologists, for reasons that perhaps are apparent to you. And so we have made every attempt-- and I believe have succeeded-- in attracting people from not only outside the biology community, outside of MIT, to get scientists and non-scientists here to talk about some of these possibilities and what lies ahead. Tonight's lecture is the first of these.

On March 2 there will be a lecture, Genetics and your Health, Tales of Genetic Discrimination, by Paul Billings. On April 29, The Blood of our Children, Genetic Identification of the Disappeared, by Mary Claire King. And on September 30, Purple Cows, Issues in Biotechnology and Agriculture, by Dan Kevles. And then Genetic Diagnostics, Reading the Future, on November 4.

The format of this lecture is that we will have first a presentation by Doctor Matthew Meselson, and then some subsequent comments by John Deutch. Tonight's speaker on the future of biological warfare is by Matthew Meselson, who is the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences at Harvard University.

I first learned of Matt from my genetics textbook, since he had performed what is now a classical experiment in molecular biology, and one that we still teach to graduate students as the way experiments ought to be done. But Matt has, as many of you know, broadened-- or, has a broad interest in matters of public policy, and as a consultant to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the 1960s he helped shape US policy on biological and chemical weapons, and he is credited with being a key influence in President Nixon's 1969 decision to renounce biological warfare and to get rid of the US stockpile of microbiological weapons. I have always found Matt to be a compelling and articulate speaker, and look forward to hearing him this evening. Would you please welcome Matthew Meselson.


MATTHEW MESELSON: You have a very obedient audience.

The reason I accepted this invitation was that I was invited.


But if I had to justify it I would say that many of you are biologists, I'm sure-- there being such a high concentration of biologists in this area-- and may want to get some information about a subject that you don't deal with everyday, but which is still related to your work one way or another. And then, more generally, people in this community must know that it is one of the few places in the world in which the biological revolution is taking place, and are probably interested to know what's going on in your community in the broadest way.

So what I'm going to try to do is simply describe some of the history as well as present issues in this subject, and try to be as informative as I can. Why should we be concerned with this issue of the utilization of biological sciences for hostile purposes? Certainly at the outset one has to realize that the implications of the new biology for human benefit are vast. But it is also true that if there should come into play large-scale or serious exploitation, deliberate exploitation of biology for hostile purposes, that this could cause great harm.

Over the short-run the kind of harm that's easy to envisage and describe in detail derives from the fact that, at least in principle-- though no one's ever done it and maybe an attempt to do it would fizzle-- but nevertheless, potentially with biological weapons based on infectious organisms it could be possible to cause illness and death over very large areas with relatively small payloads. The reason for this is simply that the mass, the weight, of infectious agent that is required to initiate an infection in a human being is a very small mass.

Any one number is going to be misleading, because there are so many variables, starting with how many organisms are required to initiate an infection, say, by the aerosol route by inhalation. There is great variation in this number depending on the organism in question. Even with a fairly homogeneous population.

For example, just a very few cells of the organism that causes tularemia, Francisella tularensis, three, four, five cells probably are enough to initiate an infection. Whereas with another organism, bacillus anthracis, the agent of anthrax, maybe 10, maybe 50,000 spores are required before there's a 50% likelihood of infecting a primate. We don't do experiments-- experiments like that haven't been done on human beings and recorded, or known to me. So there is variation there.

There are many other uncertainties. Stability of the organism, susceptibility of a population, distribution modalities. So if any one number is unlikely to mean much. Nevertheless, even if one allows for all the variabilities, it's pretty clear that relatively small quantities.

Some have said maybe as small a weight per area made lethal to be as, say, hydrogen bombs. Maybe a greater weight, maybe a smaller weight, but perhaps in that ballpark. Certainly much smaller weights than would be required to attack people with conventional weapons or with chemical weapons. Simply because of the fact that a single organism weighing about 10 to the minus 12 grams or a few dozen organisms, given the right infectious organism, could initiate an infection.

So this means that, in relatively simple-- not totally simple and not totally cheap, but relatively compared to other kinds of weapons that could have strategic effects over large areas, biological weapons could be a very serious strategic threat, either for intimidation or for actually causing disease.

There is possible a protection, if you're wearing a simple air filter. But the problem is that for the attack of large populations, unless they're warned, unless they were equipped, they could be very vulnerable. So that is a short description of the kind of hazard that's easy to see today if there were a deliberate, intense exploitation of bacteriology for military purposes.

The future potential for danger is harder and more foggy to describe. And, in fact, I'm going to swing all the way to a very distant future and say something that may sound very foggy to some of you. And that is that we've gone through many different technological ages, muscle power, fire-- the power of fire. Then coupled via various agencies. So steam, then an electronic age, a nuclear age. And all of these technologies do get used for hostile purposes, as well as for constructive purposes.

Some people might feel-- and I'm one of them, and I should admit this up front-- that those methods of waging war, or more amorphous kinds of hostile action against other members of our species, are somehow survivable compared to what would happen if we used our knowledge of ourselves, if we use the kind of knowledge of life processes that is beginning to accumulate-- not very much of it yet, but more and more rapidly and will become increasingly profound until we understand all of the life processes, including those of development and of the brain-- that if this kind of knowledge is deliberately used for hostile purposes on any significant scale, that we could be in a kind of trouble as a species that's very different from the kinds of trouble we could have gotten into with other kinds of scientific violence. And not just in overt war, but in other areas in which human hostility can be manifested.

Well, so much for the ball-gazing and the philosophy. I'd like now to try to give you a short historical sketch of this subject. Before World War I and even in World War I there wasn't much really going on in the area of biological warfare. After all, the whole idea of infectious organisms and the isolation of pure cultures wasn't much before World War I. And although there were some biological warfare attempts, small-scale-- giving horses glanders, some things like that-- it wasn't until World War II that it really got going.

But during World War II there were sizable biological warfare programs in Great Britain, the United States, Germany, Japan, Canada, and almost certainly in the Soviet Union. And we will find out about that as I'll explain later, we hope, very soon.

We know most about the United States program because the United States has by far-- more than the Canadians, more than the British, more than the Japanese, more than Germany-- been open about what it was that we were doing, up until the year 1969.

Lots of different organisms were screened to see which would be most effective for aerosol dissemination. Aerosol dissemination was the main mode of dissemination that was investigated. It was early on realized that it was by far the most effective if one wanted effectiveness out of biological weapons and strategic weapons. By the time that President Nixon ordered our stockpiles destroyed, we had gone through several different infectious organisms, standardize them, and then declared them obsolete.

But the ones that were standardized and stockpiled at that time were Francisella tularensis-- that's the organism that causes tularemia. Maybe four or five cells, though I don't know how reliable these numbers, extrapolated from quite different situation, would be. But it was thought that a small number of organisms would be infectious. And we had a large stockpile. Coxiella burnetti, a Rickettsia that causes Q fever. And Venezuelan equine encephalitis, a virus that was categorized as an incapacitating rather than a lethal biological weapon. So we had stockpiles of these things. And there were also stockpiles of wheat rust and rice blast two anti-crop fungal agents.

The scale of this effort was pretty big. For example, at Pine Bluff there were separate facilities for each infectious organism. In the late '50s one of the facilities there for growing Rickettsia-- it was called the X201 Facility-- it was fairly big. It employed more than 800 people, used two million gallons of water a day, five megawatts of electricity, lots of steam. It was big. Partly because, at least at that time, it was not possible, reliably, to store these agents for very long periods and keep them infectious. And so the idea was to have a pretty big capacity that could be put online quickly.

Generally speaking, protection wasn't available to civilian populations. It still isn't. It would be a big chore, as I indicated. Although conceivably it could be done, if there was a sense of acute danger maintained, detectors, diagnosis, gas masks, alarms, discipline, and so on. But the capability of the United States at that time was offensive. But, as it is today, hardly any defensive capability. At least in the narrow sense of the word.

I should now digress slightly and say how I got interested in this. It was by total accident. During the summer of 1963, as I only recently learned, there was a budget surplus at the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and there was the alternative of giving it back or figuring out something to do with it.

And so the science and technology branch director of the time, an excellent chemist from Montana, decided to use it. And he invited a group of academics. I shared an office with Freeman Dyson and we were told, do whatever you want. Just do something.


And I said, well, that's not-- I don't know. What should I do? I went down there just because I thought it would be interesting to see a completely different kind of human activity from molecular biology. And just for a summer. I didn't think it would risk losing more than a summer.

And so I was told, well, why don't you look into theater nuclear arms control in Europe? And I tried that for a couple of weeks.


Then it dawned on me slowly-- too slowly-- that there were already lots of people in the field. And I never liked to be in a field where there are too many other people. And they had written wisely about the subject and unwisely about the subject, and there was a lot known. In two or three months there was no way that I could do anything useful for the United States government.

So I went to my boss and said, well, I'm a chemist and a biologist. Haven't you got something for me that would draw on what I know? He said, yeah. We had a guy who did that. He was from Caltech, too. He got depressed and he killed himself, but you could have his desk.


So I did. And, that is, I took his desk.


At first I thought, well, I'll deal with this subject. And then I realized that even that was too big a subject for just a summer. So I put the larger of the two aside-- that was chemical weapons-- and concentrated on biological weapons. So I went to Fort Detrick to see what we were doing. This was 1963. And I went to the CIA to see what we thought other people were doing, and I talked to lots of people.

And I came to a rather simple conclusion. Probably too simple, but it was this. It sort of went like a series of propositions. What can you do with biological weapons? You can kill people and threaten to kill them over very big areas, hundreds of square kilometers. The United States can already do that. The way that we can do, or could have done it, can still do it, was very expensive and very technologically sophisticated, namely nuclear weapons.

Why should we be the ones to introduce a cheap way of doing the same thing? What capability would it add for us? Other people, yes. They would have a new capability if we were to pioneer the development of biological weapons. Besides, usually what the United States does gets to be known around the world with a small time lag, so the possibility of doing it all in secret-- in fact, there were chemical warfare officers that were writing books praising it because it would save money. And I concluded that the cheaper it was the worse it was, and we should definitely stop it completely and instead just concentrate on watching as carefully as we could what other people were doing, discouraging it, and thinking about what to do if it should ever break loose.

But nobody at that time felt that there was enough time on their schedule, no one high up enough, to do much about it. When President Nixon was elected various things conspired to cause a review to be ordered by the president. And this was a very interesting review.

There are different kinds of reviews. I suppose sometimes you review something because you don't want to do anything about it, so you review it. Sometimes you review something because you've already decided what you want to do about it, but you review it so that it looks like you're thinking about all the different arguments and trying to get all the facts. And then sometimes you would review something when you really thought you ought to look into it and didn't know what it all meant and what you should do.

I could be wrong, but I think this review was of the third kind. And it was done in a style that may have been, at least in some of those reviews, characteristic of Henry Kissinger, which I thought was a very admirable style.

And that was, each agency of the government was not only asked but there was insistence that it explain not only what it thought was its best policy but give the pros and cons for all the other policies. So that this enabled relatively junior staff people from the National Security Council to go over to the Joint Chiefs, for example, or to ACDA or to state and say, well gentlemen, you've done an excellent job here of explaining your preferred option. Now, when it comes down to this option number two, you haven't given a very good argument for it. Of course, that wasn't what they wanted. So naturally they didn't give a good argument for it. But because of this ground rule that you had to give the president every option and you had to argue every option, pros and cons-- which, so far as I know, maybe didn't happen in many reviews. This is the only review at that level that I've had much to do with. But I thought it was pretty excellent.

And I do know that what President Nixon got had all the options and all the arguments that at least I could ever imagine, pro and con. And he decided something more sweeping than I think most of us expected. He decided to get rid of the biological warfare program completely. He was offered many options. He was told, you could renounce it. If someone else, namely the Soviets, are willing to do that there would be a quid pro quo. Or you could renounce it, but mothball it. Don't renounce the option, just get rid of the program or tune it down. It was running at a pretty fast clip in those days. But keep the option.

He rejected it completely and ordered that the program be stopped, and that the United States renounce its right ever to use biological weapons. And then, during a backgrounder some journalists asked Henry Kissinger, well what about toxins? And there's a verbatim text of this. And Kissinger says, what are toxins?


And the journalist didn't know either. Someone had fed him the question.


It turned out the NSC staff had written a lot about toxins, but the head of that particular review saw how long it was and how technical it looked and said, take this, reduce this. And so what went to the president about toxins was really very brief, and it got left out. And so a whole new review was ordered up about toxins. And again, the president was offered a whole range of options from, toxins are not living. They do not reproduce. You know? Toxins are defined as poisonous things, poisonous chemicals-- they don't reproduce. They're chemicals-- but that are made by living things. So the clostridium botulinum makes a nasty toxin called botulin. Yeast makes a pleasurable toxin called ethanol. It's still a toxin in the sense that it, in appropriate dose can be harmful. And it's made by a living thing.

Anyway, one option was, toxins are not infectious. They're not BW. We're not going to renounce them. Another was, toxins, if made by living things-- because bacteria make toxins and that's getting close to sounding like disease again-- would be prohibited and renounced. But if the chemists over there can learn how to synthesize them that would be OK.


Another option was, no, we'll renounce them under all circumstances, but we won't renounce the right to use them in future if other people do. And then finally there's an extreme, exceedingly left-wing alternative. Renounce them, no matter how they're made, and renounced them in perpetuity. And that's what President Nixon did. The first decision about infectious agents in 1969, November, and the second one about toxins after someone asked, what are toxins, in 1970.

And this really got the United States out of the business. We destroyed our stockpiles. We converted the laboratories at Pine Bluff to the study of toxic substances in the laboratories at Fort Detrick-- and the production facilities-- and the laboratories at Fort Detrick to cancer research and other things.

There were kept at those sites military units that did other things, and a biological defensive enterprise, but not making weapons at Fort Detrick. And also a biological defensively-oriented facility at Dugway in Utah. But the offensive program was really extirpated. Gone.

Then there came up the question, well, how about a treaty? Well, we had already given it up. And not only that, we'd renounced the option. So a treaty then would be only a bonus. If people didn't obey it, that wouldn't be so good. But since it didn't require us to do anything we weren't going to do anyway, why not? And the British had proposed such a treaty, and so at the same time the president renounced BW he announced support for that British draft treaty which is called the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972. Today there are about 100 parties to it. It prohibits the production-- it prohibits the development, production, possession, transfer, et cetera of biological agents for any but peaceful purposes.

It didn't have any verification attached to it, but it did have an article which required a review conference after five years. And it's become customary to have review conferences periodically. There have now been three. And these review conferences have achieved what some would call a little bit of verification, and what others would call some confidence-building.

The first review conference in 1980 didn't accomplish very much. This was, at the time, shortly after in December that the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan. The Cold War was very bitter. [INAUDIBLE] There had been an outbreak of anthrax and had become known in the West in April of 1979-- became known in the West shortly after that. And these subjects dominated much of the debates at that first review conference.

But the second one in 1986 did achieve something. The parties to the Biological Weapons Convention agreed that they would declare the location, ownership, size, and general purpose of all P4 facilities. P4, as you know, is a high level of containment for exceedingly-dangerous infectious agents. And that they would also declare the location, et cetera of all P3 facilities if they were engaged in work of direct relevance to the Biological Weapons Convention.

And pursuant to that these declarations, which the United States and the Soviet Union and Great Britain and many countries-- but also many didn't-- but many countries-- every April the 15th they are supposed to renew their declarations. And this has been going on ever since, the United States and the Soviet Union have been filing these declarations.

The third review conference was last year in 1991, and it added some more measures-- states parties to the convention which, as I say, has about 120 parties today-- agreed that they would describe their biological defense programs. They're not supposed to have biological offense programs, so there'd be no point asking them to describe those-- but their biological defense programs. Namely, how they're organized, actually giving names of people in charge of the major components, what their facilities are, and so on.

Now, you could dodge this. You could say, it's actually my cotton candy program. It's not a biological defense program at all. It's something else. But it allows one to compare both what you know and what you fear with what is declared. And by comparison of this information, it's possible to derive conclusions about compliance or about noncompliance. They may not be rock solid, but they're better than the conclusions that you could otherwise make.

A very interesting agreement was that all states parties agreed to submit by April 15 of this year, income tax day, a description of their biological warfare activities beginning in the year 1946. So we're waiting very eagerly. We know what the United States was doing since 1946 pretty much, but there are a lot of countries which never said anything. The Soviet Union has said-- when there was a Soviet Union-- that they were in compliance,

But it will be very interesting to find out what they say they were doing beginning in 1946. And there are some other governments, too. It would be interesting to know what they say.

And it was agreed to have a further meeting very soon. Not with the usual five-year wait-- in fact, this March-- of experts to discuss possible methods of verification. There is a disagreement here. The United States generally has argued-- to some extent it's a hangover from the etiological days of the Reagan administration, but to some extent there's a lot of merit to it, that-- and it doesn't matter whether you say a ban on biological weapons is unverifiable or it's not verifiable enough. Its theology to try to make that distinction. But the United States has argued that it's not verifiable enough to have a verification regime. So we could call them confidence-building measures instead. I think at some points it ends up as a quibble.

Except for a concept that is pretty obvious, but I would like to take a minute and talk about it. And that is, yes, it could be difficult to verify a biological disarmament treaty, although there are things you can look for if you know where to look, certain kinds of storage facilities, aero-biology, aerosolization chambers. What kind, what size, what precautions. Studies of non-endemic pathogens. Why are you studying that? You don't have that in your country. If the explanation is reasonable, fine. If not, keep asking questions. Very large-scale production units, though those may exist for other purposes, too. Trace the organization in financing. Look for test grounds, and so on and so forth.

But there's another way-- not to exclude those others-- but there's another way of dealing with this kind of problem. And that is based on the assumption that nobody is going to develop biological weapons in the open. You're not supposed to do it, so you shouldn't do it publicly. Therefore, that would mean that if you could verify openness then you would be verifying compliance. Maybe openness could be viewed as a real object, like a cube of platinum.

Can't you verify openness? Yes, there are ways you can verify openness. For example, much better than checking on the volume of their aerosol chambers. If my daughter was the biological safety officer at a suspect facility, considering how snoopy-- I hope I'm not insulting anybody--


--biological safety officers are. They go into everything. I'd feel very happy about that facility. I'd say there's nothing that-- there can't be anything wrong there if she's there. And she talks to me on the phone. I can tell her voice, it's not funny. She comes home for visits. I go there and see her.

What I'm getting at is that, the exchange of personnel is an awfully good way to verify openness. And especially certain kinds of personnel. And there are other ways. And probably some ingenious ways that haven't been thought of. But of verifying openness as an entity so that you don't have to get down to the little details of, well, they haven't got one of those. And then someone says, but maybe you have one of these. And they could do the job with one of those instead of that, and so on.

OK. So although this treaty is not one which has all kinds of rigorous verification attached to it, it is one to which have been added-- and now with a changed world environment we hope there will be added more and more-- measures of openness and of confidence-building.

And since we don't want anything to do with biological weapons-- I hope that none of our officials want anything to do with biological weapons, except for a few souls at relatively low levels. I've never met anybody who seems to want to anymore. We're out of it anyway.

Maybe there are some things we should be doing. We should be interested in methods of rapid diagnosis. We should be interested in how to make vaccines and how to make some of them quickly. We should have a good epidemiological surveillance service. I think ours in recent years has slipped a bit. We should be doing those things. There are some things that are arguable that we do. I won't get into those. There's room to argue on both sides. But what I would assert very strongly is, we shouldn't do anything that isn't open. It should be open.

There are some slight risks in openness, if you're working in defense and diagnosis and detection. But I think that so long as you try and get quid pro quos, get other people open, but be willing to open yourself, that you're ahead.

Now, what things are there to watch coming up in this area of biological hostility? Well, we could start with Iraq. We thought that there might be a hazard emanating from Iraq, to the extent that we vaccinated soldiers against bacillus anthracis and some of them against botulinum, botulisnus toxin. I thought I was going to be on that UN team for a while, so I was vaccinated with bacillus anthracis. There was a concern on the part of several countries that maybe there was a program there.

And it turns out, according to the Iraqis now, that there was a program. They say that it was at the research level and nothing has been detected in the nature of actual weapons production or weapons filling. They say that they did have a military program though. Their declaration says that they worked with bacillus anthracis, with clostridium botulinum, and clostridium perfringens. The latter two making toxins, and anthrax being an infectious organism of which many of you, I think, know a little bit about it. Lethal, infectious-- a lethal disease that can be spread by inhalation or ingestion.

So they were working on these things. And there was a secured, refrigerated storage facility that you could argue might have had in mind doing something bad with it. That's all the UN has found to date. But there was some work going on. In the next few weeks we should be learning more about what went on in the Soviet Union. As I say, there is a requirement for declaration on April 15.

And you probably read in the newspapers that Boris Yeltsin and his military advisor on his recent trip to United States have spoken to American officials about some things which they say went beyond what the treaty would have allowed. And we'll see what those were.

We might even see-- though, perhaps, less political incentive for it-- US admissions of error in some things that we have said. Particularly I have in mind the allegation that we made again and again-- and unfortunately even repeated this last year in what's called the president's Annual Noncompliance Statement-- the allegation that somebody was practicing trichothecene mycotoxin warfare in Southeast Asia. So far as I know that "yellow rain" story was just completely wrong. There was no such-- there is, as far as I know, no good evidence for it, and a lot of evidence of the presence of poor reasoning and poor data, and even misuse of science in that story.

There'll be the March verification conference in Geneva, and that might agree on further measures of verification. I don't expect anything major from it, but rather something in the nature of slow progress towards further opening and confidence-building.

There's something big though that's on the horizon, and that's the Chemical Weapons Convention. And it's related to biological weapons because of toxins. Now, I haven't said much about toxins yet, so now I should. I'm going to choose to do that in the course of making comments about what some people say is the possible impact of new biology and making more effective biological weapons.

I've never believed that recombinant DNA technology or new biological technology would make infectious organisms into a much worse threat than they already are. Now, there are two ways of understanding that. Or, there's really one way of understanding it and one way of misunderstanding it.

One way of misunderstanding it is to say, these things aren't threatening with either old biology or new biology. That's not what I mean. What I mean is that the old ones-- well, no one ever did it, but it's a very good chance that the old ones were already bad enough. That pasteurella tularensis-- an awful lot of research was done on it. You'd have to write down a list of things that would make it more threatening, and I would look at it, and I don't think I would find it more threatening.

Four organisms? Well, so you might develop something where one organism is enough. There's no difference. It's fairly stable, et cetera, et cetera. So I've never agreed that recombinant DNA technology makes infectious biological warfare look that much more ominous in any practical sense that anyone has ever been able to describe to me.

Now toxins, to some extent, are a different matter. By the way, on infectious organisms I should say, though, that recombinant DNA technology, or more modern methods of doing biological research, can make better vaccines and make-- we haven't got many yet, but in principle can make vaccines better, can make them easier. Now, that's on the defensive side, not the offensive side.

But toxins are something else again. There are toxins that are very poisonous. Getting them to act through the skin and-- after all, there are chemical weapons, nerve agents that are also very poisonous, and they do go through the skin. They're very stable and they don't burn up when they are detonated with an explosive. And militarily they have all kinds of advantages, if that's what one is after.

And toxins don't get you much beyond that. They don't go through the skin. But in principle maybe someone could engineer them or mix them or get them to do that. And you could go to higher levels of toxicity with toxins, and so on. And there's some other things you can say about them. So maybe there is some room if you really want biological weapons to do something with toxins if you felt you wanted them.

But the Chemical Weapons Convention, which is-- now I've finished the few technical remarks I had about toxins-- covers toxins as well as other chemicals. And it's a very amazing convention. And we're going to get it-- probably it will be initialed this year. I say we're going to get it. I'd be surprised if we don't. It looks very much as though we will.

This is a treaty which will involve many nations. It's a multilateral treaty. It states parties will agree to declare and then destroy their present holdings of poison gas weapons, chemical weapons, to destroy their facilities for making them, and to institute a verification regime which, far from perfect, nevertheless will certainly raise the likelihood of getting caught if you want to cheat, and will constitute some kind of deterrent. And over time will reinforce-- or create and reinforce a norm against the use of toxic weapons. And will also provide a model-- or, better yet, a test or an experiment-- of whether we really are anywhere near a new world order, something in which it's possible to act more cooperatively than in the past to achieve security. The Chemical Weapons Convention will do all of those things if it succeeds.

I have one great concern about it, which is a little bit off my topic tonight, but I do want to pass it on to you because I'm concerned about it. Nearly all nations have the view that-- nearly all nations have expressed a view on this, that the Geneva Protocol prohibits the use of all toxic chemicals as means of war. And that would include incapacitating chemicals as well as lethal ones.

The United States has renounced lethal chemicals and has renounced so-called incapacitating chemicals, but has not renounced the use of what are called "riot control agents" in warfare. There are some reasons why riot control agents can be useful in warfare. We used about 8,000 tons of them in Vietnam. Never, essentially-- once, I believe-- for separating civilians from soldiers. In the overwhelming majority of cases in order to enhance mobility or firepower, dropping CS before bombing runs and using CS in 155 artillery projectiles, and so on. And it can be, I think, marginally useful to the side that uses it, especially if the other side doesn't use it.

But it is a kind of chemical warfare. Soldiers are wearing gas masks. Military establishments are learning how to make offensive use of toxic chemicals that go through the air. Establishments back home are becoming dependent for budgets and careers and so on, on a role for toxic things, and so on.

In this new convention, in the article which defines what chemicals are to be prohibited, there is a bracketed pair of sentences put there by the United States which would totally exempt all chemicals with the lethality below 10 milligrams per kilogram body weight of Sprague-Dawley rat from the convention if they are used by a state party also for law enforcement or police purposes domestically.

This bothers me. There's now research going on to try and get riot control agents that are better than CS, which, incidentally, stands for the two Harvard chemists who first synthesized it, Corson and Stoughton. It doesn't last very long. For example, there's the whole family of opioids, synthetic compounds like heroin, sometimes mistakenly called China white. China white is really real heroin, a very pure kind. But these fentanyl-like compounds are synthetic analogs.

And there's work going on now to try and develop these as weapons. The idea would be to release them as an aerosol and people would be knocked out. A problem with this is that, although these are the kinds of compounds that are used in darts to capture wild animals, it doesn't work on primates because they are more sensitive to the respiratory arrest properties of these fentanyl compounds, these synthetic opioids. And so they're lethal, too often. They would be lethal too often in practice for primates, including human primates. And so there's research trying to mix them with antidotes against their respiratory effects, but to maintain their knockout effects.

And one has to agree that there are military situations in which one side or another might use such a weapon to some advantage. The treaty protects all peaceful purposes and police purposes and riot control purposes of chemicals. That's not at issue. What is at issue is the United States policy which, at the moment at least-- and our negotiators in Geneva will tell you that this policy is absolutely non-negotiable unless the president himself changes it-- insists that if a chemical is used for domestic law enforcement by a state party, then that chemical may be used freely without the restraints. And which we now, by the way, do impose ourselves. Those restraints would be gone. That chemical could be used freely in war.

That, I think, could be a big mistake because it's a loophole. Now, an incapacitating gas is a long way from a lethal one, and it's some distance away from a biological agent, and that's some distance away from a lethal biological infectious agent. But both the pattern of proliferation in the world and in the thinking of many people, there is a kind of linkage amongst all these infectious and toxic-- all these things which take advantage of the inner life processes, all these things which could be developed and perfected over time by deeper knowledge of our own living systems.

People tend to think of these as a unit. And I don't know if fine distinctions would last very long if one nation or another insisted on using just that end of the spectrum that was useful for it. Especially if the other nations have to be dragged along to make that distinction. So I hope that doesn't happen.

So I've really come to the end, and I hope I have left time for questions. I'd like to end by saying, and really repeating what I said before, that it might be wise now at the very beginning of the real revolution in biology just to put a hold on all the hostile uses of our relatively new science. We don't lose much by doing that, and we might gain a great deal. Thank you.




PRESENTER: Our discussant for Matt's talk is John Deutch, who's served as MIT provost from 1985 until 1990. He's currently Institute Professor here at MIT. In August of 1990 George Bush appointed John Deutch to the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. He's also served on the Defense Policy Board of the Defense Science Board. You can read a great deal of his public service in these areas in the biography here.

I was particularly anxious to have John be here because Matt is such a compelling speaker that I always feel, after hearing him, that I now agree completely with what he's said. And whenever I get into a situation of thinking I really know what the right course is, I talk to John Deutch and he convinces me that that's completely wrong. So I think John is in the spirit of the Henry Kissinger's options. And in that spirit of making us think about something else, other possibilities, I'm very happy to welcome John as the discussant.


JOHN DEUTCH: Thank you, Jerry. I'm pleased to learn that I was invited to participate this evening because perhaps I could offer some interesting views in contrast to the fact that I'm not a biologist and would satisfy the terms of the grant under which these--


I'm also very pleased to appear at the same time as Matt Meselson. Matt has dedicated himself to study of the subjects of biological and chemical warfare as he's described, I think, scrupulously and very carefully for, I guess, about 30 years now. And that serves the public well, and we have every great reason to listen to him carefully and to be pleased that there's somebody in our community who is taking the pains to follow such important matters.

I don't believe that I'm going to stand here before you with a long list of items on which I disagree about the subject which Matt has dressed. What I do want to do is perhaps spend a moment touching on a few of the points which were brought up. Let me begin though with bringing you some bad news and some good news.

The bad news is that I believe that the world is entering a period where a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is going to be of significantly larger concern than it has been in the past several decades, where we've been really moderately fortunate at the slow pace at which weapons of mass destruction have diffused throughout nations of the world. There are a lot of reasons for that. I don't want to dwell on them. I think it's partially, but not entirely, connected with the collapse of the former Soviet Union. But there is also a growing regional instability in the world which leads countries to seek, unfortunately, weapons of mass destruction, quite independent of what the United States, the former Soviet Union, or other European or Japan-- independently of what they do.

Now, these weapons of mass destruction are three varieties. There are nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, and the biological weapons of which Matt principally addressed. That's the bad news. So I think it's a very, very serious problem. It a principal problem, I would say, that should be on the foreign policy agenda of the United States currently, with the happy loss of the political competition with the Soviet Union. That is really bad news. And I would like to spend some time mentioning to you, talking to you about this issue of proliferation.

The good news is, for those of you who are rather more concered with the principal topic of this evening's conversation, that I just don't think modern biology is going to be a central player in this for some period of time. And I think on that Matt and I share, that you just don't need a lot better or worse than what we already have. Slightly better living organisms still are inconvenient to manage and handle, and not militarily useful in my view, and there's really no purpose in developing them.

Complex toxins developed maybe by biotechnology techniques or genetic engineering in the future strike me as still having to compete with the rather awesome organophosphate nerve agents which are present in quantity and easy to produce. Odorless, colorless, and have the ability to survive, and-- some of them have the ability to survive in some climates. So I really do not believe that we run the risk here, as we do perhaps in other subjects that this symposium will be addressing, or the seminar will be addressing on future evenings, of saying that molecular biology has a particular-- or modern biology has a particular problem here.

But I do think that we have jointly at issue, whether you call it new biology or not, to worry about the proliferation of nuclear, chemical weapons of mass destruction. Especially in regions of the world that are highly unstable and prone to violence.

When I look at the lesson of Iraq, the war in Iraq as it bears on this subject, I find that there are three points of great importance. First, I think that it is shocking and scandalous that the world stood by while there was an all-out war between Iran and Iraq and saw the fairly widespread use of chemicals in that war causing really substantial numbers of fatalities and injuries and in no way-- in no diplomatic way, much less any more forceful means-- intervened in that conflict.

I think that the absence of intervention in the Iraq-Iran war in the matter of the use of chemicals did indeed provide a lesson, an unfortunate lesson, for nations of the world that I might regard as rogue states. It gave them a greater interest in weapons of mass destruction.

Second point I would like to make about the Iran-Iraq war has to do with the enormous error of US intelligence or US policy with respect to what was going on in Iran and Iraq. And indeed, the era occurred with opposite [INAUDIBLE] in the case of nuclear and in the case of chemical and biological. In the case of nuclear weapons the estimates before the war-- and, in fact, during the war-- were that Iraq had-- was a signatory, I might add, of the nonproliferation treaty-- Iraq was a signatory of the nonproliferation treaty, and whose one declared nuclear facility was indeed inspected and properly inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency. But the official estimate and the policy view was that, while they certainly had a covert nuclear weapons program that it was R&D, modest in scale, and so forth.

Point of fact it is now quite completely apparent with the quite successful-- I guess it had been 10 up until now-- IAEA inspections of Iraq. They had an absolutely massive program from soup to nuts from mining ore, all the way to experimenting with sophisticated means of enriching uranium to obtain highly-enriched uranium for bomb use. They had somewhere between 10 and 15,000 trained scientists and engineers working in this program. It was not a little side bit. It was an enormous venture, which completely escaped reporting not only of the United States and its intelligence services, but similarly the reporting of the intelligence services of the French, the British, the Russians, and the Israelis to the extent that you can believe the information they provide.

In that case, we had an enormous underestimate of what was going on in Iraq, a country which at that time had a major nuclear weapons program. I do not want to suggest to you that they were eight months or six months or five days away from having a bomb. What I do want to say is that they had a very serious program. We have at this very moment a similar discussion going on with North Korea. There is great concern about what is happening in Algeria. There's concern about what is happening in Iran, and there is concern about what is happening, certainly, in Libya. On that side, we underestimated dramatically what was going on in nuclear matters in the case of a nuclear proliferation treaty signatory in Iraq.

On the chemical side we estimated-- we estimated-- that the Iraqis had deliverable chemicals in a variety of forms, including on scud missiles, and that if the United States forces-- if United States forces joined with them in the desert that they would use these chemical agents against US forces.

Matt has described to you, quite correctly, it was also a concern that they had biological agent, anthrax and botulinum, that this would be potentially used against US servicemen. And there was a desultory program to inoculate them during the campaign.

It turned out, of course, that the Iraqis did not use their chemical weapons. Indeed it is a striking feature that Mr. Saddam Hussein, to best of my knowledge, did not deploy any chemical munition-- of which we had many. And we now know that he had at least 30 scud warheads that were available to be used, including binary agent warheads-- that he did not deploy any of these chemical weapons into the Kuwaiti theater of operations or anywhere near Basra or south of Basra. And that therefore he was much more reluctant or unable-- to argue it either way, but certainly there was some initial reluctance of him to deploy these weapons-- so that in this case there was an instance of enormous, enormous overestimating how likely chemical weapons were to be used.

The point I want to make is not to argue the rights or wrongs of either one of those pictures, but to indicate how absolutely difficult it is going to be, in a time when we are trying to slow the proliferation of these weapons of mass destruction, to assess properly and at a policy level what the picture is before one intervenes in a diplomatic matter. Especially if one wants to intervene in a diplomatic matter in concert with other nations, perhaps through the UN, perhaps through some other agency in a matter like this. And, as I say, the matter is presently an identical case occurs in North Korea where we have astonishing little information about what is influencing the North Korean government.

The reason I raise this is that I would like to conclude by making a comment about the multilateral chemical treaty. It is indeed the most important-- the most significant, I should say-- the most significant arms control measure in this area that is on the agenda, I would say, for the next five or 10 years. For a variety of reasons the multilateral chemical treaty is a treaty which is of great interest to this administration. It has the support of the president. And I would bet more than even money that that treaty will be passed.

What concerns me about that treaty is the following. While it is a measure that I support-- I think its a reasonable thing for the United States to enter into and to encourage within the community of nations-- it does have several very, very severe weaknesses. And I mention them only to you in passing.

The first is that there is really an issue of verification. It is extremely difficult-- as I've tried to illustrate with my remarks about Iraq-- very, very difficult to know that one has an accurate picture, even with very sophisticated intelligence gathering and other information gathering techniques. "Very sophisticated" means it is very difficult to know what is going on, especially covertly in a nation. Not a friendly nation, but a nation that sees itself having security concerns and maybe having less than friendly intentions towards its neighbor.

Second is that that treaty does not really, as I understand it, contain a "no first use" declaration by all of its members. I believe it should. Nor does the treaty agree-- nor does the treaty agree to what the signatories will do if somebody either violates the treaty or proceeds to use chemicals even if they are not members of the treaty.

And until the issue of sanctions is agreed upon by those people who enter into the multilateral chemical treaty, I think that we will have stopped short of taking a multilateral step that will indeed effectively slow the spread of chemical weapons. Because as matters stand now the world has the lesson, first, of Iran-Iraq, a war where chemicals were freely used, and everybody stood by.

And the second, we have the example of the Iraq war itself, the most recent conflict in the Gulf where, indeed, we had a signatory to the nonproliferation treaty who was violating the nuclear part of the treaty-- the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty-- and was not being brought to bear for it by any inspection scheme that was present.

In sum, the multilateral treaty, in my judgment, needs to have a strengthening along the lines that I mentioned. No first use, some discussion and agreement among its members about what sanctions will be taken in case someone does violate that treaty.

Why doesn't that take place? Why doesn't that take place? The reason that there is not such an agreement, why that is not included in the treaty in my judgment, is that policy makers today in the United States-- in Washington, or elsewhere across the globe-- face two questions, and have no good answers to those questions.

The first question is, how do you deter proliferation? How do you slow the spread? And I must say that I think since 1974, the last time we had, for example, a detonation of a nuclear weapon by a country, India, there are probably three new members of the nuclear club. Certainly Israel, South Africa, and Pakistan. We don't know how to slow that spread. We don't know how to slow that spread in the nuclear area. Much more difficult in the chemical and biological area.

And secondly, if we arrive at a situation where somebody does proliferate, we have no effective policy measures of knowing what to do about it in a political manner. Thank you very much.


MODERATOR: Why don't you take a seat up here?


MODERATOR: With Matt. Yes. If I can ask both of our speakers to come up to the front, I'm sure that there are many questions from the audience. I know some people will need to leave there, but the speakers have agreed to stay on for about 10 or 15 minutes of questions. We have a microphone down here for those who want to use it. For those with loud voices, I'm willing to recognize people anywhere in the audience if they don't want to come down to use it. There's a first question over there.

Oh, and could I ask you-- because this is such a diverse audience we've tried to attract-- to say who you are and where you're from? Because I think it would be nice for us to know the range of people who have come today.

AUDIENCE: Howard Hugh, a physician epidemiologist at [INAUDIBLE] School of Public Health. First question for Professor Deutch. I wonder if you'd comment on the point that Professor Meselson raised, which is that the US continues to try to exclude riot control agents from the chemical weapons ban. It seems, for one thing, that riot control agents are not quite as non-lethal as the US would like to portray them. They are lethal in high enough concentrations, and their toxicity in terms of chronic effects has been not adequately addressed. And it would put chemical weapons and the US position on the so-called "slippery slope" of advocating toxic versus non-toxic weapons.

The second question is that, it's clear that Iraq didn't use its chemical weapons partly because the US admittedly had over 500 tactical nuclear weapons in the Mid-East theater of operations, and it wouldn't quite make sense to use one weapon of mass destruction and be totally wiped out by a second. But it would seem that chemical and biological weapons are a much greater threat in the developing world-- developing nations against developing nations. What divisions might there be for looking at those kinds of issues?

JOHN DEUTCH: Well, I must admit to a scholarly deficiency. I have not kept so close to the BW convention and the subsequent negotiations to know what could even be described [INAUDIBLE] reliably why our position is so strong on incapacitated agents.

The apocryphal story in the past was that the police chief of New Orleans was really insistent on keeping BZ-- I guess is what it was-- which is tear gas. Or, is BZ tear gas?


JOHN DEUTCH: CS is tear gas-- available for domestic use. And at that time there was a confusion about if you used it domestically for civilian control purposes whether you would have a right to use it in the military.

But I want to tell you, this is not a big deal with me. And I would guess that if somebody put their mind to it we could probably change that. We could probably get the position of the United States changed on it. I don't think it's a big deal. I can't see where in the government there's going to be a real hard overview on this. So to me it's not a big deal. And apocryphally it's because of the police chief of New Orleans. That's the answer to the first question.

Second question, I think, is a little bit more complicated. I do not believe it would be in the United States's interests. And I believe the president declared this quite clearly, that if chemicals had been used against US forces in the Middle East I would not believe that the president would have or should have used nuclear weapons in response. You might say to me, it doesn't matter what you think or believe, it's what Saddam Hussein [INAUDIBLE].


But I do-- I think-- I want to tell you that the issue with the United States is a little bit more dicey, because I think we have to worry about how we deter use against our own forces overseas, or our own cities, if you like, but not say the way we deter it is, I think, is mindless and, quite frankly, not quite credible, to say, we'll hit you with nuclear weapons. I don't think that's an adequate response for us.

On the other hand, I'm quite happy to believe that if one of those scuds with chemical weapons, for a variety of deeply-held historical and religious reasons, had been sent into Tel Aviv I believe we might well have seen a nuclear weapon popped into Baghdad, without much question. So in that sense I think you're absolutely right. The issue about how do we help or-- I'm not sure we can do a lot-- but how do we understand the dynamics of deterrence within the unstable regions of the world? They may not have anything-- Doesn't involve Washington at all. How can we understand the dynamics between Israel-- which we, I think, much too easily have permitted to become a nuclear power-- work that deterrence within those regions is one of those questions which I think plagues political leaders throughout the globe and to which there are no good answers.

MODERATOR: [INAUDIBLE] We have a second questioner there with a brief question.

AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] positions of social responsibility. I wanted to come to Dr. Deutch's point about how to deter. And I wonder here the idea of setting an example is useful? And there are several examples in history-- one, of course, is that of slavery-- that some institutions do, in fact, weather it over time, even without force being [INAUDIBLE] against them.

Another example, perhaps, is that of nuclear weapons testing above ground which, in fact, there was a treaty. But that treaty has been enforced probably largely by virtue of the voluntary participation of the nations who have nuclear weapons and could have continue above-ground testing. And in fact we see that even non-signatories in the '70s and '80s stopped above-ground testing and gradually also stopping underground testing. So I'm not sure if we have to throw up our hands in despair and say there is no way of thinking of how to deter this development. Maybe one way we could think of is by setting an example, and having the United States do that.

JOHN DEUTCH: Well-- if I could briefly respond to that-- I don't think that there is a very serious case that could be made to say what the United States does with its nuclear weapons program will influence what Iraq, Libya, North Korea, or China do with their programs. Most observers, I think-- serious observers of non-proliferation-- certainly encounter, in diplomatic negotiations, the notion that if you do as an example give up all your nuclear weapons, give up all your nuclear tests, that that will help us do it. India, being a prominent nation which makes such arguments. I think it's really not really credible.

What is driving these nations to acquire their weapons capability is not the presence of the United States, but the presence of the regional interests that they have. And indeed I'm personally not convinced that the world would be a better place if the US had zero weapons and other nations had a few.

MODERATOR: A third question there.

AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] physicist at MIT. Can you say a few words about the problems, that you didn't touch at all upon, on the possible use of such weapons by clandestine, non-governmental terrorism groups?

MATTHEW MESELSON: Whose question is that?

MODERATOR: Who ever feels like answering.

MATTHEW MESELSON: Is that for me?

JOHN DEUTCH: That's for you.

MODERATOR: Consider it yours.

MATTHEW MESELSON: Well, it's always possible. There are lots of things to worry about in the world. I've never thought of that as being at the top of the list. But terrorists don't get their weapons from nowhere. Usually it is some organized entity which develops a weapon, tests it, produces it, stockpiles it, and then eventually maybe it finds its way into the public domain and then terrorists can use it.

So far the record on terrorists has been relatively empty, if you mean biological and chemical weapons. First of all, you could worry about mad men. Mad people generally don't cooperate with each other, so individual-- to do most of these things requires some cooperation.


So perhaps that's why we don't see that. Organized terrorists, who aren't individual mad people, usually have a political agenda. This is certainly not my field. I shouldn't be sounding like any kind of expert on this, but I would say that they usually have a political agenda. And simply causing fear and terror and destruction doesn't match up with most terrorist groups' agendas. They want to obtain the sympathy of somebody. And so long as there is a worldwide abhorrence of those weapons, they risk losing the sympathy even of the group that they wish to get to do something that they want. So I don't know if this really works, but I would come to the conclusion that maintaining a species-wide taboo against certain kinds of weapons can only help keep terrorists who have a political agenda from turning to such weapons as tools for achieving their political objectives.

But other than that, I would like to see a couple of things. First of all, one thing John said about the treaty I certainly agree with. Its verification provisions are imperfect. It will add a new tool, and a valuable tool, so we're glad to have it because we won't make as many type Iraq-type mistakes in the area of chemicals with the treaty as we would without them, unless it leads us into overconfidence. But we should beware of that. But it is a new tool.

There is a debate as to whether or not the United States ought to have backed away from its original 1986 policy of wanting to have what's called "anytime anywhere challenge inspection" under the Chemical Weapons Convention. And there are two sides to this, but basically the United States does not want to let any of its black programs be captured. So we want to retain the right to be able to say, you can't go there. We'll try to convince you some other way that we're not making chemical weapons there.

It even goes so far that whereas the United States Chemical Manufacturers Association has said that, so far as they're concerned, they would be willing to have all chemical facilities, whether they make beer or whether they make plastics or whatever they're making, be subject to open access so long as certain kinds of protections for proprietary information-- but open access for sample-taking and negative sample analysis is OK with the Chemical Manufacturers Association. But it's not OK with the United States government because there may be a few industrial establishments where there are black programs.

And you can debate this back and forth. And maybe there are other countries who wouldn't allow the "anytime anywhere challenge." and we won't get them on board with it even if we stick to it. I myself would rather see more-- as much as possible-- anytime anywhere, and I would ask-- rhetorically, anyway-- a black program is usually intended to make something, like a weapon or a defensive thing or something. So you could ask, let's say we could have that thing and it's going to work, whatever it is. Glasses that can see into people's minds, or whatever you want.


But if instead I can also increase the capability which, as John says, is not too good for finding out what other people are up to, maybe that trade off is worth it. So it should be looked at that way. So that is still an issue with the treaty. But I think that either way it's something that can be fixed later. We can make the inspection better. It's going to be a whole lot better than what exists today. And we can make it even better.

The thing about the "no first use"-- that is now in the treaty. Article 1 now says that under no circumstances first second or nth, all parties renounce all use forever of chemical weapons. So that's good. And it was missing, and it's there now, finally.

As far as sanctions, it's not there. There is a kind of empty article where sanctions are supposed to get plugged in in the bargaining that will go on in the last few weeks of the negotiations. And there's a lot of talk about them, and it's a long subject and there probably will be some. But they basically will depend on what the UN special commission in Iraq depends on.

The reason that they were able to stay in that parking lot with their documents-- you know, the reason we found those documents was probably because nations make mistakes. The Iraqis apparently thought that all the cases which said, top secret, don't look at it, in the basement weren't there. And when the special commission got there, there in the basement were all these cases full of top secret microfilms. And the first time they took them all and put them in the truck in the parking lot so the Iraqis came and took it away. They got it back, some of it.

But the next day, after they kept on taking this stuff, they distributed a little bit in everybody's clothing so that by direct television link they were able to say to the Iraqis, OK, if you take it we are under instructions not to resist violently, but you'll be seen taking these things from all of our clothing everywhere, all 40 of us, and the Security Council will know this with the speed of light because we are direct link.

My point is that, if there is a Security Council that backs these things up-- especially if the permanent members of the Security Council want a new world order-- there will be a new world order. And if a very powerful nation doesn't want it, it won't happen. So it will depend very sensitively on what the most important nations want to do.

And finally, about the developing world and chemical weapons, the advantages of the treaty-- if I were talking to a purely self-interested American audience-- it's very simple. In this world today there is high-tech weapons and there's very low-tech weapons, and there's all kinds of stuff in between.

The thing about high-tech weapons is that we're the only ones, and a few other industrialized nations, that can afford them. There are lots and lots of people who can afford the low-tech weapons. So naturally it's only common sense to say let's discredit low-tech weapons. Let's de-legitimize them. Let's prohibit them. Let's get rid of them. And then nobody will be able to have war except us. And maybe even nobody would be even better. But--


I'm not joking. That's a serious self-interested argument. Why have more players who can do bad things? On the other hand, this doesn't mean that a developing country should be opposed to the convention. Because who are the victims of chemical weapons usually? Poor countries. Time after time. Every time-- there's never been a case in which chemical weapons have been used against forces who initially had any gas masks. In other words, they're used against poor, unsophisticated forces. And usually the threat today will be from other poor, relatively unsophisticated forces. So for them it's a good deal too.

So that's why I think we're going to get the chemical treaty. Even India and Pakistan, impatient to see the chemical treaty come along, are now having bilateral talks about having their own verification, et cetera, on chemicals. So I think we're going to get it.

I do think that one great pity would be if it allows-- and it's not just tear gas we want. We want to roll that way back, in caps. And I agree with John. It's military peanuts. And to open the door to what could possibly be dragged through that door by insisting on that could be a big mistake.

JOHN DEUTCH: Yeah. Am I allowed to make a couple observations?

MODERATOR: I'd be a fool to stop you.

JOHN DEUTCH: No, no. You could [INAUDIBLE].


This goes back to the issue of whether mad men cooperate.


MODERATOR: An expert on this subject.

JOHN DEUTCH: The first point I want to make is that I do think that the inspection issue really has to be looked at kind of carefully. I mean, the Chemical Manufacturers Associate of the United States-- some of my best friends--


The moment that they saw that this was not a device for EPA to get measurements on their plants--


--also realized that it was not-- that's a serious-- I mean, I'm serious about that. You could imagine such information being used for a lot of purposes that would distress them. I think they really-- you know, the chemical manufacturers of Germany, France, England, the United States-- they're just not going to have a problem with these kinds of inspections.

And on the other hand, going in to a modern chemical plant and inspecting it on a challenge basis is a big deal. And you really have to go through with some amusement, some of the test inspections, to get a feeling. You go to one of these places-- Bayou Choctaw, Louisiana-- and try and do an inspection on a plan, it is a major problem. I mean, it requires more than just cadres of chemical engineers and analytical chemists. It's a lot of work. So it's not so easy to do. And everything has to work right. Things don't work right, big deal.

The matter of a covert is really where I have a problem. And it's not that-- I mean, I agree with Matt. I think the world, the United States and the world is better off having this treaty than not. But in a covert inspection you have what you believe-- your policy system has led you to believe, is an accurate picture. Note that the United States doesn't always have accurate pictures. Even in areas where I advise them it doesn't have accurate pictures.


And now, in order to actually tell a country-- and, by the way, we want to come in there and we're going to make it stick. That is big political news, and I see no evidence that the world is prepared to do that. The concert of nations. Let's take the example given. India and Pakistan are now in an absolute frenzy of affection on the issue of chemical weapons treaty. But if you want to talk to them about inspecting nuclear facilities, especially the Pakistanis, you will find that they are quite unwilling to have nuclear inspectors, even International Atomic Energy much less people-- they aren't willing to have it.

And if you try and make it a political issue, the first people who will say "back off" is our own State Department because they say we have many too many other important issues to deal with with respect to Pakistan, than to blow it all on such a minor matter as a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.


So the issue of inspection-- so in the Carter administration-- it was the Carter administration who backed off from making Pakistan own up to its enrichment facilities, because they felt that having Pakistan favorable to the United States' position in the matter of Afghanistan was more important than to make an issue of enrichment. That happened in the Carter administration.

So the point I want to make is, with the inspection it's not just saying-- and I'm just reinforcing what Matt has said-- it's not just saying, "anytime, anyplace." It's being sure that you have the political depth, domestically and internationally, to actually do something about it to make it stick.

MODERATOR: We'll take one last question that I've been promised will be very brief, because we're right about the time we'll need close. The question.



AUDIENCE: Hi. I'm Jonathan King. I'm in the biology department here. I had the privilege to serve on the committee that organized the technical briefing for the third review conference in Geneva. And I'd just like to share with you-- many of you may be interested in actually continuing to ensure that the treaty stays enforced and it remains effective. There are gray areas. The government does have two funded programs-- the BDRP, the Biological Defense Research Program, with many, many, many contracts all around the United States, many in the Boston area. And Congress has authorized the BATF, the Biological Aerosol Test Facility in Dugway, Utah. At this very moment hundreds of microbiologists, faculty at University of Utah Medical School, University of Utah itself, are still engaged in dueling with the army over whether that should develop.

And the good features that Matt has developed have depended upon quiet but constant pressure on Congress from members of primarily the biomedical community. The Physicians for Social Responsibility nationally have a conscious monitoring program of BW. The Federation of American Scientists, which Matt-- you're not chairing-- played a key role in, had an active committee. And I worked with a group of more than 1,000 scientists who have signed a pledge saying we're going to try to strengthen this treaty. And we watch what our congressmen vote on these issues, and let them know that-- not just Matt and John, but also average working scientists in their districts competing with the military for biomedical research funds-- do not think this is a good thing.

I just might mention that that network is actually based in Cambridge at 19 Garden Street, the Council for Responsible Genetics. And if you want to join in and receive regular updates and you want to let your-- you want to be aware of what our government is doing on this, we welcome you, and it's easy. And these are professional issues. They should be in the professional societies. Graduate students should know that we're signatory to a treaty, and that's a good treaty. It should be in the business of the professional meetings. Thanks.

MODERATOR: Thanks. Do either of our speakers want to add something [INAUDIBLE]?

MATTHEW MESELSON: Jonathan mentioned some opportunities for people to do something. I was in Washington last weekend. There is a program-- in fact, most agencies of the government-- whereby faculty members, junior or senior, who want to get involved in these things in Washington for a year working for the United States government-- there's a program by which you can do that. And in this particular area of chemical and biological arms control, I knew of several open positions.

Also, people who have a PhD who are interested not just in a year away but in a career, I know of several open positions. And it's a fascinating series of problems, and there's probably no time in our country's history when there's been more opportunity for creative thinking about how to deal with some of these problems. So if anybody's really interested and doesn't know how to go find those things themselves, I'd be glad to help you.

MODERATOR: The hour is later and it'll be time for us to close just now. I'd like to simply say that, when Jerry fink and I began discussing the possibility of a series like this some time ago, it was because there was a sense perceived on our part that our colleagues on the faculty, postdocs we knew, the graduate students all had an interest-- a growing interest, in fact-- in understanding and talking about the social issues that related to our science but was outside the laboratory.

I'm very pleased tonight to see so many people from so many different areas turn out to confirm that that is indeed the case. The goal of this series, both tonight and in future lectures, will not be to try to provide answers, advocate any particular positions, but really to try to squarely address hard questions, and principally to be enlightening, to provide information so that people can go on from here and think about things and perhaps take some active role in those things.

Our next speaker will be Paul Billings, speaking about genetic discrimination. He's a speaker I know well and I think will, again, contribute to that. But for tonight I want to especially thank the two-- our speaker and our discussant, who've did a wonderful job of enlightening us about this very complicated topic with their very sober and very important comments. Thank you very much for joining us.