Report: Gulf War Scientist Linked To Iraqi Chemical Weapons Supplier
NEW YORK (AP) _ A scientist who headed a Pentagon study dismissing chemical and biological weapons as a cause of illness among Gulf War veterans was a director of a U.S. company that exported deadly germs to Iraq before the 1991 war, Newsday reported today.
Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Joseph Lederberg of New York chaired the 1994 Pentagon task force while serving as a board member of American Type Culture Collection, Newsday said.
From 1985 to 1989, before Lederberg was on the board, the nonprofit Rockville, Md., company made 70 government-approved shipments of anthrax and other pathogens to Iraqi scientists, according to congressional records cited by Newsday.
The Bush administration stopped the shipments in 1989. Lederberg joined ATCC’s board of directors in 1990 and resigned last year.
Citing anonymous U.S. officials, Newsday said U.S. intelligence experts were convinced during and after the Gulf War that the ATCC shipments were used by Iraq, along with supplies from other countries, to manufacture biological weapons.
U.N. investigators have found no evidence that Iraqi troops ever used biological weapons during the war. But lawyers for veterans’ groups have argued biological weapons may have been included in nerve gas and other chemical poisons U.S. troops encountered on the battlefield.
President Clinton ordered the Pentagon study in 1993, with a growing number of the 75,000 Gulf War veterans complaining of an assortment of health problems that came to be known as Gulf War syndrome.
Lederberg summarized his seven-month investigation by writing: ``There is no scientific or medical evidence that either chemical or biological warfare was deployed at any level against us, or that there was any exposure of U.S. service members to chemical or biological warfare agents in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.″
Four months before the report was issued, Sen. Donald Riegle, D-Mich., outlined ATCC’s shipments in a Senate speech critical of Commerce Department export controls. Lederberg then asked Riegle to brief his task force.
Newsday said Lederberg declined repeated requests for a personal or written interview.
CIA Director John Deutch, who as an assistant secretary of defense picked Lederberg to head the study, said through a spokesman that he was unaware of Lederberg’s ties to ATCC and of the firm’s shipments to Iraq.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Phil Russell, who also served on the investigatory panel, defended Lederberg, the former president of Rockefeller University.
``He’s a real humanitarian,″ Russell said.
Another panel member, John Baldeschweiler of the California Institute of Technology, said he was not aware of Lederberg’s tie to ATCC, but said, ``I do not view it as a conflict of interest.″
ATCC spokeswoman Kay Sloan-Breen told the paper that Lederberg received no money during his five years as a director.