Global Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction:
A Case Study on the Aum Shinrikyo

Senate Government Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
October 31, 1995 Staff Statement

I. Introduction


Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, this week the Subcommittee begins the first in a series of hearings concerning the global proliferation of weapons of mass destruction: chemical, biological and nuclear. These weapons may be the most serious threat to our Nation's national security in light of growing evidence that some terrorist groups and rogue states have already acquired and others are actively seeking such weapons for their arsenals.

Six years ago, in 1989, this Subcommittee, in. conjunction with the Committee on Government Affairs, held four days of hearings on the spread of chemical and biological weapons. The hearings were, to a great extent, spurred by revelations from the battle fields of the Middle East where both the Iranians and Iraqis used chemical weapons. At those hearings we learned not only of the devastating effects of these weapons, but also of the rapid rate at which these weapons have begun to proliferate throughout the world.

At those hearings, the specter of terrorist groups using chemical or biological weapons was only hypothetical. Although there had been sporadic reporting of such groups showing some interest in these devices, up to that time there had been no credible evidence of terrorist terrorist attack occurring in the United States was also more hypothetical than real. Combined efforts of our Nation's intelligence and law enforcement communities had thwarted such groups from attempting what was then viewed as the "unthinkable".

Unfortunately, much has changed since 1989. As we all know from recent events in the United States, the destructive intentions of fanatical individuals and groups has become an actual [error, words missing] ions grade uranium. And just seven months ago, on March 20th, we witnessed the first major use of chemical weapons by terrorists with the gassing attack of the Tokyo subway system which killed 12 and injured over 5,000 innocent passengers.

Commentators throughout the world now agree that these events are of major international significance. The proverbial genie has been released from its bottle. In a quantum leap, terrorists responsible for the American and Japanese events have planted ideas and provided roadmaps for others to attack American domestic targets as well as to use such weapons against innocent civilian populations worldwide. As Bruce Hoffman of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St. Andrews University in Scotland recently stated: "We've definitely crossed a threshold. This is the cutting edge of high-tech terrorism for the year 2000 and beyond. It's the nightmare scenario that people have quietly talked about for years coming true."

It is in this context that Senator Nunn last year directed the Minority Staff of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to initiate an investigation into the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction including chemical, biological, and nuclear. His request was a natural progression from the work done by the Staff in 1994 relating to the meteoric growth of organized criminal activity in the former Soviet Union. That inquiry raised the specter of criminal involvement in the theft and distribution of fissile material from the Former Soviet Union. It [error, words missing] organized crime in Russia, Germany, and the United States to testify about their common problems and concerns. (See: International Organized Crime And Its Impact On the United States, May 25, 1994, S. Hrg. 103-899).

The Staff initially began its investigation by focusing on the possibility of diversion of nuclear materials from the Former Soviet Union. A hearing on issues related to this problem is planned for later in the year. However, recent events from Japan overtook the investigation and, last June, Senator Nunn redirected the Staff to focus upon the ongoing activities of the Aum Shinrikyo as a case study of what can happen when a fanatical group with financial resources obtains sophisticated technical abilities and decide to utilize weapons of mass destruction in furthering its goals.

In the course of the last five months, the Minority Staff conducted hundreds of interviews of both government and private individuals. The Staff received both classified and unclassified briefings from almost every major United States law enforcement and intelligence agency as well as many

elements of our military and civilian agencies. The Staff was also briefed by numerous foreign agencies including officials of the Japanese, German, Russian, Ukrainian and Australian governments. In addition, two months ago, the Staff traveled to Japan, Russia, Ukraine and Germany to obtain first hand information concerning the activities of te [error, words missing] naed records from the cult's New York office, and examined documents from corporations which had business relations with the cult or its corporate entities.

The Minority Staff investigation was greatly assisted by Senator Roth and Stephen Levin, Michael Bopp and Ian Brzezinski of his staff. In addition, the Subcommittee Staff appreciates the cooperation and assistance provided by the various agencies of the United States and foreign governments contacted in the course of this inquiry. The Staff would like to especially acknowledge the assistance of the United States Customs Service and Central Intelligence Agency for providing detailees to the Subcommittee to assist in this complicated investigation.