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

II: Preliminary Findings & Questions

The Staff's investigation of the activities of the Aum Shinrikyo found evidence to suggest that the Aum cult was a clear danger to not only the Japanese government but also to the security interests of the United States and that this danger, although lessened significantly by the actions of Japanese authorities, is still present.

Although the findings may initially sound farfetched and nearly science fictional, the actions of the Aum and the facts corroborated from multiple sources by the Staff create a terrifying picture of a deadly mixture of the religious zealotry of groups such as the Branch Davidians, the anti- government agenda of the U.S. militia movements a [error, words missing]

  • The cult was extremely large with approximately 40,000 to 60,000 members worldwide including a membership estimated to be three times larger in Russia than in Japan.

  • The cult was extremely wealthy with more than $1 billion in assets.

  • The cult actively recruited scientists and technical experts in Japan, Russia and elsewhere in order to develop weapons of mass destruction.

  • The cult was planning and apparently had th means to directly assault the leadership of the government of Japan.

  • The cult had produced chemical weapons, including toxic chemical agents such as Sarin, VX, phosgene and sodium cyanide and had successfully deployed sarin on at least two occasions biological weapons, including anthrax, botulism and 'Q' fever and may have actually attempted at least one unsuccessful deployment of a biological weapon on the innocent populace of Tokyo.

  • The cult attempted to assassinate the chief law enforcement officer for Japan as well as the Governor for the prefecture of Tokyo.

  • The cult had successfully infiltrated various levels of the Japanese government and industry including elements of its law enforcement and military.

  • The cult regularly used murder and kidnapping to silence its enemies in Japan.

  • The cult acquired conventional armaments and attempted to acquire weapons of mass destruction and their technologies from the former Soviet Union to utilize in their planned attack on the Japanese and United States governments.

  • The cult was also actively engaged in acquiring sensitive technologies in the United States to also assist it in weaponization - - the full extent of which is still not fully known.

  • The cult leadership was ruthless, cunning and fully willing to utilize any and all means, including the killing of hundreds of thousands of [error, words missing] from which the cult would arise as the supreme power in Japan.

  • The activities of the cult were and continue to be of a security concern to the Secret Service for the protection of the President of the United States.

  • This cult, its activities, and intentions were not fully appreciated by United States law enforcement and intelligence services until after the Tokyo gassing incident on March 20, 1995. As one senior U. S. law enforcement official stated -- "they weren't on our radar screen."

    In a large sense, the Aum incident is a remarkable yet frightening case study of the threat modern terrorism poses to all industrialized nations. It raises a series of difficult questions about domestic and international preparedness as we enter the next millennium. It serves as a harsh wake-up call for the United States which until recently was rather complacent about the threat of terrorism. Some of the issues these hearings are meant

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    university trained scientists in Japan and elsewhere and what are the implications for other Western industrialized nations?

  • How could a purported pacifist religious group accumulate such technology and weaponry in a relatively short period of time without raising the attention of Western intelligence and law enforcement agencies?

  • Was this cult linked to or supported by other groups, whether political, criminal or intelligence?

  • What did U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies know about the capabilities and intentions of this group before the Tokyo incident?

  • Could such an event happen here?

  • If so, are we prepared for such an occurrence from an intelligence, law enforcement and public health perspectives?

    In an attempt to answer these questions, the Staff has prepared the following summary of the Aum's activities. Much is still not known about all of their interests, especially here in the United States and in Russia. Most of the trials in Japan have not been completed and the evidence presented in those trials has not been widely disseminated outside of Japan. To the Staff's knowledge, none of the defendants have been debriefed by U.S. officials. Despite this, much can be learned from what the Staff was able to uncover in its the following account with multiple foreign and domestic sources including government agencies, current and former cult members, outside experts and subpoenaed documents. In many instances the Staff has obtained first hand accounts and original documentary evidence from government and private sources. Due to the sensitivity and uniqueness of some of the material obtained by the Staff, we have withheld or otherwise concealed the sources of some of the material. Those documents used by the Staff which are especially sensitive have been maintained as sealed exhibits of the Subcommittee and are available for the Members and their staff to review.