|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
The cult claimed a membership as high as 65,000, the large majority of whom, 30,000 - 50,000, were in Russia. These numbers have not been publicly corroborated by the Japanese government although most of the officials and Aum experts the Staff interviewed placed the worldwide membership in the 40,000 to 60,000 range.
Despite the recent spate of publicity surrounding the criminal acts of the cult and the arrest of approximately 400 Aum activists by Japanese authorities, there has not been a dramatic loss in membership in Japan. Since declared illegal by Russian authorities, Aum membership in Russia has declined drastically. The Staff has prepared a list of the most important cult members, attached as Appendix A.
In the course of our inquiry, it became clear that the Aum included among its followers many highly-trained graduates in the sciences and technological fields from some of Japan's leading universities. They included members with degrees in fields such as medicine, biochemistry, architecture,'biology, and genetic engineering. A distinctive feature of this cult was that many were young intellectuals in their 20's and 30's who had dropped out of Japanese society to join this doomsday cult.
Among some of Japan's "best and brightest" who joined the cult included a former researcher of the National Space Development Agency of Japan, an expert on chemical weapons who majored in organic physics at Tsukuba University, a researcher who studied elementary particles, a reporter with a major Japanese newspaper, a physicist from Osaka University, a cardiac specialist, and an organic chemist, to name a few.
The Japan Times recently released a detailed description of a number of the key members of the Aum hierarchy which offers an excellent view of the expertise of this cult. It reported the following:
Hideo Murai, (36 (deceased) - Minister of Science and Technology
After graduating from the physics department of Osaka University he entered graduate school specializing in physics and started working for Kobe Steel Ltd's research and development department.
Kiyohide Hayakawa (45) - Minister of Construction
Held a master's degree in architecture from Osaka University.
Fumihiro Joyu (32) - Public Relations Minister
Graduate of Waseda University with a masters degree in artificial intelligence. Was an engineer at the National Space Development Agency before joining cult.
Yoshinobu Aoyama (35) - Justice Minister
Son of a wealthy family in Osaka. Graduate of Kyoto University Law School and youngest person to pass national bar exam.
Masami Tsuchiya (30) - Chief Scientist
Held a master's degree in organic chemistry from Tskuba University. Reportedly joined the cult because it had better research facilities than his university.
Not all of the Aum members had such backgrounds. A number of the members were poorly educated and from working backgrounds. Many were young and rebellious. The Staff was told by two former cult members that these working class members had been specifically recruited for work details to help in the construction of the various Aum factories and also for the Aum's military forces. Nevertheless, the Staff discovered that the vast ma [error, words missing] .
It is difficult to understand the Aum's attraction to such an educated audience. This is still the subject of much debate in Japan and has been the subject of numerous articles and editorials in the Japanese media.
Regardless of the reasons for their success, the Aum was extremely successful in its recruitment drives. They were very aggressive in their recruitment activities and even had an entire division called the New Followers Agency to perform this task. Beyond rudimentary techniques such as leafleting and street corner proselytizing, the Aum used a diverse blend of recruiting methods. They used their classes on yoga, herbal healing and meditation on campuses to recruit. They also recruited through their numerous computer stores, book stores and noodle shops. Additionally, they broadcast their message to Japan through their Russian radio -station and used it and other radio and television shows in Moscow to recruit in Russia.
A number of Aum experts contacted by the Staff, contend that the Aum was successful not only for all of the above reasons but also because of their use of psychedelic and mind- altering drugs in the recruitment process. The Staff found strong evidence to support the contention that the Aum used these substances along with other brainwashing techniques including sleep deprivation and isolation therapy. Many ex-Aum members have been quoted publicly admitting to the use of these tactics.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence of the strength of their recruitment efforts is that at the time of the Staff visit to Japan, five months after the Tokyo subway attack and subsequent to the arrest of most of the Aum leadership, the Aum was still successfully recruiting new followers. In fact, Fumihiro Joyu, who replaced Asahara as spokesperson for the Aum, became a "teen idol" for thousands of Japanese adolescent girls who fancied his looks. All of this occurred despite the fact that literally hundreds of Aum members had been implicated in murder, attempted murder and kidnapping plots.
Beyond generalized recruitment, they also appeared to have targeted specific individuals with unique skills for recruitment. The Staff confirmed that they recruited from the military, the police and certain key technological industries and faculties to further their militarization and intelligence functions.
For example, the Staff learned that the Aum had a strategy to recruit officers of the Japanese Self Defense Force (JDF) to use them as "combat troops" for the cult as well as to assist them in training other Aum members and in providing intelligence on government activities. Shockingly, the Aum appeared to have been successful in these efforts.
For example, based on this strategy, the Aum obtained the lists of hundreds of JDF members and tried to recruit them. The list was recovered during the arrest of an Aum flower. This strategy placed a high priority on recruiting members of the First Airborne Brigade and other highly trained divisions. The Staff discovered evidence that to carry out this recruitment drive the Aum even wiretapped the house of the First Airborne Brigade's commander to spy on his private life.
Former cult members interviewed by the Staff confirmed this recruitment drive and said that there were approximately 1 00 Defense Force members recruited, including 60 former members. The JDF has publicly admitted that only 20 incumbent and former JDF members were also Aum members although there appears to be evidence that the number was somewhat higher. The Staff also learned that a number of the former or current JDF officers who were recruited by the Aum provided critical assistance to their new religion. For example, we have learned that one or more non-commissioned officers from the First Airborne Brigade worked closely with Yoshihiro Inoue, the 25 year old Intelligence Minister of the Aum. These individuals either individually or in cooperation with other Aum members:
Additionally, the Staff has reviewed documents that indicate that JDF members also passed secret information to the Aum concerning the Metropolitan Police's planned raid on the Aum's facilities. This raid was supposed to occur on March 20th but was postponed because of the Tokyo subway gassing that occurred on that date. The Staff learned that these officers alerted the Aum of the anticipated raid and as a result the Aum initiated their deadly subway assault.
The Japanese Defense Forces were not the only victims of successful Aum penetration. The Staff discovered that the Aum recruited a number of police officers along with other low- ranking government bureaucrats. Former Aum members told the Staff that the Aum was actively attempting to recruit police officers. They remembered at least two active duty police officers being Aum members -- one a Sergeant and the other an Assistant Inspector. The Staff was also told by former Aum members that the Aum wanted to recruit employees in the Prime Minister's personal office and in particular those employees who had access to statistical information concerning the Japanese government and economy. The Staff has no information indicating how successful the Aum was in the later attempts.
In addition, the cult actively recruited individuals in the Japanese business sector. Although not as well documented as other areas of activity, the Aum apparently targeted those industries that had technology or know-how that it needed for weapons production. There is some evidence that they successfully penetrated a number of Japanese defense contractors including Mitubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Nippon Electronics Co. Ltd.
Japanese press reported that one of Mitsubishi's employees was arrested for assisting an Aum member who was an active duty Japanese Defense Force member in the theft of Mitsubishi research data. Mitsubishi publicly acknowledged the arrest of their employee, Hideo Nakamoto (38) and the theft of materials. However, they denied that this technical data was defense related.
In November, 1994, followers of the Cult were arrested on suspicion of breaking into the offices of Nippon Electrocs Co., Ltd. (NEC). The purpose of the intrusion was to obtain information on laser technology from NEC's laser beams laboratory in Sagamihara, Kanagawa prefecture. When the police arrested Masanobu Iwao, who is alleged to have worked for the Aum's Intelligence Ministry, they discovered sketches and maps of the interior layouts of facilities at six major electronic firms. Also included in the materials seized were the names of dozens of Aum members who worked for major electronic and chemical companies in Japan. Police suspect that the internal diagrams of the firms were provided by Aum sympathizers/members from the various firms. Police were led to suspect Iwao of the NEC burglary when they found his portable personal computer and floppy disks at the scene of the crime.
The founder of the Aum, Shoko Asahara, occupies the top position of the Aum as its "Supreme Leader. Under him, the followers are classed into seven ranks of enlightenment. All owe complete allegiance to him.
Unlike other religions, the Aum was organized into Ministries and Departments that attempted to mirror the Japanese government. For example, under Asahara, the Cult had 24 identifiable organizations comparable to the Japanese government with similar functions and responsibilities. Thus, the Aum had ministries of defense, health and welfare, science and technology, heavy industry, education, etc. As with the Emperor of Japan, Asahra also had a "household agency" which provided security and medical care for his family. In addition, Asahara had a 'secretariat" headed by his 11 year old daughter, Reika Matsumoto, whose duties are unknown.
The Staff has prepared a chart which will be made an exhibit that identifies all of the most important ministries. Although the cult had more members in Russia than in Japan, all of the highest positions in the cult were held by Japanese citizens.
These ministers along with the head of Asahra's 'household agency" were part of the inner circle of advisors to Asahara. Unlike the tens of thousands of Aum members who are believed to have been innocent devotees of the Aum, this inner circle knew the true nature of the cult. Most have been arrested for helping to plan and carry out the Aum's known atrocities. Some of the members of this inner circle and their respective ministries are as follows:
This was a key ministry which reportedly had over 300 members including a number of skilled scientists. It was responsible for the cult's scientific experiments and was the critical ministry for the production of the sarin nerve gas. Murai was probably the primary go- between to Japanese organized crime for the production of illegal drugs which is speculated to be the major reason for his murder on April 23, 1995. He was succeeded by Masami Tsuchiya, age 30, who was subsequently arrested for murder and attempted murder for the Tokyo subway incident. Tsuchiya is reported to have confessed that he led the group's sarin production team.
He was one of Asahara's chief advisors and considered the mastermind of the sect's growth and militarization. He was in charge of acquiring land, building all sect facilities and acquiring all of the technology and military hardware. He supervised the operations in the United States, Australia and Russia. He has been arrested for involvement in the Tokyo incident. He has also been recently indicted for the 1989 murder of Yokohama lawyer, Tsutsumi Sakamoto, and his family.
He was responsible for gathering intelligence on government counter measures against the cult as well as acquiring scientific and other technical materials. He has been implicated in most of the major burglaries of defense contractors as well as for the infiltration of the Japanese Defense Forces. He was arrested on May 15th for his involvement in Tokyo incident. He was recently implicated in the letter bomb attack on Tokyo Governor Aoshima.
This ministry was responsible for maintaining control and discipline over the membership. It was involved in most of th kidnappings and torture of dissident and runaway members. Niimi has been indicted for murder in regards to the Tokyo incident as well as the 1989 murder of the Yokohoma attorney and his family. He has also been publicly quoted as having confessed to the use of VX and sarin gas against former Aum members and critics.
He was a key player in developing the sarin for the Tokyo attacks. As a trained physician he was called upon to administer drugs to recalcitrant Aum members and played a role in distributing the sarin in the subway cars. He and his wife traveled to the United States to collect documents on the use of sarin. He has been charged with murder in regard to the Tokyo incident.
This minister and his ministry were responsible for the chemical and biological weapons research and development program. Endo worked closely with Masami Tsuchiya, head of thesect's chemical team and the successor to Hideo Murai, Science and Technology Minister, who was assassinated on April 23, 1995. Endo has confessed to his involvement in the sarin attacks and that Asahara had closely directed his research and development. Endo has been indicted for murder.
The Aum was very wealthy. Japanese government estimates place its assets at over 100 billion yen or approximately $1 billion. They also list 16 separate pieces of property in 11 different prefectures belonging to the Aum. They also note that the cult possessed a large amount of liquid assets including a large helicopter, boats, gold bars, and cash. Reportedly, the police recovered 700 million yen ($7 million) and 10 kilograms of gold ingots in just one of the buildings they raided.
The Aum amassed this fortune by a number of means. Not only did they require their followers to turn over all of their earthly possessions, they also came up with a number of ingenious and outlandish money-making schemes from running noodle shops and other legitimate businesses to extortion and selling their spiritual leader's blood and bath water.
According to the Aum's teachings, the only way to survive the Armageddon was to strictly follow the Aum's teachings and in particular, to renounce the world and all of its worldly possessions. This tied directly into another tenet of the Aum that demanded all members who wished to reach a higher state of consciousness to give all of their assets, including other family members' assets, to the cult. A majority of the Japanese members are believed to have innocently turned over most of their assets to the cult. This would run from a person's telephone credit card worth a few dollars to one's Tokyo residence worth millions. No one knows for sure how much money was raised in this fashion but ft is imagined to have been staggering in light of the vehement protests that were raised by thousands of relatives of Aum members.
The Aum raised millions by also selling religious training and [error, words missing] ged from headgear designed to synchronize one's brain waves to that of Asahara for $10,000/month to a 200cc bottle of water from Asahara's bath for $20. A significant amount was probably raised from these activities, although the total is not known.
The cult also raised funds in a perverse use of the Japanese Religious Corporations law to extort money. Because the law gives so much protection to religious groups, the Aum along with other legitimate religions could establish offices/churches almost anywhere. The Staff was told by former Aum members and government sources that they would use this legal guarantee to extort money from townspeople by threatening to come into their community. Apparently the Aum collected $9.2 million from one community on condition that it leave town.
The Aum also had legitimate businesses throughout the world that produced income for the cult. For example, in Taiwan it had an import/export agent. In Sri Lanka it maintained a tea plantation. The Aum was also involved in several different businesses in Japan. The cult's corporate affiliates ranged from the Maha Posya computer retailer to chains of "bento" (boxed lunch) shops and cheap Chinese noodle restaurant a fitness club, a telephone dating club, and, unbelievably, a baby-sifting firm.
In July 1995 Japan press reports, citing police sources, said that the Aum paid over $400 million to companies in foreign countries over the past three years. The Japanese press reports that most of the amount, about $300 million, was paid to a Taiwanese company from a Japanese computer company run by the cult as the price for computers and computer parts purchased by the Aum. These press reports allege the Aum remitted some $1 million to accounts of a Russian company at banks in the Netherlands, Finland, and other European countries as broadcasting fees. The Aum also paid some $400,000 to an Australian company as fees for buying a farm and medicines, and nearly $100 million to other computer related companies in the United States and other countries, according to officials contacted by the Staff.
The amount of money earned by these enterprises is not known at this time. However, thesize of their operations reflects a wealthy sect with extensive resources. The Staff has prepared an Appendix (Appendix C) which lists those properties and companies that we were able to document.
Another source of income for the cult may have come from illegal drug manufacturing. As will be explained in a later section, there appears to be credible evidence to suggest that the Aum was using its chemical expertise to manufacture stimulants and other illegal drugs for the Japanese underworld. Japanese government sources have concluded that the Aum produced and sold illegal drugs including stimulants and LSD. Whether or not they were also manufacturing these drugs for the Yakuza or mafia is still not fully proven but materials reviewed by the Staff seem to indicate a strong circumstantial tie between these two groups for the sale of drugs.
Despite these sources of income, some commentators have raised questions about whether the Aum was also obtaining funding from some other outside group, either foreign or domestic. Until more evidence is made public from the trials or records seized by the Japanese police, it is impossible to respond to these allegations.
The Aum was actively engaged in the preparations for both a conventional and unconventional attack upon the Japanese government and its people. This section will discuss the Aum's ambitious yet basically unsuccessful preparation for conventional warfare; the next section will detail the more successful and more frightening chemical, biological and nuclear preparation by the Aum to initiate Armageddon.
Much evidence of the Aum's militarization comes from former Aum members who have confessed to Japanese authorities the specifics of the Aum's militarization program. These confessions have been corroborated by weapons parts, equipment and records seized by Japanese police including the notebooks of Construction Minister Hayakawa and computer files found at the sect's offices.
The Staff learned that on April 6, 1995, a large number of components analogous to AK-74 submachine gun parts along with blueprints for their manufacture were found in a car owned by an Aum member. The AK-74 is the modern day version of the World War 11 era Soviet AK-47 assault rifle. Later, completed machine guns, additional parts, used rocket launchers and other military paraphernalia were found by Japanese police at the main Aum facility in Kamikuishiki. This is the same location where the sarin gas and biological facilities were located. The seized machine guns and parts resemble Russian-made AK-74s.
The Aum had apparently planned to illegally manufacture as many as 1,000 AK-74s and cartridges before the police raids. The Staff learned that the Aum had been manufacturing parts for these guns with the aid of computer-controlled machine tools at the Aum complex at the foot of Mt. Fuji since July 1994. Apparently Aum Intelligence Minister Inoue ordered the destruction of the weapons and lathes after the police raid on March 22nd. He had also instructed that they all be dumped into the reservoir located at Kusaki Dam in Gunma Prefecture. The Staff has learned that police searches of the area confirmed this information. Subsequent public statements by police authorities allege that over 100 Aum members were involved in the production of AK-74s.
It also appears that the Aum was interested in developing laser weapons. The Staff has learned from Japanese government sources that notations found in the Aum's Construction Minister Hayakawa's handwritten notebooks indicate that the cult was actively seeking information on the development of such weapons. These sources also indicate that apparently a number of Aum members traveled to Moscow to interview a Dr. Nikolay Basov, a purported Nobel Laureate and authority on this subject. The Staff has obtained Aum brochures with photographs purporting to show Dr. Basov with Asahara. In addition, as previously mentioned, the cult also attempted to steal technology from NEC's laser beam laboratory in Sagamihara in November of 1994. At the end of December, 1994, other Aum followers were arrested on suspicion of burglary at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Research Center in Hiroshima prefecture. They apparently broke into the facility on a number of occasions in an effort to steal documents and data on lar beam research.
An official Japanese document reviewed by the Staff, confirms these events and also indicates that in March, 1995, documents on laser technology, including blueprints for a laser gun were confiscated from one of the Aum members. Documents relating to laser technology were also found buried in the grounds near the cult's facilities in Fujinomiya, Yamanashi prefecture. Additionally, as set forth in section VI(C), , of this Staff Statement, the Aum's U.S. operatives were actively seeking laser technology.
Those same Hayakawa notebooks also include references to nuclear weapons and seismological weapons. As will be discussed in more detail in a later section on Aum activities in the United States and Russia, the Aum actively sought nuclear weapons technologies wherever they could find R. The Staff learned that data regarding nuclear weapons research was found on a number of laser discs seized during a police raid on March 2 1995, from an Aum member.
There also appears to be evidence that the Aum sent a party of its members to the former Yugoslavia to research the work of Nikola Tesia, the discoverer of alternating current who experimented with the theory of seismic weapons before he died in 1943. Apparently these Aum members traveled from February to April, 1995 to the Tesia Museum in Belgrade to review Tesia's thesis and other research papers concerning "Tesia weapon systems" that focus on wave amplification. Their efforts in both Yugoslavia and in the United States to obtain such weaponry is discussed in section VI(D), infra.
The Aum was also interested in military training for its followers. The Staff learned from former Aum members that weapons and other military training was provided at an Aum training camp in Japan. Approximately 200 Aum members went for training in groups of 50 members. The training was provided by 3 brothers who were current active duty Japanese Defense Force members. These former Aum members also recalled seeing at least 50 AK-74s th [error, words missing] the training. They also said that the reason given to the Aum members for the training was that the Aum was going to produce a war movie and that the Aum members were being trained in order to realistically act in the movie.
These same former Aum members also recalled an incident where one of their friends brought back two Tokarev pistols from Russia. While in Moscow, Construction Minister Hayakawa had given the weapons with 16 rounds of ammunition to their friend, also in Moscow, with specific instructions to deliver them personally to Asahara. They never learned the purpose of the guns and their friend reportedly was startled when Asahara opened up the sealed package containing the guns in his presence.
The Staff has confirmed that 'shooting tours" in Russia had been arranged by the Aum for some of its members as part of its efforts to provide military training. One such tour was scheduled for September 21- 30, 1994. This trip was arranged through a travel agency which is a front company for the cult called "Devenir Millionaire", located in Kandanishiki-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. As mentioned in section VI(C), the cult also obtained helicopter training in Opa Locka, Florida.
According to the brochure distributed by the firm mentioned above, their training included shooting practice for automatic rifles at a Russian military base on the outskirts of Moscow. t[error] also notes that former Spetznaz members, a specialized Russian military unit, would be providing the training. Although the Staff was told that some high officials of the cult did receive Spetznaz training in Russia, we could not confirm if this particular tour ever was carried out.
Finally, a number of private and government sources have confirmed that the Aum had constructed and utilized a microwave incinerator to actually burn out bodies of enemies of the cult or cult members who perished during training or through other cult activities. Apparently the Aum would place bodies into the device, comprised of a stainless steel drum connected to an industrial microwave, for three days and then soak the ashes into nitrate which would dissolve the calcium remains. A Japanese government document indicates that nearly two dozen bodies were disposed of in this manner.
The Aum cult was aggressively involved in chemical and biological weapons production. Although, the extent of their success is not fully known to this date, the Staff found evidence that they successfully produced nerve agents such as Sarin, Tabun, Soman and VX, biological agents such as botulism and anthrax and controlled substances such as LSD.
Their operations involved chemical and biological research, development and production on a scale not previously identified with a sub-national terrorist group. They created a relatively sophisticated chemical and biological research facility without attracting the attention of either Japanese or foreign governments. In the course of these operations, they not only produced potential weapons but also illegal drugs for their own use and for sale to others.
The cult's motivation for the production of chemical and biological weapons is inextricably linked to its Armageddon prophesy. As previously mentioned, Asahara foretold Armageddon in 1997 and then moved the date to 1995. The cult had as a basic belief that there would be a major war between Japan and the United States that would involve weapons of mass destruction. Based upon our investigation, including discussions with Aum members and review of Aum propaganda, the cult developed these weapons in order to either be prepared for this cataclysm or to instigate it by preemptive strike against their Japanese and Western enemies.
Just last week, on October 20th, Japanese prosecutors revealed the full extent of ahara's plot to use deadly sarin gas to effectuate his version of Armageddon. At the initial arraignment against four cult members charged with conspiracy to commit murder, the prosecutor publicly charged that the four, under the direction of Asahara, planned to produce 70 tons of sarin within 40 days of completion of the sarin production facility, Satyam No. 7. The prosecutors told the court that the defendants made sarin gas on three separate occasions in Novemr and December 1993. They also produced another 30 kilograms of the deadly substance in February 1994. The prosecutors added that 20 kilograms of this batch was used in the June 1994 Matsumoto attack which killed 7 people.
The cult gas squad was to spray the sarin via a helicopter the Aum had purchased. In furtherance of this conspiracy, the prosecutors charged the cult with the purchase of the Soviet- made helicopter. If the plot succeeded, Asahara had promised to promote the cult members involved to senior positions in the Aum hierarchy, the prosecutors revealed. The four defendants charged have admitted to the police their involvement in building the sarin plant but deny they knew its purpose.
It is clear that around 1992 the Aum began to research poisonous gasses including sarin and other nerve agents such as tabun and soman. From confessions and other information, the Japanese police now surmise that the Aum chose sarin because of its relative ease of production and the fact that the precursors for it were readily available.
The Aum elevated their efforts to develop and deploy sarin to near mystical heights. In speeches Asahara repeatedly refers to sarin. The Staff obtained and translated documents found at an Aum facility that included a December 30, 1994 manual on how to make sarin. The publisher of the manual was listed as Matsumoto Armin (the author's pun on the Matsumoto sarin incident). Within the manual, which includes chemical configurations for sarin, is a song entitled "Song of Sarin, the Magician" whose lyrics include:
"It came from Nazi Germany, a little dangerous chemical weapon,
Sarin Sarin --,
If you inhale the mysterious vapor, you will fall with
bloody vomit from your mouth,
Sarin--, Sarin--, Sarin--, the chemical weapon.
'Song of Sarin, the Brave "In the peaceful night of Matsumoto City
People can be killed, even with our own hands,
The place is full of dead bodies all over,
There! Inhale Sarin, Sarin,
Prepare Sarin! Prepare Sarin! Immediately poisonous gas weapons will fill the place.
Spray! Spray! Sarin, the Brave, Sarin.
Also referred to in the manual was a reference to "Uncle Fester" as an American who would relate the know-how to produce sarin. Uncle Fester, the Staff has learned from U.S. experts on chemical weapons, is a popular underground pseudonym for individual(s) who publish information on producing terrorist devices. The Staffs brief search of the Internet discovered innumerable ways to obtain such information.
As the song indicates, sarin is a deadly nerve agent first synthesized in the 1930's. Other nerve agents with similar characteristics to sarin (GB) considered by the Aum are tabun (GA), soman (GF) and VX. They are all liquids not gases. They can all be absorbed through the skin, are volatile and, at high temperatures or when aerosolized by an explosion or other method, can be inhaled.
Standard medical textbooks describe sarin as a colorless, odorless liquid that is 500 times more toxic than cyanide gas. Only half a milligram of sarin can kill a person. As a "nerve agent", sarin belongs to a group of compounds that inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase which breaks down acetylcholine at the junction between nerve endings. This leads to an increase in secretons from the nose, eyes, mouth, airways and intestines, twitching, weakness, paralysis and eventually death.
The initial effect of a small droplet on the skin may be unnoticed local sweating. The first systemic effects - nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps, followed by a feeling of uneasiness and sometimes muscle twitching -- may not begin until as long as 18 hours after exposure. A large exposure to liquid tabun, sarin and soman, or even a small amount of VX, within one to thirty minutes may cause dden unconsciousness, convulsions and, within minutes, paralysis and apnea (asphyxiation).
Exposure to a small amount of vapor within seconds causes excessive constriction of the pupil of the eye, ocular pain, tunnel vision and dim or blurred vision. Bronchoconstriction and increased bronchial secretions cause symptoms varying from mild discomfort to difficult or labored breathing. With a large exposure, one or two breaths. may lead to loss of consciousness within-seconds, followed by convulsions and, within minutes, paralysis and apnea (asphyxiation).
Atropine, which was used by our troops in the Persian Gulf war, is an antidote for Sarin and other nerve agents. Atropine blocks the action of excess acetylcholine thereby stopping the deadly build up that results in the increased secretions.
Starting in the Spring of 1993, the Aum utilized its own chemical company to start acquiring the chemical agents and other materials necessary for full scale production. Sarin research and production was conducted under the direction of Masami Tsuchiya, head of the cult's chemical team and Seiichi Endo, the cult's Health and Welfare Minister. Production occurred at a facility in the Aum compound site in Kamikuishiki called Satyam No. 7 .
Reports from Japanese officials indicate that the sarin production facility was extremely sophisticated. It was almost all fabricated by the Aum members themselves who utilized their other companies as sources for material an technical expertise. According to prosecution sources, the cult produced 30 kilograms of sarin from their computerized chemical plant sometime in early 1994 before an accident caused them to shut down operations. It is believed that the sarin for the June 27, 1994 Matsumoto incident was made at this facility before the accident.
Apparently the sarin actually used for the Tokyo incident was made on a smaller scale at a laboratory inside the Aum compound on March 19, 1995, the day before the Tokyo subway incident. Unconfirmed reports indicate that there may be some sarin missing from the cult's stockpiles. One such report indicates that Aum members may have buried sarin at undisclosed locations.
As previously noted, the Aum also tried to develop other chemical weapons such as soman, tabun and VX. The Staff confirmed from official documents that the Aum produced VX on at least four separate occasions in the same facility used to poduce the Sarin compound. They were developed under the direction of Masami Tsuchiya for experimental purposes but full scale production never occurred.
There is credible evidence that the Aum did deploy small quantities of VX, one of the deadliest nerve agents known, on at least two occasions. Confessions from a number of Aum members implicate Tomomitsu Niimi, currently under arrest, for deploying this weapon on a number of enemies of the Aum. Japanese authorities have been quoted in the press as saying that Niimi has confessed to this crime.
The Staff confirmed from official documents that Niimi and others were involved in at least two attacks. They include the attack on Tadahiro Hamaguchi with VX on December 12, 1994, while he was walking on an Osaka street. Hamaguchi died ten days later on December 22nd. The police detected "mono-ethyl-methyl phosphoric acid", a by-product produced only from VX, in Hamaguchi's blood serum on July 22, 1995, confirming the presence of VX. In another incident, Niimi attacked Hiroyuki Nagaoka, 57, the head of the "Association of the Victims of Aum Shinrikyo" with VX gas in January, 1995. He fortunately survived but was in a coma for several weeks per a Staff conversation with his son. It was dispensed by spraying it from a hypodermic syringe into the face of the victim. Nagaoka's son told us that his father survived because his assailants missed his face.
The Japanese police believe that there may have been a third cident of VX deployment although they have not identified the victim or other circumstances in any detail. The Staff has learned from government sources that the incident involves an 83 year old Tokyo man who collapsed in his house in December, 1994 from what is alleged to have been an Aum sponsored VX attack. The man never reported the incident to the police or authorities.
From a Japanese government document the Staff has learned that after the Nagaoka incident, the Aum retained some excess /X. is material had not been found by the police in the initial series of raids. It is believed that this VX may be in the possession of one or more Aum members who were still at large at the time of the preparation of this Staff statement.
Ominously, there have been police reports cited in the Japanese press that sodium cyanide, linked to cult members, was found in late September 1995, in Japan. Police found as much as 8.5 kilograms of the sodium cyanide in the apparent hideout of an Aum fugitive, according to Japanese police sources. The sources said that the amount of sodium cyanide found in 17 bottles could kill approximately 70,000 people. The cyanide was found by hikers in September around. a tent strewn with camping gear in a mountainous area of Japan where cult member, Satoru Hiratu, a member of the intelligence ministry, is believed to have hidden between mid-May and early September. Sodium cyanide was found in devices designed to generate highly toxic cyanide gas that were found in subway station in Tokyo in May and July. Hirata is on the wanted list for alleged involvement in the death of a Tokyo public notary official.
In the days following the subway attack in March, Asahara video- taped a reply to allegations of their chemical weapon build-up. In his rambling statement, a transcript of which was obtained by the Staff, he implicitly confirms the cult's possession of the chemicals, but seems to claim they are for other purposes. Throughout the statement he emphasizes his Armageddon theories and claims that half of his 1700 monks and nuns have been sprayed with Q-fever.
Materials seized at the Aum facilities and other evidence confirms that the Aum had embarked upon an intense research and development program for the production of biological weapons. Judging from this evidence, Japanese authorities believe the Aum succeeded in producing botulism toxin. The me Japanese authorities are less certain but have serious concern that the Aum had also produced anthrax bacillus.
Both botulism toxin and anthrax are viewed by experts as serious weapons of mass destruction. In a 1993 report of the Office of Technology Assessment, it is noted that botulism toxin is a poison made by a bacterium, Clostridium botulinum. It is one of the most poisonous substances known to man. The fatal dose of botulin toxin by injection or inhalation is about 1 nanogram (a billionth of a gram) per kilogram of weight. This would equate to about 70 nanograms of botulin toxin to kill the average adult male. The toxin is also relatively fast-acting, producing death between 1 to 3 days in 80% of the victims. (See: Technologies Underlying Weapons of Mass Destruction, Office of Technology Assessment, 1993).
Anthrax is the name given for a severe illness caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthraxis. It is considered one of the prototypical biological-warfare agents. In nature, anthrax is primarily a disease of cattle and sheep but can also infect humans. It can survive for long periods of time in the soil in a dormant state. After infection, it reverts to an active phase in which it multiplies rapidly in the host body and secretes deadly toxins. (Ibid.)
After inhalation into the lungs, anthrax spores travel to the lymph nodes of the chest, where they become active, multiplying and releasing three proteins that function as a potent toxin. This toxin results in uncontrollable hemorrhaging and fatal tissue damage. In addition to its lethality anthrax has other characteristics that make it an attractive BW agent including the ease of production. (Ibid.) The Staff has confirmed that Seiichi Endo, Health and Welfare Minister for the cult, confessed that he had been working on developing biological weapons and was close to finalizing this effort before the Tokyo incident. He claims to have embarked upon this work under the specific directions of Asahara. Other Aum followers have also confessed to their involvement in the biological program at the cult's Kamikuishiki compound.
In the compound, the police have found large amounts of equipment that is indispensable for cultivating bacteria and viruses. Also uncovered were large amounts of 'peptone", a substance used to cultivate bacteria, as well as quantities of books and materials on the production of botulism, cholera and dysentery. The amount of peptone seized was phenomenal. Apparently there were 100-200 metal drums of peptone seized at the Aum facilities, each having a capacity of 18 liters. By comparison, university research classes are said to typically use only about one liter of peptone per year. Thus, the Aum were expecting to propagate a huge quantity of bacteria.
Subsequent discoveries by the police were equally disturbing. It appears from official Japanese government material reviewed by the Staff that the police determined that Seiichi Endo had produced an antibody for botulinus and was constructing a four-story concrete facility for further development of biological weapons at another Aum site in Naganohara. That facility was to be equipped with a so-called 'clean room" with specialized ventilation systems and a sealed room for protecting cultivated bacteria from leaking. The Staff has been told by a number of credible sources that the actual building used for the production of bacterial agents has yet to be fully searched by Japanese authorities. All of the materials recovered so far have been from ancillary buildings located on the Kamikuishiki site, not from the actual production facility. These sources have warned us that up to the date of the Staffs visit to Japan in late August, Japanese authorities had merely sealed this building after a cursory inspection from its doorway. These sources contend that the police have not gone into it because of concerns over its unknown contents. At a later date when more information has been gleaned from informants and records the police intend to launch a thorough review of material and cultures included in the building.
Probably the most chilling of all the reports coming out of Japan were those that the Aum had actually attempted to use bacteria warfare. The Staff has learned that a number of devices were found by the police in Tokyo that authorities believe may have been intended to disperse anthrax. Three attache cases were discovered on March 15, 1995, five days before the Tokyo gas attack, at the Kasumigaseki subway station in Tokyo. Each contained a small tank to hold an unknown liquid, a small motorized fan and a vent and battery. Unfortunately, none of the liquids were recovered for analysis. Experts have told the Staff that these devices were crude dissemination devices for bacterial or chemical agents. Additionally, the Staff has learned from a number of government sources that the cult had obtained at least two radio controlled drone aircraftshose likely use was also to dim's attempts to purchase material here in the United States that may be relevant to their biological program. As discussed in greater detail in Section VI(C), infra, the Aum wanted to obtain hundreds of camcorder batteries and small fans as well as thousands of small serum bottles. All are similato the components used in the attache cases.
The Staff has also learned that the police suspect that the Aum dispersed anthrax bacilli at their Tokyo headquarters. This belief is based upon a confession by one of the former Aum members. The event occurred in June, 1993 and coincided with complaints from neighbors of a foul odor. The police report that the Aum's Tokyo headquarters building seemed to have been equipped for bacteria production.
Equally disturbing have been a number of press reportin late May of 1995 concerning the Aum's interest in the Ebola virus. The Staff has confirmed that members of the Aum sent a purported medical mission to Zaire in 1992 to assist in the treatment of Ebola victims. The press reports allege that in actuality the Aum was attempting to find a sample of the Ebola strain to take back to Japan for culturing purposes. This is entirely believable in light of their confirmed and aggressive biological weapons program.
In support of these claims, the Staff was told that in a December, 1994 broadcast from Moscow, the Aum's Health and Welfare Minister, Seichi Endo discussed the use of Ebola as a potential biological warfare agent.
Apparently a copy of this speech was transcribed by the cult and printed in Japanese in one of their publications. The Staff has to date been unable to find which of the many hundreds of documents published by the Aum contained this speech. However, the Staff has confirmed from Aum documents that in October of 1992 Asahara and 40 followers traveled to Zaire for "medical assistance" to that country.
The Japanese police strongly suspect that the Aum was using its chemical weapons development program to also produce illegal drugs, including stimulants and LSD. The police also believe that the Aum had an arrangement to sell their drugs to Japanese organized crime, the Yakuza. The police also have credible evidence to believe that some of the drug production was being used by the Aum leadership on its membership and new recruits for thought-control purposes.
In support of these charges, the Japanese police report they have found a notebook of one of the Aum leaders detailing the production process for illegal stimulants. The police allegedly discovered a number of precursors for the production of stimulants. The police have also determined that a number of senior Aum members attempted to sell large quantities of drugs to various Japanese organized crime groups. Information garnered by the [error, words missing] that the Aum drugs were not popular because they were, in the words of one police informant, "garbage".
The police allegedly have obtained confessions from a number of Aum members that discuss the use of drugs in the initiation rites of the Aum. A number of these members described hallucinating after being given unknown substances. Traces of LSD and other illegal drugs have reportedly been found in blood samples of number of Aum members. In addition at least 10 grams of LSD powder was confiscated from the cult's Satyam No. 2 building.
The Staff has learned that Masami Tsuchiya, head of the Aum's chemical team, has confessed to the police that he produced LSD for the cult. The police report that Tsuchiya admitted to systematically producing LSD and other drugs for use on Aum members and for sale. Apparently implicated in this scheme was former Construction Minister Hayakawa whose hand- written notes list the chemicals needed to manufacture LSD.