The Pentagon’s Secret Chemical Weapons Program
The Sunshine Project today accuses the US military of conducting a chemical weapons research and development program in violation of international arms control law. The charges follow an 18 month investigation of the Department of Defense’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD). The investigation made extensive use of the US Freedom of Information Act to obtain Pentagon records that form the primary basis of the allegations. An array of documents, many of which have been posted on the Sunshine Project website, demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that JNLWD is operating an illegal and classified chemical weapons program.
Specifically, the Sunshine Project accuses the JNLWD of:
1. Conducting a research and development program on toxic chemical agents for use as weapons, including anesthetics and psychoactive substances, in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention;
2. Developing long-range military delivery devices for these chemicals, including an 81mm chemical mortar round, that violate the Chemical Weapons Convention.
3. Pursuing a chemical weapons program while fully cognizant that it violates the Chemical Weapons Convention and US Department of Defense regulations;
4. Attempting to cover up the illicit program by classifying as secret even its own legal interpretations of the Chemical Weapons Convention and attempting to block access to documents requested under US information freedom law.
These charges are detailed in the attached Annex to this news release, in the accompanying map and fact sheet, and the Sunshine Project’s JNLWD documents web page, which has full text of more than two dozen documents. Specific citations are in footnotes below.
The Weapons: JNLWD’s secret program is not focusing on highly lethal agents such as VX or sarin. Rather, the emphasis is on "non-lethal" chemical weapons that incapacitate. JNLWD’s science advisors define "non-lethal" as resulting in death or permanent injury in 1 in 100 victims.(1) JNLWD’s Research Director told a US military magazine "We need something besides tear gas, like calmatives, anesthetic agents, that would put people to sleep or in a good mood." (2) These weapons are intended for use against "potentially hostile civilians", in anti-terrorism operations, counterinsurgency, and other military operations.
The major focus of JNLWD’s operation is on the use of drugs as weapons, particularly so-called "calmatives", a military term for mind-altering or sleep inducing chemical weapons. Other agents mentioned as militarily useful in the documents are convulsants, which are dangerous cramp-inducing drugs, and pharmaceuticals that failed development trials due to harmful side-effects. (3) This interest in so-called "calmatives" has been discussed in previous Project publications. (4)
New documents prove the existence of an advanced development program for long range delivery devices for the chemicals, in particular a "non-lethal" 81mm mortar round with a range of 2.5 kilometers and which is designed to work in standard issue US military weapons (the M252 mortar) (5). Photos of testing of this round and a gas generating payload canister are posted on the Sunshine Project’s website. (6) JNLWD has recently asked the company building the gas canister, General Dynamics, to develop methodologies to characterize the aerosols it generates, and to calculate the ground area coverage of gas clouds created by an airburst at different altitudes. (7) A chemical mortar round with a 2.5 kilometer range has solely military applications, and cannot possibly be justified for a US military domestic riot control purpose.
1) UN Inspectors into the US: The Sunshine Project, while urging the United States to immediately halt this chemical weapons program, also announces its intention to take its allegations and evidence to the 7th Session of the Conference of the States Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention, scheduled to start in The Hague on October 7th. There, the Sunshine Project will present its case to governments and request tthe Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons send a UN weapons inspection team to the US to investigate.
2) US Oversight: The Sunshine Project calls upon the US Congress to investigate JNLWD’s arms control violations, to conduct public hearings, to hold JNLWD and its superiors responsible for their actions, to freeze all JNLWD funding, and to immediately declassify all JNLWD documents.
Escalation danger: JNLWD’s chemical weapons program not only violates international law, it presents an escalation threat. Any use of chemical weapons in a military situation–even if the agents are purported to be "non-lethal"–carries the inherent danger of escalation into an all out chemical war and heightened violence. If attacked with a chemical of unknown nature with a fast incapacitating effect, victims may assume that lethal chemicals, leading to heightened violence or even retaliation in kind. This rapid escalation danger is one of the key reasons why the Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits the use of even tear gas or pepper spray as a method of warfare. The Road to a Chemical Arms Race: In addition, JNLWD’s program might easily be used to disguise lethal chemical weapons development. Deadly chemicals are the former specialty of JNLWD’s partner in the program, the US Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground. Long range delivery devices may easily be converted to use biological agents or other chemicals, including lethal nerve gas. Design and development of new delivery devices, production facilities or delivery experiments–all key parts of a lethal chemical weapons program–might easily be performed by the US or other countries if the buzz-word "non-lethal" is used as a cover. If non-lethal chemical warfare programs are not banned, the basic principles of the CWC could fall apart, resulting in new full blown chemical arms race even before Cold War stocks are destroyed.
An Outline of the Case Against the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate
The charges made by the Sunshine Project are supported by thousands of pages of US government documents, many obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act, and many of which are available on our website. This news release and annex are accompanied by a map and fact sheet on JNLWD’s program. This is available for download from our website. The charges against JNLWD will be further detailed in a briefing for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and diplomats attending the October meeting of the Chemical Weapons Convention. A brief outline is provided here:
1. JNLWD is conducting a research and development program on toxic chemical agents for use as weapons in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
JNLWD’s desire for chemical weapons is intense and widely documented. JNLWD has explicitly stated that it is operating a program to develop "calmative" chemical weapons (9). In May 1999, its Research Director told Navy News and Undersea Technology "We need something besides tear gas, like calmatives, anesthetic agents, that would put people to sleep or in a good mood." In 2000, JNLWD’s Commanding Officer told New Scientist "I would like a magic dust that would put everyone in a building to sleep, combatants and non-combatants." (10) The Marine Corps Research University (MCRU), a major JNLWD contractor, produced an October 2000 study that concluded "the development and use of calmatives is achievable and desirable" and urged "immediate consideration" of drugs like diazepam (Valium). (11) The unit that produced the study is headed by JNLWD’s former commander. JNLWD currently has a secretive technology investment program for incapacitating chemical weapons that is being conducted in cooperation with the US Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground. (12) It is urging academic and private institutions to bring it new proposals for chemical agents (13) and has repeatedly emphasized the need for the US military to develop a calmative capability. In addition, it recently concluded a new request for proposals that includes a call for "advanced riot control agents", (14) a military synonym for drug weapons. In October 2001, it offered to equip US commercial aircraft with calmative-dispensing weapons. (15)
2. JNLWD is developing long-range military delivery devices for these chemicals that violate the Chemical Weapons Convention and have no law enforcement application.
JNLWD has been funding the development of chemical weapons delivery devices since the late 1990s. 1999 and 2000 photos of outdoor tests of chemical aerosol equipment and wind tunnel tests at the US Army Soldier Chemical Biological Command are included on the obverse side of the accompanying map. JNLWD has funded a multi-year program to microencapsulate chemical agents, specifically, anesthetics and anesthetics mixed with corrosive chemicals to penetrate thick clothing. (16) In 2001, JNLWD accelerated this effort, developing a specification for an 81mm "non-lethal" mortar round with a 2.5 kilometer range. (17) The round can use chemical payloads and is required to work in standard issue military M252 mortars. (18) Under this program, in September 2001, JNLWD inked a deal with General Dynamics that calls for building a "dispersion gas generator" for this mortar round and to "identify analytical tools that can be used in follow-on design/performance modeling of droplet formation and dynamics" and to perform "preliminary parametric estimates of ground area coverage versus payload volume and height of burst." (19) The JNLWD team which developed chemical microencapsulation methods and the Aberdeen Proving Ground team which is participating in the chemical agents technology investment program are both collaborating with JNLWD in the mortar round design. (20)
3. JNLWD is pursuing this program despite being fully cognizant that it violates the Chemical Weapons Convention and US Department of Defense regulations.
The JNLWD program runs afoul of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the global ban on the development and use of all chemical weapons. And JNLWD is well aware of this fact. JNLWD presentations in 2001 list the Chemical Weapons Convention as a major "challenge" to its calmatives program. (21) In 2000, JNLWD held a series of war games with British military officials. JNLWD’s report of the war games concludes "In all three game scenarios, players espoused calmatives as potentially the most useful anti-personnel non-lethal weapons" but that "the principle concern was about the legality of the weapon and possible arms control violationsS" Despite this, it continues "The end result is that calmatives are considered the single most effective anti-personnel option in the non-lethal toolkitS" (22)
At the end of the wargames series, JNLWD held a final, high-level meeting with UK officials. It included the participation of five active duty US Marine Corps and Army generals. British officials objected to the US calmatives program, saying that it is illegal. JNLWD replied by saying but that it would proceed anyway (quoting from the report): "a research and development program with respect toS chemically based calmatives… [will] be continued as long as it is cost-productive to do so." In the same report, JNLWD acknowledges that its research and development program violates Department of Defense regulations, declaring its intent to evade the law: "DOD is prohibited from pursuing [calmative] technologyS If there are promising technologies that DOD is prohibited from pursuing, set up MOA with DOJ or DOE." (DOD is the US Department of Defense. DOJ is the US Department of Justice. DOE is the US Department of Energy. MOA is a Memorandum of Agreement.) (23)
4. JNLWD is seeking to cover up this illicit program by cloaking it behind US secrecy law.
JNLWD has made a systematic effort hide its program from public view and to impede the Sunshine Project’s investigation. JNLWD asked the US Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) to perform a legal review of its "non-lethal" chemical weapons; but then classified the JAG opinion, preventing its release. (24) JNLWD has placed export control restrictions on its 81mm "non-lethal" mortar specification. (25) In 2002, JNLWD officials trained US Marine Corps officers in its anti-personnel chemical weapons capabilities. It classified the training "secret". (26) Interviewed by news media, JNLWD officials deny developing chemical weapons; but have informed the Sunshine Project in multiple telephone conversations that they will deny release of documents requested under FOIA because of "classified weapons development". With 18 months elapsed since the Sunshine Project’s first Freedom of Information Act requests to JNLWD, almost two thirds of the documents requested have not been released. JNLWD has ordered the US National Academies of Science to halt release of documents it deposited in the public record at that institution, (27) despite the fact that the National Academies states that there are no security markings on the documents requested, (28) and in apparent violation of US law.
1) Kenny, J. The Human Effects of Non-Lethal Weapons, presentation of the JNLWD Human Effects Advisory Panel to the US National Academy of Sciences Naval Studies Board, 30 April 2001.
2) Susan LeVine, JNLWD Research Director, quoted in Non-Lethal Programs Will Enhance Navy And Marine Warfighting in Navy News and Undersea Technology, v. 16, n.19, 10 May 1999.
3) Lakoski J, Murray, W.B., Kenny J. The Advantages and Limitations of Calmatives for Use as a Non-Lethal Technique, Applied Research Laboratory / College of Medicine, Pennsylvania State University, 3 October 2000
4) See the Sunshine Project news release Pentagon Program Promotes Psychological Warfare (1 July 2002), the information brief The MCRU Calmatives Study and JNLWD: A Summary of (Public) Facts (19 September 2002), and Sunshine Project Backgrounder #8, Non-Lethal Weapons Research in the US: Calmatives & Malodorants (July 2001). All available at the Sunshine Project website.
5) See, for example, 81mm Frangible Case Cartridge, Contract DAAE-30-01-C-1077 (June 2001), US Army TACOM and M2 Technologies
6) See side two of the accompanying map and information sheet.
7) Liquid Payload Dispensing Concept Studies Techniques for the 81mm Non-Lethal Mortar Cartridge, Contract DAAE-30-01-M-1444 (Sept. 2001), US Army TACOM and General Dynamics
8) Assessment Report: US/UK Non-Lethal Weapons (NLW)/Urban Operations Executive Seminar, JNLWD, November 2000.
9) ibid (and other documents)
10) Colonel George Fenton, USMC, JNLWD Commanding Officer, quoted in War without tears, New Scientist, 16 December 2000.
11) Lakoski J, Murray, W.B., Kenny J. The Advantages and Limitations of Calmatives for Use as a Non-Lethal Technique (URL above).
13) See Fenton, G. To The Future: Non-Lethal Capabilities Technologies in the 21st Century, presentation to the University of New Hampshire’s Non-lethal Technology and Academic Research III symposium, November 2001.
14) Nonkinetic/limited effects/non-lethal weapons for crowd control, US Department of the Navy solicitation M67854-02-R-6064, 18 July 2002,
15) See Non-Lethal Weapons Suggested to Incapacitate Terrorists in Airliners, Air Safety Week, v. 15 n. 39, 15 October 2001. 6) Durant Y. White Paper: Delivery of chemicals by microcapsules, Advanced Polymer Laboratory, University of New Hampshire, 1998.
17) 81mm Frangible Case Cartridge, Contract DAAE-30-01-C-1077 (June 2001), US Army TACOM and M2 Technologies, URL above.
18) See Liquid Payload Dispensing Concept Studies Techniques for the 81mm Non-Lethal Mortar Cartridge, Contract DAAE-30-01-M-1444 (Sept. 2001), US Army TACOM and General Dynamics, URL above.
19) Liquid Payload Dispensing Concept Studies Techniques for the 81mm Non-Lethal Mortar Cartridge, Contract DAAE-30-01-M-1444 (Sept. 2001), US Army TACOM and General Dynamics, URL above.
20) Aberdeen Proving Ground: see Design and Development of an 81mm Non-Lethal Mortar Cartridge, United Defense LP, US Army Soldier Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM), US Army Research Laboratory, March 2000. University of New Hampshire: see Durant Y, et al, Composites material selection study for NL Mortar, presentation to the University of New Hampshire’s Non-lethal Technology and Academic Research III symposium, November 2001.
21) Fenton, G. To The Future: Non-Lethal Capabilities Technologies in the 21st Century, presentation to the University of New Hampshire’s Non-lethal Technology and Academic Research III symposium, November 2001, URL above.
22) US/UK Non-Lethal Weapons (NLW) / Urban Operations War Game Two Assessment, JNLWD, June 2000. The wargame was held 13-16 June 2000 at the US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA.
23) Assessment Report: US/UK Non-Lethal Weapons (NLW)/Urban Operations Executive Seminar, JNLWD, November 2000, URL above.
24) Response letter (3 September 2002) from US Department of the Navy, Office of the Judge Advocate General, International and Operational Law Division to Sunshine Project Freedom of Information Request of 21 August 2002.
25) Several JNLWD-funded contracts indicate this. See, for example, 81mm Frangible Case Cartridge, Contract DAAE-30-01-C-1077 (June 2001), US Army TACOM and M2 Technologies, URL above.
26) Non-Lethal Weapons: Acquisitions, Capabilities, Doctrine, & Strategy: A Course of Instruction, contract M67004-99-D-0037, purchase order M9545002RCR2BA7, between the US Marine Corps University (Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory) and JNLWD, December 2001.
27) Letter from Col. George Fenton to the National Academies of Science (NAS), 17 May 2002, text provided in an e-mail from Mr. Kevin Hale, Director of the NAS National Security Office to William Colglazier, Executive Officer, 17 May 2002.
28) Letter from Kevin Hale (NAS) to Col. George Fenton (JNLWD), 17 May 2002. This letter and the e-mail of note #27 were provided by the NAS Public Affairs office.