National Academy of Sciences Withholds Key Information on Moscow Theater Tragedy

The US National Academies of Science holds key unclassified US military research documents that shed light on the Moscow theater tragedy; but is refusing to release them despite repeated, urgent requests. (A selected bibliography of the documents is included at the end of this release.)

Said the Sunshine Project’s Edward Hammond “The world has an urgent need to better understand what happened in Moscow and what other countries, including the US, are doing with these kinds of weapons. The National Academies ongoing refusal to release the documents is very troubling.” Hammond adds “NAS has critical information for understanding the chemical agents used in Moscow; but is refusing to release it because it wants to avoid embarrassing the Pentagon, which denies that this type of research exists in the United States.”

The documents are a series of papers written in 1994 by US Army chemical warfare experts on so-called “calmative” chemical weapons. The set of reports includes a paper on synthetic opiate weapons of the class reported to have killed more than 100 people in the Moscow theater. In 2001, these documents were deposited at the National Academies by the US Marine Corps, which asked NAS to evaluate this kind of weapon. The documents are deposited in a public archive which, according to US law, should be available for inspection by journalists and members of the public.

The US Army documents describe research and testing of chemical agents at Edgewood Research and Development Center at Aberdeen Proving Grounds north of Baltimore, Maryland. In addition, NAS is withholding documents from the US Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD), a Pentagon agency exploring calmative chemical weapons. These include the report of a “non-lethal” weapons policy seminar held in 2001 between US and United Kingdom officials, in which they discussed military operations with chemical weapons like those used in the theater.

The Sunshine Project has been seeking the release of this information since well before the Moscow tragedy. It began its investigation a year and half ago, and first asked NAS for the documents in March.

NAS is trying to defuse the situation by forestalling release until November 5th, US election day, when it hopes that nobody will notice. NAS must place public interest and law before its desire to ingratiate itself with the Pentagon. “Anything less,” says Hammond “would call into question the Academies role as an independent scientific advisor an chemical and biological weapons issues”

Selected Documents in the NAS Public Access Records File:

Ferguson, C. Parker. 1994. “Antipersonnel Chemical Immobilizers: Synthetic Opioids,” U.S. Army Edgewood Research, Development and Engineering Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (NSB log #ONR-NLW.087).

Ferguson, C. Parker. 1994. “Demonstration of Chemical Immobilizers,” U.S. Army Edgewood Research, Development and Engineering Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (NSB log #ONRNLW.086).

Ferguson, C. Parker. 1994. “Antipersonnel Calmative Agents,” U.S. Army Edgewood Research, Development and Engineering Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (NSB log #ONR-NLW.085).

Ferguson, C. Parker. 1994. “Antipersonnel Chemical Immobilizers: Sedatives,” U.S. Army Edgewood Research, Development and Engineering Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (NSB log #ONR-NLW.084).

Report. “US/UK Non-Lethal Weapons (NLW)/Urban Operations) Policy Seminar,” JNLWP, January 19-20, 2001 (NSB log #ONR-NLW.029).

Department of Navy. November 30, 1998. “Preliminary Legal Review of Proposed Chemical-Based Nonlethal Weapons,” DON (NSB log #ONR-NLW.042).

For More Information Contact:

Edward Hammond director of The Sunshine Project, based in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at: hammond@sunshine-project.org



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