Interesting Findings on Al-Qa'ida
The Presidential Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United Stated Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction has reported. While scathing of the intelligence regarding WMD in Iraq, there is some intersting stuff regarding Al-Qa'ida and biological weapons. Here is a look at the pre-war and post-war intelligence.
Information in the Intelligence Community's possession since the late 1990s indicated that al-Qa'ida's members had trained in crude methods for producing biological agents such as botulinum toxin and toxins obtained from venomous animals. 1 But the Community was uncertain whether al-Qa'ida had managed to acquire a far more dangerous strain of agent (an agent we cannot identify precisely in our unclassified report and so will refer to here as "Agent X"). 2 The Community judged that al-Qa'ida operatives had "probably" acquired at least a small quantity of this virulent strain and had plans to assemble devices to disperse the agent. 3 While the Community believed that a facility to which the group had access provided the potential capability and expertise to produce biological agents, it had no evidence that the facility was being so used. 4 Likewise, the Intelligence Community assessed that al-Qa'ida was "highly unlikely" to have acquired two other dangerous biological agents, and had no credible reporting indicating it was attempting to do so. 5
In fact, al-Qa'ida's biological program was further along, particularly with regard to Agent X, than pre-war intelligence indicated. 6 The program was extensive, well-organized, and operated for two years before September 11, but intelligence insights into the program were limited. The program involved several sites in Afghanistan. 7 Two of these sites contained commercial equipment and were operated by individuals with special training. 8 Documents found indicated that while al-Qa'ida's primary interest was Agent X, the group had considered acquiring a variety of other biological agents. 9 The documents obtained at the training camp included scientific articles and handwritten notes pertaining to Agent X. 10
Reporting supports the hypothesis that al-Qa'ida had acquired several biological agents possibly as early as 1999, and had the necessary equipment to enable limited, basic production of Agent X. 11 Other reporting indicates that al-Qa'ida had succeeded in isolating cultures of Agent X. Nevertheless, outstanding questions remain about the extent of biological research and development in pre-war Afghanistan, including about the reliability of the reporting described above.