I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
CNN Tapes Generate Questions on al Qaeda

After obtaining several dozen videotapes from one of its correspondents in Afghanistan, CNN aired footage August 18 that appears to show al Qaeda members administering poison gas to dogs, but analysts disagreed on whether the video demonstrated that the terrorist group has a chemical weapons capability.

In one videotaped scene, men are seen leaving a small room with a dog inside. Shortly after their departure, gas seeps into the room. Over several minutes, the dog exhibits symptoms of chemical poisoning, including increased salivation, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, and loss of consciousness.

Experts invited by CNN August 19 to evaluate the videotapes offered conflicting judgments about the nature of the gas. David Kay, a former United Nations weapons inspector who participated in searches in Iraq, told CNN that he was confident “above a reasonable doubt” that al Qaeda had released a nerve agent that killed the animal. However, Frederick R. Sidell, a chemical weapons specialist who worked at the Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, voiced doubt on whether it was a nerve agent, saying it was unclear that the dog had even died.

Although the experts consulted by CNN characterized the videos as highly significant, U.S. officials downplayed their importance. Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Dave Lapan told the Arms Control Association, “[The tapes] don’t come as a surprise to us.” Since last fall, U.S. forces overtaking the group’s Afghan hideouts discovered notebooks containing chemical formulas that indicated research into poison and bomb development. “Visits to more than 60 different sites turned up evidence of intent to develop those weapons, but no evidence that they succeeded,” according to Lapan.