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No FOIA Request Needed: The Chemical and Biological Warfare Collection

April 14, 2010

One box from the Chemical and Biological Warfare Collection in the Archive's reading room.

Among the National Security Archive’s unpublished materials available for researchers is the Chemical and Biological Warfare Collection.  This collection of 20 boxes was compiled by Jordan Richie, a National Security Archive researcher and project coordinator, who in the early 1990s made numerous FOIA requests and conducted library and archival research on chemical and biological weapons policy, safety, proliferation, control, status, and disposal.  The collection covers the time period from 1916 to 1991, focusing on the 1970s to 1980s with an emphasis on Southeast Asia.

Included in this collection are numerous, often lengthy, materials related  to the Sverdlovsk incident in the Soviet Union, the use of Agent Orange and other herbicides (“Yellow Rain”) in Vietnam.  Other subjects covered are the Geneva Protocol, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, West Germany, and NATO.

Documents and reports in the collection came from the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, and the British Archives, the United Nations, and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The sample document selected is a chilling 10 March 1989, U.S. Department of Defense Information Report.   The report estimated that North Korea has produced poisonous gasses and germ weapons, including cholera and anthrax.  The document also reported that tests on human subjects had possibly been conducted.  The Information Report, which was marked “Not Finally Evaluated Intel.” originated with the Commander 501st Military Intelligence Brigade in Seoul, South Korea; it was forwarded the same day to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C.   It was declassified with redactions on 12 October 1994.

Researchers interested in viewing this collection should email

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