The easy part of verifying compliance with a new chemical arms ban treaty will be visiting stockpile sites like Utah's Tooele Army Depot to ensure that arms there are destroyed.
The tough part will be figuring out whether the thousands of drug, pesticide and other chemical plants worldwide might be secretly making chemical weapons."Chemical manufacturing and storage plants pursuing legitimate, commercial activities are not easily distinguished from those that are not," Maj. Gen. John Landry with the National Intelligence Council said Tuesday in hearings on the treaty.
That means "the intelligence monitoring of this agreement will prove to be a monumental task," he told the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, which is considering whether to ratify the treaty negotiated among 157 nations in 1992.
"Of course no treaty is 100 percent verifiable," added Donald Mahley of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. But he said the new treaty creates tools that intelligence agencies now lack to determine the spread of chemical arms.
He said the treaty "contains the most comprehensive and intrusive verification regime ever negotiated in an arms-control treaty," and would allow any participating country to demand inspection of any chemical plant in another signatory nation.
U.S. intelligence agencies feel the treaty includes enough safeguards and limits on those inspections to protect trade secrets of legitimate chemical plants. "A balance between verification and protection concerns was struck," Mahley said.
Intelligence agencies said ratifying the treaty and creating such inspections would help the United States overall, even though verification would be difficult.
If ratified, the treaty would require destruction of all chemical arms at Tooele within 10 years - which is already planned by the Army. Tooele stores 42.3 percent of all U.S. chemical arms.
The proposed treaty has been signed by 157 nations but only ratified by five so far - with many waiting to see what the United States does. At least 65 nations must ratify it before it takes force.