- The Washington Times - Monday, November 25, 2002

NEW YORK
Advances in technology have given inspectors from the United Nations and International Atomic Energy Agency the ability to quickly sniff out telltale microbes or molecules that could signify chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in Iraq.
"Sensors have gotten much more sensitive over the last four years," said Ewen Buchanan, chief spokesman for the inspection team, which is to return to Iraq Wednesday after being ousted in 1998. "A lot of equipment that might've required a whole room has been shrunk and is more usable in the field."
In the 1990s, U.N. inspectors dismantled Iraq's nuclear program and destroyed stocks of chemical and biological weapons and longer-range missiles forbidden by postwar U.N. resolutions.
But some weapons are believed to have survived or been rebuilt.
The 100 or so inspectors backed by a tough U.N. Security Council resolution plan to ferret out any remaining arms by draping Iraq in a surveillance net that knits together particle detectors, satellite imagery, ground-penetrating radar, sensors and cameras that beam live video back to Vienna, Austria.
Most important, analysts say, is knowing where to point the gadgets.
Inspectors will need a detective's intuition, prescient intelligence and tips from Iraqi scientists and defectors. They also will need to be able to recognize what, say, a Scud missile's turbo pump looks like, Mr. Buchanan said.
"We can assume Iraqis have moved all sensitive pieces of evidence," said former U.N. inspector Victor Mizin. "Without some data provided by the [Iraqi] government, the inspections won't find anything meaningful."
Still, inspectors are bringing in plenty of high-tech sleuthing gear, all funded like the entire inspection process by the sale of Iraqi oil, Mr. Buchanan said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's 20 nuclear weapons inspectors will scout sites with gamma radiation detectors mounted on helicopters or held in the hand, spokesman Peter Rickwood said.
The agency owns more than 100 analyzers like the FieldSpec by Germany's Target Systemelectronic, a hand-held scanner that can detect radioactive isotopes.
Atomic energy agency inspectors also will wield a portable sensor known as the Ranger, developed by Quantrad Sensors of Madison, Wis. It uses X-ray fluorescence to pick out alloys useful in nuclear weapons.
The agency will install as many as 700 digital cameras in suspected weapons factories that will beam real-time video to the agency's headquarters. It also will install water sensors in 50 places and air sensors in others, Mr. Rickwood said.
While the agency tracks nuclear items, the U.N. inspectors will seek banned missile components and the remnants of leader Saddam Hussein's biological arsenal including anthrax and botulinum toxin and chemical agents sarin, VX and mustard gas.
Ground-penetrating radar perhaps mounted on a helicopter or unmanned drone may be used to reveal buried weapons and underground bunkers, officials said.
One hand-held scanner that probably will find its way into Iraq is the $9,000 Chemical Agent Monitor, or CAM, made by Smiths Detection, a British defense contractor. The 4-pound device uses ion mobility spectrometry, the same technology used in airports to find traces of explosives or drugs on luggage.
Others available for use in Iraq are the Handheld Advanced Nucleic Acid Analyzer (HANAA) and Chemlab hand-held detectors built at the Department of Energy.
Inspectors seeking pathogens probably will use portable detectors like Idaho Technology's $55,000 Ruggedized Advanced Pathogen Identification Device (RAPID). The company donated a pair of the scanners to the United Nations and was training inspectors in their use last week, said Kim Woodhouse, the Salt Lake City company's marketing manager.
The machines can detect nine bioweapons in about 20 minutes by using a polymerase chain reaction, which immerses a sample in a chemical bath designed to identify the agent.
The machines are so sensitive that they can detect pathogens if a suspected bioweapons lab has been cleaned up. All they need is one microorganism, live or dead. said Rocco Casagrande, a U.N. weapons inspector. Mr. Casa-grande is a scientist with Surface Logix, a Boston biotech firm.
"You look for places that haven't been cleaned very well any kind of crack or crevice that it could be hiding in," he said.
If Iraq is determined to conceal some of its weapons, inspectors will have a tougher time finding some programs like a biological weapons lab than, say, a nuclear weapons program for enriching uranium.
Further complicating the search, raw materials for the world's most lethal weapons have vital civilian uses in medicine, pesticides and vaccines. Some, like anthrax, occur in nature.


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