56. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 4–64


The Problem

To assess the capabilities and intentions of additional countries to achieve biological and lethal chemical warfare capabilities during the next three years or so.

Scope Note

This estimate excludes the USSR and its Warsaw Pact allies, since these countries have been considered in NIE 11–10–63: “Soviet Capabilities and Intentions with Respect to Chemical Warfare,” dated 27 December 1963, Secret;2 and NIE 11–6–64: “Soviet Capabilities and Intentions with Respect to Biological Warfare,” dated 26 August 1964, Secret.3 These estimates also contain general information on BW and CW agents, delivery systems, military doctrine, and defense measures.

[Page 167]

Our consideration of BW agents includes all those suitable for use against personnel, livestock, crops, and materiel; consideration of CW agents excludes incapacitating and riot control agents, and smoke, flame, and defoliant chemicals.

This estimate does not concern itself with BW or CW as instruments for clandestine use in assassination, small-scale terrorism, and the like.

Summary and Conclusions

For any reasonably modernized state, and even for many of the less developed nations, there are few obstacles in the way of acquiring at least some BW and CW capability. The technology underlying BW and CW is widely known or easily obtainable through open sources; the physical facilities required to develop and produce agents are in great part quite easily adaptable from existing chemical and pharmaceutical facilities; the means of delivery comprise a wide range of conventional weapons and even non-military equipment; and, overall, the costs are relatively small, at least for an offensive capability appropriate to most states’ conceivable needs. (Paras. 8–12)
Yet despite these considerations, there is not now a trend toward the proliferation of BW or CW capabilities in the world. Such proliferation could occur during the next few years, notably through a snowballing process of mounting fear and suspicion, and of action and reaction on the part of particular sets of adversaries among the middle and smaller powers, but proliferation cannot now be judged likely. (Paras. 17–24)

A number of factors work to restrain BW and CW proliferation. The very fact that many states could achieve a capability with relative ease gives these weapons the quality of a two-edge sword. Prudence would dictate that countries deciding to acquire an offensive or retaliatory capability should also undertake to develop a defensive capability, and the requirements of doing so would add to the price, almost prohibitively if adequate provision were made for civilian needs. Most military doctrine on CW, and even more so on BW, lays emphasis on the defensive aspects of the problem, which is some evidence of a reluctance to be the first user. And finally, there exists an almost universal popular moral and psychological abhorrence of these forms of munitions, which adds to official reluctance to contemplate their use. (Paras. 2–7, 17–24)

[3 paragraphs (20 lines of source text) and 4-line table not declassified] (Paras. 1, 16)

Almost any semi-industrialized country could easily acquire token native capabilities in either field (i.e., enough for one or two attacks on important targets). Any country could quietly acquire [Page 168] through commercial channels at least a token capability in the less toxic World War I-type CW agents. (Paras. 1, 16)
Present evidence does not warrant an estimate that any nation is now determined to achieve a meaningful operational capability in either BW or CW during the next few years. We believe that most states will remain reluctant to do so. Nonetheless, some may proceed toward this goal, as a deterrent or retaliatory measure in case a potential adversary develops a capability, as a supplement to nuclear weapons, or possibly as the best available substitute for them. [3 lines of source text not declassified](Paras. 17–24)

[Here follow the Discussion section (pages 4–8); Part II. Capabilities (pages 8–9); Part III. Intentions (pages 9–11); and Appendix (page 13).]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, National Intelligence Estimates 4, Arms and Disarmament, Box 1. Secret; No Foreign Dissem; Controlled Dissem. A cover sheet, prefatory note, title page, and table of contents are not printed. According to the prefatory note, the CIA and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense and the National Security Agency participated in the preparation of this estimate. Representatives of the State Department, DIA, and NSA concurred; the AEC and FBI representatives abstained, the subject being outside their jurisdiction.
  2. Not found.
  3. A copy is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, National Intelligence Estimates 11–64, USSR, Box 3.