National Intelligence Director Clapper says Syria may be able to produce biological weapons

While Syria is engaged in the process of dismantling its chemical weapons program, the country may have the capacity to produce biological weapons, a U.S. intelligence official said on Wednesday.

James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, made the remarks as part of a statement for the record before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Clapper discussed multiple worldwide threats, including the security of weapons of mass destruction in Syria.

In a previous assessment, the intelligence community assessed that Syria had a highly active chemical warfare program and maintained an active pile of VX, sarin, sulfur mustard and a stockpile of munitions to deliver the agents. Syria acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention on October 14 and is now dismantling its chemical weapons program with the help of the U.N. and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

"Until the (chemical warfare) materials are completely destroyed or removed from country, groups or individuals in Syria might gain access to (chemical warfare)-related materials," Clapper said. "The United States and its allies are monitoring Syria's chemical weapons stockpile through the inspection and destruction process."

Clapper said the U.S. intelligence community assesses that some elements of Syria's biological warfare program may have been developed past the research and development stage. He said Syria might be capable of limited biological agent production, based on the duration of its longstanding biological warfare program.

"To the best of our knowledge, Syria has not successfully weaponized biological agents in an effective delivery system, but it possesses conventional weapon systems that could be modified for biological-agent delivery," Clapper said.