The story behind the stories

This series is one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by The Christian Science Monitor. It represents a conviction by the editors that the world needs to know more about the threat posed by chemical and biological warfare. Monitor staff writer Gary Thatcher devoted most of the past year to the series. He was joined by Pentagon reporter Peter Grier and Bonn correspondent Timothy Aeppel.

Their research took them to three continents. They conducted dozens of interviews and examined scores of documents. They also commissioned a computerized search, using a private firm, of Pentagon contracts relating to chemical weapons.

Where possible, the people they interviewed have been identified by name, title, and affiliation. Numerous diplomats and intelligence analysts, however, agreed to talk only on condition that neither their names, titles, nor countries appear in print. Some said public disclosure could complicate their work; a few argued that it could jeopardize their lives.

As the investigation continued, world events underscored its timeliness. In August, Iraqi Kurds began fleeing to southern Turkey after the Iraqi government dropped poisonous gases on them. A Monitor reporter-photographer team was able to visit the refugee camps and hear first-hand accounts of the devastation.

In the course of the research, the Monitor obtained information from classified US government documents. The material is included in this report only when the Monitor determined that the substance of it had appeared elsewhere, or that disclosure would not reveal sources and methods used in US intelligence gathering.

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