U.S. granted licenses for Iraq gun, missile Software came from Baltimore firm

October 27, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration approved export licenses for computers and software that helped design Iraq's notorious "super gun" and a ballistic missile capable of reaching Israel and other Middle East countries, according to documents and congressional investigators.

The export license for the computers was granted in the fall of 1989 to a Baltimore company, Space Research Corp., controlled by artillery wizard Gerald Bull, who was assassinated six months later outside his apartment in Belgium.

Often called the world's greatest artillery designer, Mr. Bull had ties to U.S. intelligence and had served time in jail for violating U.S. export laws.

A prototype of the super gun designed by Mr. Bull for Iraq was discovered in the mountains north of Baghdad after the Persian Gulf war. United Nations inspectors said that the 360-foot-long howitzer had been tested and was capable of firing nuclear, chemical and biological warheads.

The Commerce Department's approval for export of technology used by Mr. Bull adds a new element to the campaign debate over whether U.S. export policies played a role in building up Iraq's military arsenal.

Critics have accused the administration of permitting Iraq to obtain sensitive U.S. equipment as part of its effort to influence the regime of Saddam Hussein.

After claiming for months that no U.S. material was used in Iraq's weapons program, President Bush acknowledged last week that some U.S. technology sold for commercial uses had been shifted illegally by Iraq to military programs.

Documents provided to the Los Angeles Times show for the first time that U.S. technology also played a role in designing the super gun and, according to sources, refining Iraq's long-range ballistic missile.

Mr. Bull's Baltimore company claimed in its application for a license to export the computers that they were destined for Iraq's state automotive factory.

But a separate license request for the software said that the computers would be used in Belgium for "analysis of designs for military and heavy construction vehicles, lorries, satellites, missiles."

Sources familiar with Mr. Bull's operations have told congressional investigators and the Los Angeles Times that the computers designed elements of the super gun and the ballistic missile.

Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, D-Texas, who has been investigating the administration's Iraq policy, is scheduled to describe details of the Bull episode today at a hearing of the Senate banking committee.

Brent Scowcroft, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, and former Commerce Secretary Robert A. Mosbacher have ignored invitations from the committee to appear as witnesses, according to a staff member of the panel.

Mr. Bull also sold $30 million worth of arms to South Africa, a violation of U.S. export laws that led to his imprisonment for six months in 1980.

A congressional report later concluded that Mr. Bull had met the South Africans through the CIA.

After his release, Mr. Bull moved Space Research Corp. to Brussels. He also opened an affiliate with the same name in Baltimore.

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