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The case of the CIA and butter clam toxin

“While much of America is viewing the Senate hearings on the activities of the Central Intelligence Agency with some dismay,” Yale Medicine  reported in its Fall 1975 issue, “J. Murdoch Ritchie, Ph.D., D.Sc., Eugene Higgins Professor of Pharmacology, is watching them with considerable concern.

“The object of Dr. Ritchie’s concern is a supply of the poison, saxitoxin, which the agency kept in violation of a Presidential order in 1969 to halt the development of biological and chemical weapons, and to destroy existing stockpiles. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Senator Frank Church, learned this summer that a middle-level official of the CIA had failed to destroy supplies of saxitoxin and cobra venom.“Saxitoxin, which is derived from tissues of butter clams and other shellfish, was developed by the CIA for various possible covert activities. In testimony that seems more likely from a James Bond novel than a Senate hearing, one source claimed that the agency considered using the...

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