The Man Who Made the Supergun
Air Date: February 12, 1991                    

ANNOUNCER: The 16‑inch guns of the battleship Wisconsin have been pounding Iraqi artillery positions for days now in preparation for the ground war. Allied forces have reason to fear Iraq's big guns. They are among Saddam Hussein's most lethal weapons. Used with deadly consequence in the Iran‑Iraq war, these Howitzers could shoot chemical and biological shells farther and more accurately than any field artillery in the U.S. arsenal. 

 REPORTER: What are those guns. Is that an accurate statement? Isn't that a superior capability he has? 

ANNOUNCER: It's a question the U.S. prefers not to answer.

Brigadier General RICHARD I. NEAL, U.S. Central Command: We have heard about those reports, but we can't confirm them. 

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the story of those weapons and the man who made them.
PETER UNTERWEGER, Managing Director, Armaments Subsidiary, Voest Alpine: He certainly was, as far as artillery equipment was concerned, an absolutely technical genius. 

ANNOUNCER: How did the U.S. support this man and what were his secret dealings with Saddam Hussein? And who killed the brilliant arms designer last March? Tonight on FRONTLINE, "The Man Who Made the Supergun."

NARRATOR: They'd been following him for months. They'd been monitoring his every move. Yet as he drove to his Brussels apartment on March 22nd, 1990, Dr. Gerald Vincent Bull had no idea that tonight he was the target of a hit squad.

DAVID HALEVY, Intelligence Analyst: It was definitely a complicated operation by a state intelligence organization and carried out by some 80 people, was outstretched for almost two years.

NARRATOR: For the last time, Gerald Bull rode the elevator to his apartment. In his lifetime, his guns and shells had been sold around the world. The weapons he'd designed were known for their deadly accuracy. Now, the knowledge he carried in his head had become too dangerous. His killers were waiting for him on the landing of the sixth floor. As he fumbled for his front door key, he was shot five times with a silenced automatic.

Mr. HALEVY: The execution of Gerry Bull was definitely not a lone assassination, but a state execution of an enemy of the state.

NARRATOR: He was buried in Montreal. He'd always inspired intense loyalty and the church was full. Charles Murphy was his lifelong collaborator.

Dr. CHARLES MURPHY, Ballistics Scientist, U.S. Army: Gerry Bull was a person who had a deep impact on a number of people around him. I could see the impact from his funeral, where there were 600 people there who came from all over the world, from all periods of his life, from the time he was a graduate student to the time he was in prison to the time he worked in Europe. 

PETER UNTERWEGER, Managing Director, Armaments Subsidiary, Voest Alpine: He had such an international standard in the artillery world, of course, that, well, you couldn't go anyplace without tripping over Gerry Bull's name somehow.

NARRATOR: Bull's death only added to his legend and to the mystery surrounding his latest and biggest project.

Mr. HALEVY: Within a week or two weeks after the execution of Bull, you have an avalanche. You have companies under investigation. You have the British customs and MI5 moving very quickly. You have material appearing in the U.K. You have the same thing all over Europe.

NARRATOR: British customs had seized eight crates. Inside them were eight huge steel tubes. The manufacturers claimed they were part of a petrochemical plant ordered by the government of Iraq. But British customs had been tipped off that they were part of a weapons system, one that had been forged and milled to the exacting specifications of the late Dr. Bull. Put them together and you have the world's biggest gun barrel, over three feet wide and over 100 yards. But artillery experts questioned how a gun made of sections could contain the explosive pressures needed to fire a projectile 1,000 miles or more. But in Britain's Imperial War Museum, there is a record of such a gun and there's one man who's actually seen it.

Major ROBERT TURP, former MI10 Officer: As soon as I saw the supergun, it reminded me of this thing.

NARRATOR: Major Robert Turp is a self‑described "gun‑runner," but in World War II he was a member of MI10, a British Army intelligence unit. Its task was to assess captured German war materiel. In 1945, in a bombed‑out munitions factory, he discovered the secret plans for a Nazi terror weapon, the V‑3. The V stood for vengeance. Made from sections, the V‑3 was 160 meters long. Turp also found parts of a prototype.

Maj. TURP: And it was in bits. It looked like a heap of plumbing. It was a set of tubes of 30‑millimeter caliber, each about two meters long, screwed into each other. We took two or three of these links out and bound them together and fired and the gun didn't blow up. I'm convinced that Bull's design was based on that original design.

NARRATOR: Turp wrote a technical appraisal of the V‑3. His report was added to the files of captured Nazi war secrets, filed and forgotten.

Maj. TURP: Somewhere in the War Office, there must be a report and I wouldn't be surprised if one of these reports isn't somewhere in the Pentagon. But remember, it was in 1946, '47.

NARRATOR: In 1946, Gerald Bull was only beginning his journey into the world of ballistics. At the age of 16, he had entered Toronto University as an undergraduate. Classmates remember him as high-spirited. He enrolled in the engineering faculty and studied aerodynamics.

INTERVIEWER: Did you like Gerry Bull?

Professor JULIUS LUCASIEWICZ, Research Scientist: Oh, yes, of course I liked him.

INTERVIEWER: Instantly, sort of--

Prof. LUCASIEWICZ: Well, I don't know that instantly, but I basically liked him. He was a busy and bright young man who did well and made sense.

NARRATOR: Bull did his post‑graduate work at the Institute of Aeronautics, where at the age of 22 he became the youngest Ph.D. in Canada. Here he once worked 'round the clock for three days building a wind tunnel able to generate speeds of 3,500 miles an hour. Bull wasn't the most brilliant student in his class. He was more of a hands‑on engineer than a theoretical scientist, but he did command attention and he had enormous tenacity.

Prof. LUCASIEWICZ: Of course, he was very stubborn, but I think stubborn people, provided they do things right, are very valuable because that's how something happens, in fact. It doesn't happen through 10 committees that dilute things and end up with possibly nothing.

NARRATOR: Previously classified film preserves an image of a brooding Dr. Bull. The Cold War had just begun and defense work provided a fast track for smart engineers. It is typical of the man that he was willing to get his hands dirty lifting the prototype of an air‑to-air missile onto its primitive launching sled.

Dr. MURPHY: He was a brilliant engineer. He was a doer. He wanted to build things. He wanted to do things other people couldn't do. He wanted to promise to do things that people said couldn't be done.

NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: The wraps are taken off secret Canadian defense research for the first time at Val Cartier near Quebec City. Here at the Canadian Armament Research and Development Establishment, a team of experts have been working since 1945 to create weapons that will blunt a possible attack by intercontinental ballistic missiles.

NARRATOR: Developing rocket systems for this early Star Wars system meant more work in wind tunnels. But testing models in hypersonic wind tunnels was time‑consuming and expensive. Bull had a brilliant alternative. Why not shoot them down the barrel of a gun? Adapting existing technology was the nature of Bull's genius.

Prof. LUCASIEWICZ: He did very smart things at Cartier in a very simple way. He developed original and effective and incredibly cheap way of measuring aerodynamic properties by observing the signature that a model left by being first shot from a gun. By using very simple device, paper screens, by observing the signature, measuring them up, you could determine the progress of the motion of the model. Well, from this you can determine its aerodynamic characteristics.

NARRATOR: On press day, Cartier's golden boy posed by his cannon. This newsreel, not seen since the day it was shot, captures Bull at the beginning of his lifelong fascination and ultimate obsession with guns and artillery technology. But his chances to test the limits of gun technology came soon after when he moved to Montreal to head McGill University's Project HARP.

Dr. MURPHY: The HARP program, it stands for a High‑Altitude Research Project and it was a proposal which came out of the studies that Gerry and I made as to what was the peak altitudes that various size guns could shoot to.

NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: The man behind the project is McGill's 34‑year‑old professor of engineering science, Dr. Gerry Bull, an intense, impatient genius who's been working for five years on a cut‑rate research program.

NARRATOR: Bull wanted to blast Canada into the space race by pioneering the use of big guns. In 1963, a U.S Navy landing craft beached in Barbados. The U.S. Army and the Canadian government were funding HARP. A 16‑inch cannon with a barrel 60 feet long was to be Bull's mammoth test tube.

REPORTER: I'm reporting to you from Barbados, where this week, McGill University entered the operational stage of its Project HARP--High Altitude Research Program. It's as unlikely a project that ever jointly involved a university, half a dozen Canadian companies and the United States Army.

NARRATOR: The U.S. Army presence was a sensitive issue at HARP, where Dr. Bull liked to stress the peaceful purpose of his projectiles.

REPORTER: These were tense minutes for Dr. Gerry Bull. Years of calculation, trials and errors, would soon be put to the test. Would the projectile behave as miniatures had in the laboratory? More than 60 cameras were on hand to record the shot. The cannon was elevated to 80 degrees, higher than any of its type had ever gone before. 
Cameramen were moved away from their site.

NARRATOR: As the countdown continued, Dr. Bull was the last to seek refuge in the HARP bunker. It was hard to avoid questions about the military's interest in the gun.

REPORTER: Well now, this gun was commissioned for peaceful research. How do you explain using the data for the military?

AMERICAN ARMY OFFICER: Well, I think that may be just a matter of semantics, really. It was commissioned for peaceful research, but all of the Army's research is necessarily headed toward the things the Army is interested in.

GERALD BULL: Well, that is a--that's rather a tough question. We felt that the Americans would be more interested in the technique because of their very diversified program and their known diversified approach to all problems. They'd be--we thought they'd be more receptive to coming out with something that was perhaps not as conventional.

NARRATOR: It was during HARP that Bull began searching the military archives for the secrets of Germany's master gun‑builders of World War I. They had produced a 420‑millimeter howitzer called Big Bertha. They had also designed giant coastal batteries and a long barreled gun with a range of 60 miles or more.

Dr. MURPHY: Gerry's concern was always what could you do bigger and better, what forefronts of engineering capabilities could he push. And during the HARP program, obviously, we had used all the guns that were available then. In the process of doing that, we got particularly interested in what's called the "Paris gun," developed and used in the spring of 1918.

NARRATOR: Built by Krupp, the Paris gun shelled the French capital from a range of 75 miles. It was the first city‑busting terror weapon, but the Germans destroyed it immediately after the armistice.

TERRY GANDER, Artillery Expert: It's one of the mysteries in the post‑World War I era, exactly what happened to all the ballistic data that was involved with the Paris gun. Gradually it has emerged that Bull himself had quite a hand in unearthing a lot of it and remodeling most of it using computers.

NARRATOR: Bull and his partner Charles Murphy actually wrote about the Paris gun. In their book, they calculated the gun's geometry and its internal ballistic behavior.

Mr. GANDER: It seems to be sort of a major sort of a guiding light throughout his commercial and scientific life.

NARRATOR: The most obvious lesson to be learned from the Paris gun was "think big." To achieve additional range, the German engineers had made a sectioned gun barrel. Bull did likewise, joining two 16‑inch Navy guns together. In 1966, Bull's launch team set the world altitude record for a gun‑fired projectile. Bull was aiming to enter the space race with his big gun.

Dr. MURPHY: Obviously, one difficulty of shooting from a gun is that you have very high accelerations, much higher than a rocket. A rocket might have acceleration of 30 or 40 G's. In the case of the 16-inch gun, the acceleration is, like, 20,000 G's. So with accelerations that size, you had to worry about designing your payload to withstand it. 

NARRATOR: Unless the problem could be solved, it would be impossible to shoot sensitive electronic packages into space. Simply increasing the amount of propellant would damage the payload and wear out the gun. But doubling the length would halve the acceleration because the payload would have twice as far to travel to achieve the same speed. A longer gun also needs less propellant to achieve the same range. 

Dr. MURPHY: And, the natural thing to do was to say, 'Well, we've got a 16‑inch gun. What would a 32 do, twice as big?" So we went through engineering calculations at that time and reported on it in unclassified reports about what would be the performance of such a size gun. .

NARRATOR: Bull's calculations included guns that were three, four and five feet wide. Larger calibers would reduce the G forces inside the barrel. This was essential if Bull was to achieve his dream of putting a gun‑launched satellite into space. Photographs from the time show the strain on Bull. To keep HARP going, he had to please both the Canadian government and the U.S. military.

Professor GEZA KARDOS, HARP Site Manager: If you want to continue on your research, you have to get your funding from where you can. And if the military are going to put in the funding, that's where you get it from.

Dr. MURPHY: The weapons application is, if you like, the standard use of guns. I think he was interested much more in the nonstandard, but of course, similar to von Braun, he had to work both sides of the technology to achieve his goals. 

Maj. TURP: What you put in the projectile was not Bull's concern, and I suspect this HARP project ties up with the gun. A gun that, after all, can put a projectile into orbit can certainly put one up and down on the ground somewhere.

Mr. GANDER: In fact, he was talking in terms of using one‑meter guns in on‑paper studies in about the mid‑1960s. He was talking about 6,600 kilometers ranges with no trouble at all.

NARRATOR: The Army saw space as the next battlefield, so Bull proposed a special shell to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles. With the Army calling the shots, he also wrote a report that's still secret. It dealt with the homing devices, ballistics and terminal guidance systems for a gun‑launched orbiting nuclear bomb. For the Canadian government, HARP was becoming too militarized. It withdrew its funding.

Mr. BULL: I would say the Canadian government in the first years of the 1960s lived up to everything I had expected. That is, we were--we couldn't be as big as the Americans or get involved in that stuff, but we could be the best in what we're doing, and that was important. It was when the idea of having the best of something dropped into being mediocrity and just doing nothing. That's the disheartening thing.

NARRATOR: In 1967, the big gun fired for the last time. The Pentagon had pulled out in favor of missiles. Bull lost his funding in the U.S. and Canada.

Prof. LUCASIEWICZ: I suspect that perhaps he just made too many enemies, because certainly he was not prepared to put up with nonsense and he cut the red tape in many places. I am quite sure of that.

Dr. MURPHY: He's famous for remarking maybe on one occasion, referring to some of the people in headquarters as "cocktail scientists." And this created a very difficult atmosphere in those who felt he was referring to them and I'm sure they remembered that for some time.

NARRATOR: Desperately disappointed, Dr. Bull returned to Quebec. Here he acquired an 8,000‑acre site that straddled the border between Canada and the U.S. He went into the arms business with a company called the Space Research Corporation. From the air, it was possible to make out a firing range and on it, a big gun just like the one on Barbados. There's no doubt where Bull's heart lay, but for the moment his long‑range dreams had it be put on hold. He had some contracts with the U.S. Defense Department, but he needed new customers and what they wanted were smaller conventional weapons. Once again Bull showed his genius for making new technology from old. Bull's corporation produced a package for third‑world armies to modify and upgrade old gun systems and he began to rethink conventional artillery assumptions from barrel to breech. The result was his own extraordinary invention, the Gun Canada 45, the prototype for a new 155‑millimeter Howitzer. Later versions bore Dr. Bull's signature, the longer barrel, which to this day can outshoot anything in the armories of NATO or the Warsaw Pact. Artillery specialists came, saw and were impressed. 

CHRISTOPHER FOSS, Jane's Armour and Artillery: I met him once when I was in Canada in the late 1970s when we were taken over there just to see the GC‑45 that was demonstrated coming into action and firing a number of rounds. Basically, he developed a 45-caliber barrel that enabled you to fire a 155 projectile to a range of 40 kilometers, almost double the range of existing artillery at that time, and to do it with accuracy, because that is what counts.

NARRATOR: Bull's work on ballistics was considered so valuable that in 1973, by a special act of Congress, he was made a U.S. citizen. He had developed a brand new shell. Bull's extended‑range, full‑bore, 155‑millimeter shell had base bleed at the bottom end. This released burning gases and reduced drag, giving it a range of 24 miles, 6 miles more than the standard NATO shell. Tests also showed it had twice the terminal lethality of its NATO counterpart.

The shell should have been a winner, but perhaps because Bull was still the outsider and not part of the Pentagon old‑boy network, the U.S. Army didn't buy it. But Bull had gone into production. He desperately needed a large order. Then he found a customer, but with catastrophic results. His legal troubles began in 1977. This ship, the Tugelaland, was carrying a cargo of space research shells and gun assemblies. It was a voyage which violated a U.N. arms embargo and broke the laws of Canada and the United States because the Tugelaland was bound for South Africa. South Africa's army needed Bull's shells for its war against the Marxists in Angola. Washington had tilted toward the South Africans in the war and supplying Bull's shells to them would serve that policy. The CIA promised to help. For them, it would be a deniable operation.

JOHN STOCKWELL, former CIA Agent: The way it would be handled would be that South Africa would be told where these rounds were available, these 155 rounds, and that they could contact and make the arrangements themselves.

NARRATOR: The case officer was a Major Clancey.

Mr. STOCKWELL: Clancey would definitely have been following orders. He would have been working with Africa division chief on this.

NARRATOR: Major John Clancey III was the CIA paramilitary officer given the job of finding shells for the South Africans. Through a CIA arms dealer, he was put in touch with Bull's Space Research Corporation.

Mr. STOCKWELL: He told me himself that he was looking for some 155 rounds and that he had found some.

NARRATOR: He had found them in Belgium. Here Bull had opened an office to market his shells. The man who had helped him set it up was an American arms dealers called Jack Frost.

JACK FROST, Arms Dealer: I told him that if they had no artillery capability that the acquisition of Space Research Technology was rather useful.

NARRATOR: Shortly after that conversation, a party of South Africans flew to the United States to meet Dr. Bull, but they hadn't told Frost about their visit.

Mr. FROST: I heard of the visit to SRC by a friend of mine who described it this way: "There's a load of money to be made. The South Africans are in here doing all kind of business." 

NARRATOR: The visit to Space Research infuriated Frost, who feared he was about to be cut out of his 10 percent commission by Dr. Bull.

Mr. FROST: I immediately called SRC, Dr. Bull, and he admitted he had a visit. And at that point, I said, "Well, you can't continue this because it's illegal and you'd better stop immediately." His response was, "Well, Jack, we don't think we'll do anything because it looks as if it's too chancy."

NARRATOR: To make doubly sure he wasn't being double‑crossed Frost informed the United States Office of Munitions Control that Bull and the South Africans were discussing breaking the arms embargo, but it made no difference. Within weeks, Bull ordered 60 cannon barrels and 50,000 semi‑finished shells from a U.S. Army munitions plant. Apparently someone in Washington was pulling strings and cutting red tape. Approval that could have taken months was granted in just four days.

Mr. STOCKWELL: Four days is impressive. They gave it a top priority. They concentrated on it and pushed it through. It wasn't put on a back burner. It wasn't committeed out.

NARRATOR: Altogether Bull smuggled 50,000 shells worth $30 million. He had done so with the apparent knowledge of the U.S. government, but he was transferring more than shells. He was passing on technology that would in time enable the South Africans to make their own sophisticated artillery. But Bull's activities were now being investigated in four countries. He was also beginning to feel the heat from the media. Naively, perhaps, he agreed to be interviewed by a British reporter about some shells that were supposed to have been shipped to Spain.

REPORTER: But you're sure they're in Spain?

Dr. BULL: I know that--well, I--yeah, some of our people said they've talked to them and seen them in Spain and--

REPORTER: According to what we've been told, they were reexported out of Spain on a ship called the Breezand and it gave its destination as Canada. Only guess what?

Dr. BULL: Where did it go?

REPORTER: South Africa.

Dr. BULL: South Africa?

Dr. BULL: We--I--I haven't got a--we'll certainly check it.

NARRATOR: Now back home in the U.S., Bull was also being investigated by special agent Larry Curtis of the U.S. Customs Service. He was surprised to find evidence leading to the U.S. government.

LAWRENCE CURTIS, former U.S. Customs Special Agent: Well, during the course of the investigation, I went to the CIA in Washington. The door was shut on me. I was not allowed to make direct contact.

NARRATOR: He also found the letter from the arms dealer Jack Frost to the Office of Munitions Control.

Mr. CURTIS: He had information which he had supplied to the Department of State prior to our investigation. Nothing, to my knowledge, was followed up on of his original information.

NARRATOR: But the evidence against Bull was mounting. Behind the smiles, his life was falling apart. His companies were going bankrupt. Even though one part of the U.S. government had seemed to encourage his dealings with South Africa, another was now bringing criminal charges against him.

Mr. CURTIS: We were talking about indicting 15 individuals, I believe, three countries and five corporations.

NARRATOR: But then, the weekend before the trial, Bull and his partner, Rogers Gregory, went into a huddle with the U.S. attorneys. A deal was being struck.

Mr. CURTIS: When I was advised the following Monday that Bull and Gregory were the only ones being indicted, I was totally surprised, very disappointed and bewildered as to the results.

NARRATOR: The next day Bull pled guilty. The effect was that evidence of government cover‑up and CIA collusion in Bull's South Africa deal was never heard in open court.

Mr. CURTIS: I was told that the reason we never went any further was because there had been a phone call from the White House. I took that to mean there had been a phone call from the White House to main Justice stating "Don't go any further with the investigation."

NARRATOR: Whatever happened behind the scenes, Bull was left to fend for himself.

Dr. MURPHY: At the time he did plead, he did not think that he would go to jail. He thought it would be a fine. He was very upset by his jail term and it colored his life emotionally. He felt rejected by Canada and by the U.S. during that period of his life.

NARRATOR: To the end of his days, Bull was obsessed with what he saw as the injustice of his four‑month jail term.

Mr. CURTIS: I would say he was not a happy camper. He was very embittered against the United States government and the government of Canada. He made statements to different newspapers that he would never set foot in North America again.

NARRATOR: After his release, Bull took a Caribbean vacation. He rested up, took stock and gave vent to his feelings to Canadian television.

REPORTER: The only way Dr. Bull can get even is to sell his brains now to a foreign country. He says he's turned his back on Canada for good.

Mr. BULL: I feel more than betrayed. I feel that all of the memories and all the traditions and everything that I thought the country stood for has been betrayed. If they think they've degraded me, they haven't. If they think they've broken my spirit, they haven't. What I did and what I built, to see it cheapened, to see people trying to degrade me personally as a common criminal--for what?
NARRATOR: Bull moved to Brussels, to the international center of the arms business. Word of his arrival reached men like Sarkis Soghanalian, the Miami‑based arms dealer.

SARKIS SOGHANALIAN, Arms Dealer: I had a friend in Paris, he said that Gerry Bull is out of jail. This was in 1981, now. And he's not living anymore in Canada or in the United States. He's living in Belgium, in Brussels. I said, 'When you see him, say 'hello."'

Maj. TURP: Everybody in the arms business fetches up in Brussels. In the same way as they say all roads lead to Rome, all guns point from Brussels.

NARRATOR: 1981 was a good year to be in the arms business. Iran and Iraq were fighting a protracted war. In Iraq, they called it "Saddam's war." Despite the bravado, Saddam's war was not going well. Saddam needed better artillery than his outdated 130-millimeter Soviet guns. Remembering Bull's ability to upgrade old guns, Sarkis Soghanalian spotted a business opportunity.

Mr. SOGHANALIAN: I brought this to Gerry's attention and he said, "Yes, let's see what we can do." They tore the gun apart. Time went by, six months, seven months. I never get anything from Gerry except paying him money. At that time, I find out that Gerry is flirting with Chinese to build a gun over in China and sell it to us.

INTERVIEWER: So he's playing all sides of--

Mr. SOGHANALIAN: He plays, you know, two ends against the middle. You know, you can never get anywhere with this guy. And which I said, "Gerry, you go your way and I'll go my way."

NARRATOR: Despite U.S. restrictions on the transfer of military know‑how to China, Bull, still an American citizen, had been dealing with Beijing for years. But Washington was tilting toward China and in Bull's case, the law was not being rigorously enforced.
Mr. FOSS: Basically, the Chinese had a large number of old systems of Soviet design. They really wanted to have systems with a longer range and that's where Dr. Bull came in with his 155 45‑caliber systems.

NARRATOR: It was the South Africa story all over again. Bull signed a three‑and‑a‑half‑year contract to engineer and train the Chinese to manufacture their own 155 Howitzers. He did so without a license from the U.S. government to transfer technology. Bull's dealings with China came to light one evening in 1984 when one of his close associates, Dennis Lyster, was stopped at the Canadian border by U.S. Customs.

Mr. CURTIS: Late in the evening of March 23rd, I was notified that Lyster was at the port of North Troy, Vermont, and that he was carrying a metal suitcase and that the suitcase had been examined and it contained a great deal of documents.

NARRATOR: Dennis Lyster was carrying computer disks, blueprints and a contract with China.

Mr. CURTIS: As I recall, there were 10 individual contracts and, in fact, the contracts were initialed with the initials G.V.B., which I recognized as the initials of Dr. Bull. The contracts had an estimated value of approximately $25 million.

NARRATOR: Curtis had a strong case against Gerald Bull, but in 1984 relations between Washington and Beijing were close. Curtis was shut out once again.

Mr. CURTIS: There were some classified documents, they never were declassified. I never got any action on this and I followed up on it two or three or four times, attempting to get these documents declassified so that I could present it then to the U.S. attorney, grand jury, whatever was needed.

NARRATOR: But by now Bull had another deal in the works, this time in the Austrian city of Linz. Adolph Hitler used to paint watercolors in Linz. He built a munitions factory here and named it for Hermann Goering. Today it's a steelworks called Voest Alpine, which in the early '80s was interested in Bull's guns.

PETER UNTERWEGER, Managing Director, Armaments Subsidiary, Voest Alpine: Dr. Gerald Bull, he was a very outspoken man. He was an interesting character. He emptied a bottle of whiskey so fast, you couldn't compete with him. On the other hand, he certainly was, as far as artillery equipment was concerned, an absolute technical genius.

NARRATOR: Voest Alpine bought a license to manufacture Bull's GC‑45 cannon. It may have been the best gun in the world, but it was expensive to develop and build. They lost millions.

Mr. SOGHANALIAN: Gerry Bull apparently didn't treat them right when he was selling the technology. Gerry never deals you something complete, you know? If he gives you a cup, either the handle is missing or the edge is not straight round. That's what Gerry was.

NARRATOR: But in the end the Austrians smoothed out the bumps in the system. Iran and Iraq soon were customers. The United States had banned arms sales to both countries, which were then at war. But Washington favored Iraq and had reason to look the other way on transactions there. And Saddam Hussein was sold on the Austrians' Towed Howitzer.

Mr. UNTERWEGER: The Austrian minister of the interior had a discussion with Saddam Hussein and, well, Saddam said, to make it short, "Well, where are our guns?" and "Can't you speed up delivery? We require them urgently."

NARRATOR: By now, Saddam's war had bogged down into bloody trench warfare. This is where artillery is king of the battlefield. Saddam Hussein ordered 200 of the Austrian guns and used them to great effect. Bull's reputation with the Iraqis was so high that by the late '80s, his draftsmen were busy at their drawing boards, designing two brand‑new guns for Saddam Hussein.

Mr. FOSS: They had Towed artillery, which does have some battlefield limitations, so he developed two new self‑propelled artillery systems, the 155 and a 210‑millimeter. And both of those were shown for the first time in Baghdad last year. The 210 is the longest-range self‑propelled artillery system in the world. It goes out to 57,000 meters, so that is unique.
NARRATOR: But it also bears a striking resemblance to a self-propelled gun called the G‑6. Based on Bull's designs and made in South Africa, it too has been sold to Iraq. The South Africans have also sold 200 of these to Iraq. It's the G‑5, a direct copy of Bull's own GC‑45.

Rep. HOWARD WOLPE, Chairman, Foreign Affairs Subcommittee: We have clear evidence that American technology has been illegally exported to South Africa. From there it has been reexported to terrorist nations, to Iran, to Iraq.

NARRATOR: Congressman Howard Wolpe's House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee investigated Gerald Bull's dealings with South Africa and the U.S. government's involvement.

Rep. WOLPE: The bottom line here is that because we have been so lax in our enforcement of American laws, we are now finding American‑made technology in the hands of the Iraqi forces that are pointing their cannon at American soldiers. That's outrageous.

NARRATOR: Bull's guns can fire high‑explosive, chemical, biological and possibly nuclear shells. They fire farther and are more accurate than allied guns. Saddam Hussein has bought 200 from Austria and 200 from South Africa. Bull's Howitzers are now in the front line of the Gulf war. But to Gerald Bull this was simply a means to an end. Although the big gun was abandoned on his Canadian testing range, he had not forgotten about it. To revive the project was his pet ambition. All he lacked was the money. And when he drank he talked of superguns.

Mr. UNTERWEGER: The more whiskey he drank, the more he started talking about the idea of producing a supergun. You see, the more whiskey he and my colleagues drank, the farther the gun shooted. But, in the end, it was about 1,000 kilometers. But they also said technically, technically speaking and theoretically speaking, he could even produce a gun which shoots 2,000 or 3,000 or whatever kilometers. But this was a time when I normally went to bed.

NARRATOR: Gerald Bull had his own bedtime reading. He was going back to World War II, back to the V‑3 terror weapon and everything he could find out about it. In the process he unearthed Major Turp's long‑lost report.

Maj. TURP: Quite by accident, I found him staying in the same hotel that I always used when I went to Brussels, and naturally we used to meet occasionally in the evenings coming down the lift and we'd sit and talk and scribble on bits of paper and we would discuss various features of guns, long‑range guns, because I knew by that time that Bull was only interested in long‑range guns. He said, "Of course, you knew the German gun." Well, I did know the German gun--not all that well, but I think I'm probably the only one that ever fired the thing.

NARRATOR: Early in 1944, the Germans built the full‑size version of Turp's gun at Pas‑de‑Calais, 95 miles from London. Thinking it was something else, the R.A.F. fortuitously bombed it. When Allied troops finally overran the site, they found the gun in ruins. To be on the safe side British troops blew it up again, but not before a war artist had produced this impression. It showed that the Germans had sectioned the gun barrel to control the internal pressure.

Maj. TURP: In an ordinary gun, what in fact you're doing, you're hitting the projectile with a hammer, a very heavy hammer, to send it out, rather like you hit a golf ball with one bang. Under this system, you would rather push it at a gathering momentum. That's so your pressure will be kept up behind the shell for its full length of barrel travel.

NARRATOR: Bull's fascination with superguns would finally bring him back to the United States. In 1985, the Defense Department wanted to hear his ideas about a big gun.

FRED QUELLE, Government Defense Physicist: Gerald Bull was an essential ingredient to any program such as this and in my opinion, if an activity like this were going on, wild horses would not keep Gerald Bull from being in the middle of it. This was his pride and Joy.
NARRATOR: Gerry Bull came to Washington armed with volumes of data about the application of his gun. Fred Quelle, who was there, still has the visual aids with which Bull illustrated his talk.

Mr. QUELLE: What he did was to first summarize the whole history of gun development, including the Paris gun, the Big Berthas, Doras and so on that the Germans built and then he went in detail through the HARP program.

NARRATOR: During the HARP project, Bull had always stressed the peaceful nature of his research, but what he was now proposing was an intercontinental cannon. The applications he was illustrating were strictly military.

Mr. QUELLE: Gerry outlined how you get ranges that could go all the way out to 6,000 miles.

NARRATOR: And then Bull unveiled his masterwork, the plans for a supergun that he'd been refining for 20 years, sectioned like the Paris gun and with the low internal pressure of the V‑3, a gun which he described as industrially feasible and costing a mere $10 million. But once again his hopes were dashed. The Pentagon passed on the project.

Mr. QUELLE: Well, let's put it this way. If one's ideas and capabilities are not appreciated at one location, it is only natural to see if you can find another customer. And, as near as we can ascertain, Gerry did find a ready and willing customer in Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

NARRATOR: The best evidence suggests that Bull was in Baghdad in 1988 and that that was the year Saddam Hussein gave the go-ahead for the supergun project. A cheap, simple strategic weapon, its attractions for Saddam Hussein were obvious to Israeli military men. 

General AVRAHAM BAR‑DAVID, former Chief, Israeli Artillery: They don't have air superiority. They don't have the know‑how in final guidance and therefore the last solution that they can have, it's the supergun.

Mr. GANDER: Taking the case of Iraq, you would only need two guns, possibly, one facing East while one's facing West and you can command most of the Middle East.

NARRATOR: For Saddam Hussein, the supergun could do everything his missiles and Scuds could do, raining high explosives onto enemy cities. Unlike Scuds, the shells from a supergun could not be shot down by Patriot missiles and they would need no complicated electronic guidance systems.

Mr. GANDER: We're not talking about pinpoint accuracy. We're talking about accuracy of hitting a city. In Tel Aviv, taking the prime target, everything is compressed into a relatively small area and it's a relatively small target and it could be neutralized relatively quickly.

Maj. TURP: It would be literally the famous bullet that fires in the air. In this case, it wouldn't be "Where it lands I know not where." You would know exactly where it was going to land.

NARRATOR: Building a supergun was a cloak‑and‑dagger operation. To conceal his true purpose, Bull subcontracted different sections of the supergun to different factories. Word got around that he was looking for people with the right skills.

Maj. TURP: He asked me to find two highly qualified workshop engineers, that is to say men that were used to producing heavy, large‑caliber barrels. I believe he was offering these men something like $30,000 or $40,000 a month.

NARRATOR: The huge tubes that made up the barrel were engineered in England. The trunnions, or supports for the barrel, were found in Greece. Pipes, pumps and valves from Switzerland made up the recoil system. Seventy‑five tons of steel parts forged in Italy formed parts of the breech. Altogether, companies in eight countries were involved.

Maj. TURP: Now, Dr. Bull spoke to me about powder and he was obviously very interested in the types of powder used. In a gun like this, you will want a comparatively slow burning powder.

NARRATOR: Bull's powder was made at a factory in north Belgium. The workers were paid extra money, and the work was done in great secrecy. But then the factory's parent company went broke and was taken over by a British company headed by Dr. John Pike. When Pike entered the headquarters of his new acquisition, he found a highly suspicious contract in the company's files.

Dr. JOHN PIKE, Astra Defense Systems: It was a contract for the supply of two types of a particular gun propellant. The gun propellant was not in itself unusual. It was the sort of propellant that can be used for a number of different systems. However, what was unusual was the actual physical size of the pieces of propellant that were to be supplied.

NARRATOR: Pike also came across a memo written to Dr. Bull by his associate Dennis Lyster. In it, Lyster detailed the test results for two kinds of propellant. The Belgian factory had been making propellant for two systems--one 350‑millimeter prototype and a huge 1,000‑millimeter gun. That's a 39‑inch diameter.

Dr. PIKE: The story is that the System 350 propellant was intended to be used as the propellant for this experimental gun. Once the experimental gun was working, then the 1,000‑millimeter system gun could be finally designed. Its propellant could be finally designed.

NARRATOR: The tubes seized in England came in two sizes--350-millimeter and 1,000‑millimeter. Reportedly the 350 had been tested in 1989. Later that year, a firm order was placed for the 1,000-millimeter propellant. By the end of 1989, the plot to build the supergun had been penetrated, and now Dr. Bull himself had become a target of Israeli intelligence.

Gen. BAR‑DAVID: Carrying all his own known knowledge with him and not cooperating with too many people definitely was a key strategic point that if you take it--take him out, you are losing control of the entire system.

Dr. MURPHY: In a sense, he had no governmental protectors. His government of his birth had rejected him and the government whose passport he carried had imprisoned him. He was, in a sense, vulnerable, from a standpoint of being a person who would not have a lot of people concerned if he was killed.

NARRATOR: Bull apparently knew his life was in danger. He told friends about threats from Israeli intelligence, Mossad. An Israeli journalist who specializes in intelligence matters, David Halevy, investigated Bull's death for FRONTLINE. His account is based on briefings from a senior officer in Israel's ministry of defense, a top Mossad official and conversations with two field agents.

Mr. HALEVY: Another warning was offered to Bull. A guy saying, "Sir, if you carry on, we will have to take harsh action against you, against your companies and against the people involved with you." Basically he walked away from the meeting. I mean, he said "I don't want to listen. I've heard enough." With Bull, it was a lost case. His fate was sealed. Two teams of assassins arrived in Brussels.

NARRATOR: One team waited at his apartment building while another was outside the office as Bull was picked up to be driven home. Only days before, his prototype gun had been tested in Iraq. It seemed Bull's life‑long ambition to build a supergun was about to be fulfilled.

Mr. HALEVY: And the moment he leaves the office, they click on the closed‑circuit network, indicating that he left the office and that they are following him.

NARRATOR: Bull was apparently oblivious to the danger he was in. 

Mr. HALEVY: The moment he entered the apartment building, two clicks. And while he is going up to the sixth floor, the team that was in the apartment building waiting in ambush is rushing to the sixth floor, through the emergency staircase, not using the elevator. Gerry Bull and the team appeared together at the entrance to his apartment. One guy opens fire, five shots. You don't hear any noise. The only thing you would hear is a "Phut! Phut!" kind of noise and they are gone.

NARRATOR: According to Halevy's sources, the hit team was driven to the train station in Brussels and took the first train out of town to Germany. It had taken five bullets to end the plot to build the supergun, but Bull's legacy remains in the Gulf. At least 500 of his advanced 155‑millimeter Howitzers, the best ever built, stand ready to be used by Saddam Hussein against allied troops. And the supergun--will its design, like the great guns of World Wars I and II, be rediscovered, to be built by another Gerald Bull?

ANNOUNCER: Next time on FRONTLINE; while the world is mesmerized by the Gulf war, why did Gorbachev engineer a military crackdown in the Soviet Union? Correspondent Hedrick Smith explores the role of the Soviet military in the undermining of U.S.-Soviet relations and the use of force in the Baltics. Next time on FRONTLINE, "Guns, Tanks and Gorbachev."

Copyright 1991 WGBH Educational Foundation

Written, Produced and Directed by WILLIAM CRAN
Associate Producer: BEN LOETERMAN
Canadian Research: KIT MELAMED
Narrator: WILL LYMAN
Additional Sound: RICHARD BOCK
Production assistant: ELIZABETH DOBSON
Special thanks:
Imperial War Museum, London
National Archives, Ottawa,
Kryn Taconis Collection
National Film Board of Canada
Professor Geza Kardos
Royal Engineers Library
University of Toronto Archives

Post Production Producer: ROBIN PARMELEE
Production Manager: HESH SHOREY
Off‑Line Editor: TEJA ARBOLEDA
Production Coordinator: COLLEEN WILSON
Production Assistant: ELIZABETH CARVER
Closed Captioning: THE CAPTION CENTER
Director of Promotion: JIM BRACCIALE
Promotion Coordinator: KAREN O. JACOBSEN
Promotion Assistant: STEPHANIE MURPHY
Director of Administration: KAI FUJITA
Executive Editor: LOUIS WILEY JR.
Executive Producer: DAVID FANNING

[Information contained in BKNT E-mail is considered Attorney-Client and Attorney Work Product privileged, copyrighted and confidential. Views that may be expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of any government, agency, or news organization.]

                         THE ARMING OF SAUDI ARABIA

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And as the Producer of the below FRONTLINE, Rory O'Connor reminded us just recently, the documentary first aired in February 1992, and one should best read the last three prargraphs of the below transcript first, in light of today's date. Uncanny:
                                     From: roc@globalvision
To: Scott Malone
Subject: RE: BKNT--BlackVAULT--The Arming of Saudi Arabia--OS

Note especially how this 1992 film ended...


NARRATOR: America's first oil war was a success, in large part due to the strength of the U.S.-Saudi relationship and the network of military bases bought with Saudi petrodollars. But this special relationship may be more fragile than it appeared during Desert Storm. During the war the presence of a half million American men and women inside Saudi Arabia exposed strains within Saudi society, tension between pro-Western moderates like King Fahd and fundamentalist Muslims who dislike the West. An Islamic fundamentalist backlash against the United States, similar to that which toppled the Shah of Iran in 1979, would be a nightmare for U.S. policy makers.

Mr. CRAPELS: If Saudi Arabia changed governments today, we couldn't afford it. The Saudi monarchy is the devil we know and we definitely want to keep the people we know in power in Saudi Arabia.

Mr. EBBINGER: I guarantee you there's a reason we have those bases in Saudi Arabia. We saw one use for them in the war with Kuwait and Iraq, but they're also there to ensure an active ability of the United States and allied forces to defend those oil fields, and that's not only from external aggression against the kingdom.

The Arming of Saudi Arabia
Transcript of FRONTLINE Show #1112
Air Date: February 16, 1993
[Posted 8 November 2001]
ANNOUNCER: In December, on the way to Somalia, George Bush stopped to visit an old friend, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, to say good-bye and to stress the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. The significance of this relationship was underscored just a few weeks later when U.S. fighter jets flying out of Saudi bases led some of January's bombing raids inside Iraq. Next week the new administration will extend its hand to the king when President Clinton's secretary of state, Warren Christopher, travels to Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

Tonight on FRONTLINE, the hidden history of the U.S.-Saudi special relationship.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: We need their oil and they, at the same time, are almost completely dependent on us for their security.

ANNOUNCER: FRONTLINE investigates the 10-year plan that transformed the desert kingdom into a desert fortress.

SCOTT ARMSTRONG: A $200 billion program that's basically put together and nobody's paying attention to it. It's-- it's the ultimate government off the books.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE, ``The Arming of Saudi Arabia.''

NARRATOR: On August 2nd, 1990, Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. Saddam Hussein's soldiers now threatened the vast oil fields of Saudi Arabia. Four days after the invasion, United States Defense Secretary Dick Cheney arrived in Jidda, Saudi Arabia.

DICK CHENEY: The main purpose for my trip was to try to persuade the king to agree to receive U.S. troops in the kingdom. We simply had to have access to Saudi Arabia. Unless we could get access for our forces to Saudi Arabia, there was very little we could do about Saddam Hussein and Kuwait.

NARRATOR: Cheney was taken to the summer palace to meet King Fahd. There he would argue that the time had finally come to activate a plan long in the making. He had only to overcome some last-minute resistance.

Secy. CHENEY: At one point, the crown prince said that there still was a Kuwait. They needed to go slow and be cautious and prudent here, not rush into anything, to which the king allegedly responded that, ``Well, there might still be a Kuwait, but all of the Kuwaitis were living in our'' -- i.e., Saudi -- ``hotel rooms'' and unless they acted decisively, there was a danger to Saudi Arabia itself.

NARRATOR: The king did act decisively, agreeing on the spot to receive hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers on Saudi soil. The largest and fastest mobilization of military equipment and troops in history had begun.

America's ability to respond so quickly and massively to Saddam Hussein's threat impressed the world, but as Secretary Cheney and the king were well aware, the operation didn't happen overnight. It was the result of a special military and economic relationship with Saudi Arabia that is far deeper and more extensive than most Americans know.

Tonight we'll reveal how Saudi Arabia became one of the most heavily armed countries in the world, how years before Desert Storm billion-dollar state-of-the-art military bases were already in place, built to U.S. military specifications, ready and waiting for the arrival of American soldiers. We'll also show you how, at the same time, the Saudis were actively aiding their eventual enemy, Iraq, in a massive arms build-up. 

And we'll explore evidence that Saudi Arabia may have aided Iraq in its attempt to develop a nuclear bomb. This is the story of the U.S.-Saudi special relationship, a relationship so secret and sensitive that Saudi government officials refused to be interviewed or to allow our cameras into their country.

The story of the Saudi military build-up begins more than a decade ago, during the last days of the Shah of Iran.

President JIMMY CARTER: This is a great tribute to you, Your Majesty, and to your leadership and to the respect and the admiration and love which your people give to you.

NARRATOR: The Shah's overthrow took American policy-makers by surprise. When the Shah's enormous arsenal of U.S.-made weapons fell into the hands of Iran's Islamic fundamentalists, Washington was shaken.

WILLIAM QUANT [sp?]: There was real anxiety that this was the beginning of a wave that would sweep across the Gulf and that Saudi Arabia might be next, or at least would be in line.

NARRATOR: William Quant served on the National Security Council at the time.

Mr. QUANT: It was bad enough to have Iran in turmoil, and with the uncertainty there, but if it had spread further, it would have really been a disaster.

Secondly, there was a real concern about building some kind of a security structure in and around the peninsula to make sure that the Iranian revolutionary contagion didn't spread. And that was difficult because the Saudis were uneasy with the idea of American troops on their territory. They really weren't prepared for it. But they wanted us nearby.

NARRATOR: Zbigniew Brzezinski was National Security Adviser to President Carter. Brzezinski called for a massive military build-up in the Gulf region centered inside Saudi Arabia.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: We therefore developed the proposal for the rapid deployment force and for arrangements for the pre-positioning of some facilities, equipment and logistical facilities in the area. We didn't ask for bases, but we asked for access which, in effect, operationally, wasn't all that different.

NARRATOR: Saudi Arabia was a logical choice to replace Iran. Located just across the Persian Gulf, its small ruling elite wanted weapons to protect its oil resources. The oil-dependent United States was naturally eager to help.

Mr. BRZEZINSKI: We need their oil and therefore we have to make sure that they are friendly and therefore we are engaged in protecting their security. They, at the same time, are almost completely dependent on us for their security in a region in which they're very vulnerable and very rich. So there is a kind of a curious, though asymmetrical, interdependence here.

NARRATOR: The decision to sell expensive weaponry to Saudi Arabia coincided with an explosion in Saudi oil income following dramatic price hikes in the 1970s. By 1981 Saudi annual oil revenues reached $116 billion, part of history's largest transfer of wealth ever.

The Saudi monetary agency had the daunting task of investing $16 million in oil revenue every hour, nearly $400 million a day. Many of the petrodollars flowed to American construction and engineering firms such as Bechtel, which cashed in on Saudi Arabia's rapid modernization.

Mr. QUANT: The petrodollar explosion of the '70s, and then again in the early '80s, had a tremendous impact on the physical aspect of the country. All of the big infrastructural developments that one now associates with Saudi Arabia -- the fancy hotels, the enormous airports, the fantastic road system -- none of that existed 30 years ago. All of the infrastructure was radically rebuilt. It has physically transformed the landscape. Likewise, all the telecommunications, anything you can think of, has been done.

NARRATOR: But the most important purchases for the Saudis were military.

STEVEN EMERSON: Probably the most sophisticated equipment in the U.S. arsenal is now in the hands of the Saudi government, with very little controls imposed by the United States. And, in fact, Saudi Arabia ultimately became the largest beneficiary of U.S. weapons sales in the entire world.

NARRATOR: Steven Emerson chronicled the Saudi-American relations in his book, The American House of Saud.

Mr. EMERSON: Through 1985, Saudi Arabia had received more than $70 billion worth of military equipment and construction and items, far exceeding any other country by magnitudes of 500 600 or 700 percent.

NARRATOR: The key request came in 1979 when the Saudis asked for AWACS, the most advanced airborne radar system in the world. Few people knew at the time that these planes would be the linchpin to an enormous Saudi defense build-up.

TOM BROKAW, NBC News: AWACS, that ugly-duckling airplane with the funny name, is the number one topic in Washington this morning as Congress opens hearings on--

NARRATOR: Jimmy Carter had proposed selling the Saudis five AWACS planes, but lost a bid for re-election before he could act.

President RONALD REAGAN: I, Ronald Reagan, do solemnly swear--

NARRATOR: Ronald Reagan's staunch support for the AWACS sale was surprising.

Mr. QUANT: Reagan came into office with the reputation of being very pro-Israeli and really quite skeptical about all of the Arabs. The only things he had said before coming to office had tended to denigrate the importance of relations with any Arab country, and yet one of his first decisions was to go ahead with the sale of these five AWACS aircraft, with all the associated technology and infrastructure that went with them. A very big package-- $8.5 billion was involved, which, of course, was one of the reasons he probably said yes. It was good business.

PROTESTER: Has not this administration learned the lesson of Iran?

Mr. EMERSON: The 1981 AWACS debate was essentially a face-off between two very powerful constituencies-- one, the domestic American Jewish community, which was fearful that the AWACS would fall against-- in enemy hands against Israel, and the American corporate community, which was lobbying essentially at the demand and control and direction of the Saudi government.

American corporations, with over $500 billion in contracts with Saudi Arabia, were told in no uncertain terms that unless they lobbied their Congressmen and Senators, they would not received renewals of their contracts.

NARRATOR: The Pentagon's point man for the AWACS sale was Air Force General Richard Secord.

General RICHARD SECORD (U.S. Air Force, Ret.): The supporters of Israel literally were up in arms over this and they were fighting this every step of the way and so it became a classical political wrangle.

NARRATOR: The AWACS wrangle made good copy and The Washington Post assigned one of its best reporters to the story. Scott Armstrong was puzzled by the huge AWACS price tag.

SCOTT ARMSTRONG: So I went to the Pentagon and I said, ``What does an AWACS plane cost now? It used to cost $100 million.'' And they said, ``Oh, it's about $110 million now. It's gone up.'' And I said, ``Ah, that's it. Five times $110 million must be $5.5 billion.'' I said, ``Wait a minute. There's a decimal point missing here.'' And I started asking people and they had no explanation. They said, ``Well, there's some training and some spares and there's a little this, a little that.'' 

So I went up to Capitol Hill and I talked to John Glenn, the Senator who was in charge of opposing the sale, who was very pro-Israel. And I went through this with Glenn and I said, you know, ``Five times $110 is $550 million, not $5.5 billion.'' And Glenn went, ``You're right,'' and turned to his aide and said, ``What's going on here?'' And that was the beginning of kind of unlocking a door.

NARRATOR: Concerned about Armstrong's questions, General Secord arranged a Pentagon briefing. The briefing lasted two days.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: The table began to fill up with aides and as soon as the table filled up, a ring of chairs around them began to fill up, until finally we had probably close to 30 to 40 people in the room. I mean, it was very hard for me to tell. I would ask a question: ``What is the particular facility that the AWACS is going to use in the north of Saudi Arabia? What's going to be on that base?'' And all of a sudden, the answer would come from over my shoulder. 

And then I'd say, ``Well, how does that fit into the threat perception that the Saudis have of how they're being threatened in the region?'' and the answer would come from another direction. And I'd say, ``Well, what about the ports that are going to be built?'' and the answer would come from another direction. And I was doing all I could to just keep track of what service, whether it was Army, Navy, Air Force that these guys were answering from because it was clearly an important show. I mean, Oliver North was one of the people sitting in the back of the room, a then-obscure Pentagon aide who right after that went to the NSC to lobby for the AWACS.

NARRATOR: As he listened, Armstrong realized that the story was much bigger than the sale of five planes.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: And gradually this picture began to emerge that we were talking not just about five AWACS planes, but that this was the way to slip in the linchpin to an elaborate electronic communications system that would be the equivalent of the heart of what we have in NATO, for example. It was creating a new theater of war. It was something that the Americans would essentially be able to move into and control instantly. But the key to it was the Saudis were going to pay for it. The problem was to get through the heart of it and the heart of it was hidden in the AWACS package.

NARRATOR: Four days before the crucial Senate vote Armstrong prepared an article stating that the proposed AWACS sale was just the beginning of a secret $50 billion plan to build surrogate military bases in Saudi Arabia.

Richard Secord says he pressured Armstrong's editors to delay publication of his story.

Gen. SECORD: Because it was only days before this vote was coming and it was very close. Our public affairs people in the Pentagon, as I recall it, called the editorial management of The Washington Post and said, ``You know, this guy's preparing this cockamamie story.'' You know, ``You've got to give us a break on this. This is crazy,'' you know? And that's why the story was published after the vote, not before.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: There were some last-minute Pentagon briefings they wanted to give me over the weekend. That stalled it over the weekend. Then there were some objections raised by lobbyists for the Saudis with the Post editorial folks about the fact that this really wasn't a fair piece. And the next thing we knew, the story ran the day after the vote.

NARRATOR: At The Washington Post former executive editor Ben Bradlee told FRONTLINE he could not recall any Pentagon pressure to delay Armstrong's article.

On the afternoon of October 28th, 1981, the lobbying ended and the Senate AWACS roll call began. The outcome was still uncertain.

Gen. SECORD: On the preceding Friday, we showed at best a tie and so the Vice President then, George Bush, was prepared to break the tie if it came out that way. We lucked out and at the last minute, a few of the Senators switched their votes over and so we won it by four votes, which really, if you think about it, is only a two-man swing, 52 to 48.

NARRATOR: The AWACS sale was a big victory for Ronald Reagan, who had personally campaigned around the clock for the Saudi deal.

Pres. REAGAN: [to reporters] I'm trying to smile with dignity. I don't want to look jubilant.

NARRATOR: Scott Armstrong's article finally appeared on the front page of The Washington Post not one, but four days after the AWACS vote. In it Armstrong detailed a hidden plan the Congressional debate had never confronted, a grand defense strategy for the Middle East oil fields, an ambitious plan to build surrogate bases in Saudi Arabia equipped and waiting for American forces to use. An unwritten secret understanding lay behind what had been framed as the mere sale of five planes. ``The heart of the understanding is this,'' Armstrong wrote. ``If America will sell the Saudis an integrated package of top-of-the-line military technology, Saudi Arabia will build and pay for a massive network of command naval and air defense facilities large enough to sustain U.S. forces in intensive regional combat.''

Armstrong's conclusion that the AWACS sale was the cornerstone of a multi-billion-dollar secret defense build-up inside Saudi Arabia was flatly denied by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.

In the face of Saudi secrecy and Defense Department denials, Armstrong's article was soon forgotten, but much of his story has now been confirmed by senior officials of the United States government, including Lawrence Korb [sp?], who was assistant defense secretary under Weinberger.

LAWRENCE KORB: What the Saudis allowed the United States to do over in that part of the world was to set up a de facto infrastructure by purchasing airfields, by purchasing very modern ports, by purchasing a lot of American equipment, theoretically to support their forces, by buying a lot of American equipment that would use the same type of facilities that our forces needed. So, in effect, we had a replica of U.S. airfields and ports over in that part of the world paid for by the Saudis to be used by the United States when and if we had to go over there.

NARRATOR: Richard Murphy was U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1981 to 1983.

RICHARD MURPHY: I remember U.S. Air Force officers being-- being outright jealous of the Saudis for the money that had been spent to protect the planes under these reinforced hangars in the principal air bases, stuff that we couldn't have afforded to do in North America, much less in Europe with NATO.

Mr. KORB: In many cases, it was almost better than NATO. With the Saudis, they basically were buying off the shelf from us and replicating an American military facility, so when we showed up, it was just like being at home. Everything fit. Everything worked.

Mr. MURPHY: [?] I call it the world's greatest-- or largest gasoline station, sitting there, able to pump out the jet fuel, refined in country. And since they were using principally American fighters and the AWACS planes, the fittings, all of the appurtenances of the airfields, fit in very nicely with the needs of the American Air Force.

NARRATOR: Dick Cheney, Caspar Weinberger's successor as defense secretary, now openly acknowledges the Saudi build-up.

Secy. CHENEY: During the '80s there was an increased level of cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia, the provision of additional equipment, the AWACS early warning airborne system, F-15 fighters. Plus there was a great deal of work done in terms of building facilities. The port facilities and the airfields that were so crucial to our ability to be able to deploy the force rapidly and then to conduct combat operations from Saudi Arabia were developed in the 1980s with a major investment on the part of the Saudis, but major involvement by the United States.

NARRATOR: One example of this increased cooperation: King Khalid Military City, built in secrecy near the Iraqi border in the heart of a stark, barren desert. The facility was the ultimate test of the Saudi ability to turn oil money into security. Called ``one of the most extraordinary military bases in the world'' by the publication Jane's Defense Weekly, the military city includes ballistic missile silos and nuclear-proofed underground command bunkers. 

Constructed with the involvement of the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, the total cost of creating King Khalid Military City remains secret, but Jane's Defense Weekly estimated that nearly $8 billion had been spent by 1984. A decade after his Washington Post investigation Scott Armstrong wrote another article about the Saudi arms build-up, this time for the investigative magazine Mother Jones. By 1992, Armstrong concluded, the cost of the military build-up had risen to $156 billion.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: The Saudis have been the principal backers and financers of the largest armaments system that the world has ever seen, in any region of the world, that includes over $95 billion worth of weapons that they bought themselves, includes another $65 billion worth of military infrastructure and ports that they've put in. We've managed to create an interlocking system that has one master control base, five sub-control bases, any one of which is capable of operating the whole thing, that are in hardened bunkers, that are hard-wired, that is to say, against nuclear blast or anything else. 

They created nine major ports that weren't there before, dozens of airfields all over the kingdom. They have now hundreds of modern American fighter planes and the capability of adding hundreds more. The Saudis alone have spent $156 billion that I can document line by line, item by item, on weapons system and infrastructure to support this.

NARRATOR: Many in Congress say they are still unaware of the massive U.S.-Saudi defense build-up. James Jeffords was the ranking Republican on the Senate near east subcommittee.

JAMES JEFFORDS: I'm not aware of that build-up. It was a surprise to recognize how rapidly we could mobilize, considering the number of troops and equipment that had to be moved over there.

NARRATOR: Senator Howard Metzenbaum:

Sen. HOWARD METZENBAUM (D-OH): That information was not made available to me and I doubt that it was made available to many members of the Congress, if any.

NARRATOR: Former Representative Mel Levine [sp?].

MEL LEVINE: Most members of Congress were not aware of it, were not aware of it at all, and this is not something that was advertised either to members of Congress or to the American public.

NARRATOR: But Lawrence Korb and others in the administration say those in Congress who plead ignorance are disingenuous.

Mr. KORB: Anybody who looked at what was happening there recognized what was going on. If you looked at the price that the Saudis were paying for things that they bought from us, compared to what other nations, you had to know that there was a logistics tail being built into that.

Gen. SECORD: You know, I helped brief a lot of these guys. I know that they knew full well everything that was going on with respect to military construction and military weapon procurement and deployment in Saudi Arabia and the other countries of that region.

NARRATOR: Still, Senator Metzenbaum maintains he had insufficient access to information.

Sen. METZENBAUM: The United States deals with Saudi Arabia in a somewhat different manner than it deals with many other countries. It's pretty much of a closed relationship between the administration-- a few people in the administration, not a lot of them, and Saudi Arabia.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Over the last decade we've seen individual examples of policy made secretly, secret from Congress, secret from the American people, selling arms to Iran, selling arms to Iraq, both of which, by the way, I think are connected to this overall policy with the Saudis. But they are little slices of things that seem to be government off the books, people not quite authorized to do something. Why wasn't Congress notified? Little questions. Here's something that's huge. 

I mean, it's absolutely phenomenal, a $200 billion program that's basically put together and nobody's paying attention to it. It's-- it's simply not something that Congress can attend to. It's not something that the press is attending to. There are very few public interest organizations in town, who are usually the real watchdogs, that have appointed themselves to look after this. It's something that's so big, it doesn't slip through the cracks, it slips around the cracks. It enveils everything. It is the ultimate government-off-the-books.

NARRATOR: Government off the books was characteristic of the Saudi-U.S. relationship throughout the 1980s. When Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan the Saudis, always suspicious of Soviet designs on the Gulf, spent billions to help the U.S .finance its covert, off-the-books support of Afghanistan Mujahadeen rebels. The Saudis also helped finance a covert war in the Western Hemisphere.

Gen. SECORD: In the '80s, when the Congress was cutting off funds for the contras, I did talk to the Saudis about them possibly anteing up some millions to support the contras during this period because they are tremendously anti-communist in their own philosophies. It turned out that was unnecessary, since that was to be done at a higher level and, as we all now know, the Saudis did contribute $20 million or $30 million at the request of the president of the United States.

NARRATOR: But the most expensive covert joint venture for Saudi and U.S. officials was their attempt to contain the revolution in Iran.

Pres. REAGAN: We're also concerned about the tragic war between two of Saudi Arabia's neighbors, Iran and Iraq, a conflict that is raging only a few minutes by air from Saudi territory.

NARRATOR: Iraq's Saddam Hussein would become the willing instrument of this policy to contain Iran. Kenneth Timmerman is the author of The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq.

KENNETH TIMMERMAN: In the summer of 1980, the Iraqis were very eager to get U.S. approval for their invasion of Iran and they dispatched senior government officials, including their then-foreign minister, to Saudi Arabia and to Amman, Jordan, to consult with American officials to make sure that we would not oppose the invasion of Iran.

INTERVIEWER: Did we oppose it?

Mr. TIMMERMAN: We certainly did not.

NARRATOR: And on August 5th, 1980, Hussein himself made a state visit to Saudi Arabia. According to some reports, he informed the Saudis of his intention to go to war. Six weeks later Iraqi forces launched attacks deep inside Iran.

IRANIAN RADIO: The Iraqi government, under the study of its masters, the American imperialism, has started an aggression on our territory.

NARRATOR: The next day Iran retaliated and full-scale war broke out.

HOWARD TEICHER: The Saudis were extremely concerned that Iran would win the war, that it would manage to assume control in Baghdad and establish an Islamic republic and that, through direct or indirect means, it would threaten the kingdom.

NARRATOR: Howard Teicher served on the National Security Council from 1982 to 1987.

Mr. TEICHER: I discussed this in meetings with King Fahd, Prince Saud and other Saudis. This was the most important subject on the Saudi agenda in the 1980s, how to, at a minimum, prevent the war from expanding beyond the Iran-Iraq border are and engaging the Saudis.

NARRATOR: Throughout the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, the Saudis, with the knowledge and approval of United States government officials, backed Iraq with money, weapons and intelligence.

Mr. TEICHER: They were providing financial assistance. They provided logistics support. They were providing intelligence information. They took the information that we provided them about our assessments of the Iranian military and provided it to Iraq. I believe that some of that information contributed to Saddam Hussein's decision to invade Iran in the first place.

NARRATOR: In 1983 U.S.-manned AWACS flying out of Saudi Arabia began direct intelligence sharing with Iraq.

Mr. MURPHY: We knew the capabilities of the Iranian air force and we knew the value of the real estate and the oil that the Saudis were safeguarding in the eastern province of the kingdom. And the AWACS provided that critical period of warning of approaching fighter-bombers, fighter jets coming out of Iran.

NARRATOR: The Saudis also provided tens of billions of dollars to Iraq in cash. How much Saudi money? Estimates vary.

Mr. MURPHY: The gossip in Riyadh was that the government might have been transferring a billion dollars a month.

NARRATOR: James Akins [sp?] was U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1973 to 1975.

JAMES AKINS: Well, I think Kuwait and Saudi Arabia must have given something on the order of $60 billion, in a ratio of two to one, $40 billion from Saudi Arabia and $20 billion from Kuwait.

NARRATOR: Saudi Arabia also provided American-made weapons to Iraq, despite Congressional restrictions on such transfers. In February, 1986, hundreds of one-ton MK-84 bombs were sent to Iraq by Saudi Arabia. This illegal Saudi arms transfer was kept secret from the public until April, 1992, when the story was broken in the Los Angeles Times by reporter Murray Waas. The story said the shipment was part of a 10-year covert policy by the Reagan and Bush administrations to arm Iraq.

Working with FRONTLINE, Waas has now uncovered a much larger story. Waas has learned that in 1990, the U.S. government received intelligence information that the Saudis had aided Iraq's nuclear weapons program. The text of a still-classified CIA report dated June, 1990, and made available to Waas states that analysts had reliable information that Saudi Arabia had provided $5 billion to Iraq's nuclear weapons program.

According to the CIA report, beginning in 1985 some of the money flowed through the Gulf International Bank, which at the time was owned in part by the Saudi and Iraqi governments. It could not be determined whether subsequent reports further corroborated this intelligence information, but FRONTLINE has talked to sources in the CIA and at the Pentagon's National Security Agency who say that they first heard of a Saudi-Iraqi nuclear connection as early as 1986.

FRONTLINE has also learned of a still-classified 1989 intelligence assessment prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency which details money flowing from the Saudi Arabian military through an unnamed bank in Bern, Switzerland, to Iraq's secret military procurement network. 

Although the assessment does not specify how this Saudi money was used, it does note that the purpose of the procurement network was to develop ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

Ambassador Akins believes that Saudi involvement in Iraq's nuclear program began after Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor near Baghdad in 1981.

Amb. AKINS: After the Israel attack on Baghdad -- and the Israelis, one must remember, flew across Saudi Arabia to get there, and the Saudis were extremely upset about this--

SAUDI OFFICIAL: It's another indication of Israeli aggression against the Arab world.

Amb. AKINS: --there was a decision at that point taken to build a nuclear weapon. ``The only way we're going to be able to stand up against Israel is to build a nuclear weapon. It will be built in Baghdad and the countries of the peninsula will pay for it.''

NARRATOR: The Gulf Arabs' desire to assist Iraq's nuclear program may be traced to fears about Israel's nuclear arsenal.

Amb. AKINS: There's no doubt that the Israelis have a nuclear weapon. They probably have well over 200 nuclear bombs and they have the means of delivering these bombs to every major Arab city. Certainly every Arab leader thinks that the only way of being able to-- to make sure-- to ensure that Israel does not use this bomb against the Arabs it to have a deterrent nuclear force of their own.

NARRATOR: On Capitol Hill, those who monitor nuclear proliferation say the Saudi-Iraqi nuclear connection is news to them. Senator John Glenn:

Sen. JOHN GLENN (D-OH): And if the Saudis were putting money in there in general support of the war-making capability of Iraq at that time, I understand that. If they specified, though, that there's $5 billion and it's going in there specifically for nuclear development for an Islamic bomb, that'd be something else again. But I-- I haven't heard any allegation like that before.

NARRATOR: Former secretary of state James Baker and former CIA head Robert Gates declined comment to FRONTLINE. When we asked former defense secretary Dick Cheney about the intelligence assessments we had reviewed, he would neither confirm nor deny their existence.

Secy. CHENEY: If there were such intelligence reports, it's not something I could talk about anyway. It's all classified. And I never speculate one way or the other about what is or isn't in various and sundry intelligence reports.

NARRATOR: It may be that Cheney never saw the intelligence assessments. FRONTLINE does not know to whom they were circulated.

Secy. CHENEY: The Saudis have, over the years, supported a lot of folks, but the notion that-- I find it hard to believe that they would have provided $5 billion to assist the Iraqis in development of a nuclear weapon.

NARRATOR: The Iran-Iraq war ended in a stalemate in 1988, leaving a million casualties. The off-the-books U.S.-Saudi policy toward Iran had ironic results. Iran was prevented from overrunning Baghdad, yet Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait two years later, threatening the oil fields of his one-time patron, the Saudis.

Oil-- it's what makes the special Saudi-U.S. relationship so special. Without oil there is no alliance. America would have no interest in defending Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is America's number one foreign supplier, responsible for one quarter of all oil imported by the United States. Access to Saudi oil is important to all Americans, and so is its price.

Throughout the '80s the Reagan-Bush administration insisted that oil prices should be determined by market forces, but most oil analysts say the U.S. and the Saudis entered into unwritten understandings about the appropriate price for oil, understandings that are still secret. The pricing of oil may be the most sensitive aspect of the U.S.-Saudi special relationship.

CHARLES EBBINGER [sp?]: I believe there are broad understandings on what are acceptable ranges of oil prices.

NARRATOR: Energy analyst Charles Ebbinger.

Mr. EBBINGER: No one has ever had a definitive view of how Saudi policy was made or what the link is between Saudi and U.S. government policy in the enunciation of oil policy. I happen to be of the view that, for the most part, the Saudis have priced their oil in a manner that they thought was commensurate with their interests, while certainly taking U.S. government views under advisement, but there is a contradictory view implying a much closer relationship.

EDWARD CRAPELS [sp?]: Well, there's no question that, because we're the largest consumer and they're the largest producer, we influence one another.

NARRATOR: Oil market analyst Edward Crapels.

Mr. CRAPELS: It would be foolish to say the U.S. government doesn't talk about oil prices. It always talks about oil prices. What else is it going to talk to Saudi Arabia about?

NARRATOR: For years the U.S. government has maintained that it never discusses oil prices with the Saudis. But in the early '80s, the Reagan administration was faced with high oil prices, which contributed to a deep recession in the United States and the Saudis were losing market share due to high OPEC prices.

Mr. MURPHY: We were interested in lower prices, no question. The Saudis basically were interested in lower prices, not because of the love of American eyes, but for their own long-term economic interests.

NARRATOR: In February, 1985, with the Saudi economy suffering, King Fahd paid a state visit to Washington. It was his first visit to America as king. Fahd's five-day stay included a White House reception and dinner.

Pres. REAGAN: There's an Arab saying, ``The sands are blowing,'' and I submit to you, King Fahd, that if the sands of time give us any hint of the future, it is that in the days ahead the friendship between the Saudi Arabian and American people will be a strong and vital force in the world and that the future--

NARRATOR: The king also had a number of meetings with President Reagan. Much of what transpired during those meetings remains secret.

Edwin Rothschild is the energy policy director of the public interest group Citizen Action. Rothschild used the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to some previously secret government files in an attempt to find out what happened during Fahd's visit to Washington.

EDWIN ROTHSCHILD: Here we've got material from the CIA-- huge black-outs of information they've excised. They don't want the public to see about what happened to the oil market. Same thing with the State Department.

NARRATOR: Rothschild obtained this secret State Department memo briefing Secretary of State George Shultz for a meeting he had with Saudi oil minister Zaki Yamani [sp?] during King Fahd's visit. The memo, prepared by Richard Murphy, urges the Saudis to let the free market dictate prices.

INTERVIEWER: They say that pressure was put on the Saudis to lower the oil prices as a way to stimulate the United States economy.

Mr. MURPHY: The only discussions I recall-- and I honestly don't recall anything that put it as crudely as you have just suggested, that ``We want you to lower the prices.'' Now, maybe it was the same argument: ``We want you to avoid politicizing prices. Let the market-- let the market rule.''

Mr. ROTHSCHILD: When someone uses the words, ``market,'' ``let the market rule,'' you have to look beneath that. That's a code word. In this case, the market was two governments: the United States and Saudi Arabia. U.S. policy makers in the Reagan-Bush administration were convinced that lower oil prices were necessary for U.S. economic growth and for their own continued political success. Our government officials painted a rosy picture for the Saudis about what would happen if the price of oil fell. They persuaded the Saudis that their market would increase, that the United States and Europe would consume more. The Reagan-Bush administration colluded with the Saudi Arabian government to drive world oil prices down.

NARRATOR: In late 1985 the price of oil began to drop precipitously, plummeting from $27 a barrel to $9 a barrel in just eight months. The fall in the price of oil successfully stimulated the overall U.S economy. The stock market boomed and conspicuous consumption became a hallmark of the go-go '80s and the Saudis began to gain back market share from their OPEC brothers. But not everyone agrees that the Saudis and the Americans had colluded, as Rothschild claims.

Mr. CRAPELS: It's an interesting thesis and I'm glad Ed has done the work that he's done because otherwise there's just too much conventional wisdom about how the oil market works and how it got to this big change. Having said that, I think he-- he stretches it too far. I think the idea that there was a conspiracy between the U.S. government and the Saudi government stretches it. There probably was an understanding that it would be nice if oil prices went down.

NARRATOR: But the effect of low oil prices on the oil-producing states of the Southwest was extremely negative. Independent oil producer Mike Halbaty [sp?]:

MIKE HALBATY: Maybe-- maybe Rothschild is right. Maybe there was a collusion. I don't know. But all I know, one thing happened. Oil went down to $9 a barrel. When it did, it devastated the independent petroleum segment in the United States.

Mr. ROTHSCHILD: A million barrels a day of production in the United States was lost. Nearly 500 000 jobs were lost. It also created severe problems in the U.S. banking industry and, over the long term, we became far more dependent on imported oil, which was costing us in our balance of payments. It also undermined investment in alternative fuels, energy conservation, energy efficiency and the effort to reduce our energy consumption.

Mr. HALBATY: Billions of dollars of S&L losses attributed to the fact that independents were not able to pay their debts to banks, and so forth. There was a tremendous amount of money lost, billions of dollars. Our economy really was shattered.

NARRATOR: By the spring of 1986 this domestic collapse moved the Reagan-Bush administration to conclude that the price of oil had gone too low. In April Vice President George Bush prepared to visit Saudi Arabia.

Vice President GEORGE BUSH: But there will be not-- we're not going there on a price-setting mission, when we ourselves favor market forces.

NARRATOR: Before he left, Bush held a press conference.

Vice Pres. BUSH: I'm glad you raised that because I think it is essential that we talk about stability and that we not just have a continued free fall, like a parachutist jumping out without a parachute. And that's what essentially has happened to the price of crude oil in recent months. Our answer is ``Market. Market. Let the market forces work.''

MELVIN CONANT [sp?]: It was a lie. The market was not going to rule. By no conceivable definition of market was that going to happen.

NARRATOR: Like most oil analysts, Melvin Conant says a free oil market does not exist.

Mr. CONANT: There has never been a free market for oil. It was either dominated by the Rockefeller Trust, which was not my definition of a free market, or it was dominated over many years by the majors, the American and British oil companies, and more recently, of course, the attempt by OPEC to dominate it. But to call oil a free market is thoroughly misleading.

NARRATOR: George Bush arrived in Riyadh on April 5th, 1986, and promptly issued a warning about the implications of low oil prices for the economy of the Southwest.

Vice Pres. BUSH: We're on a-- on the-- both sides of a two-edged sword, you might say, benefiting as the United States from lower energy prices, and yet severe economic dislocation to some parts of the country. It's a two-edged sword, in a sense.

NARRATOR: Bush then met with King Fahd. Soon after the meeting the Saudis scaled back production and the price of oil doubled within seven months. But Bush's remarks had created controversy and confusion. Did the administration want low oil prices, high oil prices or a free market? President Reagan did little to clarify the issue at his own press conference.

Pres. REAGAN: While we have said we believe that this whole thing with the oil prices should be settled on the basis of the free market, the market in oil is not completely free. There are some major producers of oil who are governments.

NARRATOR: Ed Rothschild continues his effort to pry information out of the United States government. He's brought suit in federal district court in Washington, challenging the government's decision not to release all the documents he has requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr. ROTHSCHILD: And the U.S. State Department did give us some documents, but most of the important documents, about 300 of them, they simply said, ``We're not going to give you. We consider those documents to be confidential, classified, secret''--

NARRATOR: Last July the State Department filed a brief asking the court to withhold the documents because making them public ``would reveal the intricate substance, nature and extent of U.S.-Saudi cooperation on oil market issues.''

Meanwhile, U.S. reliance on Saudi oil is growing. In 1985 the U.S. imported 132,000 barrels of Saudi oil every day. By 1997 America's oil imports from Saudi Arabia are projected to rise to 2.4 million barrels a day. Such reliance on imported oil threatens our national security, says independent oil man George Mitchell [sp?].

GEORGE MITCHELL: So therefore if there's any one commodity that we should really work on, it should be oil and gas, to be more self-sufficient. We're now importing nearly half our oil, eight billion barrels a day or thereabouts. And that's for sure a blueprint for disaster.

NARRATOR: The supposedly inexpensive Saudi oil comes with hidden costs, Mitchell says.

Mr. MITCHELL: Remember this. They don't factor into the oil prices the cost of security. If I were going to give you a guess on what every barrel of imported oil costs this country, which costs us $20 a barrel to buy now, it's probably in the neighborhood of $120 a barrel, when you add-- when you factor in the strategic defense we go through to protect our oil resources. And as I said, the energy policy we've had is not very good. It's to go to war.


Mr. MITCHELL: Go to war.

NARRATOR: America's first oil war was a success, in large part due to the strength of the U.S.-Saudi relationship and the network of military bases bought with Saudi petrodollars. But this special relationship may be more fragile than it appeared during Desert Storm. During the war the presence of a half million American men and women inside Saudi Arabia exposed strains within Saudi society, tension between pro-Western moderates like King Fahd and fundamentalist Muslims who dislike the West. An Islamic fundamentalist backlash against the United States, similar to that which toppled the Shah of Iran in 1979, would be a nightmare for U.S. policy makers.

Mr. CRAPELS: If Saudi Arabia changed governments today, we couldn't afford it. The Saudi monarchy is the devil we know and we definitely want to keep the people we know in power in Saudi Arabia.

Mr. EBBINGER: I guarantee you there's a reason we have those bases in Saudi Arabia. We saw one use for them in the war with Kuwait and Iraq, but they're also there to ensure an active ability of the United States and allied forces to defend those oil fields, and that's not only from external aggression against the kingdom.

NARRATOR: There's a new administration in Washington. Bill Clinton's Saudi policy is yet unknown and no representative of the Saudi government would speak to FRONTLINE. But as long as the U.S. economy depends on Saudi oil, America's national security will depend on the defense of Saudi Arabia.

ANNOUNCER: In South Africa there's talk of an election.

BLACK WOMAN: Democracy is the government of the people, for the people, by the people!

ANNOUNCER: Now the white government is fighting to keep its share of power. ``Apartheid's Last Stand,'' next time on FRONTLINE.

Copyright (c) 1992 WGBH. Posted For Fair Use Only.


Written and Produced by RORY O'CONNOR

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