Harold Rinko, a 72-year-old Pennsylvania man, has plead guilty to conspiring to send equipment for detecting chemical warfare agents (CWAs) to Syria without required licenses. Items he admits exporting include lab equipment for use in research; but much of what he provided was for more practical deployment, e.g., a portable gas scanner and a handheld instrument for field detection of CWAs – the kinds of things the Syrians would need to protect themselves while gassing others.
Syria is believed to have first acquired chemical weapons from Egypt in 1973, in reaction both to Israel’s seizure of the Golan Heights in 1967 and its acquisition of nuclear weapons. But the timing is suspect, given that the Arab coalition unleashed the Yom Kippur War shortly after Syria started building its CWA “deterrent”.
The timing of Rinko’s conspiracy – beginning in 2003 and ending only with his indictment in November of 2012 – is similarly damning. By the time he got caught, the Syrian protest movement was 20 months old; and he was shut down only five months before Syria starting using CWAs on its own citizens.
Its one thing to get caught sending $56 computer motherboards to Iran, and quite another to enable the gassing of children. For shame!