ROCCO CASAGRANDE: WITNESS TO HISTORY
The Saddam Center for Biotechnology on the campus of Baghdad University boasted a state-of-the-art facility, replete with surreptitiously imported equipment for amplifying tiny amounts of DNA and running tests with gels to determine protein sizes. "It looked like you were walking into a laboratory in one of the better-equipped U.S. institutions," remembers Rocco Casagrande, who began his trips as a United Nations inspector to various Iraqi facilities in mid-December 2002.
The lab was ideal for performing DNA amplification using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to make countless copies of genes. Oddly, though, the only thing these expensive machines were being used for was genetic fingerprinting of goats involved in what the Iraqis said were in vitro fertilization experiments. Iraq does not suffer from problems with goat fertility. An infertile goat is eaten for dinner, not sent to an IVF clinic. Casagrande and the others took samples from the lab and combed through records on a computer hard disk, to no avail. No evidence of cloning genes for making bioweapons was found. They speculated that the facility could be used for human cloning, but in the end they never figured out its real purpose.
This article was originally published with the title One Last Look.