Journalism in the Public Interest

State Department Approved Export of U.S.-Made Tear Gas to Egyptian Gov’t

Feb. 5: This post has been corrected.

The American-made tear gas used to disperse pro-democracy protesters in Egypt earlier this week was sold to the country after government review, a State Department spokeswoman told us.

The tear gas canisters used by Egyptian police against the protesters bore the label “Made in U.S.A.,” stirring controversy and bolstering the impression among Egyptians that the United States has propped up a dictatorship at the expense of its citizens.

Two government agencies, the Department of State and Department of Commerce, regulate the export of tear gas by granting export licenses allowing U.S. manufacturers to sell tear gas to foreign buyers. The State spokeswoman, Nicole Thompson, said she didn’t immediately know when the approval was given for Egypt.

The chemical compounds in the tear gas determine whether it’s State or Commerce that’s responsible for licensing the product. In general, the State Department licenses the export of defense items—including military-grade tear gas—as spelled out on its Munitions List. The Commerce Department licenses the export of tear gas formulations that are considered “dual use”—that is, for either military or civilian purposes—as well as products considered strictly civilian.

The tear gas canisters photographed in Egypt and Tunisia appear to have been manufactured by Combined Systems Inc. The company did not respond to our requests for comment. A spokesman for the company had previously told CNN that it operates well within the law by selling tear gas to countries like Tunisia and Egypt.

CNN also reported that labels on the tear gas canisters found in both countries read, “Danger: Do not fire directly at person(s). Severe injury or death may result.” According to CNN, a 32-year-old photographer in Tunisia died recently after he was hit by a tear gas grenade at close range.

In the case of the tear gas used in Egypt, the State Department confirmed to me that it approved the sale of tear gas as a direct commercial sale between the manufacturer and the government of Egypt, as opposed to a government-to-government sale.   

As part of a multi-agency approval process, the State Department said it takes a number of issues into consideration, including whether the purchaser could use it in a way that violates human rights.

“We want to ensure that when a defense article is being sold to a government, say the government of Egypt, we want to make sure it’s not going to fall in hands of another government … or any individual or organization who wants to do harm,” explained Thompson.

So, why did the State Department license the sale of American-made tear gas to be used by the Egyptian police, when the State Department itself has documented the police’s history of brutality? When I asked this question, I received the following response, in full:

The US government licensed the sale of certain crowd dispersal articles to the government of Egypt. That license was granted after a thorough vetting process and after a multi-agency review of the articles that were requested.

Noticeably absent in that answer was anything about the Egyptian police. When I pressed further and mentioned this WikiLeaks cable—written by U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey describing “routine and pervasive” police brutality and torture in Egypt—the response was immediate.

“I cannot provide any authentication of anything that has been published by the website WikiLeaks,” Thompson said.

Correction: This post previously said that according to CNN, a photographer recently died in Egypt after being hit with tear gas. In fact, the photographer died in Tunisia.

Related: Read an F.A.Q. about U.S. aid to Egypt and a backgrounder on what the U.S. government's options are for suspending it.

Please note, CSI tear gas funded by US military aid is being used by the Israeli military on unarmed Palestinian and international protesters, killing and maiming protesters, including two US protesters who were severely injured.

This article should also note US provision of tear gas to Israel, despite Israel’s well-documented record of human rights abuses. See this link for more information:

In 1978, I was assigned to the US Embassy in Guatemala. I arrived in the middle of a riders’ strike against the bus companies which had been allowed a rise in fares by the government. We were asked by the government to approve the sale of tear gas to be used to maintain public order. The human rights crowd in the Department wanted to disapprove it but did manage to hold up the approval. My reaction at the time was the government would start shooting strikers and we told the Department as much.
The army and police did start shooting but we never learned how many people were killed. Human rights are important, and among them is the right to life.

billige pauschalreisen

Feb. 14, 2011, 7:16 p.m.

Firm Pension,industry body instruction crowd year plan fuel match appeal cultural towards himself troop immediately connect growing grant balance late begin animal time watch medical ignore bank achieve kid desk lay partner video formal start fact examination pressure security part pay anyone give critical wine requirement support fair function state man care married afraid identify okay put section race traditional hurt certain academic base charge nice baby leader lip through church whilst catch town regard love keep household board step immediate train bottom blow throw

There will be 7 billion people on this planet this year but its only some fraction of 1% perhaps less than 0.1% in positions of command that are causing the rest of us problems in all sorts of fabricated ways that otherwise would not exist. But without these fabricated problems they have no reason to exist nor those positions they have given themselves. This small percentage has psychological issues regarding ethics, morals, honesty and integrity.They are psychologically unfit to command or influence anyone.

The United States government is no exception as many in positions of command do not know the contents of the founding documents of this country, or have chosen to ignore them, intentionally committing treason against the written intents of the founders of this country.

The Declaration of Independence identifies corrupt government and states its not only the people right but DUTY to put off such government and restore the spirit of the intents of the founder, the people.

September 10, 2001, D. Rumsfeld publicly stated the 2.3 trillion on pentagon spending for the year, was not accounted for. That is more than the defense budget that year and amounts to about $8,000 per man woman and child in the US of that year.

That is taxation without representation. A slap in the face of the historic Boston Tea party. The conception of the US of A.

The US government has become the very government the Declaration of Independence was against…. Read it and see for yourselves. Its every Americans right and duty.

What Started in Tunisia, was the pebble in a pond whos wave is spreading and its going to hit the US government too!

Understanding thug mentality, you can produce peaceful situations where the thugs will expose themselves to all and be stripped of their command power simply by having their commands ignored.

Figuring out safe ways to get thugs to expose themselves and be then be ignored, is the task at hand. For there is no longer room on this planet population for these self supported dependency trouble makers.

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i need to know the exact expiration date for tear gas produced in 2001, is it 5 years as they said????

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