This investigation originated with the PGIIT in the summer of 1996, and was continued by our office until September 1999, when it was discontinued following a recommendation of the Presidential Special Oversight Board.

A.  PGIIT Investigation

From July through December 1996 investigators concentrated on the USCENTCOM message sent to ARCENT, looking into the origin of the message, determining how Iraq marked their chemical warfare agent munitions, and locating key participants. They found no office of origin for the USCENTCOM message but they did locate many of the 17 ARCENT suspected chemical warfare agent storage sites on air target lists. Four sites were listed as suspected chemical or biological weapons storage sites—Tallil, An Nasiriyah, Ash Shuaybah, and Ar Rumaylah.[6] The investigation team also determined that some evidence indicated that Iraq did not mark its chemical warfare agent weapons in any particular manner.[7]

B.  Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses Investigation

The Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses resumed the investigation in the spring of 1999. Our investigation concentrated on three areas: USCENTCOM and ARCENT staff responsibilities, location of US forces, and activities at each of the 17 sites.

The first step in the investigation was to determine which staff had the responsibility and capability to generate a suspected chemical weapons storage site list. This involved identifying principal personnel, organizations, and roles and responsibilities in the nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) arena. The US Armed Services Center for Unit Records Research database was used to identify US units within five kilometers of each site (Tab C).

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Figure 2.  G-Day force locations

Once these units were identified (see unit symbols in Figure 2), we searched records to determine the extent of movement and activity of each unit at each of the 17 sites (Figure 3), e.g., reconnaissance, search and destroy, demolition, secure and inventory, bivouac only, medical treatment and evacuation, etc.

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Figure 3.  ARCENT units' ground war movements

Finally, we identified and interviewed decision makers and key participants from the VII and the XVIII Corps (commanders, operations officers, intelligence, medical and NBC specialists, and selected members of maneuver units, medical, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), and engineer units). Results from these interviews validated our information. The interviews were also beneficial to the investigators in developing new lists of potential contacts and additional avenues of inquiry.

Eventually, the investigation focused on the likelihood of chemical warfare agent exposure of Coalition forces at each of the sites. We also examined the possibility of the release of chemical warfare agents resulting from the air campaign or from demolition operations.

The investigation began with two working assumptions. First, the message may have been produced by a US military intelligence organization belonging to USCENTCOM. The Central Intelligence Agency or the Defense Intelligence Agency typically did not focus on sites such as those on this list that held little US national and strategic interest. US national-level intelligence agencies concentrated on finding and destroying Iraqi facilities that were of high strategic and national importance—nuclear, biological and chemical weapons production facilities, national communications facilities, war production facilities, etc. Typically found deep inside Iraq, these strategic facilities were far north of the area where ground combat between Iraqi and Coalition forces occurred.[8]

The sites on the ARCENT list held more interest for lower-level intelligence collection operations that were conducted in the Kuwait theater of operations. This includes intelligence operations conducted by USCENTCOM and ARCENT. The sites on the ARCENT message were all located in southeastern Iraq, inside the area occupied by Iraq’s ground combat forces. Facilities within this area were of more immediate interest to intelligence units located in the theater.[9]

The second assumption was that this particular list of sites may originally have been compiled for targeting purposes, i.e., for subsequent bombing or destruction. The ARCENT message contains descriptions derived from analysis of each of the 17 sites.[10] Information derived in this fashion is typically the basis for creating targeting lists. Furthermore, as the ARCENT message indicated, the information on these sites was generated before the ground war began, when identifying such sites for targeting purposes was a high priority.

Our investigation included visits to several locations in the United States, research of multiple databases, interviews, and development of spreadsheets and graphics, efforts focused on determining the origin of the USCENTCOM message and activities at each of the 17 sites. We determined that, without a knowledge of who wrote this message, and why it identified these sites, there could be no assessment of the reliability of the intelligence that was used to create the message. Nor could we assess the danger to US forces posed by these potential chemical weapons storage sites.

We researched and reviewed an array of Gulf War documents to clarify the origin of the ARCENT message and to find information on the presence of chemical warfare agents at any of the 17 sites. Documentation included operations plans and intelligence documents, orders and reports, and general information.

We reviewed approximately 13,500 pages of Gulf War-related documents from USCENTCOM. We examined the complete records of the 52nd Ordnance Disposal Group, whose records included daily logs and destruction logs with descriptions and locations of munitions destroyed during and after the Gulf War.[11] Situation reports, intelligence summaries and information reports clarified a great deal of information.[12] We also examined after-action reports and unit histories to identify unit affiliations and missions and activities before, during, and after the war.[13] Iraq’s declarations to the United Nations and the publicly-available reports of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq were also used to support the investigation. For example, in Buffalo, New York, UNSCOM inspectors stated in a public meeting that they had inspected four of the 17 sites and had found no evidence of chemical warfare agents.[14]

Information contained in three OSAGWI narratives—the Khamisiyah Ammunition Storage Point,[15] the An Nasiriyah Southwest Ammunition Storage Point,[16] and Tallil Air Base,[17] all on the ARCENT list, provided leads and information. Interviews with eye-witnesses and key participants provided first hand knowledge of activities at each of the seventeen sites. Interviews with commanders, intelligence officers, and NBC, engineer, medical, and explosive ordnance disposal specialists yielded no evidence that chemical warfare weapons were present at any of the sites.[18]

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