A. The MM-1 and Alert Procedures
The MM-1 mobile mass spectrometer in the Gulf War-era Fox was a sophisticated detector. It was intended primarily to detect, sample, identify, and mark areas of persistent liquid chemical warfare agent ground contamination (e.g., liquid blister agents). The MM-1 detects chemical warfare agents by analyzing the ions of a sample that have been collected in one of three ways - the MM-1's sampling probe draws vapors from the surrounding air; the MM-1 operator uses silicone sampling wheels to raise liquid samples from the ground to the retractable sampling probe; or the MM-1's sampling probe draws air directly from the source of the contamination, or the MM-1's sampling probe draws vapors from the surrounding air. According to MM-1 experts the MM-1 has a limited capability to detect chemical warfare agent vapors in the surrounding air. Although it can detect vapors, it is not optimized for this mission.
The MM-1 continuously monitors samples passing through it, checking for the presence of chemical warfare agents identified on a pre-selected target list of chemical compounds, primarily chemical warfare agents. During the initial identification step, the MM-1 fragments each sample into a characteristic pattern of ions and then compares the information on the target list against the sample, searching for a match. If the MM-1 makes an initial match and the ion intensities are above a specific level (unique for each agent), an alarm sounds to alert the operator. This alert is also displayed on the MM-1 operator's screen and can be printed on a paper tape.
A false positive is an alert for a chemical warfare agent that is not present. A variety of contaminants (e.g., diesel fuel, vehicle exhaust, and oil well fire smoke) and chemical compounds can cause false positives in the MM-1. False positives can occur because many of the characteristic ion patterns stored in the MM-1's chemical warfare agent target list also are prevalent in petroleum-based hydrocarbons (e.g., oil, fuel, and benzene derivatives) found on the battlefield.
Due to the potential for false positives, MM-1 initial alerts do not verify the presence of chemical warfare agents. Following an initial alert, MM-1 operators must perform a spectrum analysis in order to increase their confidence that the initial alert is not a false alarm. Because every chemical has a characteristic combination of ions (known as a spectrum), spectrum analysis results can be used to identify a substance. A spectrum analysis involves several procedures that optimize the MM-1 and allow it to acquire a better-prepared sample. It takes several minutes for the MM-1 operator to collect a sample and obtain a good spectrum analysis, but this process properly evaluates the sample for any suspected chemical warfare agents and minimizes the possibility that contaminants (e.g., exhaust, oil, etc.) affected the initial MM-1 indications. The MM-1 operator also should print a tape, which saves the details of the spectrum as a hard-copy historical record. Should a properly performed spectrum procedure identify a chemical warfare agent, the MM-1 operator and Fox commander can be confident, though not certain, that the chemical warfare agent is present. Conversely, if the spectrum analysis does not identify one of the chemical warfare agents contained in the MM-1 library, the MM-1 operator and Fox commander can be confident that the chemical warfare agent that was displayed during the initial alarm is not present. Further analysis of the spectrum tape printout by a mass spectrometry expert comparing the spectrum results to an established database of compounds can increase the degree of confidence in the detection. Additionally, the MM-1 operators were taught to collect a specimen of the contamination (e.g., a soil sample) to further aid confirmation of the substance by thorough analysis in a laboratory.
According to GySgt Grass, his MM-1 was monitoring for chemical warfare agent vapors in the surrounding air when it initially alerted to "lethal vapor concentration[s]" of sulfur mustard and "HT Mustard in a lethal dose." This indicates the MM-1 was sampling by drawing in surrounding air. As noted above, the MM-1 is not well-suited for this mission, and cannot measure vapor concentrations or indicate agent dose-"It is only a qualitative, not a quantitative, detector." According to the experts, while the MM-1 "will respond to vapor ... its sensitivity threshold to most chemical warfare agents is well above the militarily significant concentration."
During his testimony before the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC), the MM-1 operator did not explain the procedures or steps he took while in the ASP. We only know he stated, "A couple of spectrums were run ." We interviewed the MM-1 operator but he recalled little additional detail regarding the procedures he used. He recalled a single MM-1 alert and indications of the possible presence of HT mustard, S-mustard, and benzyl bromide, but he did not know what caused the MM-1 alert. He gave the MM-1 printout to GySgt Grass.
The lost-and most likely destroyed-MM-1 tapes could have provided information about the method in which the MM-1 operated, the spectrum procedures, and information about the suspected chemical warfare agents. Without the tapes it is impossible to determine what the MM-1 operator saw on his screen, how he performed the spectrum analysis, and what caused the MM-1 alerts. In addition, the Fox crew did not collect samples.
In 1994, in response to questions raised by Congress, the Army dispatched a team of subject matter experts to read the memories of MM-1s in all Operation-Desert-Storm-era Fox vehicles. It is possible to retrieve a spectrum from the MM-1 computer if it is among the last 72 spectra saved in memory. However, restarting the MM-1 or switching off MM-1 power will erase the MM-1 memory. By then, GySgt Grass's Fox (#5604) was in Okinawa, Japan. According to a 1994 Army memorandum, "no spectra or extra substances were found in USMC S/N 5604." This indicates that no spectra remained in the MM-1's memory, most likely a result of routine maintenance or restarts that erased the memory.
Therefore, without the MM-1 tapes, samples, or data from GySgt Grass's MM-1 computer, we have no physical evidence of chemical warfare agent presence or the MM-1 alerts.
B. Chemical Warfare Agents
Mustards are persistent liquid chemical warfare agents. Sulfur mustard, also called distilled mustard (HD), is colorless or amber-colored. HT, a mixture of HD and T (a sulfur, oxygen, chlorine agent), is clear or yellow in color. Characteristics include low volatility-meaning mustard in its liquid form produces little vapor. For instance, HT's "low volatility makes effective vapor concentrations in the field difficult to obtain." Had lethal vapor concentrations of mustard been present in the ASP, large amounts of liquid agent should have been present. Experts believe a vapor detection of mustard would occur close to an identifiable source like a pool of liquid mustard agent. The Fox crew and other personnel who inspected the ASP would likely have noticed such a large amount of liquid agent, yet except for rainwater, no Marines who entered or inspected the ASP mentioned large puddles of liquid. The low volatility of persistent chemical warfare agents causes identifiable traces to linger for days to weeks. Again, had mustard been present in the ASP, Marines from the 1/5 should have detected the agents when they searched the ASP on February 28. Furthermore, the EOD team should have detected mustard's presence when it inspected the ASP the following day.
More importantly, had mustard been present in the ASP, particularly in the immediate area of the Fox crew and the 1/5 Marines and EOD team, we believe these Marines would have experienced physical symptoms of exposure. Exposure to mustard can cause injuries ranging from eye lesions and respiratory tract difficulties to death, depending on the dosage received. Eyes are very susceptible to low concentrations. At higher concentrations symptoms appear more quickly. Protective masks are required for protection from mustard vapor. Several Fox crew members, however, recalled they were outside the Fox in MOPP-2-carrying, but not wearing, their protective masks and gloves-when the MM-1 alerted to the possible presence of what GySgt Grass testified was "lethal" amounts of mustard. In that case, we would expect that the unprotected, exposed Marines would have experienced injuries or symptoms. However, no one from the Fox crew recalled, and none reported, any physical symptoms consistent with exposure to mustard. Additionally, blister agents like mustard have distinctive odors, but no one recalled the garlic-like smells indicative of mustard. 1/5 Marines also were unprotected from mustard vapor hazards, but again, none reported scents or symptoms indicating mustard presence.
Benzyl bromide (see glossary), the third agent to which the MM-1 alerted, is one of the 60 chemicals in the MM-1 library, but it is not normally on the MM-1's pre-selected target list. Benzyl bromide is not typically weaponized and there is no evidence Iraq produced, researched, or developed a delivery method for it. Exposure to benzyl bromide can severely irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. In large amounts, it may cause effects on the central nervous system.
The Fox driver and the wheel operator recalled that unprotected soldiers were present (in addition to the Fox crew) when the MM-1 alerted. The driver recalled he felt a temporary burning sensation on his hand after the benzyl bromide alert but believed the short-lived burning sensation was a psychosomatic response to the alert. No one recalled any physical symptoms consistent with benzyl bromide exposure.
According to experts at the Army's Soldier Biological and Chemical Command (SBCCOM), several explanations for the benzyl bromide alert are possible. The ions that identified benzyl bromide could have come from toluene, a common solvent present in aviation fuels, which could have come from the industrial area located nearby, or from cyclopentadiene (C5H6), a common insecticide and fungicide, which could have been used some time previously in the orchard.
Although other Marines used chemical warfare agent detection equipment in the ASP on February 28 and March 1, no other detection equipment corroborated the MM-1 alerts. 1/5 Marines used chemical agent monitors to search for chemical warfare agents in the ASP but detected none. The EOD team used M8 chemical detector paper and M18A2 chemical detector kits to check for chemical contamination on any suspicious-looking munitions and found none.
C. Additional Documentation
Searching for all available evidence, we contacted the 1st EOD Platoon headquarters at Camp Pendleton, CA, for the report the EOD team leader filed after the inspection. They searched their files but could not find the document, probably because the unit retains its records for only two years. Therefore, it is most likely that the document was destroyed sometime in 1993. However, numerous log entries and witnesses' interviews corroborate the absence of chemical weapons in the ASP. In late 1996, after watching on television Marines testify before the House of Representatives Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee, one of the EOD team members wrote a letter to the congressman who chaired the hearings. He took exception to the claims that chemical weapons were stored at the ASP. He wrote, "We went through all the pits [in the ASP] and no CW were found."
D. Post-War Information
After the Gulf War, the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), through its chemical and biological weapons inspections program, identified, inventoried and, in some cases, supervised Iraq's destruction of its chemical warfare agents and chemical weapons. According to UNSCOM, Iraq had 155mm artillery shells filled with sulfur mustard. UNSCOM did not find any weaponized HT mustard. Therefore, although the ASP contained 155mm rounds, this does not prove the rounds were mustard-filled. There is no evidence to explain a possible presence of the suspected HT mustard.
Once the ground war ended, only Coalition forces, primarily America's and Kuwait's, had access to the ASP. We found no records indicating US forces discovered or destroyed chemical weapons in Kuwait between March 1991 and the beginning of cleanup operations in 1992. The ASP was still intact when the EOD team leader returned as an unexploded ordnance contractor. The ASP was inspected twice during the operation's reconnaissance and dismantling phases. No chemical weapons were found either time. Furthermore, we found no records indicating Kuwait discovered chemical weapons anywhere inside the country after the war. While it is possible they did so but did not report it, it is unlikely. Kuwait had no reason to conceal the presence of chemical weapons on its soil-had chemical weapons been found we believe the government would have announced such a discovery.
To date we have found no evidence Iraq moved chemical weapons or chemical warfare agents into Kuwait. In a memorandum to our office, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) stated:
Our current understanding is that Iraq did not deploy CW into Kuwait during the Gulf War. The furthest south Iraqi CW has been found is at Khamisiyah, Iraq.
There are several reasons to believe that the Iraqis never deployed CW into Kuwait. First, there is no confirmed evidence that they did so. Neither Kuwait nor the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) companies assisting the Kuwaitis have reported finding any CW during cleanup operations. Iraqi troops stationed in Kuwait often did not have the best CW defensive equipment. This indicates they were not prepared to fight in a contaminated environment.
The Iraqis also feared US retaliation if they used chemical weapons and may have decided to use them only if the regime's survival were threatened. This would explain why Iraq deployed CW to Khamisiyah and An Nasiriyah, but not to Kuwait. Finally, Iraq's most well trained and trusted forces, the Republican Guard-who were in Iraq, not Kuwait-were the units best equipped to deliver CW. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that any CW were stored behind these forces, not in front of them.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reached a similar conclusion. In testimony before the PAC, CIA representatives stated, "We conclude that Iraq did not use chemical agents nor were any agents located in Kuwait."
UNSCOM confirmed that it did not believe Iraq moved chemical weapons into Kuwait. In 1997 testimony, a PAC member posed this question to an UNSCOM representative:
Question: Do you see any evidence where any weapons were moved from the three lower depots, actually down into Kuwait, maybe brought back at some time?
Answer: We have seen no evidence of that and Iraqis have said that no movements took place other than what is described here [referring to munitions' movements to and from Baghdad-area depots and the three lower depots, of which the southernmost, and closest to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, was Khamisiyah].
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