The Public Inquiry

In February 1994, Congressman Browder (D-AL) requested from the UN any reports pertaining to chemical weapons found in Iraq after the Gulf War. The UN responded by letter in April 1994, providing in tabular format a listing of the sites at which Iraqi chemical warfare agents/weapons were found. Included in this listing was the "Khamisiyah Storage Site." [77].

In May 1994, witnesses from DoD testified before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee (the Riegle Committee) on matters relating to export administration. In the course of that testimony, DoD witnesses acknowledged that the UN had found chemical munitions at a site, 15 nautical miles from An Nasiriyah, but stated that U.S. forces were not at that site, which they said was north of the Euphrates River [78]. Review of the testimony and responses to questions for the record submitted by DoD in September and October 1994 reveals that there was true confusion as to the location of Khamisiyah and its proximity to US troops. Furthermore, DoD believed that any destruction of chemical munitions at this "other site" (Khamisiyah) probably had occurred after the war as part of an Iraqi deception campaign. [79]

This belief formed the basis for information provided to the Defense Science Board Task Force Persian Gulf War Health Effects in June 1994. The Task Force report stated that:

There were also reports of damage by the United Nations Special
Commission inspection team that visited a different location in the general
vicinity of An Nasiriyah several months after the cessation of hostilities.
There are indications that the site visited by the UNSCOM team was not a
site targeted during the air war but may have been specially constructed for
the UN inspectors. [80]

In November 1994, Congress directed the expansion of a DoD Gulf War registry, to include all servicemembers [81]. The agency tasked with responsibility for compiling the unit locator database was the Environmental Support Group (ESG) (now referred to as the U.S. Armed Services Center for Research of Unit Records). The ESG unit locator database incorporates all available coordinates (both latitude/longitude and universal trans-mercator indices) derived from unit logs, situation reports, etc. It reports the location of many, but not all, of the U.S. units in Iraq and Saudi Arabia during the conduct of the Gulf War by unit identification codes (UICs) and time.

In March 1995, the President directed [82] a more intensive effort to discover the causes of illnesses among Gulf War veterans. As concern over the Gulf War illnesses mounted the Acting Director Central Intelligence directed the CIA to conduct a comprehensive review of relevant intelligence information. In this review the CIA focused on identifying and quantifying Iraqi chemical, biological, or radiological releases during and after the war that could have reached U.S. troops [83]. As part of the President's initiative, the DoD and the CIA initiated new efforts to collect and review operational, intelligence and medical records from the war. In April, declassification of health documents started, and in June 1995, the Persian Gulf Illnesses Investigation Team (PGIIT) was established to provide a DoD organization to manage the different investigations which were now on-going.

Just prior to September of 1995, CIA analysts resurfaced the UNSCOM October 1991 Khamisiyah site visit report during a re-examination of thousands of intelligence reports and other intelligence holdings. On 6 September 1995, the CIA identified Khamisiyah as a key unresolved chemical weapons release issue, which raised special concern because its southerly location put it closest to U.S. troops. On 13 September 1995, CIA informed DoD's PGIIT of Khamisiyah's potential relevance to the exposure issue and asked whether U.S. military forces had been at the site [84]. DoD searched the newly constructed ESG unit locator database and indicated that some units were in the area. In October 1995, PGIIT learned from the ESG that the 37th Engineer Battalion reported a location coordinate near Khamisiyah, but there was no indication of their mission. At that time, no follow-on investigation into the 37th Engineer Battalion activities was conducted.

The CIA continued to monitor the DoD's Khamisiyah investigation and to conduct their own research. On 26 January 1996, the CIA briefed the National Security Council (NSC) staff that U.S. troops probably blew up chemical weapons at Khamisiyah. The Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) [85], formed in May 1995, was subsequently made aware of these initial findings. DoD and the CIA began an intense and comprehensive effort to research and analyze the Khamisiyah events. Concern about U.S. exposure increased as the topic became more fully understood. By early March 1996, CIA and PGIIT pieced together previously unanalyzed information indicating activity at the Khamisiyah ASP, and, for the first time, they received clear indications that the 37th Engineer Battalion blew up Bunker 73 at Khamisiyah.

On 10 March 1996, a CIA analyst heard a tape recording of a radio show during which a veteran (Mr. Brian Martin) of the 37th Engineer Battalion described demolition activities at a facility the analyst immediately recognized as Khamisiyah [86]. Although Mr. Martin had previously testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee and had been contacted by DoD after the release of the Riegle report [87], it was not until the CIA analyst heard the 10 March 1996 broadcast that the possible connection between An Nasiriyah demolitions and the bunkers at Khamisiyah was drawn. DoD and the PAC were notified of this connection on 11 March 1996.

A PGIIT investigator contacted Mr. Martin on 11 March 1996 about the demolition he had witnessed, and, with assistance from the PAC, Mr. Martin provided a video tape that showed the demolition activities he had witnessed. Another version of the tape [88] confirms the event on Mr. Martin's tape as the demolition at Khamisiyah on 4 March 1991. Review of these tapes has provided much useful information to the investigation by confirming events and weather data. Unfortunately, no such video, photographs or logs have been found that document the 10 March 1991 demolition.

On 1 May 1996, the CIA publicly announced at a PAC hearing that UNSCOM had found chemical weapons at Khamisiyah and, that "elements of the 37th Engineer Battalion.... performed demolition of munitions at this facility" during 1991 [89].

On 14 May 1996, UNSCOM again visited Khamisiyah. During this visit, the Iraqis told the inspectors that the 6,323 mustard rounds had been moved to Khamisiyah from Al Muthanna to An Nasiriyah in January 1991 after the beginning of the Gulf War. The Iraqis further stated that about 2,160 sarin/cyclosarin rockets were also brought from Al Muthanna in January 1991, and stored in Bunker 73 until a chemical leak was discovered, causing approximately 1100 of the rockets to be moved to the "pit" area in February 1991. According to the Iraqis, this was done before the Coalition Forces destroyed the ammunition storage area.

On 21 June 1996, DoD held a news briefing to detail these findings on Khamisiyah. The DoD said:

UNSCOM has informed us that, as part of its ongoing effort to verify Iraqi
declarations, it inspected the Khamisiyah ammunition storage area last month
[May 1996]. During that inspection, UNSCOM concluded that one bunker
had contained rockets with chemical agents. U.S. soldiers from the 37th
Engineer Battalion destroyed ammunition bunkers at this site in early March
1991,shortly after the war ended. Based on a new review of the available
information, it now appears that one of these destroyed bunkers contained
chemical weapons [90].

After the 21 June 1996 announcement, the focus of investigation shifted to better understand two questions. First, what was the potential for exposure to chemical agents at Khamisiyah, and second, who might have been exposed. DoD merged the ESG unit locator database with DMDC personnel databases to identify the people actually deployed at varying distances from Khamisiyah ASP in early March 1991 [91]. Efforts are on-going to identify additional units and individuals which were in the vicinity of Khamisiyah (see Tab B to this document). In addition, the PGIIT, CIA, and DMDC conducted interviews with U.S. troops known to be involved in the demolition to try to reconstruct such information as the exact dates of the demolition, amount and type of munitions destroyed, and weather and wind direction on the dates of demolition.

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