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Updated: 06/02/1998
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DefenseLINK Transcript
Background Briefing
Wednesday, October 2, 1996 - 2:15 p.m.

Subject: Gulf War Illness

Senior Defense Official: Good afternoon.

Last week as part of the initiatives announced by the Deputy Secretary, we announced that we would be forming a Persian Gulf illness action team in the building. This action team will look across all the activities ongoing in the Department related to Persian Gulf veterans' illnesses, and reassess whether we're in the right direction with the right amount of resources and the right level of effort, and asking the right questions.

Today I'm pleased to announce that Dr. Bernard D. Rostker will head this action team. Bernie Rostker is currently the assistant secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. Prior to coming to the Defense Department, the Navy Department and this Administration, he was a program manager at Rand in the National Defense Research Institute. He ran the defense manpower program there. He's an expert on military personnel policy. He's also a good analyst and a seasoned defense policy expert. During the Carter Administration he was the Director of Selective Service. He has broad familiarity with defense issues. And most importantly, from the standpoint of the Deputy Secretary, it's someone in whom Dr. White has a great deal of personal confidence, has known him a long time. Bernie is also somebody with whom I've worked and he has the ability to take on a large, complex, multifaceted issue, put together a team, get his arms around that issue, and come back with an assessment.

We anticipate this team to be in action, it is in action as I speak, to provide the Departmental focal point on Persian Gulf illnesses for the next few months, to come back and advise the Deputy Secretary on any changes we ought to be making in how we're going about this and how we ought to implement those changes.

Broadly speaking, this action team will look across the entire Department at our efforts, both to understand and analyze this phenomenon of Persian Gulf illnesses; serve as the focal point; advise on the adequacy of our efforts both in terms of their completeness, their comprehensiveness, their competence; assess our organizational arrangements, whether we are properly organized and structured to deal with this; and then most importantly, help us understand the implications of this issue for our longer term interests in force protection and in operational training and personnel policy. This issue of our troops being deployed in unfamiliar environments, exposed to agents known and unknown, possible, detectable or non-detectable is an important issue for force protection. We care about the environments we send our troops into. We care about making sure we've done everything we can to understand what they're going to be exposed to. Of course that applies retrospectively as well.

Along those lines, Ken Bacon announced yesterday that we are also asking the National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council, Institute of Medicine -- that's all one thing, in a sense -- to convene the appropriate authority, to help the Department understand the issue of deployment of troops to unfamiliar environments. We're in discussions with the Academy and with its research arm, the National Research Council, now, on the exact charter and nature of the activities that group will undertake, but they have agreed that they will help us in that regard. This again will be an independent, highly prestigious group of scientists advising us on a wide range of issues relating to Persian Gulf veterans illnesses and how the Department responds to that.

In addition to those two initiatives which were part of what Secretary White announced last week, we've also taken a number of other specific actions and I wanted to go over those briefly with you and provide any clarification that you might desire on that.

We have directed that our DoD-sponsored research effort on chemical exposure, particularly the issue of low level chemical exposure, be increased to $5 million. That's in '96 money. So there is the possibility as additional research avenues are identified or if we find some leads that are worth pursuing, that we can put more resources into that effort. Dr. White has directed Stephen Joseph, the assistant secretary for Health Affairs to identify aggressively any areas of potential research that should be considered for funding.

Second, we are going to broaden our clinical investigation efforts. This is an effort to focus on the incidents at Khamisyah and to make sure that individuals in areas of potential exposure around Khamisyah are brought into our comprehensive clinical evaluation program, the so-called CCEP, which already has over 25,000 people enrolled and being examined and their cases monitored. We want to expand the number of people who participate in that because that's our best scientific effort in this regard. It's also the way in which anybody who is ill can be cared for.

Along those lines, we have asked the Institute of Medicine - - in a separate effort from the one I just describe about the National Academy of Sciences -- we've asked the Institute of Medicine to consider looking at our medical protocols in the CCEP and to revalidate that they are appropriate given what we may understand about possible low level exposures. The Institute for Medicine has previously looked at the CCEP protocol and said they thought it was generally in the right direction.

As you may know, the Institute of Medicine has done a number of projects for us in this regard to help, on the health side, to validate our protocols, and we're continuing to rely on them.

Dr. White also directed the Secretary of the Army to ask the Army Inspector General to look into the events immediately surrounding the destruction of the munitions at Khamisyah in 1991, and to supplement the efforts that we already have ongoing in our Persian Gulf investigative teams, to understand those events. Since these were Army units that conducted this operation, presumably, therefore, the records and the logs and the memories and the information, we want to know as much as we can about that and we've asked the Army to put its Inspector General on the case of understanding the events of 1991. Who was there? What did they do? Etc.

As all of you know, I'm sure, there was a report in the fall of '91 about the events at Khamisyah, an intelligence report, which contained some information about the activities earlier, the significance of which was not recognized until 1995.

Dr. White has asked the Assistant to the Secretary for Intelligence Oversight to conduct an investigation into the intelligence information surrounding the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program before, during and after the war, and to advise on what happened to that information, that is the procedures by which it was handled, where did it go, and to advise on any procedures... We need to understand that event, so he's been asked to look into that.

Finally, as you may know, there is an issue of declassification of intelligence records and they're posting on the GulfLINK. Some of those records that were originally posted on GulfLINK have subsequently been taken off GulfLINK and there was some controversy over their classification, their redaction, and whether they should be put back on GulfLINK. This is, in a sense, an argument about how you close the barn door after the horse is gone. It's also an argument, though, about the right standards for declassification and redaction of documents. The argument is an inter-agency argument among intelligence officials and declassifiers.

We would like to have that dispute -- or debate, if you will -- referred by an authority that can provide some guidance. There is in existence the Inter-Agency Security Classification Appeals Panel, the so-called ISCAP, that usually provides guidance on declassification of documents after a certain period of time has passed. But they are the right group, in our opinion, to take a look at the guidelines and the standards by which we're declassifying documents and advise if we need a government-wide standard.

So Assistant Secretary Emmett Paige, in whose domain intelligence falls, has written a letter to the ISCAP asking that they look into this issue and provide guidelines for declassification of documents.

Why are we doing all these things? Obviously, our effort to understand Persian Gulf illness and to assist the efforts of the entire government and the presidential advisory committee have been ongoing for about a year now. We set up the Persian Gulf investigation team last September. That team, in conjunction with the CIA, has been working on a number of incidents or potential incidents of interest during the Gulf War, the most notable being the Khamisyah bunker and Khamisyah pit detonation issue. In the course of these investigations and the effort to declassify the documents and the operational records and all of these efforts are linked and all of them are now about nine months old, we have uncovered a lot of information, and we have also begun to understand the volume and the complexity of this.

Dr. White felt that it's appropriate at this time to conduct a reassessment. That's why we have the Persian Gulf investigative team. And also to take a number of measures here to deal with what we know so far.

Khamisyah, in our judgment, is a watershed in this search for the information and understanding of Persian Gulf veterans' illnesses. Khamisyah is the first event where we now can place American troops in the known presence of chemical agents, and in a circumstance where they did not know they were in the presence of chemical agents. This changes the way we have to think about investigating this, and because of that, we want to take this chance to look at our overall Departmental effort and make sure all of our medical and clinical and investigative protocols are correct and properly focused.

With that, I'd be happy to take any questions.

Q: A two part question, if you don't mind. We've been told for a long time that there's no smoking gun, if you will. No single cause, and yet the number of people who were probably exposed has gone from a couple of hundred to now 15,000 plus. The first part of my question is, do you believe that the sarin and other nerve agents are, in fact, a smoking gun or the probably cause? Secondly, this agency and the Veterans Administration have checked 50,000 vets, I believe. Now that you know Khamisyah and see the level of exposure, will you go back and recheck those people to specifically focus in on the possible effects of low level or whatever of nerve agents?

A: To answer your first question, I'm not competent to say, really, anything about the medical side of this. The possibility of exposure is really all we have right now, and making clinical connections is going to require a great deal of further work, which we are undertaking and underwriting.

As for people who have been examined once or are in the system, the real purpose of the CCEP, the comprehensive clinical evaluation program, is to get these people in a system where they're monitored and followed. So in that sense, anybody who either is ill and needs care or who is just concerned and wants to be in the system and in the registry, those people are (inaudible) absolutely.

Q: People who have been checked and then in effect dismissed by people putting up their hands and saying 'we can't find anything,' are you going to go back and bring those people back in again?

A: I think anybody who is ill or seeks care is getting it. Absolutely.

Q: You said the Pentagon and CIA have been investigating a number of incidents during the Gulf War, and that Khamisyah was the first where you confirmed it. Are there other candidates out there where it's possible that in the current state of investigation American troops were exposed to chemical weapons?

A: None that we know of. The incidents I was referring to are the familiar Czech detectors and the alarms going off and those kinds of incidents, which we have not concluded our investigation of.

As to whether there's another Khamisyah-type incident out there, none that we know of. I think we now know enough about events in the Gulf War not to say 'never' or 'no' or 'this is it.' But there are no incidents of this type that we know of at this time.

Q: You're talking about this intelligence report and the UN memo in the fall of '91 that identified Khamisyah. Dr. Joseph said last week on the Hill that it was submerged to the avalanche of material, and flood of materials from that time. Was there a flood of material identifying other bunkers or was that the only bunker and pit identified in that report?

A: In that specific report, it was a report about the Khamisyah area, which -- it's worth recalling -- the Iraqis had taken the UNSCOM investigators to Khamisyah and said this is a site where there were chemical weapons. Khamisyah had not been identified as a chemical weapons storage site in our records before the war or during the war. So it was a surprise, in a sense that Khamisyah was declared. On the other hand, the Iraqis said come with us, we're going to take and show you some chemical weapons. So when there were some there, that wasn't surprising.

The report in question that then documented that visit, spoke specifically only to Khamisyah. When that report came in, it was treated in a very routine fashion. It's a low level kind of report, rapidly disseminated to the field and to the commanders, went to a lot of places. The significance of it doesn't, certainly in '91, did not jump out at anybody.

Q: It was a unique report, but it was still buried in the avalanche of others...

A: It's a unique report on that day's or period's inspection, but there are many, many of those kinds of reports. There's an avalanche of similar reports.

Q: Have you or White been informed of the CIA model on the pit? And what is your understanding of the dimensions of the exposure? How much sarin? How many troops?

A: I have been informed on the status of the CIA's model this morning, which is that it's not done yet. I'm unwilling to predict when it will be, but we're hoping it's not long. They're working on it very hard. Until we can get that, and until we can assess what that shows, it's impossible to say anything about numbers.

Q: Can I ask, what are some of the, to a lay person, what are some of the symptoms of exposure to sarin and (inaudible)? And have you found any of those symptoms in anybody, including these people in the area?

A: The primary known symptom is death. There are possible conditions that one could be in short of death. This is really lethal stuff. But those acute but not fatal symptoms are the familiar responses to nerve gas -- seizures -- I used to know this entirely, about how it affects your autoimmune system. But it can range from that down to watery eyes and runny noses.

At this time, we do not have any examples that we know of anybody dying from any potential exposure or of any of these sub- acute indications. Obviously we will continue researching, but we do not have any cases to date.

Q: Based on your research, is this changing battlefield tactics by commanders, going to areas where there might be a potential or bunker or whatever. Is this changing tactics?

A: I'm not able to say if it's changing anything. It's certainly something that we are going to look at very carefully. We want in our requirements process and in our thinking about deployment of troops into these areas, we want to look at this issue and ask whether we should change anything.

Part of the trick here is if you were in battle going into an area where you expected this. You would be prepared. You would have your mop gear on, you would be expecting to be exposed. The trick about Khamisyah, of course, is they didn't know they were there. So this is not really a war time operational issue as much as an issue of the unexpected.

Q: How long before this illness action team is going to have some findings?

A: We expect a team to report to us continuously in terms of the ongoing activities. we are hoping that by the end of the year -- a -- not necessarily a final report, but a set of any recommendations that they have that require action by the Deputy Secretary will be made. We've told them if they have recommendations, they don't have to wait until the end of the year. But we're hoping, this is kind of a three to four-month effort in our conception right now.

Q: Secretary Joseph provided, if I read the transcript right, he said on the Hill last week, that so far you haven't found even any clusters of cases in the CCEP from troops who appear to have been around Khamisyah at the time; but he emphasized that was an ongoing search (inaudible) that you were doing. Is that still the case?

A: Yes.

Q: I'm utterly confused about the status of research into this thing, pyridostigmine and whether or not it kills cockroaches when you put it together with DDT or whatever, which everyone I guess talks about.

Can you tell me whether you've looked at the issue of synergy between pyridostigmine and DEET or whatever it is, and what's the result?

A: I can tell you that that research is being contemplated. I cannot tell you myself in detail. We can get that for you, though. Health Affairs can certainly run down for you the research that we have going on.

Q: Can you elaborate on what the Assistant Secretary for Intelligence Oversight is doing? You said investigate intelligence surrounding, is it just this event, Khamisyah? Is it other events? Have you... What's happened to the information? are you talking about that only or have you identified other intelligence reports that didn't surface then that have now?

A: We have not identified any other reports that haven't surfaced. That's what we're asking him, if there are any. In a sense, his tasking, his complete tasking is classified because this is a matter of how intelligence was handled. But what I can unclassified is that we've asked him to report on the information received by the government pertaining to Khamisyah in '91, and any other related intelligence information that might have been out there, and to report on the procedures by which the information was handled.

Q: Do you have any reason to believe that there were intelligence reports speaking to matters other than Khamisyah that were not identified or you know about but you can't identify?

A: No, and the focus of his charge is really to look at Khamisyah and the related intelligence there.

Q: Can you clarify what you meant earlier when you talked about an avalanche of similar reports? What did you mean by that?

A: The generic report, an intelligence information report, is a very routine report. In the period after the war we were very focused on identifying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, destroying as much of that as we could. UNSCOM was established and was moving in the area. Saddam Hussein was involved in a lot of deception and you'll recall the standoff with the people looking for the nuclear weapons, the nuclear components. There was a lot of that going on. So there's a lot of reporting of that. That's the volume of reporting we're talking about. It was just, there's a lot of intelligence...

Q: I guess what I'd like cleared up is whether you had reports that indicated there were other areas to which UNSCOM was taken by the Iraqis saying that there were chemical weapons, and whether any of those locations had ever been approached by U.S....

A: They were certainly taken to other chemical locations because that's what they were there for, to go to the chemical locations, and even in the case of Khamisyah, it was UNSCOM that returned to the site and destroyed the mustard, or had the mustard round sent back and destroyed the other thing. So there's a lot of that.

What we can connect only in the case of Khamisyah right now is U.S. troops going and destroying ammunition that turned out to be chemical. U.S. troops were blowing up a lot of ammunition at the end of the war. They thought it was all conventional and right now, this is the only incident we know of where there was a chemical weapon.

Q: Can you expand or elaborate on your characterization of Khamisyah as a watershed? By that, I mean can you reflect upon what the attitude of DoD was for this, whether it fairly characterized this skepticism or agnosticism, and what the transformation is now?

A: We had, up until Khamisyah, no evidence of the use of chemical weapons, which we still don't have against U.S. forces, or that U.S. forces were exposed to chemical weapons. And we so stated.

With Khamisyah we have the first instance where possible exposure can be identified. We can link the possible release of chemical agent, since these were chemical weapons, and the proximity of U.S. forces.

If you add to that that the U.S. forces didn't know there were chemical weapons, and that therefore they were not in their full protective gear, but also they were far away. It's a complicated scenario, obviously. But this is the first time where we have to say there's some possible exposure because we have the event.

Q: Can I draw you out further on the issue of how it may have, as a watershed or as a transforming event, changed the, if it has, openness in thinking about the larger issue of Gulf War syndrome as it's called, on a larger scale or in a larger theater.

A: On the latter, I think it's too early to know if it has any implications in that sense. But what it does say is that we want to make sure this very comprehensive program of medical research that we have underway and this extensive effort to contact people who were in the Gulf War and who may be experiencing illness, and to track and identify and do research on these issues, we want to make sure we're doing everything we should be doing. We want to make sure there's nothing about this incident that would cause us to change or do anything differently. Maybe we should do something more. We want to make sure that we're still looking in the right areas. And of course, obviously, we want to make sure that any individual who is ill or believes they're ill, is being examined and treated. It's important to remember that between this Department and the Veterans Administration, we don't want any veteran of the Gulf War to not be getting adequate treatment.

Q: Do you know how many other munition sites were exploded in Iraq, and why either UNSCOM or U.S. troops... Are you going back to each of those sties to see if there were chemical weapons in them, or however you would do that?

A: I think it's one of the questions that we're going to want our action team to take a look at and advise on. One of the activities we've had ongoing for the last year is this declassification of operational records. The focus on that declassification effort has been on health-related operational records. But I think it's going to be important to ask ourselves whether we shouldn't look at those operational records, look for other bunkers that were exploded, and look into those incidents in some way. So we'll be expecting to get further advice on that.

Q: Do you know how many were exploded?

A: Lots. I don't know how many. But in the immediate days after the war while U.S. forces were still in Iraqi territory they were moving through blowing up ammunition as fast as they could.

Q: Can you address the issue of Pentagon credibility? The whole notion that there seems to be some distrust arising in some quarters of the veterans community, that there's a cover-up, that the Pentagon knows more than it's telling. Can you sort of speak to that? Would there be a motive to conceal? Is there an institutional bias for the Pentagon to come down one way or the other on some of these issues?

A: We believe clearly that there is not such a bias. It is the policy of this Department and certainly of Secretary Perry and Secretary White, to get the information accurately understood, comprehensively evaluated, and fully released. We are working as hard as we can to do that. We're working closely with the CIA to try to understand this incident at Khamisyah. We're working with the Presidential Advisory Committee. We've set up the investigative team to review records and develop any other cases. We're asking the National Academy of Sciences to come in and validate this from the outside. We believe that if there is a stone that needs to be turned, we're going to turn it on this issue.

Beyond that, I think you just have to count on the evidence of one's efforts and the passage of time to deal with the issue of credibility.

Q: Are you also checking to see if perhaps Saddam Hussein, knowing that we were going to be exploding ammo bunkers at the end of the war actually stacked chemical weapons in the pit?

A: This was a theory at the time about Khamisyah. Because he had been engaging in deception activities and moving things around, and because there had been activity observed at Khamisyah prior to the arrival of the UNSCOM team, there was some question of whether they were declaring a site that wasn't really a site, and they were trying to throw us off the scent and some of those things.

That is really the reason that we were not able to say with any degree of certainty that there had been chemical weapons in Bunker 73 at the time coalition forces destroyed it in 1991. Until UNSCOM went back this year, in March. And it was when they went back in March and they looked again at that bunker and they said these weapons buried and destroyed and bent in this bunker were there when the bunker was destroyed. So it was that confirming eyeball evidence that led us to our announcement in June that...

Q: That begs the issue. Could he have moved them in there before they were destroyed, obviously, knowing full well that they probably would be destroyed?

A: This is unlikely because once the war started his ability to do any of that was very minimal, and we were in that bunker in early March, only a couple of weeks after the war.

Our belief is that the munitions were moved to Bunker 73 right before the war started, which is why we didn't track them as being there.

Q: Your evidence that there's been no acute, no one's been acutely affected by sarin poisoning, is that based on the 400 phone calls you've made so far?

A: I was actually answering a more global question of did we have any known cases of sarin poisoning and the answer is no. In our effort to follow up on the bunker 73 group, which is what you're asking about, we have not uncovered any...

Q: He's talking about more than 15,000 now. Is it possible that you're going to run across somebody who has had watery eyes or troubled breathing or blurred vision or runny nose from sarin?

A: It's certainly possible we're going to have some people with runny noses and blurry eyes. I experienced that when I went there after the war. Whether it's from sarin is going to be a hard question to answer. I think we're not going to be able to do that until we do very detailed scientific studies.

Q: You're familiar with the French and the Czech incidents, and they do cluster both in time, January (inaudible) and in places in the environs of King Khalid Military City. As part of this fresh look, are you reexamining the issue of whether any of the U.S. allies, in fact, did possess chemical weapons in the theater?

A: That question hasn't come up specifically, but now that you've asked it, I think we'll give Bernie Rostker that question.

Q: Because (inaudible) with mustard gas is very hard to explain other than by a physician.

A: That's and interesting question.

Q: I don't think you answered the question about trust that John asked. You said early on that we care about the environment we send our troops into, and yet five years later you appointed this action team to look back over things that you might not have been doing for five years. How do you correlate that?

A: I don't see the disconnect. The Department has had a large number of activities on going. Now we have some evidence of this incident, we're learning more, and it's appropriate to sort of step back and say are we doing everything we should be, are we doing it right, have we got the right people working it?

Q: There are veterans who say they've been providing evidence all along aside from Khamisyah that you all haven't looked into this thoroughly.

A: I know there are those assertions out there. It's our intention to look at everything we can, and at the end of the day, we'll let public opinion judge. But we are not ignoring any incident that comes to our attention.

Q: Has the CIA told you when it expects to have this computer model done, and what are the factors that are still undecided?

A: They haven't given me a firm date because I wouldn't believe it and they probably couldn't make it, but they're talking days. And they're working hard. I really hope we get it soon, and I think we will. I think there are two problems. One is computer-related things that I don't understand with complex models. The other, I think, is trying to get the best data they can to estimate this model and to then fit it into the algorithms correctly.

It's very hard because they want to model weather and they don't have a lot of good data, as it's hard to kind of get that and have confidence that they understand the relationship. As I understand it, that's where they are. But as I say, I think we're talking days.

Q: Could we have a satellite photograph of Khamisyah during this period?

A: Even if I could talk about that, I wouldn't.

Q: Do we have... I'm not saying a satellite... Do we have photographs of this area during this period that through spectrometry, through infrared, would show heat and dispersion of this cloud?

A: I think that we'll have to wait until we see what comes out with the CIA on that. I cannot answer that question.

Q: How are you going to determine fact or fiction when a soldier comes to you? There were up to 100,000 soldiers that could come to you now and say they have some type of illness, and it could be because of the gas or it could be just one of those coincidences. What is your office going to do to alleviate that possible big problem?

A: The problem is not different in type than what we're already dealing with. So far there are a lot of people who served in the Gulf who are ill. Statistically it doesn't appear to be dramatically or even, it doesn't appear to be different than their age cohort in the population as a whole. That's the type of problem we're dealing with. A person who served in the Gulf may think that's the cause of their problem, and maybe it is. But we haven't been able in a scientific sense, in a clinical, epidemiological sense, to identify any cause or any clustering or any patterning. We're not up here to say therefore it doesn't exist. We're up here to say we're continuing to look at it. It's a hard problem.

Q: (Inaudible)...sarin release.

A: We are absolutely continuing our research efforts. We are not ruling anything out.

Q: There have been reports about a missing Central Command log, about eight days' worth right around the time of a lot of this. Do you have anything on that?

A: I don't. I saw that report. There are missing data in our effort to reconstruct the eight days after and during the war in lots of places. We will have to just keep looking and keep constructing. On the specific incident you're asking about, I don't know anything more about that. But this is... we had a lot of troops in motion at the end of the war, and then a lot more motion, and the record keeping wasn't always perfect, and this is one of our challenges.

Q: If you can just help me understand your understanding at the time. I take it the units would go in and they'd blow up every ammo depot they would find, and they wouldn't in any way check what kind of munitions were in them, they would just rely on intelligence from far away that says we think that one's not chemical? Is this something that you're looking at changing, that maybe they ought to go look and see if there's a skull and crossbones on that...

A: Actually if they had seen any of those signs, they would have used different procedures to destroy the munitions. These...

Q: Did they examine the munitions?

A: They had to go into the bunker and set the charge, so they saw the munitions.

Q: Did they take a detector in with them and...

A: This is part of the investigation of the incident that we're carrying on now. You'll recall that we've attempted to sort of determine what they physically did before, during and after, and that's partly what the investigation team is doing. They've now conducted a lot of interviews with people that were there, and we're going to be able to sort of summarize what we know about that shortly, I hope. The information's not all consistent. People have different memories, so that's part of the problem. But we are trying to put that story together.

Q: Would the munitions teams have had all the proper equipment if they had wanted to use a detector, did they have it available to them in all cases?

A: In this particular case, there were specialists in ordnance destruction who would have known what to do if that had been a chemical weapon.

Q: Would they have the equipment to figure out whether there was a chemical weapon in any ammo depot that they were going to...

A: I'm not competent to really answer that question in terms of the equipment and detectors. They had detectors with them, they had their mop gear with them, they had chemical weapons specialists with them, they had people trained in the demolition of these weapons, so my presumption is yes, they would have been able to do that had they realized what it was.

Q: Can you tell by looking at shell if it's a chemical weapon shell?

A: No, you cannot. In this case we know because we were back and saw them this year. They were not marked, they were not special. The only way you could tell it's a chemical shell is to open it.

Q: How did the Iraqis now?

A: This is a very interesting question which we're still in the process of evaluating. It has to do with the operational doctrine of the Iraqi military, and it has to do with their procedures for handling chemical weapons which are special and different and certainly not like most military's. That we think is how they did it. But they didn't... It's different with the mustard rounds. The mustard rounds out in the field, they had words on the outside of the crates. But these sarin agents were not marked.

Q: Well if U.S. troops that you say had the equipment and the knowledge and the experts to know chemical weapons when they saw them, why didn't they know that the weapons at Khamisyah were chemical?

A: They didn't look like chemical weapons. There were no markings on these weapons. I didn't say they had to know them if they saw them, I said they would know what to do if they knew they were chemical. They would know how to destroy them.

Q: Were troops warned that these shells would be impossible to tell from the other shells?

A: Rather than me speculating, I think we have to wait until we see the report of the investigation team who have talked to all these people, but they're clearly trained in what to look for and you'll hear different reports. They had certain markings and stuff like that. But we...

Bacon: We're out of time.

Q: Would it be possible to get somebody down here who was there? One of the officers on the scene, somebody who was at Khamisyah?

Bacon: It hasn't been my experience that the press has had a hard time finding people who were there.

Q: Would it be possible to get somebody here?

Bacon: I don't know.

Q: I know you've referred to this in many of your answers, and Dr. Joseph also answered this on the Hill, but it might be helpful if you could, in sort of a crystallized form, provide what you now believe the explanation or explanations for the delay in appreciating the significance in Khamisyah over this period.

A: I think what we know now is that the significance of the report was not recognized in '91 because it didn't link U.S. troops to the destruction of the chemical round. That's fall of '91. Previous Administration, previous regime, focus is on finding the weapons of mass destruction, finding and destroying Saddam Hussein's chemical and nuclear arsenal. Not until we get to '95 where we're sort of looking for issues related to illness and where we're looking for understanding what went on and we have the time do we begin to make the connection. I don't have an explanation other than that somebody would have had to be, have a really good memory to say in '94, '95, hey, I remember that report from '91. Or they would have had to make a connection that nobody was making in '91 and '92.

We don't understand entirely where this information went and who knew it and where it was filed and that's why we've asked for this more thorough report, because from where we sit this is not thoroughly explainable, obviously.

Q: Chain of command non-existent.

Q: Have you been checking tanks? A lot of tanks were deployed. (inaudible)..

A: I don't know about tanks.

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