F. Sampling of the Tank's Contents (August 10, 1991)
On August 9, 1991, personnel at the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) in Bahrain were contacted by Major Watkinson and asked to inspect the tank at the Kuwaiti Girls' School. In response, a British chemical weapons evaluation team arrived at the school to obtain samples from the tank. The United Nations was not involved in the testing of the tank or taking any of the samples, and provided the following statement:
Although it is possible that the people involved in taking samples were at one time temporary UNSCOM inspectors, UNSCOM was not involved in the taking of samples from the tank at the Sabahiyah Girls' School in Kuwait. Chemicals in Kuwait are clearly not part of UNSCOM's purview, although UNSCOM does have interest in the contents of the tank as they probably originated from Iraq.
On August 10, 1991, members of the sampling team met with British ordnance disposal personnel, Colonel Macel, Lieutenant Colonel Killgore, Major Watkinson, and a Kuwaiti army ordnance officer. Major Watkinson and Lieutenant Colonel Killgore briefed the sampling team on earlier tests, and provided the team with copies of the Fox tapes. The sampling team interviewed key personnel, including Major Watkinson, the Bomb Disposal Officer, the Bomb Disposal Engineer, and the British lance corporal injured following the Fox vehicle tests. The sampling team, accompanied by Colonel Macel, Lieutenant Colonel Killgore, Major Watkinson, and members of the 21st EOD Squadron, then traveled to the Kuwaiti Girls' School to collect the liquid samples from the tank.
Upon arrival at the Kuwaiti Girls' School, the sampling team leader prepared the equipment needed for the operation. He labeled four tubes from a Sampling and Identification of Biological and Chemical Agents (SIBCA) kit in sequential order (Tab I). The tubes contained XAD-4 resin, a substance used by inspection teams to transport samples of chemical warfare agents. The sampling team leader and another team member, along with Major Watkinson, put on full individual protective clothing before they approached the tank and ammunition box.
The two sampling team members withdrew a sample from one of the bottles contained in the ammunition box using a glass syringe with a four-inch stainless steel internal tube. Then the sampling team selected one of the pre-prepared tubes containing XAD-4 resin at random and injected the sample into it through the rubber seal. The first sample reacted violently when introduced into the tube, breaking both the tube and the syringe. The sampling team leader reported,
The original sample we were trying to take was onto an adsorbent, which is designed to take up chemical weapon agents. My theory, to which I still adhere, is that the nitric acid components reacted very quickly with the adsorbents and they gave off a gas, which just gave an enormous overpressure. So, the overpressure actually exploded the syringe.
The violent reaction of the liquid sample on the XAD-4 resin caused doubts about the earlier assessment that the tank contained chemical warfare agent by the sampling team leader. The sampling team leader noted, "Chemical warfare agents in general are not actually very reactive chemicals. They have specific organic receptors on which they have their effect. So, they're not reactive. Our sampling kit was designed to deal with CW agents, which, as I say, are not reactive, whereas, this of course was obviously a very reactive chemical." He later discussed the events at the school with colleagues in Bahrain, which further convinced him that the liquid in the tank most likely was fuming nitric acid. The sampling team leader also reported:
My description of the liquid in the bottle was that it was of very low viscosity. Mustard is a very high viscosity liquid, similar to engine oil. On top of that, of course I had the descriptions of the injuries that [the British soldier] and Major Watkinson had suffered, and these were again inconsistent with mustard derived burns, but were wholly consistent with a powerful acid, such as nitric.
When the tube broke during the sampling operation, a small amount of liquid agent possibly contaminated their protective gear. As a precaution, the sampling team conducted personal decontamination using hypochlorite solution and fuller's earth. They withdrew from the contaminated area near the tank and went to the area established for personal decontamination. The team took a different approach the second time. Hoping to reduce the pressure in the tubes, they first removed the rubber seals from the screw top of the pre-prepared tubes and then placed a liquid sample onto the resin. The sampling team successfully deposited two samples in the tubes numbered 1 and 3.
While observing the sampling team's activities, Major Watkinson noticed brown vapors once again escaping through the bullet holes in the tank. Once the sampling team completed its activities, Major Watkinson and the Bomb Disposal Engineer attempted to reseal the tank. Two members of the sampling team remained clothed in individual protective equipment to assist Major Watkinson. Major Watkinson removed the previous seals from the tank and used plaster of paris and chewing gum (no silicone sealant was available and the gum has similar properties to silicone sealant) to make new seals. After they resealed the tank, Major Watkinson, the Bomb Disposal Engineer, and the two sampling team members returned to the decontamination area.
The sampling team sealed the liquid samples in suitable containers for transport (Figure 17) and established a chain of custody for control of the samples. The sampling team leader, Major Watkinson, and Colonel Macel signed the seals on the containers to verify the samples were indeed those taken from the Kuwaiti Girls' School. The sampling team flew to Bahrain with the two tubes containing samples from the tank. The samples were treated as forensic evidence, so a signatory accompanied the samples at all times. The sampling team relinquished custody of the samples to an individual from the UK Consulate to ship the samples to the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment, Porton Down, UK, the laboratory responsible for analyzing samples of chemical warfare agents collected in Iraq.
Figure 17. Photo taken by sampling team leader on August 10, 1991
G. Tests on the Individual Protective Equipment (August 14, 1991)
The injuries sustained by Major Watkinson and the British lance corporal during the initial testing of the tank generated concern that the individual protective equipment would not provide adequate protection against a chemical warfare agent. Major Watkinson tasked the commanding officer of the 3rd Troop of the 21st EOD Squadron to conduct field tests on the individual protective equipment using the remaining liquid agent stored in the bottles in the ammunition box. The field tests commenced on August 14, 1991.
The commanding officer of the 3rd Troop conducted tests on the individual protective equipment using a piece of the suit material and cotton and inserting three-color detector paper between the various layers of the suit. Wearing full protective clothing, he and the Bomb Disposal Engineer removed the two remaining sample bottles from the ammunition box and found that the liquid sample had corroded the tops of the bottles. Only a small amount of liquid remained. The commanding officer placed a few drops on the suit material, and upon contact, the liquid burned through the outer fabric; within three minutes, the liquid penetrated through the charcoal layer. When the commanding officer examined the suit material, he found that the charcoal layer absorbed much of the liquid, but the inner cotton layer was also stained and slightly burned. Additionally, the three-color detector papers placed between the layers of material were red, suggesting the presence of a blister agent. Once the field tests concluded, Major Watkinson ordered the disposal of the remaining liquid in the ammunition box for security and safety reasons. Following the standard decontamination method for blister agent, the commanding officer poured the remaining liquid on the sand and mixed it with fuller's earth and bleach. He also burned the bottles that contained the liquid. During the testing on the individual protective equipment, a small amount of liquid spilled on the commanding officer's gloves. He noticed heat emanating from the contaminated area and replaced his gloves immediately. The penetration of the liquid through the gloves raised more doubts on whether the tank contained mustard agent.
H. Permanent Sealing of the Tank (August 14, 1991)
Members of the 21st EOD Squadron inspected the seals on the tank regularly for any leaks and reported a leak on August 12, 1991, assumed to be the result of the high temperature and the vapor pressure inside the tank. According to Major Watkinson,
Although we'd done lots of testing, we still hadn't fulfilled our original mission, which was to stop the vapor coming out of the tank. The various seals [used] should have been fairly robust [in stopping chemical warfare agent leaks]. This again raised question marks. What appeared to be happening was that vapor pressure was building up inside the sealed container, which was pressurizing the seals and bursting them. I wouldn't have anticipated that this would occur with mustard gas, which is essentially not volatile and is quite oily. So, the chemical seemed to have quite a high vapor pressure, which was surprising.
Major Watkinson ordered the commanding officer of the 3rd Troop of the 21st EOD Squadron, British Royal Engineers, to permanently seal the tank. The commanding officer of the 3rd Troop, with assistance from the Bomb Disposal Engineer, removed the old seals and hammered in lead dowel plugs. These plugs were machine-tapered pieces of lead designed specifically to fit the two bullet holes in the tank. Next, they inserted self-tapping screws then covered the seals with epoxy resin. Once the resin hardened, the commanding officer used a Chemical Agent Monitor and three-color detector paper to confirm there were no leaks around the seals. Once this was completed, the commanding officer of the 3rd Troop and the Bomb Disposal Engineer returned to the emergency personnel decontamination station.
The commanding officer decontaminated the reusable items and the piece of the individual protective equipment suit used in the field tests; however, we have been unable to locate the piece of material for further analysis. The 21st EOD Squadron continued to monitor the tank regularly for leaks. Once the operation to seal the tank concluded, the commanding officer of the 3rd Troop wrote a final report and provided copies to the British personnel involved.
I. Analysis of Samples by the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment
The sampling team transported the tubes containing the samples from Kuwait to Bahrain. The British Consulate staff intended for the samples to be flown from Bahrain to the United Kingdom by the British Royal Air Force. However, the Royal Air Force had ceased flight operations from Bahrain by the time the sampling team and the liquid samples arrived. The British Consulate staff arranged for the German authorities to transport the samples and authorized escorts to Munster, Germany. Upon arrival in Germany on September 12, 1991, two individuals from the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment assumed custody of the samples. They returned to Porton Down, United Kingdom, with the samples on September 13, 1991, where the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment's analytical team reconfirmed the two samples (labeled 1 and 3, dated August 10, 1991) were those taken from the tank at the Kuwaiti Girls' School.
The laboratory analysts at the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment prepared an initial report dated September 24, 1991, concluding the samples were consistent with nitric acid. The samples had a definite yellow/brownish color compared to the original white of the resin. Extraction of the [XAD-4] resin with dichloromethane and analysis by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry showed no material of CW interest. Extraction of the resin from sample 1 showed 16 mg of nitrate and a pH of 2.2. Resin from sample 3 showed 35 mg of nitrate and a pH of 2.0. An extract of blank resin of similar weight contained less than 0.2 mg of nitrate and had a pH of 6.5. The samples were entirely consistent with the contents of the tank being nitric acid and there is no evidence of any CW dimension. (See Tab J.)
In late September 1991, Major Watkinson received notification of the results of the laboratory analysis and the conclusion that the tank did not contain chemical warfare agent, but rather nitric acid. Major Watkinson notified Colonel Macel at the US Embassy in Kuwait, who then informed the US military's Central Command, the Defense Reconstruction Assistance Office, the director of operations for the Kuwaiti military's general headquarters, and Task Force Victory of the laboratory results. However, Lieutenant Colonel Killgore and members of the 54th Chemical Troop had departed the Gulf region before the laboratory completed their tests and analysis on the samples, thus were not informed that the tank did not contain chemical warfare agents.
Although the initial report prepared by Porton Down indicated that a detailed report would follow, no such detailed report was ever produced. This is probably because once it had been established that the tank's contents contained no chemical warfare agent, the matter assumed a low priority and the aim of producing a detailed report was overtaken by other, more pressing, commitments.
J. Disposal of the Tank
On September 27, 1991, the Headquarters, British Forces Kuwait, notified the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment of their concern regarding the disposal or destruction of the tank. On September 30, 1991, experts at the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment reported that because the tank may contain up to two thousand liters of nitric acid, it would be extremely difficult to dispose of safely. They also warned untrained personnel not to move the tank, nor dispose of its contents at its present location. Scheduled to return to the United Kingdom on October 2, 1991, the 21st EOD Squadron had already packed their equipment for shipping. As a result, they were unable to dispose of the tank and its contents before departing Kuwait. The Headquarters, British Forces Kuwait, needed to inform the Kuwaiti Army of the correct disposal procedures before the 21st EOD Squadron left Kuwait. The tank was in good condition with the bullet holes effectively sealed. Therefore, experts at the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment suggested the Kuwait Ministry of Defence sell the tank to the local chemical industry or pay the chemical industry to remove the tank. Contemporary evidence suggests the Kuwait Ministry of Defence decided to let companies bid for a contract to dispose of the tank.
Passive Barriers, Ltd., the British company that originally found the tank at the Kuwaiti Girls' School, notified Brown & Root on October 29, 1991, that the tank contained fuming nitric acid. An employee of Passive Barriers believed a British laboratory, in addition to the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment, received a separate sample for analysis. However, the UK Ministry of Defence found no evidence to support the employee's supposition that multiple laboratories conducted analysis on samples from the tank. More likely, the Headquarters, British Forces Kuwait, provided the initial laboratory results indicating the tank's contents were consistent with nitric acid, to Passive Barriers.
On October 30, 1991, the Brown & Root supervisor informed the Kuwaiti Emergency Recovery Office that the tank contained nitric acid, who then requested that Brown & Root provide disposal options and cost estimates. In the end, neither Brown & Root nor Passive Barriers actually disposed of the tank. A Passive Barriers employee suggested the Kuwaiti fire service transported the tank to an isolated location in the desert for destruction. We cannot confirm the Kuwaiti fire service's involvement in the tank's disposal. Therefore, we cannot ascertain the final disposition of the tank and its contents.
K. Post-1991 Events
1. 1994 Investigation by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
In January 1994, Captain Johnson noted the absence of a formal report on the participation of the 54th Chemical Troop in the events at the Kuwaiti Girls' School. He stated, "he was concerned that it was possible that the history of my unit's chemical detection actions with the 21st EOD Squadron, British Royal Engineers, was not properly documented. I had not seen any official or unofficial record of those actions." Captain Johnson drafted a report for training purposes at the US Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia. His report focused on lessons learned in nuclear, biological, and chemical defensive operations during the Gulf War. He also described in detail the Fox vehicle operations at the Kuwaiti Girls' School. The US Army Infantry School reviewed and authorized Captain Johnson's report for use in future course instruction.
The same year, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs began investigating allegations of chemical warfare agent use during the Gulf War. In Senate hearings held later that summer, the events at the Kuwaiti Girls' School became a focus of public attention. After reviewing Captain Johnson's report, Senate investigators focused on three key issues: 1) the validity of the tests; 2) the physical characteristics of the liquid in the tank; and 3) the injury sustained by the British lance corporal during the sampling operations. The committee staff highlighted the fact that multiple tests of the tank's contents by multiple types of chemical detection equipment initially produced positive results for chemical warfare agent. The Senate committee reported a total of 21 separate tests on the liquid in the tank. It appears the committee counted the Fox alarms and their corresponding MM-1 mobile mass spectrometer spectrum analyses as separate tests.
Table 1 illustrates the type and number of tests conducted at the Kuwaiti Girls' School in August 1991, their respective results, and comments on the results.
Date of Test
Type of Detector
# of Tests
August 5, 1991
|Chemical Agent Monitor||
|Registered 8 bars on scale for mustard agent||8 bars is a very positive test, but field tests indicated nitric acid could cause false positive responses for mustard agent.|
August 5, 1991
|One-Color Detector Paper||
|Negative response||One-color detector paper turns blue in the presence of mustard agent;the tanks liquid turned the paper brown.|
August 5, 1991
|Three-Color Detector Paper||
|Pink; pink/orange, both possibly positive for mustard agent||Paper should have turned red for mustard agent. IRFNA may cause a false positive for blister agent based on the theoretical reaction between the inhibitor and the dyes in the paper, but RFNA used in laboratory tests did not cause this reaction.|
August 5, 1991
|4 turned blue and 2 initially turned yellow but eventually turned blue||According to Major Watkinson, the M18A2 tubes produced inconsistent responses for the presence of chemical warfare agent.|
August 9, 1991
|MM-1 mobile mass spectrometer used on Fox Vehicles||
|Alarms received for mustard agent and phosgene||Spectra disproved these agents but identified an unknown substance with atomic mass unit 46 at 100% relative intensity, indicative of nitric acid.See later discussion.|
In testimony before the Senate committee, scientists from the US Army Chemical Research, Development and Engineering Center confirmed the earlier laboratory assessment by the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment that the tank contained nitric acid. US experts compared the mass spectrometer tapes to the mass spectrum of nitric acid, and the spectrum reportedly matched nitric acid in all four categories and in the correct proportions. However, this statement was incorrect; in truth, only a single peak, not three or four, would register for nitric acid on the Fox vehicle's MM-1. The American scientists assessed that the tank did not contain mustard agent or phosgene oxime. The Fox MM-1 tapes (which we had not located at the time of the Senate investigation and the committee did not review) clearly show alarms only for mustard and phosgene agents, not phosgene oxime (Tab H).
US Department of Defense representatives provided the Senate committee inaccurate information on the laboratory procedures and test results of the liquid samples by the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment. The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Chemical/Biological Matters mistakenly reported that the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment analyzed pieces of the individual protective equipment worn by the injured British lance corporal. In reality, the decontamination team burned the protective gear worn by the injured British lance corporal along with all other used individual protective equipment in accordance with standard procedures. Thus, the only tests of the tank's contents on the protective garments were those field tests conducted while on site at the Kuwaiti Girls' School.
In his report dated January 4, 1994, Major (formerly Captain) Johnson stated that neither he nor any members of his unit had sufficient time to review the Fox tapes before relinquishing them to Lieutenant Colonel Killgore. Major Johnson stated he believed the tank most likely contained phosgene oxime, a blister agent, not phosgene, a choking agent, because of the severe burn and resulting blister sustained by the British lance corporal following the Fox vehicle tests. In their final report, the committee accepted Major Johnson's theory and determined the British lance corporal's immediate reaction and burn due to contact with the liquid was consistent with exposure to phosgene oxime. However, according to Lieutenant Colonel Killgore, the tapes indicated the presence of phosgene and mustard, not phosgene oxime.
The Department of Defense representatives strongly believed the tank did not contain chemical warfare agent, but rather inhibited red fuming nitric acid, but lacked the evidence to prove or disprove the initial test results. At the time of the Senate committee hearings, it appeared that there was no plausible explanation for the presence of inhibited red fuming nitric acid at the school, and the disposition of the tank was unknown. The Department of Defense could not locate the original MM-1 mobile mass spectrometer tapes nor the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment's 1991 initial report on the laboratory analysis of the samples. The Senate committee maintained that chemical warfare agent was present in the tank.
All evidence presented by the British and US military contradicting the possible presence of chemical warfare agent in the tank was dated 1994, rather than 1991, raising concerns of a biased analysis. However, both the Senate committee and the Department of Defense were unaware that the release of official information in the United Kingdom is governed by the non-statutory Code of Practice. Under these provisions, the British government is obliged to provide information on its policies, actions and decisions; however, there is no commitment to the disclosure of pre-existing documents. Consequently, the British responded to the Department of Defense's requests for information using information from original documents, but copies of the originals were not provided. The UK provided documents dated 1994, but when compared to the source documents dated 1991, the text is virtually identical. Unaware of these guidelines in the UK policy of public disclosure of information, the Department of Defense could not convince the Senate committee that chemical warfare agent was not present in the tank.
Finally, the Senate committee raised questions regarding awards issued by the Department of Defense to members of the 54th Chemical Troop for discovering chemical warfare agents in Kuwait. If a chemical warfare agent was not present at the Kuwaiti Girls' School, as indicated by the initial report prepared by the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment, then the Department of Defense should not have made the awards. Reporters and authors suspicious of the Department's conclusions cited this apparent contradiction.
2. 1997 Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses Investigation
In May 1997, President Clinton established the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses to ensure an independent, open, and comprehensive examination of health concerns related to veterans service in the Gulf War. The Presidential Advisory Committee concluded the tank at the Kuwaiti Girls' School contained chemical warfare agent based on multiple positive detections reported by veterans and the lack of any contemporary analysis to the contrary. In July 1997, officials from the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) testified before the Presidential Advisory Committee that inspections of Iraq's chemical weapons program produced no evidence that Iraq moved chemical weapons into Kuwait. In September 1997, the Department of Defense provided additional evidence that Iraq used the Kuwaiti Girls' School as a missile test and maintenance facility. The British also provided copies of the Fox tapes produced at the Kuwaiti Girls' School. Despite the new evidence, the Presidential Advisory Committee did not amend its May 1997 conclusion that the tank contained a chemical warfare agent.
3. Public Attention in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom press reported on the Senate committee investigation in October 1994. Articles in the British newspapers, Evening Standard and The Times, reported on the discovery of the tank and subsequent sampling operations at the Kuwaiti Girls' School. During the US Senate investigation, Major Watkinson's initial report suggesting the liquid in the tank might be mustard agent was inappropriately released. The UK Ministry of Defence had not approved the public release of this document. The articles also quoted Major Johnson's testimony to the US Senate committee on the Fox vehicle operations. He testified that the Fox vehicles initially alerted for mustard and phosgene oxime; in fact, the initial alerts were for mustard and phosgene. The British government responded to the press articles, stating that Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment analyzed the liquid samples and the results were consistent with the presence of nitric acid; there was no evidence of chemical warfare agents. However, on November 12, 1995, The Mail on Sunday published an interview with a former British sergeant assigned to the 21st EOD Squadron during the Gulf War. The sergeant served as the Bomb Disposal Engineer during operations to extract samples from the tank. He stated the tests at the Kuwaiti Girls' School indicated the presence of mustard agent. He questioned the letter to Parliament from the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment (CBDE) Porton Down, dated January 25, 1995. He believed the letter asserted that CBDE Porton Down conducted laboratory tests on the injured British lance corporal's individual protective equipment. In fact, the letter simply referred to "damage to the NBC suit material" and stated that samples collected in Kuwait City were provided to CBDE Porton Down for analysis. Anecdotal reports referenced damaged protective garments, but these reports referred to the field tests on the suit material conducted by the commanding officer of the 3rd Troop of the 21st EOD Squadron. The samples referred to in the CBDE Porton Down letter were the liquid samples deposited on XAD-4 resin.
L. The Joint United States and United Kingdom Investigation
The British press articles generated further concern by British members of Parliament regarding the presence of chemical warfare agent at the Kuwaiti Girls' School. The unresolved questions and confusion concerning the four separate testing operations prompted the Department of Defense and the UK Ministry of Defence to conduct a joint review of the events related to the discovery, testing, and disposal of the tank. Investigators from the Department of Defense Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, the British Gulf Veterans' Illnesses Unit, and analysts from the US intelligence community worked together to address the issues of concern. Obtaining contemporary information about the testing and analysis of the liquid in the tank was a priority. In addition, it was important to determine whether the equipment used in the testing and sampling operations would register a false positive in the presence of a strong oxidizer such as inhibited red fuming nitric acid. Investigators interviewed thirty-one people who were involved directly with the discovery, testing, and disposal of the tank in 1991, at least 13 members of various UK government agencies and 15 members of various US government agencies, the United Nations, representatives of the government of Kuwait and three non-governmental organizations.
1. 1997 Laboratory Analysis of Inhibited Red Fuming Nitric Acid
During the initial stages of this investigation in early 1997, we did not have the original Fox vehicle MM-1 tapes produced at the Kuwaiti Girls' School. Information printed on the Fox MM-1 tapes, specifically spectra data, would have been invaluable in attempts to identify the substance in the tank at the Kuwaiti Girls' School. However, since this information was unavailable, the US Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command, previously called the Chemical and Biological Defense Command, conducted laboratory tests to determine if inhibited red fuming nitric acid (IRFNA) could cause the MM-1 mobile mass spectrometer to false alarm. Unable to obtain a sample of the inhibited red fuming nitric acid used in Iraq's Seersucker/Silkworm missiles, scientists used laboratory-grade red fuming nitric acid in its place. Red fuming nitric acid lacks an inhibitor (e.g., hydrogen fluoride or hydrogen iodine), which impedes corrosion of the container. During the laboratory tests, a MM-1 initially alerted for the nerve agent cyclosarin when exposed to laboratory-grade red fuming nitric acid.
The Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses expressed concern regarding the disparity between these 1997 laboratory results and the results from 1991 tests at the Kuwaiti Girls' School. At the Kuwaiti Girls' School in 1991, two Fox vehicle MM-1s alarmed for the possible presence of chemical warfare agents, mustard and phosgene, when they tested liquid samples from the tank. Nevertheless, the US Department of Defense concluded in 1997 the tank at the Kuwaiti Girls' School contained red fuming nitric acid. The project manager, NBC Defense Systems at the US Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command, attributed the conflicting test results to the use of laboratory-grade red fuming nitric acid instead of the inhibited red fuming nitric acid believed to be in the tank. In addition, the possibility of a chemical warfare agent coexisting in the tank with red fuming nitric acid was viewed as extremely unlikely because red fuming nitric acid was used as a preferred decontaminating substance in mustard laboratory and production facilities before the Gulf War. US Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Defense analysts also expressed concern the tank's contents were not pure due to contamination from the corrosive effects of inhibited red fuming nitric acid on the sampling tube or plunger used to take samples. Other environmental factors, such as the temperature and humidity, may have produced condensation in the tank, which would have altered the composition of the liquid contents in the tank. It is also possible that unknown contaminants entered the tank via the bullet holes. The tank's exposure to the environmental conditions and possible contaminants could not be duplicated in the 1997 laboratory tests, and may account for the variance between the MM-1's alerts for different substances than those represented on the Fox tapes from the 1991 operation at the Kuwaiti Girls' School. In addition, the tank's exposure to the environment could account for the increased pH level of the tank's contents. The pH level of nitric acid is approximately 1.0. However the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment's test results in 1991 showed pH levels of 2.0 and 2.2. It is known that nitric acid will absorb water vapor rapidly and it is possible that changes in humidity and temperature in the tank over an unknown period could have altered the pH level of the tank's contents.
2. 1997 Analysis of the Fox MM-1 Tapes
During discussions with the UK Ministry of Defence in July 1997, we discussed our difficulty in locating the original Fox MM-1 tapes from the Kuwaiti Girls' School. We learned that the Ministry of Defence kept a copy of the MM-1 tapes (at the Chemical Biological Defence Establishment). The UK Ministry of Defence provided copies of the MM-1 tapes to our office and we resubmitted them to the US Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command for analysis.
The MM-1 operator can print certain information about the chemicals displayed on the MM-1 screen (e.g., a list of ion masses and intensities) on a paper tape for record keeping and further analysis. Because every chemical has a characteristic combination of ions, known as a spectrum, the MM-1 is able to identify chemicals by examining the spectrum. However, because the MM-1 makes initial detections using only a portion of a chemical's entire spectrum and looks for only a limited number of possible chemical warfare agents, it can sound false alarms for chemical warfare agents in the presence of similar ion patterns from other types of contaminating substances. Therefore, a second step in the analysis process is required to more definitively identify the sample where the entire library of known chemical warfare agents stored in the MM-1's memory is compared to the sample's spectrum.
If a properly performed MM-1 spectrum analysis identifies a chemical warfare agent, the MM-1 operator and the Fox commander can be confident, although not assured, that the chemical warfare agent is 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 confidence level of the detection. 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 the Fox commander can be confident that any chemical warfare agent displayed during the initial alarm is not present. When the MM-1 cannot match any of the compounds stored in its library to the substance being analyzed, it indicates "unknown" on the operator's screen and the MM-1 tape printout.
The MM-1 tapes from Fox vehicle C-23 (Figure 18) show that at 12:50 PM (August 9, 1991), the MM-1 alerted to the possible presence of the choking agent phosgene (CG). Following the initial alert for phosgene, the C-23 MM-1 operator initiated a spectrum analysis. The result, printed on the MM-1 tape at 12:51 PM, was "unknown"-this substance not only was not phosgene, it was not any substance in the MM-1 library. A second initial alert for phosgene (Figure 18) occurred at 13:22 (1:22 PM), followed by spectrum results of "unknown" at 13:23 (1:23 PM) and 13:25 (1:25 PM). The complete MM-1 tape (Tab H) also shows detailed spectrum results printed at 13:27 (1:27 PM), 13:29 (1:29 PM), and 13:30 (1:30 PM).
Figure 18. Sections of Fox Vehicle C-23's MM-1 tape
The MM-1 tapes from Fox vehicle C-26 (Figure 19) show spectrum results at 12:51 PM also indicating an unknown substance. The MM-1 operator printed the results to the MM-1 tape and used that information to program the unknown substance into the MM-1's memory; he named the substance "Extra Subst A1." From 12:53 PM to 13:00 (1:00 PM), C-26's MM-1 initially alerted to the possible presence of phosgene three times and to the extra substance A1 15 times. At 13:00 (1:00 PM) another spectrum analysis indicated "unknown." The MM-1 operator printed the results to the MM-1 tape and used those results to program this unknown substance into the MM-1's memory; he named this substance "Extra Subst A2." The complete C-26 MM-1 tapes (Tab H) show at 13:02 (1:02 PM) the MM-1 alerted to the possible presence of A1, A2, phosgene (CG), and S Mustard (HD)-a blister agent; from 13:03 (1:03 PM) to 13:39 (1:39 PM), initial alerts continued for various combinations of all of the above substances; however four additional spectra indicated A2 twice and unknown twice.
Figure 19. Sections of Fox C-26's MM-1 tape
A thorough understanding of the MM-1 and mass spectrometry is necessary to comprehend the MM-1 tapes, so experts at the US Army's Chemical and Biological Defense Command (now known as the Soldier and Biological Chemical Command), the US Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Bruker Daltonics, the MM-1 manufacturer, analyzed the MM-1 tapes from both Fox vehicles at our request.
Bruker Daltonics provided the following assessment of the MM-1 tapes:
The tape shows that the system passed its automatic test on start-up indicating there were no major system failures. Approximately thirty minutes later, the system indicates an initial alarm that phosgene may be present.... Immediately, as called for to confirm the alarm in SOP [standard operating procedure], a spectrum is taken ... and the search of the 60 compound library indicates that the compound is unknown (not in the library of agents). Furthermore the complete spectra in these tapes do not confirm the presence of CWA [chemical warfare agent] .
In their analysis of the MM-1 tapes, NIST experts stated, "After examining the tapes from two Fox vehicles ... it is clear that there is no mass spectral evidence confirming the presence of either of the two CW agents reported (phosgene and HD)."
The US Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command's NBC defense systems project manager stated,
None of the initial warnings for either phosgene or mustard agent were verified by the MM-1 mass spectrometers located in either of the two Fox NBC reconnaissance vehicles that were at the site. Personnel followed [a] scenario that included a second sample analysis and comparison to an internal library. In every retest, the MM-1 reported the spectrum analysis as "unknown." In the cases where the crew renamed this "unknown" as an 'extra substance' in the library, the MM-1 identified the spectra as that "extra substance."
After examining the MM-1 tape spectra, all three of the expert agencies offered explanations regarding the initial alerts for the possible presence of the chemical warfare agents.
Bruker Daltonics noted:
[The MM-1] assign[ed] the unknown compound a concentration ... approximately 200 times as intense as the ions used to initially alarm for phosgene.... The most intense ion in the spectrum is mass 46 (100%).... For vehicle C-26, it appears from the spectrum at 12:51, that this system may have both hydrocarbon background and calibration compound. In this spectrum [mass] 69 is actually larger than the mass 46 (100% versus 62.3%).... At 13:01, mass 46 is now 100% ... the complete spectra in these tapes do not confirm the presence of CWA in the tank in question, but rather [are] consistent with the independent analysis that the brown oily liquid was in fact fuming nitric acid.
In his analysis, the NBC defense systems project manager, wrote:
Ion mass 46 at 100% intensity was reported on every MM-1 tape, except one, and is identical to trials conducted at CBDCOM [Chemical/Biological Defense Command] using research grade red fuming nitric acid (RFNA). The tapes from one of the Fox NBC reconnaissance vehicles indicate a mass 69 ion with 100% intensity. While this is a deviation from all other analyses that had mass 46 at 100%, it is easily explained. Coupled with the presence of other specific ions in significant amounts, this duplicates other known incidents of the fluorocarbon calibration gas escaping into the analysis system. Each of the three tapes from the MM-1 on this vehicle contains the presence of these peaks, indicating sample contamination with calibration gas. Subtraction of the calibration gas results in spectra which are similar to those of the other vehicle where ion mass 46 is the major component in the sample.
Lastly, NIST experts stated, "the general finding that the largest peak is m/z 46, the principal peak in nitrogen dioxide, is consistent with the introduction of red fuming nitric acid into the mass spectrometers of both vehicles."
The MM-1's inability to identify the presence of nitric acid (in any form) in the tank is because nitric acid or red fuming nitric acid, with or without an inhibitor, is not considered a chemical warfare agent. The MM-1s aboard Fox vehicles C-23 and C-26 did not identify nitric acid in the liquid samples because its library only contains the formulation of chemical warfare agents and nitric acid was not one of the chemical compounds stored in the libraries of either MM-1. Thus, following spectrum analyses, both vehicles' MM-1s indicated the spectrum results as unknown.
In summary, experts at the US Army's Chemical and Biological Defense Command, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Bruker Daltonics carefully analyzed the MM-1 tapes from both Fox vehicles at the Kuwaiti Girls' School on August 9, 1991. Their analyses are similar-all told us that despite initial alarms from Fox vehicles C-23 and C-26 for the possible presence of phosgene and HD mustard, the MM-1 spectra show that these chemical warfare agents were not present in samples from the tank at the Kuwaiti Girls' School. They all indicated that nitric acid, in some form, was partly responsible for the false alarms.
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