The DOD requires a common framework for our investigations and assessments of chemical warfare agent incident reports, so we turned to the United Nations and the international community which had experience concerning chemical weapons. Because the modern battlefield is complex, the international community developed investigation and validation protocols[110] to provide objective procedures for possible chemical weapons incidents. The standard that we are using is based on these protocols that include:

While the DOD methodology for investigating chemical incidents (Figure 6) is based on these protocols, the passage of time since the Gulf War makes it difficult to obtain certain types of documentary evidence, and physical evidence was often not collected at the time of an event. Accordingly, the methodology is designed to provide a thorough, investigative process to define the circumstances of each incident and determine what happened. The major efforts in this methodology are:

Alarms alone are not considered to be certain evidence of chemical agent presence, nor is a single individual’s observation sufficient to validate a chemical agent presence.

To substantiate the circumstances surrounding an incident, the investigator searches for documentation from operational, intelligence, and environmental logs. This focuses the investigation on a specific time, date, and location, clarifies the conditions under which the incident occurred, and determines whether there is "hard" as well as anecdotal evidence. Additionally, the investigator looks for physical evidence that might indicate that chemical agents were present in the vicinity of the incident, including samples (or the results of analyses of samples) collected at the time of the incident.

The investigator searches the medical records to determine if personnel were injured as a result of the incident. Deaths, injuries, sicknesses, etc. near the time and location of an incident may be telling. Medical experts should provide information about alleged chemical casualties.


Figure 6. Chemical Incident Investigation Methodology


Interviews of incident victims (or direct observers) are conducted. First-hand witnesses provide valuable insight into the conditions surrounding the incident and the mind-set of the personnel involved, and are particularly important if physical evidence is lacking. NBC officers or personnel trained in chemical and biological testing, confirmation, and reporting are interviewed to identify the unit’s response, the tests that were run, the injuries sustained, and the reports submitted. Commanders are contacted to ascertain what they knew, what decisions they made concerning the events surrounding the incident, and their assessment of the incident. Where appropriate, subject matter experts also provide opinions on the capabilities, limitations, and operation of technical equipment, and submit their evaluations of selected topics of interest.

Additionally, the investigator contacts agencies and organizations that may be able to provide additional clarifying information about the case. These would include, but not be limited to:

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