One prominent hypothesis about illnesses among Gulf War veterans is that some of the reported symptoms are the result of exposure to chemical warfare agents. During and after the Gulf War, some veterans reported that they had been exposed to chemical warfare agents. To investigate these incidents, and to assess the likelihood that chemical warfare agents were present in the Gulf, the Department of Defense developed a methodology for investigation and validation based on work done by the United Nations and the international community. The criteria include:
- A detailed written record of the conditions at the site;
- Physical evidence from the site such as weapons fragments, soil, water, vegetation or human/animal tissue samples;
- A record of the chain of custody during transportation of the evidence;
- The testimony of witnesses;
- Multiple analyses; and
- A review of the evidence by experts.
While the methodology (Tab C) used to investigate suspected chemical warfare agent incidents 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. Therefore, we cannot apply a rigid template to all incidents, and each investigation must be tailored to its unique circumstances. Accordingly, we designed our methodology to provide a thorough, investigative process to define the circumstances of each incident and to determine what happened. Alarms alone are not considered to be certain evidence of chemical warfare agent presence, nor is a single observation sufficient to validate the presence of a chemical warfare agent.
After following our methodology and accumulating anecdotal, documentary, and physical evidence; after interviewing witnesses and key servicemembers; and after analyzing the results of all available information, the investigator assesses the validity of the presence of chemical warfare agents on the battlefield. Because we do not expect to always have conclusive evidence, we have developed an assessment scale (Figure 1) ranging from Definitely Not to Definitely, with intermediate assessments of Unlikely, Indeterminate, and Likely. This assessment is tentative, based on facts available as of the date of the report publication; each case is reassessed over time based on new information and feedback.
Figure 1. Assessment of chemical warfare agent presence
The standard for making the assessment is based on common sense: Do the available facts lead a reasonable person to conclude that chemical warfare agents were or were not present? When insufficient information is available, the assessment is Indeterminate until more evidence can be found.
As mentioned above, this methodology is designed to be adapted to individual case requirements. Most of our case narratives rely on the collection and analysis of information developed at the time of the Gulf War. However, events at Ukhaydir were not known until well after the end of the war. Therefore, the investigators were forced to rely on analysis conducted by multiple organizations over the last eight years. This case narrative is the result of close coordination between our investigators and analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. We also interviewed analysts from the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) knowledgeable about events at Ukhaydir. No Coalition personnel are believed to have been in the area of Ukhaydir during these events, so there are no medical reports to review. Similarly, because this case is the result of airstrikes deep in Iraq prior to the start of the ground war, there are no known first-hand witnesses available to interview.
The investigation of this case made use of work done by and information available throughout the Intelligence Community, including imagery analysis, a review of aircraft gun camera footage, hazard area modeling, mission data sheets, observed and modeled weather information, UNSCOM-provided information, and testimony before the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses. What physical evidence there is for this case was discovered by UNSCOM personnel during inspections conducted under the auspices of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687. Although only UNSCOM inspectors have been given access to this physical evidence, our investigators have been able to learn about it through publicly-available UNSCOM reports.
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