The Defense Department released today a case narrative report of the investigation of eight alerts for chemical warfare agents during Operation Desert Storm, prepared by the DoD Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses. These initial, unconfirmed alerts between Feb. 1-27, 1991, were captured on tape printouts by an XM93 Fox Reconnaissance Vehicle assigned to the U.S. Army's 24th Infantry Division. Based on interviews with Fox crewmembers, commanders, medical and chemical staff in the 24th Infantry Division; and the analysis of the Fox tapes by mass spectrometry and chemical warfare experts, investigators assess that this Fox definitely did not detect chemical warfare agents during these incidents.
The initial investigation began in 1993 when a soldier forwarded a copy of Fox mobile mass spectrometer tape printouts to the Army. The soldier felt these printouts would prove the presence of chemical warfare agents. Army MM-1 technical experts assessed that it was unlikely these initial alerts were evidence of the presence of chemical warfare agents and noted that proper procedures were not followed in operating the MM-1.
In 1996, the Defense Department began a further investigation, and in 1997, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses initiated its own investigation into these incidents from the veteran. The committee received a second copy of tapes that contained another alert incident and some information, which included additional spectra results. In 1998, after reviewing both sets of tapes, Army MM-1 experts concluded that the additional information supported their conclusions with a higher degree of certainty that all eight detections were false alarms.
Based on the two sets of tapes, investigators from the special assistant's office identified a total of eight alert incidents. Of the eight alert incidents, four happened during the air war when the Fox was conducting training missions before the ground offensive. The other four occurred during the ground war when the Fox crew was operating as a component of the 24th Infantry Division. The units to which the Fox vehicle was attached rarely encountered and engaged Iraqi troops, and none of the alerts can be tied to enemy action.
Except for the tapes, there is no other supporting evidence from other chemical warfare agent detectors. Additionally, no one reported any chemical warfare agent alarms to a higher command, and no one in the area exhibited symptoms of exposure to a chemical warfare agent. Fox vehicle experts at the Army's Chemical and Biological Defense Command concluded that proper procedures were not followed in operating the Fox MM-1. Analysis of the tapes' content revealed that none of the full spectra printed on the tapes confirmed a chemical warfare agent presence.
Since the end of the Gulf War, the United Nations Special Committee has inspected, inventoried and destroyed Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, including chemical warfare agents and munitions. Several of the eight alerts could not be positive alarms based on the current knowledge of Iraq's chemical agent inventory and other factors. The substances that were noted on the alerts were generally not weaponized by Iraq or were stimulants used to check the operation of the MM-1. The 1993 and 1998 analyses of the Fox tapes and the interviews with key personnel involved with these tapes lead investigators to conclude that, as recorded on the tapes, this Fox vehicle did not detect chemical warfare agents.
This report, as well as others on potential chemical and biological warfare agent exposures during the Gulf War, can be accessed through the web site GulfLINK http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/news/na_foxalerts_24feb00.html