Statement of Mr. George J. Tenet
Central Intelligence Agency
Chairman Specter and Members of the Veterans Affairs Committee, I am pleased to appear before you this morning to discuss CIA's efforts on the issue of Gulf War illnesses. I am accompanied today by CIA's Executive Director, Nora Slatkin. I want to emphasize at the outset that we know how important this issue is to Gulf War veterans and that we in the CIA will do whatever we can to help.
To go over the background first, the CIA has focused its energies on the intelligence aspects of this issue.
After long efforts, we think that everything possible has been done to try to model the chemical release at the Khamisiyah pit. We have learned lessons from our work. We will draw on them in the future.
- We began a comprehensive review of all intelligence reporting in March 1995. We started at this date because of the President's concerns and because of issues raised by CIA employees. Until then, we were focused on uncovering still-hidden elements of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programs. This work was important to support UNSCOM's effort to eliminate those programs.
- In our review, we examined all the intelligence reporting to help DoD determine whether or not US troops were exposed to chemical or biological agents during the Gulf War. The exposure could have been either through Iraqi use or through destruction of Iraq's chemical or biological facilities.
- We identified Khamisiyah as a potential exposure site in the course of this effort. We then took the initiative to determine what had happened there.
- The Presidential Advisory Committee last spring then asked us to arrange to model events during and after the war resulting in the release of chemical agents into the atmosphere.
- As we told you during a briefing in September, we used a contractor to model releases at Muhammadiyat, Al Muthanna, and Bunker 73 at Khamisiyah.
- We were unable to have the contractor model the pit area destruction at Khamisiyah in March 1991. The data were too uncertain.
As for next steps, we will continue to work with DoD and the Presidential Advisory Committee to help get answers on these important issues. We are also prepared to address your questions after this briefing.
Let me now go into our key findings. Since we met with you in September, our basic intelligence assessments remain unchanged. Allow me to briefly summarize those findings.
What is new since our last appearance before you is that we have worked with an Expert Review Group to evaluate the methodologies used in modeling efforts. This is the group requested by then-DCI Deutch and convened by Deputy Secretary of Defense White. John Deutch recognized that the modeling of the demolition activity in the pit area near Khamisiyah was crucial to DoD's efforts to determine possible exposure of US veterans. He wanted to assemble the broadest possible expertise to ensure that the modeling effort was unassailable.
- First, we continue to believe, on the basis of a comprehensive review of intelligence, that Iraq did not deploy chemical or biological weapons in Kuwait or use them during the Gulf War.
- Second, analysis and computer modeling indicate chemical agents released by aerial bombing of chemical warfare facilities did not reach US troops in Saudi Arabia.
- Finally, our review surfaced evidence that CW agents had been released at two separate locations near Khamisiyah in southern Iraq as a result of US demolition activity.
To this end, DoD asked the Institute of Defense Analysis (IDA) to convene a panel drawn from the scientific and technical community. The panel first met in late November and we anticipate its final report shortly for release to the public. CIA briefed the panel on the modeling efforts and shared with it the evidence, assumptions, and methodologies. Although CIA plans to sponsor no further modeling, we will continue to work with DoD as it follows up on IDA's recommendations.
Let me take a moment to review CIA's role in analyzing Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programs to help put into context our participation in investigating US exposure to chemical agents. I will break my remarks into three parts--our intelligence focus before, during, and after the war.
Before the War
The Intelligence Community has long followed Iraq's chemical and biological programs as part of its mission to assess chemical and biological weapons capabilities worldwide. Before the war, CIA, like others in the Intelligence Community, assessed that Iraq had a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, including chemically armed Scuds. We also assessed that Iraq had used chemical weapons on numerous occasions against Iran and its own citizens. The Intelligence Community at the time had reached consensus that Iraq had chemical weapons in its arsenal, had forward-deployed these weapons, and was prepared to use them against coalition forces.
During the War
As Desert Storm began, our concerns about the Iraqi use of weapons of mass destruction became the foremost focus of our chemical and biological weapons analytic and collection efforts. Our analysts, in cooperation with their colleagues in other agencies, sought to identify possible Iraqi CW and BW facilities for targeting purposes. In all, 32 sites were identified, albeit on incomplete and sometimes inaccurate information.
A key objective for both military and intelligence personnel was the early detection of the use of chemical or biological weapons. We received several reports of detection alarms. CIA operated a 24-hour chemical and biological detection unit at the start of the air war and maintained it through the ground campaign to monitor and assess such reports.
After the War
In the months immediately following the Gulf War, we turned our intelligence assets to identifying and characterizing Iraq's CW and BW capabilities. The primary focus of our intelligence efforts during 1993 and 1994 consisted of supporting UNSCOM inspections, assessing Iraq's declarations on issues of weapons of mass destruction, refining collection requirements, and interpreting intelligence to attempt to root out the remaining Iraqi CW capabilities.
During this time CIA also worked with DoD to try to track down and check the validity and possible causes of chemical detections that had occurred during the War. A good example of this was the 19 January 1991 Czech detection of nerve agents in Saudi Arabia. In this case, we sent a detailee to Czechoslovakia to further research the claim. We also had our contractor/modeler look at possible causes for the detections. We concluded that the detections were credible due to the specificity of the equipment and the quality of the procedures used by the Czechs. However, we were unable to conclusively determine the cause. We nonetheless remain convinced that the presence of chemical agents was not due to Iraqi offensive actions such as the use of Scud missiles.
In March 1995, CIA began a thorough reexamination of relevant intelligence. We did so because of the President's expressed concern about Gulf War Illness and because of questions raised by two CIA employees. This review culminated in the publication of our report last August.
During this reexamination, we reviewed thousands of intelligence reports and other intelligence holdings.
CIA analysts drew on information from DoD and other sources to clarify intelligence, get leads, and ensure a comprehensive assessment. Our study complemented DoD investigations that used troop testimony, medical records, and operational logs.
Let me address head-on a question that is probably on your mind, and one we have asked ourselves: why didn't CIA and the Intelligence Community focus on the potential exposure issue earlier? A number of reasons contributed to the gap between 1991 and March 1995, when we began this intelligence review. From the beginning, the consensus within the US Government was that Iraq had not used chemical or biological weapons during the war. Analysis since then has maintained that view. Moreover Iraq engaged in widespread deception with regard to where it stored its chemical weapons. Therefore, many reports received during this time were viewed with skepticism.
Shortly after the war, the conditions-now commonly referred to as Gulf War illness-had not yet been widely reported. CIA's intelligence requirements did not make it a priority to examine all incidents of potential low-level exposure.
In these circumstances, the Intelligence Community remained focused on its mission to support UNSCOM and assess the remaining Iraqi CBW capabilities.
When we did focus more broadly on potential exposures short of actual Iraqi use, we identified two primary scenarios: fallout from aerial bombings in Iraq or fallout from demolition activity in the Kuwaiti Theater of Operation. Let me turn first to fallout from aerial bombings.
Based on currently available information, we conclude that Coalition aerial bombing damaged filled chemical munitions at two facilities--Muhammadiyat and Al Muthanna. Both are located in remote areas west of Baghdad. (See briefing board) Iraq recently claimed that less than 5 percent of its approximately 700 metric tons of chemical agent stockpile was destroyed by Coalition bombing. In most cases, the Iraqis did not store chemical munitions in bunkers that they believed the Coalition would target. They stored many of these munitions in the open to protect them from Coalition detection and bombing. In addition, Iraq had inactivated or dismantled all known CW agent and precursor production lines by the start of the air campaign.
At the request of the Presidential Advisory Committee, CIA had modeling performed of releases from these facilities. That modeling work indicates that fallout from these facilities did not reach troops in Saudi Arabia.
At Muhammadiyat Storage Area, Iraq declared that 200 mustard-filled and 12 sarin-filled aerial bombs were damaged or destroyed by Coalition bombing. Bombing of this facility started on 19 January and continued throughout the air war. Analysis of all available information leads us to conclude that the earliest chemical munitions destruction date at Muhammadiyat is 22 January. We have had models created showing a worst case release of 2.9 metric tons of sarin and 15 metric tons of mustard for all possible bombing dates. For these days, as for the whole time period of the bombing, southerly winds occurred on only a few days. The maximum downwind dispersions in the general southerly direction for sarin and mustard cut off at about 300 and 130 km respectively. Neither the first effects nor the lower exposure levels--known as "general population limit" levels--reached US troops that were stationed in Saudi Arabia.
At Al Muthanna, the primary Iraqi CW production and storage facility, Iraq declared that 2,500 chemical rockets containing about 17 metric tons of sarin nerve agent had been destroyed by Coalition bombing. Analysis of all available information leads us to conclude that the earliest chemical munitions destruction date is 6 February. Of the days that the bunker at Muthanna could have been bombed, winds were southerly on only 8 February. For the "general population limit" dosage the most southerly dispersion on 8 February is 160 km, again well short of US troops.
Turning to potential exposure from fallout due to demolition activity in the Kuwait Theater of Operations we now know that on 4 March 1991 US troops destroyed nerve agent-filled 122mm rockets in Bunker 73 at Khamisiyah. On about 10 March 1991 they also destroyed CW rockets at a Pit area near Khamisiyah. The munitions were not marked at either location and, no acute injuries were reported at the time.
UNSCOM inspected chemical munitions at or near Khamisiyah in October 1991 and identified 122mm sarin/cyclo-sarin (GB/GF) nerve agent-filled rockets and 155mm mustard rounds. At the time, it was not clear whether the chemical weapons identified had been present during the war or whether, as was suspected at other locations, the Iraqis had moved the munitions after the war and just prior to an UNSCOM inspection. The following information was obtained by UNSCOM during its October 1991 inspection.
The Iraqis claimed during the October 1991 inspection that Coalition troops had destroyed Bunker 73 earlier that year. We viewed the Iraqi statements with skepticism at the time because of Baghdad's widespread use of deception against UNSCOM, because we then had so little other intelligence to confirm the Iraqi assertion, and because UNSCOM itself could not verify that chemical weapons had been destroyed until 1996.
- At a pit area about 1 km south of the Khamisiyah Storage Area, UNSCOM found several hundred mostly intact 122mm rockets containing nerve agent-. detected by sampling and with chemical agent monitors (CAMs).
- In an open area 5 km west of Khamisiyah, inspectors found approximately 6,000 intact 155mm rounds containing mustard agent, as indicated by CAMS.
- At a third location, a single bunker among 100 bunkers, called "Bunker 73" by Iraq, remnants of 122mm rockets were identified.
CIA concluded in September 1995--after narrowing down to three the number of CW facilities where release might have occurred--identified Khamisiyah as the most probable because of its closer proximity to US forces. We asked the DoD's Investigative Team to look into whether US troops were there. We researched the issue together, and by early March 1996 CIA and DoD developed information that enabled us to believe that US troops did blow up Bunker 73.
The potential exposure of US troops was confirmed on 10 March. On that day, a CIA analyst at home heard a tape recording of a radio show in which a veteran of the 37th Engineering Battalion described demolition activities at a facility that the analyst immediately recognized as Khamisiyah. On I May, we briefed the Presidential Advisory Committee that US troops probably destroyed chemical weapons in Bunker 73.
Any remaining doubts that the weapons were chemical were removed by an UNSCOM inspection in May. The UNSCOM inspectors documented the presence of high density polyethylene inserts, burster tubes, fill plugs, and other features characteristic of Iraqi chemical munitions. In addition, during this inspection Iraq told the UNSCOM inspectors that Iraq moved 2,160 unmarked 122mm nerve agent rockets to Bunker 73 from the Al Muthanna CW Production and Storage Facility just before the start of the air war. According to Iraq, during the air war they moved about 1,100 rockets from the bunker to the pit area 2 km away. It is important to note that for the first time we were able to corroborate these claims through other sources. We published this information, as well as the results of the modeling of the downwind hazard. These results, as well as the results of the modeling at Muhammadiyat and Al Muthanna, are available on the Internet.
Modeling of the potential hazard caused by destruction of Bunker 73 indicates that an area around the bunker at least 2 km in all directions and 4 km downwind could have been contaminated at or above the level for causing acute symptoms including runny nose, headache, and miosis--that is, constriction of the pupil. An area up to 25 km downwind could have been contaminated at a much lower level. Based on wind models and observations of a video and photographs of destruction activity at Khamisiyah, we determined that the downwind direction was northeast to east.
Some of the modeling assumptions we used were based on data from US testing in 1966. That testing involved destruction of several bunkers filled with GB rockets of similar maximum range to Iraqi rockets found in Bunker 73.
Iraq told UNSCOM in May 1996 that it believed occupying Coalition forces also destroyed some pit area rockets. DoD's investigation into this possibility has showed that US soldiers destroyed stacks of crated munitions in the pit about a week after Bunker 73 was demolished. From analysis of all information, we assess that up to 550 rockets could have been destroyed.
Modeling of the chemical release at the Khamisiyah pit area posed far more difficult challenges than the modeling of other sites. For example, unlike the Bunker 73 demolition, in the pit area we do not know the number or the date of the demolition events, how many shells were destroyed, the wind direction, and other factors critical in determining the dispersion of chemical agents. Moreover, our understanding of several of the important inputs changed while the pit area was being modeled. I would briefly like to go through each one of the areas of uncertainty:
- First and most significant, the exact date and numbers of events are still in doubt. We believe that the demolition occurred on 10 March, and there may have been an additional demolition on 12 March. In addition, we know that there were 13 stacks of rockets at the pit area before the destruction activity occurred. However, according to DoD investigators, the number of stacks the soldiers claimed to have destroyed varies from 3 to 9.
- Second, unlike the 4 March event where we had a video, we have no verifiable ground truth showing the wind patterns for 10 or 12 March.
- Third, we have no US testing to indicate the percent of agent released and rate of release for rockets destroyed in the open. For the Bunker 73 demolition, we were able to use the results of earlier US tests of the destruction of artillery rockets in bunkers in our modeling efforts.
- Fourth, in the case of the pit area, a larger amount of agent was released into the atmosphere and evaporation was slower. This further complicated the modeling because weather conditions varied over a longer dispersion period.
- Finally, the pit event is of particular concern because the risk of exposure to US troops was more probable. In the other three releases, the remote location of the event or the northerly direction of the wind are the reasons we believe US troops were not exposed.
As mentioned earlier, we have done about all we can to reduce the uncertainties of the number of munitions destroyed at the pit area. We are now supporting DoD in its effort to model the effects of the demolition activity.
Let me close by saying that, at this point, analysis by CIA and the Intelligence Community does not support the view that there were other incidents like Khamisiyah. Of course, we will continue to assess any new reports related to possible release of chemical or biological agent in the region.
We will also declassify and make available to the public any new information wherever possible as part of our declassification program. And, more broadly speaking, we are working to increase our resources and expertise on chemical and biological weapons issues. We want to be well-positioned to deal with future contingencies.
The CIA and the DoD teams continue to work together on any chemical and biological warfare aspects of Gulf War illnesses. We inform the Investigative Team of information that might be relevant to chemical or biological exposures. It, in turn, shares its findings with us. If we find information pointing to chemical or biological agent exposures or affecting the issue of Gulf War veterans' illnesses, we will collaborate with DoD to assess those findings.
In closing, I pledge that we will commit whatever intelligence resources are required to support the President and the DoD in their continuing effort to identify the causes of Gulf War Illnesses.