SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOCPERSIAN GULF WAR VETERANS
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 1997
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Health, and
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations,
Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
The subcommittees met, pursuant to call, at 10 a.m., in room 334, Cannon House Office Building, Hon. Cliff Stearns (chairman of the Subcommittee on Health) presiding.
Present: Representatives Stearns, Smith, Bachus, Moran, Cooksey, Hutchinson, Chenoweth, Gutierrez, Kennedy, Brown, Doyle, Peterson, Everett, Stump, Buyer, Clyburn and Snyder.
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN STEARNS
Mr. STEARNS. Good morning, everybody.
Let me welcome everybody to a joint hearing of the Subcommittee on Health and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. I will proceed with my opening statement, and then we will go to the Chairman on the Oversight Committee and then the Ranking Members.
Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm was a brilliantly executed operation. We have celebrated the success of that encounter. We must also acknowledge that brief as it was, the war took a toll on a number of its combatants. The Veterans' Affairs Committee is all too familiar with the tragic human dimensions of war, through our efforts to restore, compensate and care for its wounded and disabled.
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In this hearing room, which is devoted to veterans' affairs, certain phrases are uttered time and time again: Agent Orange, PTSD, service-connected disability. These words are the sad legacy of modern warfare. The obscure name of Khamisiyah now seems likely to enter that lexicon. It may be too early to make lasting judgments about it, but the word has already come to have meaning well beyond the coordinates on a map. It has come to represent a dark hour of our war effort.
Clearly the defense establishment has thrown extensive resources into understanding what happened. That effort started very late. Much has been learned. Yet there is much we still don't know.
While new information regarding this story emerges on what seems at times almost a daily basis, we must take account of certain perceptions. First, we must consider the perception some hold that exposure to chemical warfare agents is the sole or primary cause of Gulf War veterans' illnesses.
Second, we must consider the perception that the government has been engaged in a cover-up regarding the entire story.
I believe this hearing will help us grapple with both of these perceptions. This is a most timely hearing, particularly in light of the disturbing revelations published by the CIA last week. The Agency's disclosures come very late, but it is important that its findings have been brought to light.
There are hard questions we need to ask our witnesses about the possibility that chemical weapons exposure may be implicated in some veterans' health problems. But we should avoid the mistakes of the Intelligence Community. We should guard against tunnel vision and remain open regarding the cause or causes of Persian Gulf war illnesses.
The one thing we do know is that thousands of our fighting men and women who have served with valor and dignity in the Gulf are suffering from chronic illnesses, and as our veterans who are testifying today remind us, we must and will, in a subsequent hearing, focus on the effectiveness of the VA treatment efforts.
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As much as Persian Gulf War veterans want to understand the causes of their health problems, they are most concerned about getting better.
I want to thank my friend from the great State of Alabama, Terry Everett, the Chairman of our Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, for agreeing to cochair this hearing. There is a lot to be done on this subject, and I am pleased to have your assistance in this effort, Terry.
Let me turn to you for an opening statement and invite you to introduce the Ranking Member of your subcommittee. Then I will introduce the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee On Health, Mr. Gutierrez.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. TERRY EVERETT, CHAIRMAN, SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATION
Mr. EVERETT. Thank you very much, Cliff. I would like to strongly associate myself with your opening remarks. This hearing could not be more timely in light of the recent revelations of the Defense and Intelligence Communities. It is clearly evident that our government was aware of the presence of chemical weapons in Iraq since at least 1986.
The CIA's and the Defense Department's long denial of the possibility of chemical weapons exposure was a great disservice to thousands of Gulf War veterans whose tour of duty in the Persian Gulf has adversely affected their health.
Mr. Walpole has admitted that the CIA should have had better sharing of sensitive and yet vital information, and he said, I am thinking about sharing internally as well as externally.
I have to tell you, I find that very disturbing, since internal and external turf issues at the CIA and the Defense Department may have seriously put the VA behind the power curve in its ability to diagnose and develop effective treatment protocols and to compensate our suffering war veterans.
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I welcome all of our witnesses today. I look forward to your testimony. There will be some hard questions. And at this point I would like to introduce my Ranking Member on Investigations and Oversight, Mr. Jim Clyburn.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES E. CLYBURN
Mr. CLYBURN. Thank you very much, Chairman Everett. I want to thank you and Chairman Stearns for calling this very timely hearing this morning.
I think all of us agree that the evidence is overwhelming that American troops were exposed to chemical agents during the Persian War.
I think that the revelations that are now coming out, some as recent as this morning, tend to underscore what many of us have been led to believe before, and that is that our efforts to get at the bottom of this very disturbing incident have so far been inadequate.
And so I think that the fact that we are here today hopefully will ''help'' to clear the air, if I might use that term, on something that's very, very important to the men and women who have made such significant sacrifices for all of us.
I am hopeful that by the time we are finished here today, we can all begin to make the kind of effort that is necessary to restore faith and confidence in the efforts of our great Nation. Thank you so much.
Mr. STEARNS. Thank you, Jim.
Let me also welcome my colleague and friend, Congressman Gutierrez, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health. I know he has worked hard on behalf of Persian Gulf veterans throughout his tenure on the committee, and I look forward to working closely with him on this and other subjects.
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OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. LUIS V. GUTIERREZ
Mr. GUTIERREZ. Thank you. Thank you, Chairman Stearns, and Chairman Everett, for convening this important hearing to address new developments in the ongoing investigation of the illnesses afflicting our Persian Gulf veterans.
I am particularly encouraged that in my first health subcommittee hearing as the Ranking Democrat, we will be considering Gulf War issues. Persian Gulf illnesses have always been a priority for me on this committee, and they will continue to be so until they are resolved.
I am pleased that this committee has started to reassert its authority over issues related to Gulf War, and I am hopeful that our efforts will continue throughout this session.
This hearing comes at an opportune time. We now know that more than 20,000 Gulf War veterans, members of the 24th Army Infantry, were probably exposed to chemical nerve agents after they demolished the Khamisiyah arms depot in southern Iraq.
We also know that this devastating event may have been avoided had our intelligence services better reconciled their computer databases and disseminated their information in a more direct manner. The CIA has acknowledged its mistakes. However, while our government and this committee are now armed with more information, we are also beset by more pressing questions that must be addressed.
I believe that the Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander James Near said it best when he stated, quote, ''I can't help but wonder, as these revelations and events continue to unfold, how many other Khamisiyahs are out there waiting to be uncovered.''
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Unfortunately, this remains a distinct possibility. Despite the thorough preparation of our military and our extensive intelligence capability, it remains feasible that during a massive deployment of the nature of Desert Storm, these worst-case scenarios did occur.
Do we know for sure that our allied carpet bombing campaign that precluded our ground attack did not similarly destroy Iraqi chemical storage facilities throughout?
As the CIA report demonstrates, analysts focused their efforts on S-shaped ammunition depots as their main repositories for Iraqi chemical armaments. This proved wrong in Khamisiyah. Was this concentration on S-shaped facilities wrong elsewhere? This remains conceivable until proven otherwise.
The onus is now on our government to demonstrate what really happened, to provide as many answers as possible, to do our best without holding back. That means disclosing all of the information needed to rectify the concerns of our Gulf War veterans and providing these American men and women with the health care and services that they require as a direct result.
We have started to acquire more details about what happened in the Gulf, and we have begun to commit adequate resources to this cause. The Department of Defense has allocated more than $25 million to Gulf War illness research for this year alone.
I do want to mention another concern I have: bureaucratic inefficiency. We have seen what this can do to the dispersement of information in the Intelligence Community. Khamisiyah is that example.
Today separate investigations into Persian Gulf illnesses are being conducted by the CIA, the Department of Defense, the four armed services, the Presidential Advisory Committee, both Houses of Congress and the General Accounting Office. And I am probably forgetting some government agency. I am also leaving out the many nongovernmental organizations that have conducted credible studies on this issue.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I believe that coordination is required. Cooperation is necessary, and the government agencies should work with their nongovernmental counterparts to get to the bottom of this.
In addition, let us not forget that we have at our disposal a resource that may provide our government with the best answers. That resource is the brave veterans that served our Nation during the Gulf War. Let's communicate with them clearly and succinctly.
Once again, I thank the Members of this committee and our distinguished witnesses for joining us today, and particularly thank the Chairman of this subcommittee Mr. Stearns.
I would just like to say that, Mr. Stearns, you look a year younger, not a year older today. I wish to wish you a happy birthday.
[The prepared statement of Congressman Gutierrez appears on p. 62.]
Mr. STEARNS. Thank you very much. I thank my colleague.
And if the Members will provide deference to me, I would like to make their opening statements part of the record so we can get right to this hearing that we have all been waiting for.
But I would like to give the Ranking Member of the full committee, Lane Evans, an opportunity to say a few words. Lane.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. LANE EVANS, RANKING DEMOCRATIC MEMBER, FULL COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. EVANS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate you holding this important hearing along with your Chairman of the subcommittee, my good friend Terry Everett, who has worked with this issue in the past. I want to associate myself with all the remarks made by my colleagues.
The major focus of this effort must be directed toward ensuring that our sick veterans are being cared for. We must also be doing all we can to ensure that our Gulf War veterans receive the benefits that they are rightly owed. We cannot fully accomplish these two objectives, however, unless we try to understand what happened during the war itself that may have led to the illnesses we collectively now call ''Gulf War Syndrome.''
Some of you have seen an article in the Washington Post over the weekend about the importance of understanding history. One only needs to remember how our country treated veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam to understand why an immediate and concerted effort needs to be undertaken now to attempt to unravel the mystery of Gulf War Syndrome.
It took years for our government to do as much as acknowledge the concerns of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the war. It was an even longer and more difficult journey before the Federal Government finally began to fulfill its obligations to Agent Orange victims.
As an enlisted Marine during the Vietnam War, I am proud to have fought in Congress for Agent Orange victims, but I am sorry that it took so long to provide any relief for long-suffering veterans. I am unwilling to let another generation pass before we find answers and give some assistance to our Gulf War veterans who now suffer or who may suffer in the future, for that matter, from Gulf War Syndrome.
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your work. I look forward to working with you and your colleagues on this issue in the future.
Mr. STEARNS. Thank you very much, Lane.
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[The prepared statement of Congressman Evans appears on p. 68.]
[The statements of Congressman Smith, Congressman Kennedy, and Congressman Doyle appear on pp. 61, 66, and 67.]
Mr. STEARNS. To the committee, I would like the staff to give each of you a Khamisiyah historical perspective of related intelligence. We received this report just recently. It was made public last week, but we want each of you to have this, and this is the important document that we wish we could have gotten it to you sooner, but this is the CIA report.
So we hope you will take this, study it. And this will be the report that we will be referring to during this hearing.
I think before we even startand we are going to have the panel in order of their seniority, Dr. Rostker, Robert Walpole and Colonel Leavitt and Colonel Huberbut I would like to say personally to Dr. Rostker how much we appreciate him coming to the hearing today. All the Members should know that you had a prior commitment to go to Europe, but that you were kind enough to come here. And, as the Chairman and for the other folks here, I would like to say how much we appreciate your coming here.
As you know, we are going to put this in the perspective of putting you under oath. So if you will please all rise and raise your right hand.
Mr. STEARNS. Without further ado, Dr. Rostker, we will allow you to go first, and then we will proceed in order.
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TESTIMONY OF BERNARD ROSTKER, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR GULF WAR ILLNESS, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE; ROBERT D. WALPOLE, CHIEF OF PERSIAN GULF WAR ILLNESSES TASK FORCE, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY; COL. THOMAS P. LEAVITT, CHIEF, INSPECTIONS DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY INSPECTOR GENERAL; AND COL. JOE HUBER, OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF OF THE ARMY FOR OPERATIONS
TESTIMONY OF BERNARD ROSTKER
Dr. ROSTKER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the subcommittees to report on the progress that the Department of Defense is making in terms of its investigation of Gulf War illnesses. In previous testimony presented before the full committee on February 11, I outlined the mission of my office and described the full extent of the commitment of the Department.
We are truly committed to finding out everything we can to determine the possible causes of illness while providing the best possible care for all those who are ill. We also have an eye towards the future as we learn from our Gulf experiences and make the necessary changes in policies, doctrine, technologies to protect our forces in the future.
Before reviewing the progress my office has made in our investigation, let me first highlight the recent Presidential decision to extend the presumptive period for compensation for Persian Gulf veterans with undiagnosed illnesses.
As you know, the government compensates for disabilities, not exposure. In the case of the symptoms that may be attributed to Gulf War veterans' illness, the benefit of the doubt regarding service connection would be in favor of the veterans.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We welcome this because it completely eliminates any argument that our actions are driven by concerns over government liability. Our inquiries never have been and never will be directed to such concerns. Our only interest is to support our veterans by vigorously searching for the cause of illness among Gulf War veterans.
Having said that, let me now review with you very quickly some of the significant progress we have made since I last appeared before the full committee.
We have embarked on a comprehensive medical research program that has resulted in many proposals being received to examine the consequences of possible exposure to low-level chemical agents. Those proposals are undergoing internal and external scientific review.
We have eliminated the backlog of calls from veterans who contacted our 1800 Incident Reporting Line. Approximately 90 percent of the people who have called have been fully debriefed by trained investigators.
We have launched our outreach effort in January, mailing surveys to approximately 20,000 Gulf War veterans who have been within 50 kilometers of Khamisiyah. To date, more than 6,000 veterans have responded. Of that number, approximately 300 commented that they experienced illnesses, and approximately 300 provided information on their observations.
This latter group is receiving follow-up calls from our investigators for a full debriefing of their experience.
GulfLINK, our home page on the Internet, is now interactive. Veterans can now e-mail their concerns to DOD and get replies. We have strengthened our relationships with VSOs with monthly roundtable meetings. We have scheduled a series of nationwide town hall meetings in nine cities beginning next week so I can hear firsthand from our veterans and to discuss their concerns one on one.
The recent release of the Khamisiyah narrative, that is the narrative that the Defense Department released, is an interim report and does not represent closure of our investigative efforts. It describes the destruction of the Iraqi ammunition storage facility after the war, subsequent UNSCOM inspections of that facility and the later public inquiry into the incident.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Given the controversygiven the information that has been uncovered about the demolitions at Khamisiyah, it is prudent to rely on only the confirmed demolition that occurred on May 10. During that demolition operation, there were no reports of chemical munitions, nor were there reports of anyone experiencing symptoms consistent with exposure to chemical agents. Subsequent inspections by the U.N. in late 1991 and early 1992 and then again in May of 1996 suggest there were chemical munitions stored at Khamisiyah during the time in which U.S. forces destroyed the depot. It wasn't until 1995 that the evidence led the CIA and later DOD to begin investigating the possibility that U.S. forces could have destroyed these munitions and possibly been exposed to chemical agents. This was confirmed after a U.N. visit in May 1996 and announced by the Department of Defense in June of 1996.
Since then, DOD has expanded and intensified its investigation into these events. In addition to the extensive investigation my organization is undertaking, the DOD IG, the Army IG and the assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Oversight are all reviewing various aspects of the Gulf War and Khamisiyah.
The effects of our investigations include continuing to search out and interviewing veterans who were in the Khamisiyah area at the time of the demolitions; working with the CIA to estimate who may have been exposed to chemical agents and the extent of the exposure. This includes working to reduce the uncertainty associated with modeling the so-called pit area demolitions by conducting a series of small-scale tests that will help us in our efforts to determine possible exposure.
We are also conducting an analysis of participation rates from the combined CCEP and VA medical registry programs with regard to time and location of units relative to Khamisiyah. All of these efforts are directed towards the single purpose of determining what is our cause of Gulf illness. While doing what we canby doing that, we are ensuring that the Gulf War veterans are receiving the best possible care.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, we then must takemake certain to apply the lessons learned from the Gulf experience for future deployments. You have my commitment that no effort will be spared to determine the cause of these illnesses and to respond to the health needs of our veterans.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Rostker, with attachment, appears on p. 74.]
Mr. STEARNS. Thank you, Doctor.
For the Members' benefit, we are under the 5-minute rule with the witnesses, but I have asked that Mr. Walpole be allowed 10 minutes because he is going to be explaining for us the Khamisiyah historical perspective, the CIA document which has been handed out to all Members, so at this point we will allow him 10 minutes to explain it. Mr. Walpole.
TESTIMONY OF ROBERT D. WALPOLE
Mr. WALPOLE. Thank you, Chairman Stearns, Chairman Everett, and Members of the subcommittees. I am truly pleased to be able to appear before you today to discuss CIA's and the Intelligence Community's efforts on the issue of Gulf War veterans' illnesses and the possible exposure of some of those veterans to chemical weapons agents.
To keep within the 10-minute guideline, I will summarize my remarks, but I ask that the full statement be included in the record.
Mr. STEARNS. So ordered.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALPOLE. I would also ask that the Khamisiyah paper you passed out be included in the record along with the 41 documents that that paper was written to accompany.
Mr. STEARNS. So ordered.
[The attachments appear on p. 122.]
Mr. WALPOLE. Okay. We know how important this issue is to our veterans, and that our intelligence is essential to understanding some of the events that occurred during the war. In response to President Clinton's tasking to his advisory committee, and after determining that the issue required additional resources, George Tenet, the Acting Director for Central Intelligence, appointed me his special assistant on the 27th of February and asked that I have a task force up and running on the 3rd of March. Since that time we have made every effort to keep staff of these subcommittees, as well as numerous other committees on the Hill, advised of our progress.
The focus of our efforts has been to help find answers as to why the veterans are sick. We are supporting numerous government efforts on this issue, and we are searching our files for any intelligence that can help.
Before I describe our mission, let me emphasize that one of my primary responsibilities is to set the record straight, and I must do that from the outset of today's hearing, regarding our public release last week about Khamisiyah.
In reporting the Intelligence Community's admission about missing some important intelligence prior to the Gulf War, some have missed a very important point of our story. It has been correctly reported that the Intelligence Community did not list Khamisiyah as a suspect chemical weapons storage site prior to the war, even though we had a report that identified it in 1986 as forward-deployed CW storage site during the Iran-Iraq war.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But some have missed a more important point, suggesting that our error in not listing it before the war equated to a failure to provide warning before U.S. demolition activities. On that point the record is clear. CIA and DIA provided multiple warnings to our military forces. I will go into more details later in my statement.
The mission of this task force is to provide intensive, aggressive intelligence support to the numerous U.S. Government efforts currently investigating Persian Gulf War illnesses issues. Fifty officers are serving on this task force, drawn from across the Intelligence Community, Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. In addition, we have officers from the Department of Defense's Offices of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses and the Assistant to the Secretary for Intelligence Oversight.
An example of our group's efforts was released several weeks ago in Salt Lake City. It is a one-page paper concerning the release of chemical warfare agent at Khamisiyah during March of 1991. The day after that meeting, the Department of Defense received 80 phone calls on the 1800 number, some from veterans who recalled being at Khamisiyah. This is an important step forward in trying to determine exactly what happened at that place and to address veterans' concerns about possible exposure to chemical agent.
Let me mention briefly some of our modeling efforts. We are continuing to try to reduce uncertainties in order to moveto more accurately identify the extent of the release from the demolitions I just mentioned. We are helping the Department of Defense develop tests to destroy rockets containing CW agent simulants. We expect this to provide us invaluable data on how the agent would react in open-pit demolition. We had that information on what happens inside a building and were able to model events in that regard.
We are also working with the Department of Defense to talk to veterans who are providing some knowledge about the demolition activities at the pit. In Salt Lake City, we reiterated our uncertainties but indicated that we believed, on the basis of limited and often contradictory data, that two demolition events were more likely than one. These data included the military log entry for destruction on March 12, the contradictory stories of two different soldiers and an UNSCOM videotape. We also indicated that if we could find one more soldier who recalled being in the pit, we would increase our knowledge by 50 percent.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC DOD has recently found other eyewitnesses, and we joined with them in interviewing these individuals. We had four of them together, including the two original soldiers. The interviews called into serious question the log entry. We learned that it was prepared after the fact and that we should not put credence in the March 12 date. Even with four soldiers together, we still obtained several contradictory statements.
Just this week DOD located another witness who might be able to shed light on some of these contradictions. Even so, with the log's entrythe credibility of the log's entry in question, the prudent approach would be, and will be, for us to model one event on March 10. This would be true from a modeling perspective, even if there were two events done at the same time.
We will proceed jointly with the Department of Defense to complete that modeling once the test data are obtained. If we receive further information on exactly what happened in the pit, of course, we will modify that approach.
I would mention something briefly about document searches. We are continuing to go over whatever material could have possible bearing on this. We have extended our searches from previous efforts to earlier time frames. But I need to mention today's Post article because that was raised earlier.
There are several errors in that article and I want to point some of those out. The analysts referred to have been working in the chemical weapon issue for many years. They were part of the review in 1995. They were part of the 1996 efforts. They have been interviewed by the IG; have been interviewed by numerous people.
Now, since my task force, as of last week, had been running for only 35 days, and that was the first time I got into this issue, of course I interviewed them 35 days ago. But they have been interviewed many times and have been involved in the process. And finally, many of those analysts are on my task force. We talk daily about what their thoughts were during the war.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, during the war, they decided that they wanted to have some time with their families and wanted to have some time to sleep and decided that 15-hour days wasn't working for them. They decided amongst themselves they would arrange their schedules so that they could have 24-hour coverage and still do the other outside activities. In order to keep each other apprised of what was happening while the others were off, they kept in a computer file informal working notes. They titled these ''a log,'' but they really were informal working notes.
We reviewed those notes as part of our Khamisiyah effort, and, in fact, one of those notes was released. It happens to be document 11, I think, in the package. We will indeed review those notes for any other releases for declassifications that will have pertinence to the Gulf War illnesses, and we will also make all of those notes available, which are classified, to cleared government officials to review and see if there's any relevance in them. There's a lot of information, as you can imagine, in informal notes, that is completely extraneous to this issue or any other issue of intelligence value, that's talking amongst themselves.
I would make one other point about that article. We are trying hard to get to the bottom of some of these questions, and whenever issues come up that divert our attention about whether analysts were talked to or not talked to, that it diverts our attention from what has caused the veterans to get sick, and we are trying to run that to ground.
Let me finally turn to the Khamisiyah paper you passed out. During our initial efforts on Khamisiyah, we determined that certain intelligence documents were critical to answering the questions, what did the intelligence community know when? What did we do with that information internally, and what did we do externally?
We began briefing those documents to the President's Advisory Committee and appropriate Congressional committees. We also began simultaneous efforts to declassify those documents and to search for any other information relevant to the questions.
We determined in the process of that effort that a paper, unclassified, that would walk through the historical perspective would help the recipients of these 41 documents understand the context of the documents. The paper, which was released on the 9th of April, provides details of the Intelligence Community's knowledge about Khamisiyah before, during and after the war.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Some highlights of the paper relevant to recent coverage include in 1986 the Intelligence Community knew Khamisiyah had been a chemical weapons storage site during the Iran-Iraq war, specifically during 1984 and 1985. Subsequent analytical assessments began to focus on S-shaped bunkers as future forward-deployed storage locations for chemical weapons. Since Khamisiyah didn't have one of those bunkers, it was not on our list. Nevertheless, the Intelligence Community warned that Iraq had forward-deployed weapons, and was likely to use them.
On February 1, the Defense Intelligence Agency warned that chemical weapons could be stored anywhere, even in the open.
I have just a couple more minutes, if you would like me to walk through these bullets on this paper.
Mr. STEARNS. Sure. Why don't you go ahead.
Mr. WALPOLE. Okay. On the 23rd of February, before the ground war and 9 days before the U.S. military performed demolition at Khamisiyah, CIA passed to CENTCOM information pointing to Khamisiyah as a potential chemical storage facility. While the information did not mention Khamisiyah by name, it included geographic coordinates indicating the area and noted a specific storage area on the military's Joint Operations Graphics map. I have copies of that map if we want to go into that later.
On the 25th of February, CENTCOM tasked National Technical Means to determine if Iraqi troops were present at several places of concern, including the coordinates we had passed. National Technical Means would have been able to provide information on Iraqi troop presence before anyone was sent to check on special weapons.
On the 28th of February, at least 4 days before demolition occurred, DIA had sent a message to CENTCOM indicating that biological and chemical weapons could be stored at Khamisiyah and other facilities.
Also on the 28th of February, CENTCOM requested the Army Central Command to determine by noon on the 4th of March whether chemical or biological weapons were present at Khamisiyah and 16 other sites. The response, which was not received until the 1st of April, indicated that no chemical weapons were found. The rockets in bunker 73 were destroyed after noon on the 4th of March, and those in the pit were destroyed on the 10th of March.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On the 6th of March, CIA passed to CENTCOM a reiteration of its warning that Iraq did not mark chemical munitions. While this warning was 2 days after the demolition in the bunker, it was 4 days before the demolition in the pit. Both demolitions were unknown to CIA at the time.
The 6th of March cable further advised CENTCOM that opportunities to identify chemically filled munitions could be missed, and that while caches of unmarked munitions were destroyed, there was a possibility that individuals could be exposed to chemical warfare agents.
The documents released and the Khamisiyah paper written to accompany them do not change our judgments that Iraq did not use chemical munitions before the war. They do show us that our support before the war could have been better.
That said, the Intelligence Community did not warrant charges that it did not provide warning before U.S. post-war demolitions. As already indicated, CIA and DIA provided multiple warnings. Recent coverage on this issue actually highlighted the difficulties inherent to dealing with intelligence. We who report intelligence indeed missed some important opportunities to draw accurate conclusions about Khamisiyah before the war. In focusing on that part of the story, however, some reporters who received our briefing and related information missed the opportunity to report other important details on the issue, especially that warnings were given before demolition activities were conducted.
The paper that you were passed out is also on GulfLINK, and if anyone needs that GulfLINK site, I have got that address. I won't read that here.
In conclusion, I want to reiterate George Tenet's and the Intelligence Community's commitment to the men and women who served this country in the Persian Gulf. We owe them a full and accurate accounting of what happened during the final days of Desert Storm and in the following days and weeks before their returning to the United States. To that end, the intelligence material we released on Khamisiyah, including the paper outlined in the related historical perspective, gives the veterans and the American citizens a clearer understanding of what we knew and how we used the material.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We stand behind our contributions to national security and are working to enhance our support for the future.
Thank you for the additional time.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Walpole, with attachments, appears on p. 115.]
Mr. STEARNS. Thank you, Mr. Walpole.
Our next witness is Colonel Thomas Leavitt. Colonel.
TESTIMONY OF COL. THOMAS P. LEAVITT
Colonel LEAVITT. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I thank you for this opportunity to update you on the Department of the Army inspector general's inquiry into the destruction of Iraqi ammunition at and around Khamisiyah by U.S. Army ground forces in March of 1991.
My comments today will address the focus of the inquiry as directed by the Secretary of the Army, a short review of the methodology, the current status of the inquiry, and a summary of our future plans.
On the 25th of September, 1996, the Secretary of Army directed the
Mr. KENNEDY. Colonel, would you put that microphone a little closer to your mouth.
Colonel LEAVITT. Yes, sir.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. KENNEDY. Thank you.
Colonel LEAVITT. Does that catch it?
Mr. KENNEDY. Yes.
Colonel LEAVITT. On the 25th of September, 1996, the Secretary of the Army directed the Department of the Army inspector general to determine the facts surrounding the demolitions at Khamisiyah. The inquiry was to focus on the following questions: Was the presence of chemicals detected when the ammunition was destroyed? Was its presence reported, and to what level? Were appropriate force protection measures taken during the ammunition demolition operation?
On the 18th of October, 1996, the Secretary issued a supplemental directive. The Department of the Army inspector general was also to address the weapons destroyed; the personnel who participated in the destruction; the potential exposure of these personnel; the potential exposure of other personnel who, taking into consideration the amount of agent possibly released and the applicable wind patterns, might have been exposed; any other significant factors about the incident; and any other sites where the same or similar operations were conducted.
Our inquiry team proceeded with a train-up by developing an action plan and methodology. We initially spent about 30 days screening classified and unclassified historical logs, reports, and records for records of demolition operations, reports and reconnaissance of expected chemical storage weapon sites, reports of activities around Khamisiyah. This effort is still ongoing.
The team also sought to determine the focus on chemical weapons before, during, and after the Gulf War, asking such questions as: Were chemical weapons designated as a priority intelligence requirement? What actions were taken by commanders and intelligence officers regarding the presence, use, or destruction of chemical weapons and munitions? Was anything found and reported?
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Lastly, we planned to take sworn and recorded testimony from all locatable commanders, soldiers, veterans, and civilians involved in the destruction of the Khamisiyah facility.
The DA IG inquiry team has gathered information and documents from the Gulf War Declassification Project; the Investigation and Analysis Division of the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses; various Army commands and agencies; the CIA; the DIA; and individual soldiers, veterans, and civilians.
After screening thousands of historical files and records, we have collected over 2,000 documents, 300 photographs, 4 videotapes, and an audiotape. Some of these documents and the vast majority of the photographs and tapes came from soldiers and veterans actually involved in the demolition operation. Cooperation and assistance from all individuals and agencies across the spectrum has been superb.
To date, we have talked to over 350 soldiers, veterans, retirees, and civilians. This includes 23 chemical officers and NCOs at levels from company through CENTCOM; 10 operations officers and NCOs from battalion through CENTCOM; 14 intelligence officers and NCOs battalion through ARCENT, which is the Army portion of Central Command; five generals.
We have talked to approximately 150 soldiers, veterans, and civilians who actually participated in or were present at the destruction of the Khamisiyah ammunition facility. This includes the company commanders, operations officers, command sergeants major, battalion commanders of both the 37th and 307th Engineer Battalions, the units most directly involved in the operation.
Of the 350 interviews conducted to date, over one-half have involved sworn recorded testimony. The remainder were documented with memorandums of record.
Members of the team, as we speak, are conducting interviews with soldiers stationed in Europe and are working on some other leads involving veterans in the United States.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This will largely conclude the interview portion of the inquiry. Our focus will then shift to analyzing and crosswalking the data that are available and coordinating the possible results and conclusions with the various agencies and individuals involved.
There is also work remaining regarding the technical aspects of the inquiry primarily involving the modeling efforts.
Mr. Chairman, this short synopsis provides a snapshot of where we are with regard to the SECARMY's directed inquiry into the demolition of Iraqi ammunition at Khamisiyah. We expect to brief the Secretary of the Army late this month or early next month on the results of this inquiry and anticipate that specific results will be released shortly thereafter.
Thank you, sir.
[The prepared statement of Colonel Leavitt appears on p. 247.]
Mr. STEARNS. Thank you, Colonel Leavitt.
Colonel Joe Huber, I understand, does not have an opening statement.
TESTIMONY OF COL. JOE HUBER
Colonel HUBER. That's correct, sir. I am here prepared to respond to your specific questions about NBC, defense training, as I assist Dr. Rostker.
Mr. STEARNS. So you are the designee from the Secretary of Army?
Colonel HUBER. Yes, sir.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. STEARNS. Okay.
Well, let me open up with just a question, a simple question, a yes or no from each of you. I would like to ask each of you on the panel whether there are any unclassified documents which have not now been made public and available to Congress; just a yes or no.
Dr. ROSTKER. None that I know of, sir.
Mr. STEARNS. Okay. Mr. Walpole.
Mr. WALPOLE. None that I am aware of.
Mr. STEARNS. Colonel Leavitt.
Colonel LEAVITT. None that I am aware of, sir.
Colonel HUBER. Sir, I am not aware of any.
Mr. STEARNS. Mr. Walpole, Persian Gulf veterans have been alarmed by the possibility that they were exposed to deadly chemical warfare agents as a result of the detonations at Khamisiyah. You recently released a previously classified January 1991 Defense Intelligence Agency analysis which assessed Iraq's chemical weapon threat.
In that document, the DIA expressed the view that although Iraq is likely to have significant chemical weapons stockpiled, quote, its nerve agent stocks are being reduced by spoilage and probably will be militarily ineffective after the 31st of March. Iraq is not able to make good quality chemical agents. Technical problems have reduced their purity. This is a particular problem for the sarin type nerve gas, GB and GF. These both contain hydrofluoric acid, HF, and an impurity that causes nerve gas decomposition. Lower purity significantly reduces shelf life and reduces toxic effects. The nerve agent recently produced should have already begun to deteriorate, and decomposition should make most of the nerve agent weapons unserviceable by the end of March 1991.
Now, as we know, the Khamisiyah detonations took place in March of 1991.
Now, this information was interesting to us, and we would like your assessment. Was that assessment right or totally wrong? And how do you square it with the agency's model of the released sarin from Khamisiyah Storage Bunker Number 73 where you assumed 100 percent pure agent?
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALPOLE. There are actually several questions built into your question. I am trying to figure out what order to actually go in on these.
The UNSCOM sampled the rockets that they found there in October/November 1991 and elsewhere, and the samples indicated that the purity of agent ranged from 10 to 70 percent. There was only one example that was up at the 70 percent point.
So there is degradation in the agent, and that part of the DIA paper is accurate.
They left what we would consider to be material foreign to trying to develop a pure agent in, and that caused the degradation of the Iraqis'.
The fact that there was still purity in the agent as late as November raises the questions of what was meant by ''militarily significant'' on the 31st of March 1991 in the DIA statement, and we are going back to the analysts on that to discover how they had determined that relative to the new information.
On the point of modeling, we have attempted in our modeling efforts to develop releases that leaned more on the worst case side of the equation, simply because the data is not there to determine exactly what happened. And if we are trying to determine what the potential plume extension was, we want to err on the side of the worst case. That's why we used 100 percent agent for that, even though we knew that was high.
Mr. STEARNS. So can I say safely then you agree with the Defense Intelligence Agency in their assessment, or do you feel that in the Storage Bunker Number 73 there was 100 pure agent?
Mr. WALPOLE. We agree that the agent degraded. I think the samples show that it did not degrade completely by the 31st of March 1991, and we stand by using the higher values of purity in our modeling efforts for the purposes that they were generated.
Mr. STEARNS. You feel comfortable.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. STEARNS. We have called the supervisor on this.
Mr. KENNEDY. This is the CIA putting a
Mr. STEARNS. We have called the supervisor about that, and we are assuming that they are looking into it.
But can I assume then that you are going to say that you stand by the 100 percent or 80 percent? Could you give for this committee what percent that you venture to guess? Is that putting you on the spot too much? Can you venture?
Mr. WALPOLE. I don't remember exactly what percent we ran through the model at Bunker 73. As I indicated earlier, I started the job 40 days ago. I will take, for the record, the question of what percent we ran through that model. It was published in the paper on Bunker 73. It is all unclassified. It is just that I do not know the answer.
I know that in our modeling efforts we have tried to lean on the upper end of the sample purity, just so that we don't minimize the plume without any evidence to do so.
Mr. STEARNS. Thank you.
My time is up. I will now call on the chairman of the oversight committee, Mr. Everett.
Mr. EVERETT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Walpole, while the facts certainly haven't changed, the tone of your testimony differs markedly from that of your report last week, in my opinion. Your former report seemed a candid, critical, tough analysis. The admitted sharp reporting and commentary the agency received afterwards appears to have changed your report or your position.
I now understand you to say that while the intelligence community missed a few things, it fundamentally got solid intelligence to DOD which the military should have acted on with far greater caution. Is that an accurate statement?
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALPOLE. I won't judge what the military should and should not have done. The
Mr. EVERETT. But is it an accurate statement that you got the information to the military?
Mr. WALPOLE. That is an accurate statement.
Mr. EVERETT. Okay.
Dr. Rostker, I wonder if you would please comment on the extent to which you agree with what Mr. Walpole has said in his testimony. Given the warnings that the intelligence community provided during February and early March 1991, shouldn't military commanders have assumed as a matter of prudent caution that all the rockets found at Khamisiyah were chemical ordnance and treat it accordingly rather than to assume the exact opposite?
Dr. ROSTKER. The history of the Gulf War and the documentation that has been published on GulfLINK and is in the public domain is replete with warnings, procedures for dealing with chemical sites. In every case, the commander stressed that safety was paramount, that the units were to lead with their Fox vehicles, their chemical reconnaissance vehicles, and to go in MOPP. It is very clear that is what happened at Khamisiyah. The unprotected troops only went in after they got it all clear from the chemical disposal folks.
One of the great mysteries of Khamisiyah still is why we have not seen acute exposure given the presence of chemical there; why we have pictures of Army personnel, trained demolition personnel, standing next to stacks of blown up Iraqi munitions 1 and 2 days after the munitions were blown up, unprotected troops that had never had any health impacts. Khamisiyah, in this regard, still is quite an enigma.
But it is quite clear that safety of the troops was paramount, that the troops were instructed to go in with the chemical vehicles and in MOPP gear, and that's exactly what they did do.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. EVERETT. Help me understand something. You say that the troops only went in after they got the all-clear for those who had tested for chemicalI don't understand why they got the all-clear.
Dr. ROSTKER. We don't understand either. If you were to, for example, talk to the company commanders of the 37th Engineers that blew up Khamisiyah, they would tell you, as they did in the press conference just a number of weeks ago, that to this day they do not believe there were chemicals at Khamisiyah.
Mr. EVERETT. And yet we have all of this evidence that there were chemicals at Khamisiyah.
Dr. ROSTKER. What we have is the evidence of U.S. troops blowing up munitions at Khamisiyah, and we have the evidence of the United Nations finding chemicals at Khamisiyah the following October.
Mr. EVERETT. You are talking about the UNSCOM?
Dr. ROSTKER. The UNSCOM.
Mr. EVERETT. Let me ask you in that regard, or somebody in the Army, who was notified at Army Central Command by the CIA of the United Nations Inspector Command finding the presence of chemical munitions at Khamisiyah?
Why wasn't this information evaluated to the highest levels of Army Central Command? This is not information of a routine nature.
Dr. ROSTKER. The issue is covered in ourin the Khamisiyah narrative. The CIA contacted someone unknown at Central Command, who indicated that the 24th Division was in the vicinity of Khamisiyah, but it was the 82nd Division that actually blew up the depot.
We know the CIA contacted a captain at Fort Stewart and inquired whether they had been involved in the demolition at Khamisiyah. The captain has no recollection of ever receiving a phone call. The answer he could have only given was no, because the 24th Division was not engaged at Khamisiyah.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We do know the messages that Mr. Walpole talks about were received on the 28th of February and were passed to the 24th Division and the 101st Division, which were the lead divisions of the 18th Airborne Corps attacking Khamisiyah.
So we know that as the forces went into Khamisiyah, they had the warning ofand it is in their logs, quote, possible chemicals on objective gold, which was Khamisiyah.
We know that they went in with their protective gear and their vehicles, but they did not detect any chemicals, and in the days after the munitions were blown up in Khamisiyah, the U.S. troops on the ground did not detect any chemicals.
Let me say that this is also the inquiry that the Army IG is going through, so we are checking and double-checking with independent assessments as to what I am just telling you, but that is the facts from the people on the ground, sir.
Mr. EVERETT. In other words, the CIA contacted somebody, and we don't know who they contacted.
Mr. Chairman, I recognize my time is up, but the same questioncould I ask just the Army to respond to the same question: Why wasn't this passed up the Army command to high levels?
Colonel HUBER. Sir, I am not prepared to answer that question. That would be an operational question that would have to be addressed from Central Command.
Mr. EVERETT. Could you get us an answer?
Dr. ROSTKER. If I might, that is exactly what the Army IG is charged with, to get an answer to that question, sir.
Mr. EVERETT. Thank you.
Mr. STEARNS. Colonel Huber, I just suggest if you could give a written answer to Mr. Everett for the record.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Colonel HUBER. Yes, sir, we will.
Mr. EVERETT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. STEARNS. Mr. Gutierrez.
Mr. GUTIERREZ. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Doctor, as you know, the Defense Department has been called before this committee in the past. The Department of Defense stated before this committee in 1993 that there was no evidence of chemical weapon exposure to our veterans in the Gulf War. As we know today, that was not true.
In addition, this committee was informed by the Department of Defense that the medical conditions afflicting our Gulf War veterans, in their opinion, were not connected to chemical agents that they may have encountered during the Gulf War.
Given the information that we have to date and the knowledge that you have to date, do you still believe that the illnesses afflicting our Gulf War veterans have no relationship to any chemical agent exposure during intervention in the Gulf War?
Dr. ROSTKER. I would first refer you to the President's advisory committee on that point, because that is a conclusion that they drew, that they could not find a connection between chemical exposure
Mr. GUTIERREZ. Doctor, but I would like you to answer the question.
Dr. ROSTKER. We are holding that as an open question. I removed from GulfLINK a paper that had drawn a conclusion because it was not a conclusion that I had drawn in my efforts, and so that is an open question.
We have review research and we have put out RFPs to encourage additional new research because the research base is thin. So we at this point have not drawn that conclusion.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GUTIERREZ. So would it be fair then to say that you are not as solid as you were in 1993 and 1994 when the Department of Defense came before this committee and said that there was no relationship between exposure in the Gulf War and their illnesses, that is just not your position today, though?
Dr. ROSTKER. Our position today is that this is an open question, and that is why we are encouraging and funding additional research on that point.
Mr. GUTIERREZ. Well, I am happy to hear that it has changed, because I remember sitting here sharing this panel with other members here when I joined Congress in 1993, and I remember the hearings in 1993. I remember the hearings in 1994. I remember that the information that we were receiving wasI mean, there were people who suggested that, you know, veterans were just kind of making this stuff up, that this was psychological, that there was no evidence that there were any medical determining factors to their illnesses.
And they said, well, you know, there are always malingerers trying to get a free government handout. Well, at least today we don't have the same kind of evidence being presented before this committee. So I think that that is certainly a step in the right direction, because it always seems that the veterans have to fightafter they have fought, have to fight for their credibility when they raise issues before our Government for due compensation for their service to the Nation.
I would like to ask, Mr. Walpole, to thank you for joining us here today. I want to commend you on your efforts to deal candidly with the issues surrounding Khamisiyah, and I am hopeful that the intelligence community will continue to work in such a forthright manner.
To date, our Government, and particularly the CIA and the Defense Department, have stated that there is no evidence, no evidence suggesting further chemical agent exposures from sites in the Gulf War, excluding Khamisiyah.
I certainly want to believe that, but of course they told us nothing had happened a couple of years ago at all. And so I have been assured by the Department of Defense, while sitting here on this dais, that there was no chemical exposure of our troops at all. Now we know that is not the case.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So, Mr. Walpole, in your opinion, are there other Khamisiyahs that Congress, this committee, and the American people, and, most importantly, our troops, have not been informed of? And can you answer that question for me this morning?
Mr. WALPOLE. To date, we have not discovered any other facility like Khamisiyah, another Khamisiyah. We have learned a lot in our investigation, our review of the information on Khamisiyah, and we have expanded our search to see if any other documents would come forward that would suggest any other sites.
And since I focused most of my remarks on Khamisiyah, it ignores that I have a large volume of people doing this document search, and we have extended much of that search back to 1980, so we uncover the 1986-like documents that we may have missed before. But to date we have not found anything.
If and when we find anything else, that information will be made publicly available to help on this question.
Mr. GUTIERREZ. So you do not exclude or suggest that there won't be any other Khamisiyahs? They are possible?
Mr. WALPOLE. We have seen no other indication of that, but I am not going to exclude that possibility.
Mr. GUTIERREZ. You are not going to exclude it. And you are studying and reviewing and looking at documents to find any others?
Mr. WALPOLE. Absolutely. We have to address this with an open mind.
Mr. GUTIERREZ. Thank you so much. Thank you to all the members of the panel.
Mr. STEARNS. I thank my colleague.
Since this is a joint committee hearing between the oversight and us, the next gentlemen will be James Clyburn, who is the ranking member on the oversight committee.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CLYBURN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I don't know who I should address this question to, but I think that we are a little limited here in our knowledge of exactly how a CIA analyst operates. So I want someone to explain to me, provide me sort of an outline, as to how you evaluate the work of analysts?
Mr. WALPOLE. That obviously would come to me. In terms ofare you talking about day-to-day evaluation of analysts' work?
Mr. CLYBURN. Yes.
Mr. WALPOLE. Okay. I want to first point out that the paper that you all received, some day when the heat is off this issue, people will be able to look at that document and get a very critical insight into how analysis works at CIA and elsewhere, because you see as you walk through that document the type of information that is received and how analysts view it and then might later review it.
But in answer to your question, documents are written, and let's refer in this particular Khamisiyah paper to a document in 1986, November 1986, that cited the May 1986 information and said that we conclude that chemical munitions would be stored at Tall al-Lahm, which was another name for Khamisiyah.
That document also pointed out that S-shaped bunkers appeared to be the indication for where forward deployed storage would be for chemical munitions in the future. That was analysts' judgments. Managers reviewed that. It was at the time viewed as a sound, logical judgment.
In hindsight now, we know that that misdirected some attention. But it was a review. It wasn't some analysts getting together without any review, peer review or management review, and writing that paper. It was experts looking at that and evaluating that on the information they then had.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And we could walk through any case of how that works, but there is a general review, both a peer review and a management review.
Mr. CLYBURN. I think that is where my real problem is. The S-shaped bunkersI mean what led to that conclusion, only S-shaped bunkers? It would seem to me, with my limited ability, that is a dead giveaway. I mean, who wouldit is so easy for any amateur to look at that if it is only S-shaped and say, if it is a Z shape, we don't have to worry about it. I don't see anybody making it that easy for us.
Mr. WALPOLE. Intelligence is not easy, and, in fact
Mr. CLYBURN. Well, I mean, coming to the conclusion that only S-shaped bunkers would have chemicals, that is easy.
Mr. WALPOLE. The correct answer for that question is truly classified. I would have to walk through all of the indicators that analysts obtained, what we call signatures that they obtained, that led them to that conclusion.
That would revealand I certainly wouldn't mind revealing it to you, but it would reveal to all of the other countries that we are trying to monitor what signatures we look for, and they would hide those signatures, and then we would have other problems.
Mr. CLYBURN. Well, if that isif that is classified, I would ask you to give that to one of the chairs here. I don't want it, because I represent a Congressional District is number 16 in the Nation as far as the number of veterans receiving benefits, and I am an advocate for those people, and I don't want to have any information that I cannot use to advocate for them.
So I would love to have that information given to one of the chairs here, but keep it away from me.
Mr. WALPOLE. We can provide that.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CLYBURN. I think we may need that, really.
Mr. WALPOLE. Yeah. It was based on sound analytical thinking, but we have since learned that there were other things that we should look for.
You know, I would point out in our paperyou mentioned candidnessin the paper that we released, and a much quoted phrase was my statement about tunnel vision. That was not a management statement. In fact, the paragraph in the paper wasn't in the original draft of the paper until an analyst came to me and said: We need a paragraph in this paper about tunnel vision. The analysts are being very candid about this issue.
Mr. CLYBURN. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. My time is up.
Mr. STEARNS. I thank my colleague.
We will now proceed in the order of their arriving, and we start with Spencer Bachus. Spencer.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. SPENCER BACHUS
Mr. BACHUS. Thank you.
Gentlemen, I know the CIA has said that it has over 50 investigators working on this issue of exposure to chemical weapons and Gulf War illnesses, and I read there is some testimony about the Department of Defense that said that dozens of agencies are involved in this investigation, millions of dollars are being spent, literally hundreds of researchers are actively seeking answers.
Knowing that you have that many people in the field looking for answers, how about these missing headquarters chemical logs. First of all, do you agree that those are essential and critical to any investigation?
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. ROSTKER. Let me, if I may address those?
Mr. BACHUS. Yes.
Dr. ROSTKER. At this moment, the inquiry on the CENTCOM chemical logs has been turned over to the DOD IG. My office had taken the investigation to a point where it was clear that, to make sure that we had followed every possible lead, some additional resources would be needed.
We have traced the surviving logs to the preparation of testimony for the Defense Science Board in 1994. The 30-some-odd pages that survive were those pages that were pulled out because they were the most significant pages and used to prepare the briefings for the Defense Science Board.
Almost every major chemical event that we know of, from the Czech detections to the marine breaching operation to the ammunition supply point identified by the Marines in Kuwait, all of those events are entered into the logs.
The main question
Mr. BACHUS. Let me ask you this: You are talking about 224 days.
Dr. ROSTKER. Yes.
Mr. BACHUS. Essentially. And you haveof those, 24 you have?
Dr. ROSTKER. And my point is, as best we can tell, those particular pages that have survived did so because they were the most significant pages.
Mr. BACHUS. Let me just interrupt you. You are saying there are 224 days where there ought to be a log. Of thoseand we may be off.
Dr. ROSTKER. Sure.
Mr. BACHUS. 24 logs we have. There are 200 missing logs. But you are saying that the 24 we have are the pertinent dates.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Do we have March the 4th, Khamisiyah?
Dr. ROSTKER. We don't have Khamisiyah, but we do have, if I might
Mr. BACHUS. Do we havelet me just ask you, do we have March the 10th, where another
Dr. ROSTKER. We do not.
Mr. BACHUS. Are those critical dates?
Dr. ROSTKER. May I finish my answer, sir?
Mr. BACHUS. Let me just ask you if those are critical dates.
Dr. ROSTKER. If I may, we have the subordinate logs from the 18th Airborne Corps, and those logs as well as the testimony of the people who would have initiated the log entry because they were the officers on the ground at Khamisiyah, they did not view it as a chemical event. The intermediate logs do not point up the explosions at Khamisiyah.
Mr. BACHUS. Let me ask you this because I only have limited time and I am not interrupting, but when you tell me there is 224 days and you only have 24 of those and among the days you don't have are the 10th and 4th of March, it is hard for me to accept the fact that you are saying that we have all the logs from the critical days. I mean, is that what I am hearing you say?
Dr. ROSTKER. I am trying to explain that the log dates we have capture the critical events. But that is why we have asked the DOD
Mr. BACHUS. That is all I want to ask.
Dr. ROSTKER. That is why we have asked the DOD IG to take a further look into this.
Mr. BACHUS. Legally, how long are these records supposed to be maintained?
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. ROSTKER. I don't know the answer to that question. These were war records, and they should have been maintained. In fact, they should have been archived on several earlier archival exercises.
Mr. BACHUS. Let me ask you one final question, if I could. And really, to try to get as much information out, that is why I would like some succinct answers. You all commissioned before the Gulf War a study by the Livermore Labs on the possible effect of bombing chemical weapons sites?
Dr. ROSTKER. I don't know that, sir.
Mr. BACHUS. Are any of you all aware of that? Any of you gentlemen?
Mr. WALPOLE. No.
Mr. BACHUS. I am told that you did, and thatbut that these studies didn'tthey were supposed tothey were studies of geographical distribution that would result from a bombing of a chemical weapons site. And that thoseand what I have been told is that they are of not much use here because the studies didn't ask that they study particular types of chemicals or particular quantities, and that seems to me to be totally preposterous, that you could commitI would like to know how much that study costs and maybe what it concluded.
Dr. ROSTKER. We will provide that for the record.
(The information follows):
On October 5, 1990, the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, Atmospheric and Geophysical Sciences Division, responded to an Air Force (Tactical Air Command, Intelligence) request for some generic atmospheric release advisory capability calculations.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
No specific document has been identified that tasks the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory to perform this study. It is entirely feasible that, in the post-invasion and pre-war atmosphere of late 1990, the laboratory was responding to a verbal request for general information.
Indeed, the memorandum for record which transmitted the study to the Air Force stresses the fact that several assumptions had to be made during the calculations because of the ''paucity of data regarding source terms.'' For example, some of the assumptions pertained to source material and particle size distribution.
The final product was a series of calculations which led analysts to a conclusion as to what would be the optimum strike time from a dispersion viewpoint. This report is currently classified at the secret level and has been passed to the Department of Energy for security review. Based on that review, additional coordination with the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense may be appropriate. The exact cost of the study cannot be determined but a review of the modeling tools used in its preparation and the graphics produced lead to an estimated cost of approximately eight thousand dollars.
Mr. BACHUS. And why it didn'twhy it didn't examine specific types of chemicals. It seems to me like from the explanation I have received from the Department of Defense, it would have been a totally useless study.
Dr. ROSTKER. We will provide it for the record, sir.
Mr. STEARNS. Thank you, Doctor. Just provide it for him.
Next is Mr. Lane Evans.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. EVANS. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Walpole, obviously The Washington Post story today raises disturbing questions as to whether the CIA is doing a thorough job or is dedicated to seeking the truth coming out of our Government's handling of this incident.
Reports that the CIA has only recently interviewed analysts handling Gulf chemical weapons intelligence and that a desk log of their activities existed are problems that this committee must thoroughly review.
Can you tell us when the desk log will be declassified and the status of your interviews of the analysts assigned to the mission?
Mr. WALPOLE. Yes. I mentioned some of this in my opening remarks, but I will hit the major points again.
There are several errors in that article, and my biggest concern is, erroneous articles like this divert our attention from getting down to the real questions of what has made the veterans sick.
The analysts in question got together during the war, when it became very clear to them that they were working too many hours, and determined they needed to rotate their schedules so that they would be able to have some time at home and time to sleep.
When they did that, they determined they needed to keep notes for each other so when somebody else came on they could know what happened. They did this partially during the air war and then during the ground war which, of course, was short.
Mr. EVANS. That was done in a spiral notebook?
Mr. WALPOLE. No. No. That was done on a computer file. It was very informal, chitchat type stuff and mentioned, you know, information thata lot of it was completely irrelevant to the war effort. It was just talking to each other. But some of the elements were helpful, and, in fact, one of those entriestwo of those entries were released last week because it pertainedeven though the word ''Khamisiyah'' wasn't in that particular entry, it pertained to the Khamisiyah issue. So we released it.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, as to the analysts and our discussions with the analysts, first off, they have been working the issue since the late 1980s and many people have talked with them, but particularly on this investigation effort, they were part of the 1995 review. They not only were talking to each other, they were part of the review. They were part of efforts in 1996. They were interviewed by the IG. They are part of my task force.
So when somebody from my public affairs component asked me, when did you talk to the people that kept these notes? I said, well, I guess the answer to that is 35 days ago; they are part of my task force and we started 35 days ago.
Mr. EVANS. How many people were involved throughout the course of the war, before and after the war actually, in analyzing Iraqi chemical weapons programs? How many analysts were involved in that, and how many have been interviewed at this time?
Mr. WALPOLE. Well, I will have to take that for the record. You are talking about interviewed justby any task force, and IG included, everything that we have done up to this point?
Mr. EVANS. Well, I
Mr. WALPOLE. I will have to take that for the record.
Mr. EVANS. I am trying to get at if all the analysts presently in the employ of the CIA or those that have left, all of them that were involved in the so-called informal working group, they have all been interviewed at this point, both past and former?
Mr. WALPOLE. To my understanding, that is correct; by someone they have been talked to.
Mr. EVANS. Can you check that and get back to me?
Mr. WALPOLE. I will check that and confirm that.
Mr. EVANS. Can you briefly describe the role that these analysts play? I think some of the committee members are unfamiliar with the role they have. And what was your evaluation of their work during the war?
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALPOLE. You are talking about the specific analysts mentioned in the article today?
Mr. EVANS. The informal working group.
Mr. WALPOLE. Yes. Page 1 of the paper that you just got describes what they did in brief. These were analysts that were working at the time, before the war, the chemical and biological warfare programs throughout the world. It is on the bottom of the left-hand column of page 1. We mention their 24-hour effort.
They wanted to ensure that senior officials at the agency and policy officials that called and asked questions would have the answers to their questions in a timely manner. That's one of the things that we have to do at the agency.
So these were experts in the chemical, biological warfare field that were trying to analyze whatever information they had coming in at the time and determine if they had anything that could be helpful in the process.
Mr. EVANS. Do you know exactly when we can expect the remainder of theseof this log to be releasedto be declassified and released?
Mr. WALPOLE. Yes. What I said in the opening remarks is theagain, I would refer to them as working notes. Really, it wasn't a log as we normally think of. But we released the one that related to Khamisiyah last week. Others that have information that pertain to this issue will indeed be released, and the entire package of these notes will be made available to cleared government officials to review and see if there is something in there that helps them in their efforts.
Mr. EVANS. Finally, how would you assess the quality of the information that the analysts were provided? Was it adequate for them to do their job?
Mr. WALPOLE. Intelligence analysts would always like to have more information. I would always like to have more information.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The comment was made earlier that we had shifted our story from last week. I think anyone that reads the paper you have passed out will find that we haven't. It is all in there. Everything I said today is also in the paper. Some of that important information was missed.
You will see there that there were gaps in our knowledge, and it would also be nice to fill those gaps. But intelligence analysts will never get 100 percent information on any question and we know that when we go into the job.
Mr. EVANS. Mr. Chairman, I know a number of members would like to submit follow-up questions, myself included, to the witnesses, and we would ask that those answers and questions be printed in the formal hearing record.
Mr. STEARNS. So ordered.
Mr. EVANS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
(See p. 279.]
Mr. STEARNS. I would like to point out to the members, and particularly Mr. Bachus, we received just today testimony from Eleanor Hill, inspector general of DOD, with regard to the missing chemical warfare logs.
Now, we had requested that they come forward so that we could ask them questions. This testimony was embargoed. We received it yesterday. It will be made available to all the members of the committee.
Essentially, she has indicated that they are pursuing criminal investigations, and you are welcome, each member is welcome, to see this testimony. I think it is important that this be made a part of the record, and it shall be.
Mr. KENNEDY. A criminal investigation of what?
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. STEARNS. Of the missing logs over at Khamisiyah.
Mr. BACHUS. CENTCOM chemical logs, headquarter logs.
Mr. STEARNS. In fact, I was told by staff that each member has this as part of your packet. So you can look for it.
[The statement of Eleanor Hill appears on p. 249.]
Mr. STEARNS. Mr. Snyder is next.
Mr. SNYDER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Walpole, if I understood you correctly, just repetition, you stated very clearly that you feel that adequate notification was given to the military prior towhen there was some indication that there might be chemical weapons at Khamisiyah. Is that a fair statement of what you said?
Mr. WALPOLE. I said that notification was given. I would leave to others to determine adequacy. I have copies of the joint operations graphic map, two copies for each of the subcommittee.
When I reviewed the cable from the 23rd of February 1991and it does not mention the name Khamisiyah, but when I reviewed that cable, that cable provides two pieces of information. One is a set of coordinates that were obtained from someone in the Iranian Air Force or Iranian Air Force industry. And I plot those coordinates on the joint operations graphics map, which is a military map. Those coordinates are very, very near the town of Tall al-Lahm, which was the official U.S. Government name for that site.
The other thing that 23 February cable mentions is that there is a storage site near those coordinates east of Juwarin on that map. I look at that map and there, indeed, is a storage site east of Juwarin. The storage site is not named, but the storage site we know to be Khamisiyah, and halfway acrosslet me phrase it this way: The name of Khamisiyah appears on the map noting the town, and half of that name appears across the storage site.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So there is information in that cable to point to Khamisiyah as the storage site being identified.
Mr. SNYDER. So put that in perspective for me. Are you sayingso that information is transferred. In the course of however many days this was going on, the several months, I guess, the troop buildup and I suppose prior to thathow many timeshow many similar type notifications might a unit have gotten?
I mean, would that have been a rare event to have gotten that kind of notification from the intelligence community? Or could we anticipate that, well, it's time for our twice-a-day transfer of intelligence information as things have changed?
If I was the person that answered the phone and you called me, would I look at that and say this is a big deal, or would I put it in my other stack of intelligence information?
Mr. WALPOLE. Having not followed intelligence support during a war effort before, I don't know rare or not. We had a very shortvery short ground war.
Mr. SNYDER. Sure.
Mr. WALPOLE. And I went through several warnings that had been provided during that period of time, numerous warnings from different directions. I mentioned the 23 February 1991 from CIA. The Defense Intelligence Agency in the month of February had looked at the issue of nonrefrigerated 12-frame bunkersthey were thought to be for biological warfare storageand determined that, you know, they might use these for chemical warfare storage as well.
They sent a cable to CENTCOM saying just what I said and said one of these isthey listed six sites where these were found. One of those was at Tall al-Lahm.
So we had a cable on the 23rd from CIA and a cable on the 28th from DIA pointing, for different reasons, to this site. Now, I honestly don't know how rare that is in a war effort, to get that kind of information.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SNYDER. I wantedshifting gears now to the whole issue of post-war declassificationsyou know, the old thing about, I can keep a secret; it is the people I share it with that I worry aboutit seems to me I remember having some discussions with some atomic veterans a few years ago that had been exposed, and I guess, Dr. Rostker, I will direct this to you. They were apprehensive, 45 years later, after having been at Alamogordo, about going into VA doctors and saying, ''I think I may have been exposed,'' because they had top secret clearances. This is the same time when you could find out how to make a nuclear bomb out of a washing machine in magazines.
Are we satisfied that our effort to protect old secrets isdeclassify old secrets is adequate, or is that still an obstruction?
And Colonel Leavitt, if I could ask you a question: You mentioned 2,000 documents. How many of those are classified versus unclassified?
Dr. ROSTKER. Well, at this point, I know of no classified document that is being withheld because of classification. I mean, we get a lot of documents. As soon as we see it as a relevant document pertaining in any way to health or the operations that we are investigating, we ask it to be declassified and posted on GulfLINK.
And I think, as the CIA has said in their press conference last week, one of the reasons for standing up this committeetheir committee, their working group, was that we had come across the warning, ''possible chemicals on objective gold.'' It had been researched back by the analysts, both our analysts and CIA, to the 23 February cable, and we asked CIA to declassify it. The CIA looked at that cable, has declassified it, and has declassified many other documents also relevant to the inquiry.
So I know of no document that we are holding because of classification that is relevant. Again, any document that we find that is relevant we immediately declassify. We ask that it to be declassified and we share it with the President's advisory committee in classified form immediately.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Literally, the sun doesn't set before I bring those documents to the pack and we start the process of declassification.
Colonel LEAVITT. Sir, I would say that about one-third of the documents are classified, about two-thirds unclassified, and I believe a significant percentage of those that were classified when we got them have been declassified since.
Mr. SNYDER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. STEARNS. Thank you. Mr. Mascara.
Mr. MASCARA. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
While most of what we are dealing with here today seems to surround Khamisiyah, people from my District were killed in the Gulf War. In fact, one young lady named Mary Rhodes, from my District, was in the barracks that was hit by a SCUD missile. I think you willI can't recall the name of the town that that occurred in, but I believe it was in Saudi Arabia. She was given 100 percent disability.
That's beside the point that I am trying to make here today, that these people are really sick. In fact, I was able to help another young lady from Congresswoman Karen Thurman's District in Florida to obtain a disability. I appeared with them in front of the President's Commission on the Gulf War Syndrome to give testimony to that commission. And we lost several soldiers in that war. So I am very concerned about where we are going with all of this information.
But, Dr. Rostker, could you please outline your efforts to identify and contact those service personnel who may have been exposed to chemical munitions because of the demolition activities at Khamisiyah?
And while you did make some statements earlier and stated some numbers, do you know how many service personnel you believe might have been exposed to chemical weapons and how many you have contacted and how many have provided information?
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. ROSTKER. Yes, sir. First of all, let me say that we invite any service member who has any concern for their health to register with either the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Department of Defense. That's our primary concern, and we have repeated that at every public opportunity, and notices have been sent out.
We have notified some 20,000 veterans that were within a 50-kilometer range of Khamisiyah. The notification is, frankly, not more than, ''You may have been exposed,'' and reiterating the availability of the healththe availability of health services.
At this point the analysis that we and the CIA are undertaking, in terms of who may have been exposed, at this point has so much uncertainty to it that we are not inclined to extend that direct notification any further. We really don't know who might have been exposed beyond that range or the dosage of those exposures.
When that analysis is completed, we will follow through again with a more direct mailing and contact people who may have been exposed. But the information that we have at this point is very uncertain.
Of the 20,000 questionnaires that we have sent out, we have received back 6,000 questionnaires, and only 300 of the 6,000 have indicated particular health concerns.
Mr. MASCARA. Given the concentration of resources from your office to deal with the issue at Khamisiyah, do you have sufficient funding to continue to pursue all other avenues regarding the Gulf War illness?
Dr. ROSTKER. And that's why it's important to stress the support we get from the DOD IG on the chemlogs, the Army IG on Khamisiyah in terms of the operational aspects of it, and looking further at the intelligence issue by the assistant for intelligence oversight.
We are structured to look at not only other possible chemical events but also environmental contamination and possible medical issues. So we are covering a full range of things and not letting ourselves be bogged down with Khamisiyah.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MASCARA. I have more questions than I have time. I would like to propose some of those questions in writing and then later on get a response from some of these gentlemen.
Mr. STEARNS. That would be fine. I am thinking that if the members want, we could do a second round at 3 minutes apiece, if people want to wait it out before the next panel. But are you finished?
Mr. MASCARA. Well, I have one quick question for Mr. Walpole, picking up on my colleague, Mr. Snyder's question about the information that you provided in 1986 in the Iran-Iraq war to the military. And while I don't suggest that you say that it is the military's fault, who is culpable?
I mean, the information was provided to the military. Did the military somehow ignore that or overlook it?
Mr. WALPOLE. The 1986we are talking about 1991, the information provided.
Mr. MASCARA. But at that time you suggested in certain coordinates
Mr. WALPOLE. Yes.
Mr. MASCARA (continuing). You talked about Tall al-Lahm that ended up being Khamisiyah and so on and so forth.
Mr. WALPOLE. Yes.
Mr. MASCARA. But they had that information. I mean, they had the coordinates.
Mr. WALPOLE. They had that information. And in working with Dr. Rostker, as we put together the paper you have, there are some releases in that and there is some discussion in that paper about
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MASCARA. You are talking about this paper?
Mr. WALPOLE. I am talking about that paper.
Mr. MASCARA. I just received that.
Mr. WALPOLE. And the 41 documents I mentioned at the beginning of the hearing that I would like to be part of the record include cable traffic, the 23rd February 1991 CIA traffic, but also some CENTCOM taskings that may be related; one of them in particular that used exactly the same coordinates our 23 February cable had used in their tasking. That was all declassified as part of this package, on the part of the Department of Defense, to illumitate this story.
Mr. STEARNS. That will be part of the record. We will make that part of the record.
(See p. 122.)
Dr. ROSTKER. May IMr. Chairman, may I just quickly?
Mr. STEARNS. Sure.
Dr. ROSTKER. We know of very specific things that CENTCOM did. They tasked national assets to investigate the site. Theythe warning of possible chemicals were sent to the corps involved and the two divisions that were engaged at that site, and a general inquiry to the 18th Airborne Corps to investigate a number of sites. So that the military did not sit on this information. It was an active part of several follow-on actions.
Mr. STEARNS. Okay.
Your time has expired.
Mr. MASCARA. Yes.
Mr. STEARNS. Dr. Cooksey.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COOKSEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Colonel Leavitt, Colonel Huber, were either of you ever in the proximity of Tall al-Lahm during the Gulf War?
Colonel LEAVITT. No, sir.
Colonel HUBER. Sir, I was with the First Cavalry Division but not close to Tall al-Lahm. We were part of the 7th Corps, so we were in the area but not within that zone.
Mr. COOKSEY. Do either of you know of anyone that waded into this crater after the bunker was destroyed or was there
Colonel HUBER. No, sir.
Colonel LEAVITT. We have interviewed soldiers that were there, sir.
Mr. COOKSEY. Did they have symptoms of Gulf War illness?
Colonel LEAVITT. Not that I can recall, sir.
Mr. COOKSEY. Let me ask you another question to the two colonels. Has anyone been there to try to determine if there is any type of residual chemical in this area?
Dr. ROSTKER. Yes. The United Nations has been there three times.
Mr. COOKSEY. Have they identified any residual?
And my second question is: What is the half-life of the chemicals that are reported to have been involved there?
Dr. ROSTKER. Their evidence is the physical evidence of roped-in canisters. To the best of my recollection, they did not get readings at the bunkers.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COOKSEY. How soon after the detonation of these weapons did this occur?
Dr. ROSTKER. It was blown up in March, and the U.N. was there in October.
Mr. COOKSEY. Okay. The question, as a physician, I still have is what is the cause, what is the ideology, of Gulf War illness? What has been the causeI feel like we can, as physicians, come up with a treatment. I have the feeling that, you know, we are spending a lot of time maybe even not really finding the cause when we need to know the cause, and until we find the cause, we can't find the treatment.
I was in the military in the late 1960s, and some of you were. Colonel Leavitt, your hair is darker than mine but you are not but about 4 months different from me in age. I was in a combat situation in late 1992 in East Africa, but things are hectic in a combat situation. For those that have been lucky enough to avoid those situations, they don't realize that a lot of times you don't know anything that's going on, and there are a lot of things that are a higher priority on your mind other than keeping this up.
I still feel that we need to find the cause of Gulf War illness, and then once we find the cause of Gulf War illness, then we can do the treatment, because I am more concerned about the welfare, the health of the veterans, being a veteran myself, than whatever else we are trying to find out. That's the issue, as I see it.
I have been in the military, and I was in the military longer than I have been in the Congress. I have the feeling that the military was more focused, more efficient, and more effective in getting its job done than this current body, with all due respect to my colleagues. And I feel that probably you could find the solution quicker than we can; not that I don't have undying faith in politicians, now that I am one.
But anyway, those are my sentiments, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. STEARNS. Thank you, Dr. Cooksey.
Ms. Brown, my colleague from Florida.
Ms. BROWN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Question, and I am not sure to whom: The CIA and military have produced weather models to determine how many troops were exposed. When will we get a solid answer how many troops were exposed?
I know the doctor mentioned something about 20,000. Is that the number?
Dr. ROSTKER. 20,000 of those that were within 50 kilometers. We do not know whether they were or were not exposed., We do not know, if they were exposed, to what extent they were exposed.
Ms. BROWN. What is the status of the weather model and that investigation?
Dr. ROSTKER. If I could ask my colleague from the CIA to respond?
Ms. BROWN. Yes.
Mr. WALPOLE. Yes. We had modeled the bunker, and the main reason we were able to model the bunker was we had had testingwe, the United States Government, had had testing in the 1960s that showed us what happened to a chemical agent that's destroyed inside a building, how rapidly it degrades with the heat buildup and things like that.
We have nothing like that with an open pit demolition. So we don't know what happens to the agent. So on top of the uncertainty of the purity of the agent that we discussed earlier, we didn't have a clue on what the agent would do in an open pit demolition.
On top of that, we had contradictory statements from soldiers on which stacks they worked through, and I have got a photograph here if we need to go through all the details. But the bottom line is, they seem to be claiming they were there at the same time but working on different stacks but didn't see each other and didn't see each other's work. You can imagine that didn't track.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the interview last week, it became very clear that the log entry from March 12 was wrong, so we decided the only prudent thing to do was model everything at one point on March 10, unless we get any other information otherwise.
The individual that was found just this week, we had a telephonic discussion long enough to determine that he thinks these two may not remember seeing each other but that they were all doing it at the same time. That seems to focus us on March 10.
So we are getting a better understanding of the events that transpired in the pit.
We will model all 13 stacks being detonated in the pit, using what information we can gather from some test simulations that we will do some time in the near term at Dugway that would give us an indication, if you place detonation charges on the wooden cratesthe rockets were all in cratesin the manner the soldiers say they did it, what happens? Does the chemical cylinder crack? Does it burst? Does the internal fuse burst and throw the chemical agent all over the place, or does it drip and then slowly disperse? These are questions we have to know the answer to before we can model.
Once that testing is completed, we will be able to run that information through several different models, including models that arethat focus heavily on the source, the agent, and models that focus heavily on the weather and the changes in the weather, so that we will be able to come up with information, as good as possible, of what the exposure limits would have been.
Since we will not ever be able to replicate all 13 stacks going at the same time and in exactly the same manner that the soldiers placed the charges with exactly the same age of agent in each rocket, we will never be able to show exactly what happened. But we will model this to the best of our ability to give some semblance of what might have happened.
Ms. BROWN. And do you have any time certain when these experiments will be complete?
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALPOLE. We would be able to complete that probably within 10 days to 2 weeks of getting the data from the ground tests. And I don't think we have a date for ground tests yet.
Ms. BROWN. I just have one other question, because it seems to be two sides to this, and the other side is, what is the status of those Gulf War veterans who you say we have contacted, the 20,000, only 6,000 have followed up? I mean, how are we handling their claims, the treatment?
Dr. ROSTKER. This is a screening questionnaire. We asked them for help in understanding what went on in Khamisiyah. So it's completely independent from those who have made claims or not made claims. We are doing a second mailing to the 20,000 to see if we can gain more information.
We do not believe that this is a definitive list of who may have been around Khamisiyah. That's part of the problem. So we would view this much more as a very large sample of those who were around Khamisiyah and try to use this to gain intelligence rather than a definitive account of who may have been there or the health consequences for who may have been there.
Ms. BROWN. I guess the last thing I want to say is, how can Congress be more responsive to the Gulf War veterans? And you can put that in writing.
Dr. ROSTKER. Okay.
Mr. STEARNS. I thank the gentlewoman. Mr. Buyer.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My compliments to you and to the ranking members for holding the hearing.
I am trying to put this one together. One question I would like to know is, what coordinations, if any, are we having in our investigations with the British?
Dr. ROSTKER. I have a counterpart in Great Britain. We talk frequently. They were scheduled to be here about 3 weeks ago and had to cancel, and we are in the process of standing up a team to visit them. We have very close cooperation with the Brits.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BUYER. I would pass a recommendation on to you, and perhapsI don't know ifyou explained the methodology, Colonel. I noted in one of the readings that I had that Time Magazine reported in the March 4, 1991, issue that Iraqi soldiers captured by British units stated that before the start of the air war, substantial numbers of chemical weapons were distributed along the front lines to be used in the event of an allied ground invasion of Kuwait. That was a long time ago.
At both of the prisoners-of-war camp, our own, we had our JIF, the Joint Interrogation Facilities, many of those reports were sent to the intelligence community. Are those part of your record of analysis?
Dr. ROSTKER. Yes, they are. They are currently being assessed by the special assistant for intelligence oversight.
Mr. BUYER. I would ask of you to gain access also to the British records from their joint interrogation facilities.
Dr. ROSTKER. Yes, sir.
Mr. BUYER. I would alsothere are so many disconnects, it just boggles my mind. One of the disconnects deals with the actual markings.
I take it, Colonel, you are our expert? Are you a chemical corps?
Colonel HUBER. I am in the chemical corps, yes, sir.
Mr. BUYER. In the chemical corps. Were you in the Gulf War?
Colonel HUBER. I was in the Gulf War, yes, sir.
Mr. BUYER. What was your job there?
Colonel HUBER. I was the chemical officer for the First Cavalry Division, sir.
Mr. BUYER. You are a First Cav?
Colonel HUBER. Yes, sir.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BUYER. So you went into Iraq?
Colonel HUBER. We were in Iraq, sir.
Mr. BUYER. When you deployed with your troops into Iraq, did you have knowledge at the time that the Iraqis had chemical munitions that were weaponized, that were not marked? Did you have that knowledge?
Colonel HUBER. Sir, we had knowledge that the Iraqis did have a chemical capability. The exact markings of chemical munitions are really the expertise of explosive ordnance detachments, teams of specialists who identify chemical munitions.
The averagewhat I am saying is, the average chemical soldier would not be an expert in recognizing all types of chemical munitions.
Mr. BUYER. Right. Apparently you would not haveI would think that you would be one of the experts in chemical munitions. The question is: Did you know at the time that the Iraqis had chemical munitions that were not marked?
Colonel HUBER. Sir, I personally do not recall being aware of that.
Mr. BUYER. Right. And a lot of different reports then, when they are placed in logs or subordinate commands, you know, the Department of Defense is always quick to dispel the credibility of subordinate command, yet if CIA or upper levels of echelons never get the word to you that there are, in fact, such munitions that are unmarked, how in the hell are you supposed to know?
I mean, that's part of the difficulty in the intelligence community. And I am not going to come to the defense of the Army here, but I can also know and recollect that in the intelligence community you are spewing thousands of things into the theater of operations.
Now, there are a lot of people that have got a lot of work to do and a lot of jobs, but I just wanted to make that note.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One of the things that I also would like to know, and ask of you, Dr. Rostker, for you to look into, was the Air Force decisions of targeting when they did their bombing. I know that An Nasiriya is where they also dropped some bombs, and there were detections of mustard agents at An Nasiriya.
I also recall some testimony that Iraqis were fearful because we had bombed An Nasiriya and there were chemical munitions at An Nasiriya, that perhaps they needed to start moving chemical munitions out of Khamisiyah. So obviously, we have got to be watching some of this stuff happening.
I would like for you to make some comment on that about the Air Force and their targeting.
Dr. ROSTKER. The
Mr. BUYER. My time is about up, and then I am going to allow you to finish, if that's all right, Mr. Chairman.
The other is on the detection equipment. There is the other disconnect. All right? If our soldiers don't know that the munitions aren't marked, they go in and they are going to then use the detection equipment, and then they say, ''But our detection equipment didn't detect chemical munitions.''
The CIA is testifying here today that the chemical agents were deteriorating. Well, if they are deteriorating, why didn't our detection equipment pick it up? What a tremendous disconnect.
Dr. ROSTKER. Okay.
Mr. BUYER. Let me turn it over to you for a moment for your comments.
Dr. ROSTKER. Okay. The first question is on the bombing.
Mr. BUYER. The Air Force targeting decisions.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. ROSTKER. Yes, sir. The destruction of chemical and biological warfare sites, plants, storage areas, was a high priority and the decisions were made with full understanding that there could be leakage. The targeteers had access to the Defense Nuclear Agency which did studies for them on possible fallout. But with the full knowledge of those effects, obviously decisions were made to carry out a bombing campaign.
I am sorry, the second one was, sir? The second question was, were the detection?
Mr. BUYER. Yes.
Dr. ROSTKER. Again, one of the confusions about Khamisiyah is that when the UNSCOM got to Khamisiyah the first time, they were told that the munitions were removed from Bunker 73 and placed in the pit because they were leaking.
Now, if they were leaking, the gear we had should have detected it leaking, and there were no such detections.
We have a number ofin the 20,000 questionnaire response, we have a number of people who said that they had or saw a Fox vehicle detection or 256 kits. These are the means of detecting it. Every single one of those claims are being researched. We are debriefing the people who have made that to see if we can find some additional information.
At this point, I can only go to the company commanders who were there and the demolition people who were there, who were trained to do this, and they did not come up with chemical detections.
Mr. STEARNS. The gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Hutchinson.
Mr. WALPOLE. Can I add just one thing briefly, please, on that?
My comment about deterioration earlier was not about leakage, it was about internal deterioration inside the tube. I will make sure in my answer for the record on purity that I cover anything about deterioration. I am not an agent expert.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BUYER. Mr. Chairman, the only reason I made the point on the unmarkings is that never in discussion in the last 4 years have I ever heard discussion about inadvertent deployment nor of firing. So I just wanted to make that statement.
Mr. STEARNS. Mr. Hutchinson.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. ASA HUTCHINSON
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, I want to express my appreciation to the gentlemen for their testimony today and the frankness in which they have presented their testimony. I know this is a very difficult issue for all of you, as you review this matter in the best interest of the veterans.
I also particularly want to say, Mr. Walpole, I appreciate the CIA, in which they frankly admitted that they could have done a better job, and that's the way I understand your testimony. And I think that what is so important here is credibility, and I hope all of youI think you do understand that with the veterans, with the American people, you are overcoming a credibility problem. Because of the slowness of disclosures, thewhat appears to be clear misrepresentations that have beenhave come forward in regard to what was known, and the lack of information, there is a serious credibility problem, and so it is critically important that what you do is thorough, what you do is straightforward and honest, and if a mistake was made, to acknowledge it, and that's the way I take your testimony today.
In regard to the credibility issue, I want to follow up on what Mr. Snyder was asking about the classified and unclassified documents. From what I understand is that all of the unclassifiedexcuse me. All of the classified documents that relate to chemical weapons exposure that might shed light on this have been unclassified. Is that correct?
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. ROSTKER. Are in the process of being. We still are uncovering documents, but they go through the declass process, and that is our policy, and we push it. Nothing is being held back.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. All right. So there are still some that are in the process of being declassified that will be furnished to Congress in the near future, I trust?
Dr. ROSTKER. That's correct, sir.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. How long of a process is this before we are going to get all the documents that are going to be declassified?
Dr. ROSTKER. We are literally still discovering new documents. The Army has put a field team and is again going back to bases overseas and in the CONUS, and literally thousands of documents which have not come up in previous searches are now coming up, and they are going through the process of being scanned and the whole physical process.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. What percent of the relevant documents in this inquiry are still classified at this point, if you can put a percent on it?
Dr. ROSTKER. I would have no idea how to do that. Let me give it some thought and see if we can provide you an answer.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Mr. Walpole, do you have anything to add to that?
Mr. WALPOLE. Yes. First, I wanted to comment that I appreciate your comment on candor, and it would not be possible if I did not have the complete backing of George Tenet in this. And, equally, many of the analysts that were part of the analysis in the 1980s, the ones that were not included on the list before, are on the task force. They are being extremely candid: Well, this is what we were thinking, and we have changed our thinking now. They are being very forthcoming. I think that's very important.
On the declassification issue, in putting the Khamisiyah story together, we declassified a significant amount of information to address this question. Every bit of information that tells part of the story on Khamisiyah has been declassified. Does that mean there are documents on the Iraq war that are still classified? Yes, there are. I don't know what those percentages are, and all of those are being looked at relevant to addressing these questions for declassification.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HUTCHINSON. Well, I would urge you and your superiors that you have a standard which allows maximum disclosure to the public and to Congress for these documents. It is very important.
Mr. WALPOLE. That is the standard, and every document that cannot be declassified for sources and methods concerns, including the discussion that I had earlier about indications, will be provided or has been provided to the committee.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. I am going to run out of time here in just a second. Mr. Walpole, in reference to the CIA there was some acknowledgment that better information could have been provided concerning Khamisiyah and the chemical weapons there. I mean, some information was provided by the CIA, but you could have done a better job is the way I understand your testimony.
Has there been any disciplinary action on any analyst or employees who have been held responsible?
Mr. WALPOLE. No. The issues that we were discussing about it should have been better are analytical judgments. It was not an issue of disciplinary action.
Now, in terms of following up to change some of our proceduresand the paper that you have walks through some of the issues. Harmonization of databases and issues like that, sharing of information, those changes will be made so that this doesn't occur in the future.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. I think that is the critical issue that we ought to be focusing on, what can be changed to prevent this from happening in the future.
I see that my time has expired, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. STEARNS. The gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Kennedy.
Mr. KENNEDY. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Walpole, I wonder, how long have you been working for the Central Intelligence Agency?
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALPOLE. I began for CIA in 1978 but I left in 1984 to go to the State Department and then came back on rotation and was rehired by CIA in September 1996. I don't know how much that adds up to.
Mr. KENNEDY. I appreciate that. But I guess the truth is that we have been looking into this issue in terms of the linkage between the potential of chemical or biological exposures and the veterans that served in the Gulf War, I think 1992 was the first hearing that this committee had.
At that time, we had people from the military come and tell us directly that this really was just a deficiency in individual soldiers and that this was as a result of what was referred to at the time as malingerers. It was done by the same guy that did the study on Agent Orange, saying that there was no direct linkage between chemical exposures in the Vietnam war and the illnesses that many of those veterans had since suffered.
Since then, I have attended dozens of hearings like this. I have attended top secret briefings, but I learned much more about what was going on in the newspapers either before or after the briefings than I did in the briefings themselves.
But over and over again, our intelligence agencies, including the CIA, as well as the NSA, assured us that there was no chemical or biological exposure by the Iraqis to the United States soldiers.
Now you are coming in and telling us at this point that that may not have been true; that there may have beenjust hang on herethat there may, in fact, have been exposures that took place.
There was a case of two Agency officers that worked with youthe Edingtonsthat alleged that there was more information at the Agency than had been published. Do you feel at this point that their coming forward was the proper thing to do, or is now justified by the fact that there is this new information?
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALPOLE. First let me go back to
Mr. KENNEDY. I don't want to take a lot of time because I noticed you take a long time in your answers.
Mr. WALPOLE. I understand that. But I am not saying that we are changing our judgment that the Iraqis did not use chemical weapons.
Mr. KENNEDY. No, but you are sayingI didn't say that. I said that there were exposures. And soI am not here to play a game with you.
Mr. WALPOLE. Okay.
Mr. KENNEDY. I am here to recognize whether or not they shot the bullets off or the chemical weapons off or whether or not we were exposed. I would like to shift. I want to hear what your answer is on the Edingtons, please.
Mr. WALPOLE. On the Edingtons, of course, their initial allegations were that the Iraqis had used chemical weapons and there was evidence to that fact. We have found no evidence to that fact. Now, the allegations the Edingtons have made are being investigated by the CIA's Inspector General, and that is really where that is. I have not looked into it.
Mr. KENNEDY. I talked to the Edingtons. My sense was that what they were trying to suggest was that there was a lot more information than was being made public, and there was in a period of time when we were not being given the kind of information that is being made public at this point.
It tends to create and give credence to the notion that somehow or another there is a cover-up. And if you have talked with, as I think a lot of Members of this committee have, with a whole lot of veterans, as I am sure Colonel Leavitt can tell you, there is a great deal of suspicion on behalf of the people that served in the Persian Gulf that they are not being told the truth.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, let me ask, because my light is going off here, I understand your testimony refers to 25 cases of suspected or reported chemical detonationsor detections. Are all of those cases, detonations, at Khamisiyah?
Mr. WALPOLE. My testimony refers to 25 detections?
Mr. KENNEDY. Maybe that was Dr. Rostker.
Dr. ROSTKER. We carry a number of cases that are actively under investigation, and we will be reporting to the American people and the Congress on every one of them.
Mr. KENNEDY. So, in other words, there are other exposures that have taken place?
Dr. ROSTKER. There are other possible exposures where we have had a positive test kit result or a Fox Vehicle readout, and we are trying to run every one of those to ground.
Mr. KENNEDY. Is there any evidence to suggest at this point that those other cases have resulted in people complaining about illnesses?
We had testimony, I remember, in a joint hearing between us and the Defense Committee, where a number of veterans came forward and said that when a SCUD missile hit, that unlike the other soldiers who were serving from other countries, they were not asked to put on the protective gear; that they felt tingling and they felt their eyes getting red; a number of them testified that all of the bells and whistles and the various detection equipment had gone offso I wonder whether this thing is really being investigated the way it ought to be, Doctor.
Dr. ROSTKER. That is, in fact, one of the cases that is under investigation. I don't want to draw a conclusion because we are still actively investigating it. But what we are looking for is the first-person accounts as well as corroborating information, and I hold an open mind.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. KENNEDY. I guess, Mr. Chairman, my time has expired. I would just point out that it is now 6 years past the time when this occurred. If you knew for one second, Mr. Walpole, or anybody in that Agency knew that people were coming before our committee or coming before us in top secret testimony and letting us know that there was no exposures taking place when, in fact, anybody in that Agency knew that there was, I think that is a real scandal. And it is something that I would hope that the Agency would really look into.
Mr. STEARNS. I thank the gentlemen.
We are going to go a quick second round here, 3 minutes apiece.
I have a quick question. I would like an answer of yes or no from each of you.
Given the information available at the time, were all steps taken that should have been taken to avoid potential chemical warfare exposure at Khamisiyah and to notify those who may have been exposed at the earliest possible time?
So I am just asking, do you think that we took and made available all the information on the potential for chemical warfare at Khamisiyah, and did we notify the people who were going to be exposed in a timely manner? Just quickly, if you could just start. Maybe, Colonel Leavitt, you could just tell me the answer to that.
Colonel LEAVITT. Sir, I only have knowledge of the first one, and I would say yes.
Mr. STEARNS. I am sorry? Say that again.
Colonel LEAVITT. I only have knowledge of the first part of your question, and I would say yes.
Mr. STEARNS. Okay. Mr. Walpole.
Mr. WALPOLE. It is a qualified yes. As we have said, and you will see in the paper, we should have done better, but at the time, yes.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. STEARNS. You felt you notifiedyou made the notification in a timely manner?
Mr. WALPOLE. The notifications were made in a timely manner.
Mr. STEARNS. Okay. Dr. Rostker.
Dr. ROSTKER. Since we are all qualifying, I think I would come down on a qualified no.
Mr. STEARNS. Okay.
Dr. ROSTKER. And that's because
Mr. STEARNS. I mean, this is understandable that you folks wouldn't agree.
Dr. ROSTKER. That's right.
Mr. STEARNS. I don't expect you to agree.
Dr. ROSTKER. And that's because we know that the lead divisions were notified, and we cannot at this point trace it down to the 82nd. And if there was a concern, the entire corps, especially the 82nd, which actually did the demolitions at Khamisiyah, should have been notified. It may well be that they were. We just can't certify that at this time.
Mr. STEARNS. You can't corroborate that?
Dr. ROSTKER. That is correct, sir.
Mr. STEARNS. Colonel Huber.
Colonel HUBER. Sir, I don't believe I have enough information, personal information, to corroborate yes or no.
Mr. STEARNS. Well, you just indicated you were in there yourself.
Colonel HUBER. Yes, sir. I was in a separate unit. I believe I would agree with Dr. Rostker because I don't think we had that information.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. STEARNS. You didn't know.
Colonel HUBER. No, sir.
Mr. STEARNS. You personally have already testified that you didn't know.
Colonel HUBER. That's correct, sir.
Mr. STEARNS. So that the information of a potential chemical warfare was not known to you, and obviously it wasn't made in a timely manner. So, I mean, this is another area that we hope to get into to make sure that this doesn't occur again and that, you knowwith that, I will conclude mine.
And the next person that we have, let's see, what did I do with that list?
Mr. Clyburn, you are next.
Mr. CLYBURN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, I have two questions. The first one, I think, is for Colonel Leavitt, I suspect. Of the 300 peopleI think I heard there were 300 people of the 6,000 who responded to the 20,000 survey have reported some health problem.
Have we put together a task force to really look at those 300 people, study them to see whether or not there was anything about the illnesses they are claiming that could in any way have some common thread here that would lead us to believe that something, some hazard, was exposed to in the Gulf War?
Dr. ROSTKER. I think I am the one who shouldcan answer that.
Mr. CLYBURN. All right.
Dr. ROSTKER. Our first concern is to make sure that they are getting the proper medical care, and so our first concern is to make sure that they go into the registries. The registries provide the base information.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The questionnaire we had was not a medical questionnaire. It was simply a screen questionnaire. So we were not trying to do pop medicine here in assessing them. Our major concern is to make sure that they get into the treatment facilities.
Mr. CLYBURN. So that you are saying that you did follow up with these 300 people?
Dr. ROSTKER. We are in the process of following up with them. It is an ongoing process.
Mr. CLYBURN. Okay. But you have not decided to put together some kind of medical task force to just try and make some determination?
Dr. ROSTKER. These are, as you well know, self-reported. The most important thing is to get them objectively seen and make sure that we are taking care of their health. There are a number of epidemiological and follow-up studies across the entire theater; so being part of the health registries and then follow-on studies are important.
Mr. CLYBURN. Let me get to my second question that I have. In view of the two qualified yeses and two qualified noes, in view of that, why should the Members of this committee have any real confidence that all of the information on possible exposure, all of the information on what may or may not have taken place, all of the documents and relevant information and data are going to be examined and the facts are going to be determined to the satisfaction of this committee and ultimately the American people?
Dr. ROSTKER. Well, let me talk for the Defense Department. We run a totally open process. The agent at this point is the President's Advisory Committee. They have full access to everything we have. We have provided them office space in our complex. They are free to observe any meeting we have, any interviews we give, sit in on my staff meetings. And I would extend, as I have, the same invitation to the committee.
There is nothing we are doing that is not totally transparent. It starts with our relations with our veterans and it continues through the publication of our case narratives. So you can see what we know, and we can have a dialogue to make sure we get the right story.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. STEARNS. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. CLYBURN. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. STEARNS. Excuse me.
Mr. CLYBURN. I am sorry, but I know the this kind of transparency may not be inherently possible for the CIA, but can we have an answer to that from the two qualified yeses?
Mr. WALPOLE. Yes. I think when you read the Khamisiyah historical perspective paper that was passed out to you, that paper is very candid, very forthright, tells you the good and the bad. And I think when you go through that, you will come to the same conclusion I did: Qualified, but notifications were made before the demolition occurred.
Were there other mistakes before and after in making connections? Yes.
Mr. CLYBURN. Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. STEARNS. Mr. Bachus is next.
Mr. BACHUS. Thank you.
My first question is going to deal with chronic health effects of exposure to the nerve gas. The Defense Department, in testimony before our committee and in several statements that I have read, has basically taken the position that there are no long-term health effects, chronic health effects, unless there is some immediate symptoms at the time of exposure.
Dr. ROSTKER. That was the position, and we are funding additional research to better understand that exact point.
Mr. BACHUS. And, Doctor, I knew that you all were. In fact, you are spending $15 million this year and I think $5 million last year to study this, and I know you are aware of, because I have read everybody's testimony, that the Institute of Medicine has said that they feel that that position is far from complete; you know, it is still up in the air.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And my question in this regard is when do you think we might get those studies completed?
You know, you want the information. We all recognize that we need it and that it is an open question. When do you think it can be answered?
Dr. ROSTKER. Medical research takes a long time. But let me say that the most important thing that we can do right now in the short run is to make sure we provide adequate medical care to our veterans and we treat them. In almost all of these cases, we are still left with treating the symptoms, and that's the most important.
We are also funding a number of hypotheses or inquiries about hypotheses again to look for treatment modalities.
Mr. BACHUS. Let me go into some of those I think you may be talking about. A lot of these troops took PB tablets.
Dr. ROSTKER. That's correct.
Mr. BACHUS. Which are nerve agent antidotes, and they seem to believe that there may be somethat they were affected by those.
Were they approved by the FDA prior to being given to the troops?
Dr. ROSTKER. They were approved by the FDA on a limited license. The FDA approves on two bases, safety and efficacy, and the ability to effect. There has never been a question on PB in terms of safety. In fact, it is a chemical, it is a drug that has been widely used in the medical community.
Mr. BACHUS. So there are studies on the long-term effects? You know, I know these troops took them every 6 hours.
Dr. ROSTKER. And in dosages much less
Mr. BACHUS. Okay.
Dr. ROSTKER (continuing). Than the dosage that it is used.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The question for the FDA was efficacy, and we don't know of any way of proving the effects of PB without exposing people to nerve agent, which we can't do.
Mr. BACHUS. And vaccines, you are looking into that?
Dr. ROSTKER. Yes sir, we are. Correct.
Mr. BACHUS. I want to ask one final question. We have talked about what documents have and have not been declassified and supplied to the committee and released to the public.
You know, the Edingtons made a list that said there were 58 key documents that they were essential in understanding this whole issue. And it is my understanding you all have released 21 of those; is that right?
Mr. WALPOLE. No. All of those have been released. In fact, they were all released last year. None of the documents we released last week were on their list. These were all completely new documents.
Mr. BACHUS. Okay. How about the post-war assessment of chemical weapons that was found in Kuwait? Has that been released?
Mr. WALPOLE. Post-war assessment of chemical weapons?
Mr. BACHUS. There was a post-war assessment. The Edingtons described it over a 100-page document, which was a post-war assessment of chemical weapons found in Kuwait.
Mr. WALPOLE. I am drawing a blank on that. I will get an answer for you for the record on that.
Mr. BACHUS. If that was
Mr. WALPOLE. If that was a document that they mentioned on their list should be released, it has been released.
Mr. BACHUS. Okay.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALPOLE. I know those have all been released.
Mr. BACHUS. I guess that's the bottom line. All 58 documents.
Mr. WALPOLE. Yes, and they are all on GulfLINK.
Mr. BACHUS. I just want to add, as we close, for the record, to show you what a domino effect we have had, when we have had this issue of the Czechs reporting to us chemical exposures or detections, and, you know when we have asked, you all have said it was noted that they told us about one on January the such and January the such, so we had two reports. Well, you know, when you look back at the 200 days or the 224 days, it just so happens that those 2 days are 2 of the 26 days or the 30 that we have records for.
Dr. ROSTKER. Well, I don't think that
Mr. BACHUS. Is that not accurate?
Dr. ROSTKER. As I started to explain, when the testimony was prepared for the Defense Science Board, the pages that were significant were pulled out. So they were pulled out, as best I understand it, because they were, in fact, significant. I think it goes that way rather than isn't it a coincidence? It is no coincidence. They were pulled out because those were significant events that were reported to the Defense Science Board.
Mr. STEARNS. The gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Evans.
Mr. EVANS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Rostker, much attention has been placed on loss of data concerning the recordings of potential chemical weapons incidents. A number of us, I think about six or seven of us on this committee, are also Members of the National Security Committee. What kind of recommendations can you make to prevent this from happening in the future?
Dr. ROSTKER. Well, I would like to wait and see what the DOD Inspector General comes out with. We have testified before that, in general, recordkeeping in the Gulf was not as good as it was in previous wars. We have, for example, less certainty about where troops were coming out of the Gulf than we had in the Korean War or World War II, and we can attribute it to changes in procedures, like the elimination of the morning report, the elimination of the company clerk.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is also clear that we need to sharpen the procedures for archiving information, for getting information. The Army has done an outstanding job of going back and finding information even this late. It is unfortunate we have to do that, but there was information, there may still be information, and we are dedicated to trying to find it.
Mr. EVANS. Do you know if any individuals have been identified as being responsible for the loss of classified data such as command logs involving the possible use or exposure to chemical weapon agents?
Dr. ROSTKER. Again, I think we need to wait for the DOD IG report that will go into this, we expect, in more detail.
Mr. EVANS. I guess I just want to make a comment. I am very disturbed that logs are missing or not complete and that they are kept perhaps in a spiral notebook, or messages between shifts of this informal working group were kept in a spiral notebook. I was in the Marine Corps. When I was a security guard, that would be completely unacceptable. We had one log book. If it was missing on your watch, you would be standing before the command.
Mr. STEARNS. Mr. Evans, could I just have you speak into the speaker a little bit?
Mr. EVANS. I am sorry.
Dr. ROSTKER. Let me endorse what you just said. The service that absolutely has the most complete set of logs and records is the United States Marine Corps. There is no question about that.
Mr. EVANS. I am not trying to make this into a commercial for the Marine Corps.
Dr. ROSTKER. As Assistant Secretary of the Navy, I would say make it into a commercial.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. EVANS. At least somebody is doing something right. Right, Vic?
Mr. SNYDER. Yes.
Mr. EVANS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. STEARNS. Thank you, Mr. Evans. Mr. Snyder.
Mr. SNYDER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Walpole, in your written statement here, you discuss your mission as you see it. Let me ask you: Is part of your mission to sort outsince the war ended and we began this inquiry into the Gulf War illness, is part of your mission to sort out the delay in the CIA and the Intelligence Community about why some of this information has not been forthcoming?
Mr. WALPOLE. That falls more into the CIA IG's responsibility, but it overlaps with us to the extent that we have been asked to develop lessons learned
Mr. SNYDER. Right.
Mr. WALPOLE (continuing). That analysts could put into place immediately to address concerns there.
Mr. SNYDER. Is one of those paragraphs, lessons learned paragraphs, going to be the issue of expediting the declassification of documents in a post-war situation? Is that something that you all are looking at?
Mr. WALPOLE. That may well come out. I think that we have learned, just through this process, that getting information out, whether it is to the veterans or to the American public on any issue, that the public needs to have a better understanding of what the CIA does for national security, and because much of what we do is classified, they don't have that. And that will end up being, probably as a broader arching issue than you are describing, one of the recommendations.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SNYDER. Let me make the argument that in this kind of a situation, it is a two-way street, and that you all probably benefit from having information out there that triggers some discussions amongst veterans' groups, reporters, who have their own source of information that they could feed back to you.
I mean, I think the more information that's declassified, you know, there are networks out there that we all can learn from. So I think it hurtsit hurts, I guess, us as Congress and you as the Agency in trying to sort through that stuff without having it out there in the public sector. But I would hope that that would be part of your discussion, too. I think there has been some concerns we have too many dang secrets in the world, and we are slow at getting that information out.
Mr. WALPOLE. Yes. In fact, it already has been. The paper that you all have was released in part to get something into the hands of the veterans so they can have discussions over the phone, unclassified lines, on the Khamisiyah issue.
Mr. SNYDER. Right.
Just a couple of very specific questions. When you referred to your task force, are we talking 50 people, 500 people? How many?
Mr. WALPOLE. There are 50.
Mr. SNYDER. Fifty. Then you used the term ''many analysts'' at some point as being a part of that, or many of the analysts that were involved previously are on your task force. Out of that 50, how many analysts that were discussed in the paper are now part of your task force?
Mr. WALPOLE. I would probably have to tell you that number for the record. I haven't kept the track of the number for the record.
Mr. SNYDER. Three, fifteen?
Mr. WALPOLE. I probably have 15, 20 analysts. It is not just a few.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SNYDER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. STEARNS. I thank my colleague. Dr. Cooksey.
Mr. COOKSEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to ask General Flowers, who is in the audience, to come up to the front table, if you would.
By way of introduction, General Flowers is the president of the Mississippi River Commission. Three weeks ago, we had some of my constituents, and I have a long stretch of the Mississippi River in Louisiana, they were out of their homes because of rising flood water. He stood up and talked to some mad Cajuns, and they are worse than Saddam Hussein when they are flooded out, but most importantly he made the river drop. Now, if he claims credit for that, the Mississippi River is 2 or 3 feet lower.
I walked down to my office to see someone else. He happened to be there, and I said, you wouldn't guess what's going on. He said, I was there.
So, General Flowers, would you tell us in 3 minutes or 6 minutes maybe what really went on?
Mr. STEARNS. General Flowers, before you begin, if you would just state your name, your position, or your rank and position for the record, and we will give you 5 minutes.
Mr. BACHUS. And how far the river dropped.
Mr. STEARNS. Go ahead.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT B. FLOWERS, COMMANDING GENERAL, MISSISSIPPI VALLEY DIVISION, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS; PRESIDENT, MISSISSIPPI RIVER COMMISSION
General FLOWERS. Yes, sir. It is Robert B. Flowers, major general. I am the commanding general of the Mississippi Valley Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and president of the Mississippi River Commission.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC About 4 feet.
Mr. STEARNS. Okay. General, I will let you proceed, and we will give you 5 minutes. I think what you are testifying is you were there, and you will testify in what capacity?
General FLOWERS. Sir, I need to apologize first. I am notI didn't prepare to be here today. I came on Mississippi River Commission business and division business, and I just happened to see Representative Cooksey. We had a very brief conversation, and the next thing I know, I am here.
But I was, in fact, at Khamisiyah when it was blown up. During the Gulf War, I was the commander of the 20th Engineer Brigade, 18th Airborne Corps. We hadduring the days since the beginning of the ground war, we had moved very quickly. For my brigade, it had been a very traumatic time in that we had suffered some deaths due to some demolitions on another airfield. We had been dealing with that in one of our battalions.
The move of the corps was very rapid, much more rapid than we had expected. We were trying to bring up all of the roadways so that we could resupply the corps. In the midst of that, I got a message from corps headquarters directing that I chop one of the combat battalions to the 82nd so that they could help demolish some munitions that had been found by the 82nd at Khamisiyah.
We did that. The battalion chopped was the 37th Engineer Battalion, one of my brigade battalions before the war. In a previous assignment, I had also commanded the 307th Engineers of the 82nd, and the commander then during the Gulf War, Lieutenant Colonel Carl Strock, had been my executive officer when I was the battalion commander.
The 37th and 307th went up and designed the demolition of the depot. While the operation was not under my direct command, as the corps engineer I went up to ensure that technically and safetywise everything was proper.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Contacted the battalion commanders, Colonel Holcombe, Colonel Strock, visited them, and checked their rehearsal for the actual demolition itself to make sure that the method that they were using was sound, that they had considered what they were doing. Both are superior officers, and I was convinced, after observing the rehearsal, that the demolition would go as it was planned.
And then I was present when the initial demolition took place at Khamisiyah. In fact, I was in a helicopter at a stand-off distance flying offset about over the canal when the initial demolitions were detonated. We very quickly then sat down because debris was cooking off, and continued observing the demolitions from the ground, the vicinity of the canal, with the 37th.
Mr. STEARNS. Dr. Cooksey, anything you want to add to that?
Mr. COOKSEY. Okay. Prior to the detonation, did you know that there were any chemical weapons there, or did you suspect it, and were any precautions taken?
General FLOWERS. No, sir, we did not. We had been aware, since early on in the war, of the enemy's capability, but wewhen we moved on theduring the ground war we were not notified of any situation which would cause the commanders to go to an elevated mission-oriented protective posture mode.
So the soldiers in our brigade were moving forward with their protective masks on their body and their protective suits with them so that they could quickly don them. We had had several incidents before that where we had on occasion to go quickly to MOPP 4, donning the entire protective kit, and in my assessment the soldiers were very well-trained at that time in the use of their chemical protective equipment because of the threat that existed.
But, no, we were not aware, and, in fact, when I went for the initial rehearsals, weI asked the question of the battalion commanders if someone had inspected for chemical weapons and was told that a special weapons detachment had been through and had basically told the commanders that there were no chemical weapons there.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We did have our detection equipment there, but I don't recall any detection or monitoring device registering chemical.
Mr. COOKSEY. Let me clarify that then. You had a weapons, chemical weapons detection group go through, and they said they did not think there was any?
General FLOWERS. Sir, I did not. I questioned, when I went up for the rehearsal, the battalion commanders, and asked them if anyone had checked for chemical weapons in the bunkers and was told that a special weapons detachment had certified there were none.
Mr. COOKSEY. What precautions would you have taken had you known that there were weapons there, chemical weapons?
General FLOWERS. Well, we would have tried to do a little more research on the type of weapons that were there and how to properly dispose of them. The mission that was directed by the 82nd to the battalions was to demolish the munitions that were there in what appeared to be a theater-level ammunition supply point.
And if there had beenour standard for dealing with anything chemical was to try and avoid it, if possible. What we were concerned primarily with when we went in was the presence of chemical mines. So we had trained the soldiers on how to identify chemical mines, and if they found chemical mines, we were to try to find a way around them as opposed to trying to deal with them. If we would have had to deal with them, we probably would have dealt with them in a standard fashion, but we would have employed a much longer stand-off distance. It is hard to describe a scenario when you are in a desert where you would have to do that.
Mr. COOKSEY. I went through chemical warfare school in 1967. I really don't remember much about it. But did any of your chemical detection devices go off, yours personally or any of your men, number one? And number two, did you or any of your men have symptoms of Gulf War illness?
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General FLOWERS. Sir, I don't recall any of the chemical weapons detectors going off during that initial explosion.
I am participating in the survey. I am one of the data points that I thought I heard somebody talk about earlier.
When you fill out the checklist, they ask you if you are suffering some of these symptoms. I had to reply in the affirmative on some of them, but I don't know if they are Gulf War-related or they are just related to the other places that I have been, or my age.
Mr. COOKSEY. Is there any question that Members of the panel would like to ask General Flowers that I have not asked?
Mr. STEARNS. Would the gentleman yield?
I think what we should do here is continue our round. Your time has expired.
General Flowers, if you would remain at the desk and let me get to Mr. Hutchinson, and then we can finish up here, we have Mr. Quinn who came and Mr. Quinn wants to have an opportunity.
We are into a second round, Jack, and it is 3 minutes.
So if you will stay, General Flowers, we think this is providential that you are here, and we thank Mr. Cooksey for his initiative here.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to address this to General Flowers and perhaps to Dr. Rostker. There is a chemical detections unit that checked out the depot. If you had known, if intelligence had provided information that there were chemical weapons there, would there have been a different procedure followed by the chemical detection unit, and could have they discovered it if that information had been available?
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General FLOWERS. Yes, sir.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. And so there are different levels of review, depending upon the intelligence information that is available?
General FLOWERS. Yes, sir. If youif you know that something exists, you prepare to deal with it.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Was there anything, General, at that time that made you think anything unusual had occurred after the demolition; you know, there's no alarms, but from talking with people, did anything trigger that there might have been some exposures?
General FLOWERS. No, sir. My most vivid recollection of the day was of the number of civilian refugees that were clustering around the soldiers who were trying to keep them back from the depot as we were doing the demolition. On that particular day, that was kind of our number one concern. There were quite a few civilians who were wandering up trying to ask for food and so forth. But I don't recall any of the soldiers, when I was there, suffering any sort of ill effects, and nor did I.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. When was the first time that you learned or were notified that there might have been some exposure?
General FLOWERS. Last fall.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. And did you receive a letter, or was this from the media or what?
General FLOWERS. No, sir. I received a phone call from Lieutenant Colonel, Retired, Bob Holcombe, who asked me if I was aware that they were looking into the possible existence of chemical weapons there, and I told him I was not. That was the first I had heard of it.
Then I was contacted shortly thereafter by someone from the task force who asked me some questions, and then I was part of the IG investigation and gave some testimony during that.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HUTCHINSON. What is your reaction, as someone who was there, as to the CIA's indication that they had information that there perhaps was chemical weapons there? Is it disbelief? What is your reaction?
General FLOWERS. Well, I am disappointed.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. That's all I have, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. STEARNS. Thank you, Mr. Hutchinson. Mr. Quinn.
Mr. QUINN. Well, Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling the hearing. I appreciate the fact that our witnesses are here and have been cooperating all morning. I have to apologize for not being able to be here and don't want to be repetitive in what has been asked and what has been responded to.
Only to say that while I am not a Member of this subcommittee, I am the chairman of the Subcommittee on Benefits, and I just want the witnesses and the full committee here, and other Members, to know that our subcommittee is just as interested, although it is not a subcommittee of jurisdiction. But sooner or later we will be talking about benefits for our veterans, as we do after all situations like this. So we are as involved as we can be and want you to know, Mr. Chairman, that you have our full support, and we will stay as very close as we can to the situation.
Mr. STEARNS. Thank you, Jack.
I think with that we are going to conclude the Panel 1. I appreciate so much your patience, and, General Flowers, I appreciate your volunteering to come forward. And we are going to recess. We have a 15-minute vote, which is about 10 minutes left, and a 5-minute. So we will try and reconvene after that second vote, which looks like a little after 1 o'clock, and I beg the indulgence of the second panel, and I urge Members to come back. With that, we are in recess.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Brief recess.]
Mr. BACHUS (presiding). Welcome to the Oversight and Investigations Committee of the Veterans' Committee, and we will call for the testimony of panel 2.
At this time, we are going to have the testimony of Matt Puglisi, assistant director of the National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation for the American Legion; and also Jeffrey Ford, who is executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center.
Mr. Puglisi, would you like to go first? My understanding is, both of you were in the Gulf War. You were a major, Mr. Puglisi; is that right?
Mr. PUGLISI. No, sir. I wish I was. I would have gotten a bigger paycheck. I was a second lieutenant during the Gulf War. Now I am a captain in the Marine Reserve.
Mr. BACHUS. I was a PFC, so you were way above me.
And Mr. Ford, you were actually part of the team that participated in the detonation at Khamisiyah?
Mr. FORD. Yes, sir. I was serving with the 307th Engineering Battalion at the time, and I hauled all the demolition supplies and set many of the charges for about 15 days.
Mr. BACHUS. We welcome your testimony before the committee, and we will start with you, Mr. Puglisi.
STATEMENTS OF MATTHEW PUGLISI, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, NATIONAL VETERANS AFFAIRS AND REHABILITATION, THE AMERICAN LEGION; AND JEFFREY S. FORD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL GULF WAR RESOURCE CENTER
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
STATEMENT OF MATTHEW PUGLISI
Mr. PUGLISI. Thank you, Congressman, and thank you, staff, for spending your lunch with us this afternoon.
The American Legion appreciates the opportunity to offer testimony regarding Gulf War illnesses today. We commend you and other members of the committee and the chairman for devoting a hearing to this important topic, and we look forward to future hearings that will investigate how the Federal Government can provide effective medical treatment to Gulf War veterans. The American Legion is the largest veterans service organization, including over 45,000 Gulf War veterans, and the leading advocate for veterans of that war. In 1995, we created a Gulf War Task Force dedicated to serving Gulf War veterans, their families, and their advocates.
I am a Gulf War veteran with combat service as an artillery forward observer serving with the 2nd Marine Division in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. I also represent the American Legion as a member of the VA Persian Gulf Expert Scientific Committee.
The topic of today's hearing focuses on chemical warfare agents and their role in Gulf War illnesses. Although important and of great interest to Gulf War veterans, the public, and the media, the demolition of the Khamisiyah bunker, the role of chemical warfare agents, and the bumbling of Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, and Department of Defense, DOD, are only parts of the overall issue of Gulf War illnesses. The Nation is confronted with sick veterans. It should devote resources to making them healthy while it investigates the role of all the risk factors encountered in the Persian Gulf that may have lead to the illnesses seen today in thousands of Gulf War veterans.
The ongoing investigations into CIA, DOD, and chemical warfare will not pay one disabled veteran's overdue utility bill, it will not compensate one disabled veteran, it will not have any positive or measurable impact on veterans' lives other than to provide information about events that took place over 6 years ago.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The current research portfolio has appropriately addressed epidemiology or health surveys and toxicological surveys of Gulf War veterans' experiences. However, of over the 90 Federal medical and scientific studies, none are examining the health of Gulf War veterans after they seek treatment from public and private medical doctors. The Veterans' Affairs Committee can do something about this by immediately calling on the Government to study the effectiveness of medical treatment provided to Gulf War veterans.
In the last 15 years, outcomes research has examined the subjective experience of patients under real world conditions. The goal has generally been not merely to test the efficacy of interventionsfor instance, can drug treatment for a particular disease make patients feel better? but whether a given group of patients actually feels better after they received specific forms of treatment.
How do Gulf War veterans feel after they received treatment from VA and DOD. Did they feel better? The same? Worse? As of today, no one knows. There is no data available, only anecdotes. VA and DOD have not formally measured health outcomes for veterans after they received care from these agencies.
Fatigue is the symptom most commonly reported by Gulf War veterans. However, they have not received standard clinical testing under current diagnostic strategies in primary care for fatigue. They are therefore not likely to have been treated appropriately for fatigue.
Veterans seen in health maintenance organizations are not likely to receive sophisticated treatment for chronic fatigue-like symptoms. Sick veterans therefore are left feeling ill.
In other diseases without a known cure, the U.S. health care model has evolved an approach over the last 30 years; namely, randomized clinical trials of various possibly effective treatments in an attempt to weigh the benefits and the costs. The logical course is then to conduct randomized control trials with treatments and approaches in order to find the most effective ones. Congress should be consider funding this in the current budget deliberation.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC After denying that chemical warfare agents played any role in Gulf War illnesses, the Federal Government is now undertaking massive investigations and spending millions of dollars to understand how many veterans were exposed to those agents and what role chemical warfare agents played in the illnesses we see today. The American Legion welcomes congressional oversight of these efforts. The next step, however, is to devote resources to the most important task left to the Nation in the aftermath of the Gulf War, and that is effectively caring for sick veterans of the Gulf War and their families.
Thank you, sir. I have finished my testimony, and I am looking forward to questions from yourself.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Puglisi appears at p. 252.]
Mr. BACHUS. Thank you. Mr. Ford.
STATEMENT OF JEFFREY S. FORD
Mr. FORD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members and staff of the committee.
On March 4, 1991, while serving with the 307th Engineer Battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division, I watched along with members of the 37th Engineer Battalion the destruction of 43 bunkers, one of which we now know contained tons of deadly binary-tipped nerve agent rockets.
We now know that claims by our Government that no chemical weapons were present in the theater of operations or potentials of exposure were grossly wrong. We also know that all this time there was evidence, both classified and unclassified, that our troops may have been exposed to Iraqi chemical and biological weapons. I am here today to provide a Gulf War veteran's overview of the Government's response concerning these illnesses and the investigations into possible causes and outcomes, and, most importantly, I will speak for the ill Gulf War veterans and their families in need of appropriate care and compensation.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On March 26 of this year, I spent an entire day with a new team at the Office of the Special Assistant of the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Gulf War Illnesses under Dr. Bernard Rostker. With their full cooperation, I asked him for access to my case file to make sure they had all the needed information from me. My previous reports could not be found in their database.
We then began a coordinated search to find where the breakdown had occurred, and later that afternoon the supervisor with the callback team advised me they had discovered a separate file in California for Khamisiyah incident reports left over from the past team that had not been transferred to Washington. This file revealed 1,174 previously uninvestigated reports related to Khamisiyah. Those reports have now been forwarded to the appropriate investigators.
After solving a systemic problem that had existed for some time, I truly felt the two-way communication promised by Dr. Rostker was beginning to bear fruit. He tells me his team is addressing some 63 separate case scenarios and at this time nothing is being ruled out in the investigation; every concern I voiced was being looked into and more.
To evaluate this aspect, I met for 30 minutes with an investigator working on Khamisiyah. I relayed to him not only by experience in 1991 but also what I have learned since. We freely discussed all aspects of what is currently known about this incident and what is currently being investigated. We went over the current case narrative, where I pointed out what I believed to be errors, and was assured these discrepancies had already been corrected for the next revision.
It is my opinion that the incident at Khamisiyah is being adequately investigated so far as this team has been tasked. The only questions that remain unanswered are either still being investigated or have been delayed due to lack of data.
I was also given the opportunity to have a closed-door meeting with the 20 or so veterans who comprised the investigative callback team. I was pleased to find that they had copies of our self-help guides and had been finding our references useful.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We discussed primarily trouble veterans were experiencing that I was aware of, and they said they were receiving much the same feedback: Active-duty sergeant majors, captains, and enlisted who were feeling ill but were afraid to come forward for fear of losing their careers; distraught wives of veterans calling on behalf of their husbands who were about to lose their jobs because they could no longer perform their duties; newlyweds concerned about the potential of birth defects and wanting to know if they should risk trying to have a family; the mother who wanted to know why her son died at 35 from liver and pancreatic cancer; or the sister of a Gulf vet who killed himself because of the chronic pain and frustration he could no longer stand; could his wife and two little kids get compensation now that he was gone? she asked.
We talked for two hours, and I came away assured that this room full of fellow veterans would do all they could to make this team work.
This by no means was our first encounter with Dr. Rostker and his team. They sought out our organization and have included us in all of their outreach, including frequent updates, special outreach, and an inception and planning of a series of town hall meetings with Dr. Rostker in the coming weeks.
We are encouraged by the speed with which Dr. Rostker has made necessary changes, and from what I have personally seen so far, this facet of the investigation is headed in a positive direction and has produced profound and tangible results when compared to the efforts of the past. We look forward to maintaining this mutually productive relationship and hope to foster more working relationships such as this with other agencies as well.
We find that many veterans are still unaware of the Department of Defense and VA registry examinations or have little understanding of their purpose. Those veterans who do go through the phase 1 protocol examinations still do not receive appropriate follow-up treatment at some facilities.
We would like to recommend that the Public Law 103210 authorizing the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide health care services on a priority basis to Persian Gulf War veterans be extended to at least December 31, 2001, to coincide with the extension of the presumptive period for claims.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We also request that both Departments of Defense and Veterans' Affairs send letters to every Persian Gulf veteran, regardless of whether or not they are currently in any registry, advising them of services available to veterans and their families. This has not been done since 1994.
Personally, I feel that the CIA downwind modeling hazards, that are investigations being conducted so far, is unrefined, subjective, lacking in critical data, and not good empirical science. This matter must be investigated by other entities other than the Presidential Advisory Committee. Any further research pertaining to flume analysis should no longer be the responsibility of the CIA.
In conclusion, a number of positive measures are now being taken to intensify this Government's assessment of Gulf War veterans illness, however much remains to be done and seen. These maladies are afflicting nearly one out of seven Gulf War veterans and their families. One-third remain on active duty, and many more are serving in reserves and National Guard units. They are too of afraid to come forward with their health concerns and information relating to their service in the Gulf.
We must add to that the more than 100,000 who have come forward to health screenings, 85 percent of which are symptomatic. The most recent study completed on mortality in this group was based on 1993 data, yet this study was touted as the definitive study by the VA only this past fall.
Due to years of denials, studies and research that has been completed to date rarely, if ever, considered the possibility of exposure to chemical or biological warfare agents. We must go back through every study, test, survey, protocol, examination, and investigation, and take into account what we now know. At the same time, we must move forward with what we do know in an open, positive, and focused manner.
There are and have been six Senate and House committee investigations; inspectors general of the Army and CIA; special assistants to the Secretary of Defense, CIA, and the President; Presidential Advisory Committee; Institute of Medicine; Centers for Disease Control; Defense Science Task Board,, Persian Gulf Veterans Coordinating Board; Persian Gulf Expert Scientific Committee; and over 100 studies being conducted. Yet the only thing anybody agrees upon is that we were under stress in a war.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Veterans and their families, DOD, and civilian contractors, and all those who now suffer these ailments are now under more stress than when they were in the Gulf. These people need proper medical treatment and compensation, and, most of all, they need answers to their ever lingering questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Ford, with attachment, appears at p. 261.]
Mr. BACHUS. Thank you, gentlemen.
First of all, I want to recognize several VA, or Department of Veterans Affairs officials who have been here today listening to this testimony.
I want to commend you. And, Mr. Walpole, I commend you and your CIA staff for staying and listening to this testimony. I appreciate that, and I think it will be valuable to you. And I commend you for investing that time.
Mr. Puglisi, you have mentioned having clinical studies as opposed to the studies that have been undertaken, which are just broad studies to try to see if there are any trends, and I agree with you. I mean, the number one priority ought to be treating our sick veterans, that ought to be our primary concern.
Are we somewhat limited by the fact that many scientists are telling us that there are many different causes of Gulf War syndrome, there is not one cause? And we have so many different suspects: We have the antidotes, we have the vaccinations, we have the pills.
Do you want to comment on that? How do we develop a case study, or how many different clinical tracks would you identify as necessary, maybe?
Mr. PUGLISI. Sure. If I could clarify my testimony, I didn't want to suggest that the basic research and the epidemiology and some of the other studies shouldn't be done. They should be done. They are very important to understanding the different suspects that we have right now, and we have a great many.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BACHUS. Are you satisfied with those studies thus far?
Mr. PUGLISI. Well, the American Legion is reviewing the ongoing studies. We have a medical consultant that works with the American Legion and has overseen those studies, gotten with the principal investigators, looked at their protocols, and the vast majority of them are very well designed and should answer the questions they are seeking to answer.
The Presidential Advisory Committee also took a look at those studies and is pretty confident in them. But what is not being done
Mr. BACHUS. Just the clinical studies?
Mr. PUGLISI. Yes, sir, and clinical studies in the sense of asking patients which treatments make them feel better. It sounds like a simple question, but these studies have to be well designed; they are pretty complex; they cost a lot of money.
Mr. BACHUS. What we refer to as outcome research?
Mr. PUGLISI. Yes, Congressman, that's right. That hasn't been done yet.
While we are trying to figure out the causeand that is importantwe haven't taken a look at how Gulf War veterans are doing right now. Mr. Ford pointed out the frustration that veterans are having. The cuts that VA has takenI am not saying it just for the benefit of the folks sitting behind me, but the cuts that VA has taken have affected not only the care they can give the Gulf War veterans, but have also affected the compensation claims that veterans have filed.
There is a backlog of Gulf War veterans claims that numbers well over 10,000. VA is in the process of reviewing them. The Secretary is in the midst of changing the regulations that affect Gulf War veterans, which means many claims will have to be opened up and looked at again.
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC VA doesn't have the staff on hand after the cuts they have taken to adjudicate these claims in a timely manner. The effect it has is not only VA coming to Congress to say, gee, we have this backlog that is taking a lot of time. One is, it has a terrible effect on morale of VA employees, but, more importantly, it affects how veterans view the Government and VA, because they are frustrated with how long it takes them to get their claims through the system.
So what I was trying to say in my testimony is what the American Legion thinks is important is that although chemical weapons and controversies and appearances of a cover-up are very important to investigate, right now there are many Gulf War veterans who are very frustrated not only with their poor health today as a result of their service in the Gulf, but with the kinds of benefits and services the Government provides to them right now.
Mr. BACHUS. Okay. Are you aware of any study designs or any protocols that have been developed and reviewed that you are advocating? Are there any clinical studies out there today?
Mr. PUGLISI. There are epidemiology studies that are following up with veterans in a clinical setting. There aren't any that are true outcome studies and designed to answer that question.
Mr. BACHUS. What do you think these studies ought to cover, these, as you say, outcome-driven studies? Vaccinations?
Mr. PUGLISI. Actually, Congressman, there are studies looking at particular possible causes like the vaccinations or pyridostigmine bromide, the nerve agent pre-treatment, but studies focusing on what we can do for the veterans now and what treatments are effective are not being done.
If veterans are suffering from fatigue, the fatigue could be caused by many things. In the case of nerve damage, if there is nerve damage, there isn't a lot we can do now if they suffer this nerve damage, but what we can do is alleviate the fatigue or help them work through the fatigue which is always going to be there.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So while we look for what caused the fatigue, we should also look at what we can do for someone with fatigue to help them get on with their life. The first question, what caused it, is real sexy and controversial, and as you saw the room was packed when we were talking about it earlier, but what I am talking about is the most important thing affecting the Gulf War veterans, and you can see the interest that it has right now, and that should change.
Mr. BACHUS. Thank you.
Mr. Ford, I know on a CBS interview in February, you detailed your participation in the demolition at Khamisiyah and you said that at that time you felt that you had been lied to. Is that a mischaracterization? Do you still feel that today, having heard the testimony of the first panel?
Mr. FORD. I believe I was referring to how I felt when I first saw on ''60 Minutes'' last fall that there had been chemicals stored possibly at Khamisiyah. I hadprior to that knowledge, I had always tried to maintain an open mind and give the Government the benefit of the doubt that they were telling the truth, that no classified or unclassified documents revealed any potential chemicals of even being in the theater of operations.
Mr. BACHUS. I think you said possibly ''lied to.'' Do you at this time maybe get a sense of that
Mr. FORD. I can't tell, if it is, how much of it is actual deception or incompetence, to tell you the truth, or just human error. I am sure there is plenty of that involved as well.
Mr. BACHUS. When you talk about human error or just simply, has it occurred to you that maybe they did not have the facts, either, that they were at least unaware that these were chemical weapons?
Mr. FORD. I can see up and down the chain of command both in the intelligence community, the CIA, and the Department of Defense, as well as chains of commands, information was disseminated. First of all, it was a very difficult environment to communicate in, long distances, and a lot of chaos.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Could we have done better? 20/20 hindsight says yes, and I hope we will make those changes so that this doesn't happen to another generation of veterans.
Mr. BACHUS. How about what you know now about the demolition itself, the testimony that they did not see any chemical weapons? How would those have been marked? Do we know how the Iraqis mark their chemical weapons, or is it difficult to know?
Mr. FORD. First of all, I have to say that combat engineers who were the brunt of this operation are not trained to identify ordnance. Primarily our mission is mine, countermine mobility. Enemy captured munitions is not our area.
We were told they were explosive ordnance people who inventoried all the bunkers before we blew them. For the entire 2 weeks, I saw 2 DOD people and no chemical people, nor did I see a Fox vehicle at Khamisiyah at any time.
It is my understanding that the only check for chemical weapons that they did do was to strap an M8 alarm through the front of a Humvee and drive it through the complex. I doubt that that would detect any chemicals unless the shells were actually leaking and on the ground.
I can tell you, though, that after the March 4 detonation, just within 15 or 20 minutes, one myth is that debris started falling. This was by no means debris; this was charges improperly placed in the bunkers, not using enough demolitions, and what has been called debris for the past years was actually 122-millimeter sarin-filled rockets igniting and launching out of Bunker 73.
Some of these missiles landed as far as 15 kilometers away, and in fact the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division was quoted as saying one landed at his feet.
So I think when we want to do a downwind hazard modeling, we might want to take into consideration that we had sarin-filled rockets flying through the air as far as 15 kilometers out as well as landing within 20 to 30 meters of the personnel that was at the canal that day.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I also pulled guard duty that night after the 37th Engineers left. We stayed at this position, and at no time did I ever put on any mop gear, except for a mask for about 5 minutes. Khamisiyah continued to burn and cook off all through the night until it rained the next day and we pulled back to the buildings in Tall al-Lahm and did not reenter for approximately 36 to 48 hours.
I have no doubt that had we reentered Khamisiyah that very afternoon, potentially dozens of soldiers would have been exposed to fresh and high doses of toxic agents. I guess it was just a stroke of luck that it rained.
Mr. BACHUS. Your testimony describes some difficulties you have had in getting information off the GulfLINK Internet Web site. Have you discussed those problems with DOD?
Mr. FORD. Yes, I have.
Mr. BACHUS. Have you resolved those problems? Have you been given any explanation?
Mr. FORD. The problem being that for the last year, in their declassification project, they used electronic scanning devices to scan physical documents in text, and then it is incorporated onto their Web site.
However, unfortunately, the software and hardware they have been using scrambles the documents to where they are unreadable. And anyone who has done any research on the Internet knows that if you were to enter a key word search, most of the pertinent information would not come up; therefore, you would never find the document. Unless you went actually in and physically accessed this scanned document, in some cases the original scanned document does not exist, so you have no document.
I don't know if this is a matter of neglect, seeing as it has gone on for a year and it has been pointed out for quite some time, but it seems to me a very convenient way to hide government documents right out in the open where they can be seen but yet at the same time not recognizable through computer searches and at the same time touting how many documents have been declassified to the Internet.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BACHUS. Have you gone to Dr. Rostker?
Mr. FORD. I met with Dr. Rostker and just met with Admiral Busick, special assistant to the White House, and they have assured me that they have every intention of going back through every single document and manually keying them in and rereferencing and better organizing these documents. In the meantime, it is going to take a while, and, as I explained to Dr. Rostker, I know he is working on it but I need to enter it into the record so we can hold them accountable for these things.
Mr. BACHUS. Thank you.
Do you all know of any VA hospital, any facilities that you think are doing a good job of these clinical studies, outcome-based studies, now that are making headway, anything you would like to point to us as a success that should be duplicated?
Mr. PUGLISI. Congressman, there is success throughout the system. It is toughit is not fair for me to pass on all the things I have heard from vets, because they don't call me when they have a good experience with VA; I just hear from the folks who have either had a bad experience or are confused.
But there are a lot of VA docs out there who started treating patients right after the Gulf War before all veterans were eligible for care, and they did that in spite of the regulations and, I think, to their credit. They will remain nameless though.
VA is dealing with something that is not only difficult to explain and treat, because we are still not sure what caused this, but they are doing it in the midst of budgetary constraints and reorganizing itself and moving from an inpatient system to an outpatient system. There are a lot of things going on.
So overall, VA has done an excellent job in taking care of the population of Gulf War veterans. But for those who don't get a diagnosisand this is true whether or not one goes to the VA or a private physicianif your private doctor can't really figure out what it is that you have or what it is that made you ill, they are going to have a very difficult time treating you.
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I don't want to suggest that conducting outcome studies or clinical trials is a way to show where VA isn't doing their job well. On the contrary, it is to help VA and their doctors better understand this and be able to treat it as best that they can.
Mr. BACHUS. At this time I am going to yield to Susan Edgerton, Democratic staff member, for some additional questions.
Ms. EDGERTON. Thank you.
Mr. Puglisi, I know that American Legion has done a lot of work on behalf of the Gulf War veterans, and we commend you for that. What types of activities are you trying to track? You said you had communicated with about 20,000 veterans or they had contacted you.
Mr. PUGLISI. Gosh. Actually, the Department of Defense recently contacted 20,000 Gulf War veterans who were within 50 kilometers of the Khamisiyah bunker. The American Legion has 45,000 Gulf War veterans who happen to be members of the American Legion, and we have a number of programs geared towards them.
Ms. EDGERTON. Okay. Are you doing anything to track your own members' experiences with VA health care or to look into how they are getting access to the system?
Mr. PUGLISI. Not in any formal way, but what we do is, as members or nonmembers, as veterans contact us and they have problems, we direct them to VA, depending on what level would be most appropriate. Sometimes I actually forward veterans to VA central office here in Washington, DC, if I think it is a problem that deserves their attention.
But while overseeing what VA does, we also have a relationship with them where we try to work with them and smooth out problems that the veterans may have, because in the end, we just want the veteran to get better; it is not worth fighting over what occurred or how the veteran slipped through the cracks.
Ms. EDGERTON. Thank you.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Ford, your written testimony seems to indicate a general level of satisfaction with the investigations of Dr. Rostker and his office thus far. Is there anything else you feel like they should be doing to improve the outreach or communications between DOD and the soldiers and veterans suffering with Persian Gulf syndrome?
Mr. FORD. Well, as I mentioned, Dr. Rostker is holding a series of town meetings throughout the Nation in the coming weeks. I think that will give Dr. Rostker a very real view of the problem out there. He also maintains that those will not be the end of his town hall meetings and he will continue to have those as long as necessary.
I do believe that there isn't a large population of veterans out there that still are not familiar with the registries or help programs, and I believe that they need to be contacted. I think I have recommended here, engage in public service announcements, media advertisements, teleconferences, to once again relay to those Gulf War veterans out there that don't have C-SPAN or CNN or aren't on the Internet, that there are 1800 numbers, facility addresses, and places they can go for help.
We have an Internet site that received about 200,000 hits a month. We have a referral program on the Internet site where a veteran that is needing information or services can e-mail a referral coordinator. Since we revamped our Web site in the middle of February, I have received 103 requests for assistance. That is an alarming number. So far in the past 9 months, I believe I have received about 1,300 requests. The number is growing, and out of the 5,000 self-help guides that we had printed in October, we have about 1,000 left, and we are receiving requests from Veterans' Administration hospitals, vet centers, State, county VSOs for our self-help guide. So there is obviously a definite need for information and resources out there.
Ms. EDGERTON. Thank you.
Mr. BACHUS. Thank you. I think this will conclude your testimony.
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I will tell you, Mr. Puglisi, that we, I think this committee, will explore further current treatment protocols and what results are having and possible treatment that needs to be developed in future hearings, and maybe even in legislation.
I will conclude the hearing by saying this, not so much concerning your testimony, but the testimony of the first panel reaffirms to me the fact that many of the documents have either been mislaid or apparently have not been produced. And it is very disturbing to me, particularly, that the chemical, nuclear, and biological logs of the central command, that most of those records apparently have been, I am going to use the word ''lost,'' but I will say this: They were either misplaced or were no longer where they should have been after it became apparent to anyone in Washington that they were significant.
In fact, one of the explanations offered by the first panel on why some of the documents are not available is the fact that they were not significant. And that indicates that they went through those logs looking for chemical exposures, which would have indicated certainly that they were aware of the importance of the issue at that time. And it was subsequent to that that these logs can't be found. It wasn't a matter of them not making their way back from the Gulf War. They were there, and they were looked at in relationship to this issue, and it is subsequent to that they were misplaced, destroyed, or lost.
It is quite apparent from that that it certainly increases the degree of culpability and makes you question the intent. So I think that obviously is a red flag to this committee.
You know, one of the explanations for this was that there was a computer virus, which is becoming less and less credible to me.
Mr. FORD. Mr. Chairman, I am waiting for the ''dog ate my homework'' excuse.
Mr. BACHUS. Right.
Page 101 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FORD. I do have one document, though, that is relevant, that I would like to enter. As of February 21 of this year, 9,688 claims for undiagnosed illnesses have been denied and only 669 have been approved.
Mr. BACHUS. All right.
[The attachment appears on p. 269.]
Mr. BACHUS. Thank you. We appreciate your testimony, and this concludes the hearing of the Health and Investigation and Oversight Subcommittee of the Veterans' Committee. We thank you for your attendance.
Mr. FORD. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 1:52 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]