FIVE QUESTIONS FOR
THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
Has the Central Intelligence Agency engaged in a cover-up or failed to disclose the full story in its files about Gulf War Syndrome?
To explore the possibility of a cover-up, FRONTLINE submitted five questions to the CIA. The agency declined to answer the questions directly, saying they were "unfair and accusatory." The CIA added, however, that its officials have "already addressed such allegations in numerous public forums," and as its response it provided these three "comprehensive" documents:
- The transcript of a news conference on Nov. 1, 1996, by CIA Executive Director Nora Slatkin.
- The transcript of a briefing on Nov. 13, 1996, by Ms. Slatkin for the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses.
- Prepared testimony on Jan. 9, 1997, by acting Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.
Following are the questions asked the CIA. After each question there is a summary of pertinent information derived by FRONTLINE from the documents the agency provided.
The CIA has stated that it has no evidence of Iraqi chemical weapons in Kuwait during or after the Gulf War. How do you square that statement with the Dec. 10, 1996, congressional testimony to the contrary by two US chemical weapons specialists, Maj. Michael F. Johnson and Sgt. George J. Grass?
Nowhere in the three documents does the CIA specifically deal with the testimony of Maj. Johnson and Sgt. George. The Jan. 9 document, however, does say that the agency believes Iraq "did not deploy chemical or biological weapons in Kuwait."
Why did the CIA wait until former analysts Patrick and Robin Eddington publicly accused the agency of a cover-up before declassifying and releasing many of the documents bearing on the question whether chemical weapons may have been released in the vicinity of American troops during the war?
The Jan. 9 document says the CIA did not focus for years on the question of possible low-level exposure of U.S. troops to Iraqi chemical weapons, in part, because Gulf War illness "had not yet been widely reported."
But it turned its attention to the issue in March 1995, according to the document, in response to President Clinton's concern and the Eddingtons' allegations. An investigation launched then led to the eventual declassification and release of many documents.
In a news conference on Nov. 1, 1996, CIA Executive Director Nora Slatkin said that she had released to Congress all the documents that Patrick Eddington had identified as critical to public understanding of Gulf War Syndrome. But Eddington now says the CIA is withholding five of the documents he wants declassified, including a 100-plus-page, post-war assessment of chemical weapons found in Kuwait. Your response?
The Nov. 1 statement says the CIA has released to the public 21 of the 58 documents that the Eddingtons "have discussed" as a key to understanding Gulf War Syndrome. It says that 36 of the remaining documents are being reviewed for release, and the last "belongs to another government." All 58 were offered to the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, a blue-ribbon panel established by President Clinton.
The three statements provided to FRONTLINE do not address, specifically, whether the CIA has released a 100-page-plus document concerning chemical weapons in Kuwait.
Given the CIA's finding that there is no evidence American forces were attacked with chemical or biological weapons, how do you account for detections by US and British forces of blister agents after explosions at the port of Jubayl during the early morning hours of Jan. 19, 1991?
Nothing in the three statements provided to FRONTLINE speaks specifically about the events at the port of Jubayl.
They do dismiss the possibility that Iraq used chemical weapons to attack U.S. troops during the war. And the Jan. 9 document says that the CIA remains "convinced" that any detection during the war of chemical agents "was not due to Iraqi offensive actions such as the use of Scud missiles."
Given detections of chemical agents in the early days of the air war by Czech forces that the Pentagon deems reliable, how can the CIA flatly state that no chemical agents released by aerial bombing of Iraqi chemical weapons storage areas reached American soldiers?
All three documents discuss this theory in detail, but reject it for a variety of reasons. For example, they say that computer modeling of wind directions and other circumstances during the air war establish that any fall-out containing chemical weapons could not have reached U.S. troops.
While acknowledging the Czech detections are "credible," the CIA says it cannot "conclusively determine the cause," as the Jan. 9 statement says.
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