The March 18 meeting of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses provided the CIA with an opportunity to update concerned veterans' groups and the American public on our efforts to provide the maximum amount of information to the men and women who served in the Persian Gulf.
To that end, the acting director of Central Intelligence's special assistant for gulf war illnesses, Robert Walpole, disclosed that the CIA had information in 1986 that Khamisiyah was used as a chemical weapons storage facility during the Iran-Iraq war. This is an apparent contradiction to an earlier agency fact sheet, referred to in Bill McAllister's March 19 news story ["CIA Suspected in 1986 Iraqi Site Held Chemicals"], which stated that the "CIA did not identify Khamisiyah as a possible chemical storage facility until 1995 and it was confirmed in 1996."
I want to set the record straight. The fact sheet should have said, as we have said on previous occasions, that the CIA did not identify Khamisiyah as a possible chemical weapons release site until 1995, after our efforts to address veterans' illness issues. We confirmed that there was a chemical release at Khamisiyah after a U.N. inspection in May 1996. Our analysis at the time of the 1986 report concluded that Khamisiyah was only a temporary chemical weapons storage facility.
The fact sheet was intended to reflect when the CIA knew or suspected that troops could have been exposed. It was not intended to address all intelligence that we now know to pertain to Khamisiyah. In hindsight, the limited focus could lead one to believe we had nothing on Khamisiyah before 1996. The earlier language was imprecise.
We know we are not perfect, and that is why George Tenet, acting director of the CIA, established the Persian Gulf War Illnesses Task Force on Feb. 28 with a charter to provide the presidential advisory committee, other U.S. government agencies and congressional committees with the intelligence support they require. A detailed chronology of all reports concerning Khamisiyah is almost complete and will be provided to the presidential advisory committee and veterans' groups shortly.
I want to emphasize that much of what is known about chemical weapons and their locations in Iraq is due to the efforts by CIA analysts who are as committed as George Tenet and I are to leaving no stone unturned in our search for possible causes of gulf war illnesses. To do any less would be a great disservice to the men and women of our armed forces.
Central Intelligence Agency
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