Filed at 3:21 a.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- An eight-month Pentagon investigation has uncovered copies of a portion of still-missing Army records that chronicle efforts to detect the use of Iraqi chemical and biological agents during and after the Gulf War.
The records figure prominently in efforts to determine whether American and allied troops were exposed to potentially harmful levels of chemical or biological agents. Some speculate that such exposure could be a cause of the mysterious respiratory, neurological and other ailments reported by many Gulf War veterans.
The records themselves could not be found, but investigators discovered what they believe are copies of about 15 pages of entries from the originals.
The copies were found in a search of the personal belongings of an active-duty Army officer who is now under criminal investigation for wrongfully holding classified documents, the Defense Department inspector general said. The officer's identity was not disclosed.
In a report released Thursday, the IG said it could find no evidence of a conspiracy to destroy or conceal the still-missing documents, which are desk logs maintained by a crisis watch team posted to Saudi Arabia after Iraqi invaded Kuwait.
The IG report concludes that the missing logs probably were destroyed in October 1994 or later after the relocation of the U.S. Central Command office that held the logs. Also still missing is a computer disk containing a copy of the logs.
The Pentagon has maintained since the Gulf War that it has no evidence American troops were exposed to harmful levels of chemical agents.
People who believe U.S. and allied troops were exposed to potentially dangerous levels of Iraqi chemical or biological agents during the 1991 war have speculated that the Pentagon purposely destroyed the missing documents.
The IG investigators used lie-detector examinations to evaluate the testimony of some witnesses interviewed. None of the tests indicated deception.
The investigators found a 20-page document, titled ``Log Extracts -- Biological Defense,'' during a search of the unidentified Army officer's belongings.
The 20-page document contains 223 entries, mostly notes chronicling the work of chemical and biological agent detection teams in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia during the war and in Iraq and Kuwait after the war ended in February 1991.
The document does not include pages from the original Army desk logs, but some of the document's 223 entries appear to have been copied from the still-missing log pages.
The Pentagon has said it can find only 37 pages from the original log, which was sent from the Gulf to U.S. Central Command headquarters at Tampa, Fla., in April 1991. Last March, Defense Secretary William Cohen instructed the inspector general to look for the estimated 150 or more missing log pages.
Thursday's report was the result of the IG's investigation.
Many of the newly discovered entries discuss what detection teams called false indicators of biological agents present in the area.
For example, an entry on Feb. 24, the day U.S. and allied forces launched their ground attack against Iraqi forces in Kuwait, cited a ``false report of confirmed anthrax use.'' Anthrax is a deadly biological warfare agent that Iraq was known to possess.
An entry on March 3, after the war had ended, reported that the Iraqis had told ``the CINC'' -- an apparent reference to the commander in chief of Central Command, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf -- there were no chemical or biological munitions in Kuwait.
``He believes them,'' the entry said. ``(He feels they have been honest about everything else).'' That was the day Schwarzkopf met at Safwan airfield, in U.S.-occupied southern Iraq, with senior Iraqi generals to work out terms of a cease-fire.
The same entry added a curious remark that is not fully explained in the document. ``We are to continue to treat the chem casualty as close hold (i.e., say nothing about it to press).'' The term ``chem'' is short for chemical, and this appears to refer to the case of a Gulf War soldier who took himself to a clinic the day before (March 2) to report reddening of his skin and blisters that was classified as caused by mild exposure to a chemical agent.
Schwarzkopf apparently knew about this case. The entry says, ``He doesn't have a problem with the evidence, doesn't dispute that it happened (some have misinterpreted his remarks at the evening brief).''
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