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EXDIR Speech 11/01/96

CIA Executive Director Statement
News Conference on
Persian Gulf Veterans Illnesses
1 November 1996

The reason that I am here today is to tell you what this Agency has done to try to shed light on the issues associated with Persian Gulf Veterans illnesses. We want to use this occasion to set the record straight, to tell you what our involvement has been, and what we are doing. We also want to use this occasion to emphasize that we know how important this issue is to Gulf War Veterans, and that our intelligence may help. We are therefore committed to making as much of it public as possible. In our efforts to do this, the CIA has sought information from every intelligence source, cooperated extensively with the Department of Defense, kept the Congress informed and made every finding available to the independent Presidential Advisory Committee. Specifically:

Let me tell you how the CIA has been involved, what we have done, what we know, and what we plan to do.

Historical Context

First, let me define CIA's role. CIA's main concern about Iraq before the war was uncovering, assessing, and characterizing Iraq's chemical and biological warfare capabilities to prepare our troops to deal with this potential threat. We concluded that Iraq had a significant chemical warfare capability, including chemically armed Scuds, and had used chemical weapons on numerous occasions against Iran and its own citizens. In December 1990, after the invasion of Kuwait, the Intelligence Community concluded that Iraq had probably forward-deployed chemical weapons into the Kuwaiti theater of operations and would use them in a variety of circumstances.

At the start of the air war, and continuing to the end of Desert Storm, we established a 24-hour chemical warfare watch. These analysts screened incoming intelligence for evidence of chemical weapons use, and followed every Scud launch. Although there were many reports of chemical weapons use, when subjected to all-source analysis, none stood up. We published assessments concluding that Iraq had readied its forces to use chemical weapons, decided to move them out of the theater prior to the war, and then never used them.

For the first few years after the war, CIA's principal mission, driven by intelligence requirements, was to identify the residual Iraqi chemical warfare capabilities and stockpiles. During the 1993-1994 timeframe, we began to focus on the Gulf War illnesses issue by helping DoD determine the possible causes of chemical warfare agent detection in Saudi Arabia by Czech soldiers. We believe the Czech detection was credible but we can not ascertain the source.

Initiation of the CIA Study

In 1994, there was growing concern in the Veterans community about this issue. Secretary of Defense Les Aspin directed that all information relating to this issue be made available to the public. The President directed that we would leave no stone unturned and called for thorough study. CIA undertook a comprehensive review of all of our holdings.

We then instituted a broad search and declassification effort.

We also undertook an analytic effort to reassess our conclusion that no chemical agents had been released as the result of Iraqi attacks, and to consider the effects of coalition activities. In the course of this work, we uncovered evidence that chemical munitions were destroyed in March 1991 at the bunker in Khamisiyah and that this created the possibility that some US troops may have been exposed to chemicals.

Three Specific Issues--Documents, Activities, and Modeling

Let me now turn to three specific issues that I know interest you--the disposition of our documents, the scope of our actions, and the status of our modeling efforts.


The CIA is absolutely committed to help determine what our troops may have been exposed to during the Gulf War. Every document we have has been made available to the Presidential Advisory Committee. We have held nothing back.

One last point. There have been allegations from two former employees of CIA conspiracy and cover-up on the issue of Gulf War Veterans illnesses and allegations that we have retaliated against them for their views. We have already emphatically denied those allegations. We stand by that statement today. I know the people in this Agency. There is not one individual who would willfully withhold information that if released, would be of benefit to those brave men and women who deployed into the desert. Nevertheless, these are serious allegations. Therefore, the Director of Central Intelligence has underscored his commitment to the American public to leave no stone unturned by directing the CIA Inspector General to review these allegations.