This paper summarizes the results of an investigation resulting from an article in the August 13, 1997, edition of USA Today and subsequently covered in the August 25, 1997, edition of Army Times. The USA Today article contended that the Pentagon was informed that bombing Iraq’s chemical weapons plants and storage bunkers could release the contents, thus endangering American servicemembers. The article claimed that the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provided a report of these findings to the Air Force, before the beginning of the air campaign.

Our investigation concluded that the Lawrence Livermore report did not model possible dispersion of chemical or biological warfare agents caused by attacks on Iraqi chemical and biological warfare facilities. Rather, the report merely demonstrated the modeling and simulation capability of the Lawrence Livermore laboratory. Further, what USA Today reported was based on a graphic representation of a nuclear fallout study previously accomplished by the laboratory for the Department of Energy, not an attempt to depict chemical warfare agent dispersion resulting from bombing Iraqi chemical or biological warfare facilities. Finally, although the Lawrence Livermore submitted the report to the 5th Weather Wing at Langley AFB, Virginia, we found no evidence that civilian or military leaders outside the 5th Weather Wing were aware of this report.

In conducting this investigation, we adapted our normal investigation methodology to concentrate on analyzing data referenced in the newspaper articles, contacting people who prepared the modeling report at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and researching other government agencies that might have conducted similar modeling. Investigators from this office interviewed each of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists involved with the report as well as the Air Force officer who requested and received the report. We also researched other Department of Defense agencies and interviewed their staff about any studies or modeling and simulation that might have been related to attacking chemical and biological warfare agent facilities. We interviewed senior Air Force officers involved in the planning and execution of the air attacks on Iraq’s chemical and biological warfare facilities during the Gulf War Air campaign. Our interviews included the senior Air Force officer in charge, General Charles A. Horner.

We did find other evidence that a number of very basic requests for information, technical discussions, and informal meetings about chemical and biological weapons issues were undertaken prior to the beginning of the Gulf War air campaign. The requests for information were in response to national leadership questions about the possible effects of chemical and/or biological warfare agent releases during Coalition bombing attacks. There is also evidence that General Horner and other senior officers relied on reports of studies and on expert advice which they believed was based on analysis of the question. Chemical warfare agent experts believed that chemical agents would likely be contained within any destroyed chemical weapons facility. Biological weapons experts provided decision-makers and planners with information to conclude that if biological warfare agents were released from locations in southern Iraq, there was some risk that friendly forces could become casualties. Senior leaders were also told that a natural decaying process would reduce the toxicity of biological warfare agents when they were exposed to the atmosphere, thereby lessening their effects and associated risks.

The Defense Intelligence Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency formed the Iraq Interagency Biological Warfare Working Group to assess the Iraqi biological warfare program and evaluate the impact of attacks on Iraq’s biological warfare facilities. Investigators found that the working group developed a methodology to help them estimate collateral damage to the Iraqi population from such attacks. The group concluded that there was little likelihood of any threat to Coalition forces as a result of air attacks on Iraq’s biological warfare agent facilities. Preliminary results of this group’s study were briefed to senior military leaders.

Research indicates that several government agencies conducted computer modeling and simulation of attacks against Iraqi targets. None of these efforts attempted to show the results of the dispersal of chemical or biological warfare agents resulting from Coalition attacks against Iraqi facilities. Instead, they attempted to examine four other issues: how chemical agents would be dispersed if Iraq attacked Coalition forces with chemical weapons; which of our bombs would be able to destroy Iraqi bunkers; how could we minimize Coalition aircraft losses during attacks into Iraq; and how could we minimize civilian casualties near the targets. One joint study attempted to measure the amounts of a chemical warfare agent that might be released during an explosion within a storage bunker, but this study was not completed until after the Gulf War air campaign had ended.

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