D. Physical Evidence

Helpful physical evidence collected and examined in the investigation into this incident included:

1.  The Fox Tests

a.  Fox Sampling Procedures

The primary chemical warfare agent detection system in the Fox is the MM-1 mobile mass spectrometer with an air/surface sampler. The system is primarily a liquid chemical agent detector. The MM-1 continuously monitors samples passing through it to check for the presence of chemical warfare agents identified on a pre-selected target list of 1 to 22 chemical compounds, primarily chemical warfare agents. This target list consists of a four-ion "fingerprint" for each compound. During the initial identification step, the MM-1 fragments each sample into a unique ion pattern and then compares each four-ion fingerprint on the target list against the sample, searching for a match.[39]

If the MM-1 makes an approximate, initial match and the four-ion intensity[40] is higher than a specific level (unique for each agent), an alarm is sounded, displayed on the MM-1 operator’s screen, and printed on a paper tape. This initial alarm, however, does not verify the presence of a chemical warfare agent because many chemical compounds have ions of the same or similar weight as the compounds on the chemical warfare agent target list and can cause a false positive alarm for chemical warfare agents.[41] The initial alarms continue until either the ion intensity level falls below the alarm level or the MM-1 operator changes sampling methods or modes.[42]

To improve confidence the system has detected a chemical warfare agent, the MM-1 operator must perform a spectrum analysis. The operator reduces the sample line temperature from 180� Celsius (C) to 120� C (356� Fahrenheit (F) to 248� F) for better ion separation, discontinues using the sample wheels, cleans the sample probe to remove residual ion activity (contamination), and lowers the probe to within three to five centimeters of the source of the alert allowing the MM-1 to acquire a better-prepared sample. The MM-1 then searches its 60-compound chemical library of four-ion-peak fingerprints, compares them to this improved sample, and attempts to match the chemical warfare agent fingerprints with it.[43]

Using proper procedures, it takes several minutes to collect a good sample and obtain sufficient ion spectrum readout and analysis. This process is necessary to evaluate the sample properly for any suspected chemical warfare agent. Although an MM-1 operator can produce a spectrum in other ways, this is the proper, most accurate method.[44] The MM-1 operator also should print a paper tape as a hard-copy historical record to save spectrum details.[45]

If the properly performed spectrum procedure identifies a chemical warfare agent, the MM-1 operator and the Fox commander can be more confident the agent is present. Conversely, if the spectrum analysis does not identify one of the chemical warfare agents in the MM-1 60-compound chemical library, the MM-1 operator and the Fox commander can be confident the chemical warfare agent displayed during the initial alarm is not present. Field-testing can provide only high confidence, not confirmation, of agent presence. Further analysis of the spectrum printout tape by a mass spectrometry expert comparing the spectrum results to an established database of compounds can increase confidence in the detection.  Only a laboratory analysis of a sample can confirm agent presence. Comparing a spectrum not only increases confidence in a detection, it can also determine a false positive alarm. Additionally, MM-1 operators are taught to collect a specimen of the contamination (e.g., a soil sample) to provide further confidence of the presence of the substance by thorough laboratory analysis.[46]

b.  Tests of Coveralls and Flak Jacket

Over three days, Fox vehicle MM-1s twice tested PFC Fisher’s clothing and flak jacket: on March 2, 1991, one Fox vehicle crew tested his coveralls, and on March 4, 1991, two Fox crews working simultaneously examined the flak jacket.

The company commander of the Fox vehicle crews who analyzed PFC Fisher’s coveralls and flak jacket recalled these events. His platoon sergeant directed his MM-1 mobile mass spectrometer operator to attempt to get a contamination reading from PFC Fisher's Nomex jump suit.[47] After close to an hour of testing, the MM-1 operator got readings and was able to print a mass spectrum for an unusual blister agent (sesqui-mustard). The test took so long because of the high concentration of sweat, oil, and other petroleum based products in the suit. He said the MM-1 operator had to attempt various temperature ranges in the capillary column before he was able to obtain good separation between the agent and the oil products, which registered as "Fat, Oil, Wax" on the MM-1. Division Chemical was notified of the results of the testing.[48]

We have transcribed the Fox printout of the March 2, 1991, test of PFC Fisher’s coveralls; the transcription appears in Tab F. Although the company commander recalled his MM-1 operator printing a mass spectrum for sesqui-mustard, the tape does not show any initial alarms or spectrum for sesqui-mustard but only initial alarms for phosgene oxime, thiophosgene, lewisite, and S-mustard (sulfur mustard [HD] ). Of these agents, Iraq’s inventory contained only sulfur mustard agent.[49]

The 22nd Chemical Company MM-1 operator who tested PFC Fisher’s coveralls told us that analysis indicated the clothing contained sweat, oil, and a lewisite HQ/HD mixture. He said he cut sections off of his nomex coveralls and sent the samples up the chain to higher headquarters, then marked the site and buried the nomex coveralls. According to the operator, Headquarters called later and wanted additional readings from the nomex coveralls, but the coveralls had been buried and the agent on the samples had evaporated by then.[50]

The company commander received an order from division chemical to use another Fox vehicle to confirm the MM-1 readings from PFC Fisher’s coveralls. The coveralls were no longer available since they had been buried as contaminated waste, but the 22nd Chemical Company still had his flak jacket.

The company commander used two Fox vehicles to analyze the flak jacket[51] and reported both MM-1s alarmed for sesqui-mustard as well as faint readings of lewisite. Again, Iraq had neither of these chemical warfare agents in its inventory. In addition, distilled sulfur mustard is more volatile—quicker to vaporize—than sesqui-mustard; any alert for sesqui-mustard normally includes an alert for sulfur mustard. The company commander related they were unable to obtain a sesqui-mustard spectrum because the concentration of "Fat, Oil, Wax" was always higher than the concentration of sesqui-mustard. While the two Fox vehicles worked simultaneously, one of the vehicle commanders filmed this procedure, including the MM-1 screen, with his video camera.[52]

The videotape is the only record of a spectrum of a sample initially suspected to contain a chemical warfare agent. We have never located the printout tape from the Fox vehicle in which the videotape was made and none of the data on the surviving MM-1 printout tape from the other Fox vehicle indicates the presence of any chemical warfare agent known to be in Iraq’s inventory. However, the videotape of the MM-1 operator’s screen shows a spectrum indicating the presence of sulfur mustard.

After testing, the company commander put his own protective gear, PFC Fisher’s flak jacket, and a set of Fox sample wheels with which they had unsuccessfully attempted to extract agent from the flak jacket, into plastic trash bags and triple-bagged the articles. He then passed the bagged articles, along with three MM-1 printouts (from the March 2, 1991 coveralls test and the two March 4, 1991 flak jacket tests) to division chemical personnel who subsequently sent the three Fox printouts with the other bagged articles to the US Army Chemical Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CRDEC).[53]

Tab F shows a reproduction of the printout of the Fox’s coveralls test; Tab G shows one of the printouts from the March 4, 1991, flak jacket test. The second printout, the one produced by the MM-1 that was videotaped, was not available. According to the MM-1 operator who obtained the spectrum, he kept a copy of this printout after the war, but lost it in a household move before December 1993.[54, 55]

During our investigation, we transcribed the spectrum data shown on the videotape (Tab H) and gave it to spectrometry experts to examine. Although National Institute of Standards and Technology and US Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM) subject matter experts initially thought mustard may have been present based on the videotaped spectrum,[56, 57] the Central Inteligence Agency (CIA) presented convincing evidence that a critical ion was missing from the spectrum, indicating mustard was not present on the flak jacket at the spot the MM-1 examined. Based on this new information, SBCCOM concluded the presence of mustard on the flak jacket was possible but improbable.[58]

2.  Urinalysis

During Colonel Dunn’s examination, PFC Fisher provided a urine sample, which was saved in preservative for later analysis for thiodiglycol, a mustard breakdown product.[59]

After Colonel Dunn treated PFC Fisher, the VII Corps chemical officer drafted a message to ARCENT summarizing the incident. The message indicated, "A urine sample was taken from PFC Fisher and analyzed for thiodiglycol, a breakdown product of mustard. Per ARCENT Chemical, the specimen was tested positive."[60] This message caused some confusion because it refers to an in-theater urinalysis and states ARCENT Chemical indicated the specimen was positive. In 1999, the officer who drafted this message said he based the statement about a positive urinalysis on hearsay information he had received from ARCENT Chemical. He does not remember who specifically provided the information. Everything in his message was based on reports others provided to him at the time.[61]

The 3rd Armored Division’s assistant chemical officer drafted a memorandum for the record documenting this incident. The memorandum stated the division surgeon "confirmed that the urine test was positive."[62] In 1999 when asked the basis of this statement, the 3rd Armored Division division surgeon said he could not recall the source of the information, although he may have talked with Colonel Dunn. He believed Colonel Dunn told him the urinalysis test was unreliable. The division surgeon also believed that it was discussed that although the test was positive, "it had breakdown products (possibly from POL [petroleum, oil, lubricant] supplies) that could have contaminated it."[63] Although the division surgeon recalled discussing a positive urinalysis in-theater, Colonel Dunn stated he took only one urine sample from PFC Fisher, was not aware of anyone else conducting a urinalysis, and did not have any knowledge of any in-theater laboratory that would have had that capability.[64]

Colonel Dunn took the urine sample back to the United States where the US Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD), Aberdeen, Maryland, analyzed it with negative results for thiodiglycol.[65] In testimony to the Presidential Advisory Committee, Colonel Dunn reported:

Colonel Dunn also discussed the negative result in a 1995 interview in which he said, "I had my doubts at the time that I took the urine sample that it would come up positive because the level of exposure … was pretty mild, just four very small blisters."[67]

3.  Photographs

Dr. DeClue, the senior medical officer, C Company, 45th Support Battalion, 3rd Armored Division, photographed PFC Fisher’s injuries during his examination. Figure 4 is Dr. DeClue’s photograph. Colonel Dunn also photographed PFC Fisher’s blisters, shown as Figures 5 and 6. PFC Fisher’s blisters are apparent in these pictures. Although these photos by themselves do not identify the blisters’ source, they constitute a formal record of PFC Fisher’s injuries.

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Figure 4.   Private Fisher blister injury - Dr. DeClue photo

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Figure 5.  Private Fisher blister injury - Dr. Dunn photo 1

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Figure 6.  Private Fisher blister injury - Dr. Dunn photo 2


4.   Chemical Research, Development and Engineering Center Tests of Coverall Cloth and Flak Jacket

The Fox company commander packaged his own protective gear (a Nomex shirt), PFC Fisher’s flak jacket, and other material after he and his team tested for contamination. A US Army Technical Escort Unit team eventually transported this material to the Analytical Research Division of the Research Directorate at CRDEC for analysis on March 11, 1991. In addition to PFC Fisher’s flak jacket and the company commander’s Nomex zippered shirt (his protective gear), the package contained a piece of olive material marked "coveralls," a gauze pad that had covered PFC Fisher's blisters, Fox sampling wheels, a printout from the Fox vehicle, and an envelope with the printouts made during the March 2, 1991 coverall examination and the March 4, 1991 flak jacket test. While it is evident from this shipment’s inventory that the Fox printout tapes were sent to CRDEC, the final disposition of all these printout tapes is unknown today. After analyzing the company commander’s Nomex shirt, PFC Fisher’s flak jacket, the gauze that had covered PFC Fisher’s injury, and the material cut from his coveralls, CRDEC’s overall conclusion was "No evidence of any known CW [chemical warfare] agent or agent degradation product was found."[68]

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