This investigation begins in November 1993 when an Army soldier forwarded a copy of some tape printouts from an XM93 Fox Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle MM-1 mobile mass spectrometer (referred to as Fox tapes), through an Army officer at Fort Hood, Texas, to the Army’s Forces Command headquarters at Fort McPherson, Georgia. The soldier kept the original Fox tapes from his service as a Fox vehicle MM-1 mobile mass spectrometer operator because he felt they contained evidence of chemical warfare agent presence. The copies of the tapes identified seven alert incidents, which occurred between February 1, 1991, and February 27, 1991. After receiving the tapes, the Army’s Forces Command forwarded the Fox tapes to the Army’s technical experts for their analysis.

In 1996, this office’s predecessor, the Persian Gulf Illnesses Investigation Team, began an investigation into Fox vehicle alerts, including the alert incidents on the Fox tapes provided by the soldier. In 1997, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses initiated its own investigation into the alert incidents on the Fox tapes. During their investigation, the committee requested and received another copy of the Fox tapes directly from the soldier. This copy of the tapes contained additional information not contained on the original Fox tapes received in 1993, including another alert incident, some additional test information, and spectra results.

Investigators identified eight alert incidents based on the two sets of tapes. In the eight incidents, the Fox issued preliminary alerts for a variety of chemical warfare agents and other chemicals, including compounds used to test the MM-1 mobile mass spectrometer’s detection capability. Of these eight alert incidents, four occurred during the air war when the Fox was conducting training missions near the Saudi Arabia-Iraq border and preparing for the ground offensive. The four remaining incidents occurred during the ground war when the Fox was operating as a component of the 24th Infantry Division in Iraq.

As mentioned above, in late 1993 the Army’s Forces Command forwarded the copies of the original Fox tapes to Fox vehicle experts at the Army’s Chemical and Biological Defense Command in Edgewood, Maryland. During their analysis, the experts talked by telephone with the soldier. On December 20, 1993, these experts sent a memo containing the analysis of the tapes to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans. The memo concluded that proper procedures were not followed when verifying the initial Fox alerts. Although they could not say so with absolute certainty, the Fox vehicle experts believed that all reported detections were false alarms.

The additional tapes faxed to the Presidential Advisory Committee in 1997 were not evaluated by the Army's Fox vehicle experts in the same detailed manner as the tapes analyzed in 1993. In 1998, investigators from the Office of the Special Assistant met with the same Fox vehicle experts who reviewed the original tapes. After reviewing the second set of tapes, including the additional spectra results, the experts felt they could say with a higher degree of certainty that all reported detections were false alarms.

The experts’ analyses of the Fox Tapes was limited to the information printed on the tapes and provided to them by the MM-1 operator. However, our investigation includes operational insights of the unit the Fox vehicle supported and an evaluation of Iraq’s chemical warfare agent capabilities. Based on interviews with key personnel in the 24th Infantry division, these alerts are uncorroborated; no other chemical warfare agent detector alarms or tests support these alerts. Additionally, these Fox alerts were not reported to a higher command. Unprotected personnel near this Fox vehicle did not report symptoms or casualties related to chemical warfare agent exposure. Furthermore, based on United Nations reports, some of the agents indicated by the alerts either did not exist in the Iraqi inventory.  For others, Iraq lacked a known delivery means, or the agents would normally be present with other chemical warfare agents for which the Fox did not alert. Finally, at the time these Fox alerts occurred, Iraqi forces were not present and the area was not under attack. For these reasons, we are able to go beyond the Fox experts’ assessment of highly unlikely, and state this Fox definitely did not detect chemical warfare agents.

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