Creation of DCI Persian Gulf War Illnesses Task Force
Statement of Robert D Walpole, Special Assistant to the ADCI for Persian Gulf War Illnesses Issues before the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, Persian Gulf War Illnesses Task Force
18 March 1997, Salt Lake City, Utah
Talking Points on Creation of DCI Persian Gulf War Illnesses Task Force
To support the President in his goal of getting to the bottom of questions regarding Persian Gulf War veterans' illnesses and to be as helpful as we can to this Advisory Committee in its intensified effort, the Acting Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, established a Persian Gulf War Illnesses Task Force, which began its work on March 3.
Its mission is to provide intensive, aggressive intelligence support to the numerous US government efforts to address Persian Gulf War Illnesses issues.
As to its scope, this task force will manage all intelligence aspects of the issue with the goal to "get to the bottom" of it and to be "forthcoming" in our efforts. Throughout this 60-day effort, and by the conclusion thereof, the task force will ensure that every conceivable stone has been overturned.
The task force includes 50 personnel drawn from across CIA's Directorates, as well as from DIA, NSA, NIMA, and others in the Department of Defense.
As George Tenet's Special Assistant on Persian Gulf War Illnesses issues, I serve as Chief of the task force. As such, I attend his morning senior agency staff meetings to apprise him of our progress.
Responsibilities and activities of the task force include:
- reviewing previous search criteria and conducting addition required;
- managing and accelerating and ongoing declassification efforts;
- ensuring the passage of related classified material to DOD and others in a useful manner, from which users can retrieve information quickly;
- supporting ongoing modeling efforts;
- implementing a comprehensive process for communications with DOD, the NSC, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses, appropriate Congressional committees, and the media and public. This strategic perspective developed will drive the completion of our efforts in a timely manner; and
- providing analysis of relevant information.
This final point is particularly important. While the Agency has had other task forces involved in this search and declassification effort, this is the first time we have fully integrated an analytical component into the task force. This component will run to ground every thread of interest we uncover in the issue, and will prepare papers providing the analytical context surrounding relevant material.
One of the task force's initial efforts has been to ensure that we can answer the following questions, particularly as they relate to Khamisiyah; we must be able to answer clearly, accurately, thoroughly, with high confidence, and for the most part, unclassified:
- What did the Intelligence Community know about the possibility of chemical weapons at Khamisiyah, and when?
- What did we do internally with the information collected and when?
- What did we do externally with the information collected and/or analyzed, and when?
During the task force's first two weeks, we have focused on:
- Reviewing previous search criteria
- Passing additional classified material to DOD, the Hill, and PAC
- Declassifying additional material
- Analyzing every thread we can find on Khamisiyah
- Meeting with DOD, the NSC, the Presidential Advisory Committee, and appropriate Congressional committees.
- Decreasing uncertainty for modeling inputs, including through our efforts with DOD to pursue ground truth testing
- Implementing elements of a comprehensive communications strategy
During coming weeks, we will:
- Pursue new search efforts
- Continue declassifying material
- Continue analysis of interesting, relevant threads
- Continue regular meetings with DOD, the NSC, the Presidential Advisory Committee, and appropriate Congressional committees.
- Prepare unclassified analytical and contextual papers on issues discovered during search and declassification efforts
- Continue implementing elements of communications strategy, including addressing veterans' groups, the media, and public
- Develop and support further plans to reduce uncertainty of modeling inputs
By the end of 60 days, we will have ensured the release of as much information as possible. We will do this from the strategic perspective just cited; there will be no more dripping of information.
Also, by the end of the 60-day running, the task force will prepare a list of lessons learned and recommendations for CIA and the Intelligence Community regarding enhancing intelligence support, especially before, during, and after a conflict.
In conclusion, I want to stress the Agency's and Community's commitment to providing this Committee and other appropriate US Government agencies with the intelligence support you require. To do any less would be a disservice to the men and women who served this country in the Persian Gulf. We owe them a full and accurate accounting of what happened during the final days of Desert Storm and the following days and weeks before their return to the United States. Mr. Tenet and I intend to do everything in our power to ensure the maximum amount of information is released to you, to the many concerned veterans groups, and the public at large.