The Central Intelligence Agency has 1.5 million documents and "a number of studies" that could shed light on Gulf War illnesses, according to a CIA report released Friday. As many as 100,000 of the documents could be directly relevant to the question of Gulf War illnesses.
But don't expect to see them soon.
The CIA Gulf War Task Force "does not plan to review each of these documents to determine which are relevant and process those documents for declassification and release," says a 40-page report, dated Jan. 22, from the CIA's Office of the Inspector General.
"It's amazing. Even if it's a small fraction (that are directly relevant), you're talking thousands and thousands of documents," said Patrick Eddington, a former CIA analyst and author of "Gassed in the Gulf."
The book claims the CIA and Pentagon have been covering up evidence troops were exposed to Iraqi chemical weapons during the Gulf War.
Eddington and his wife, Robin, also a CIA analyst, left the agency in 1996 and filed complaints with the Inspector General that CIA officials covered up evidence, obstructed their investigations and ruined their careers.
The inspector's report disputes the Eddingtons' allegations. But in several points, it acknowledges that the CIA's investigation of Gulf War documents was "less than optimal."
For example, a 1995 search of agency documents found 45,000 that were related to the Gulf War. Of those, 3,000 were identified as relevant to possible use of chemical or biological weapons and 681 were eventually released on GulfLink, the Pentagon's Internet site for Gulf War Illnesses.
But another search ordered in February 1997 found a lot more documents.
"Components have identified more than 1.5 million documents as a result
of the new electronic and office searches," the report said
"I knew that we were not seeing everything. We didn't have access to sensitive HUMINT (human intelligence), for example," Eddington said. "But that was staggering even to me, to see a figure that large. I was blown away.
"If they're not going to do a dedicated review of this material, that's negligence."
Eddington of Washington, D.C., also wants to know why the 1.5 million documents weren't found earlier. He provided copies of internal CIA memos from May 1995 and March 1996 ordering all agency employees "with information that might bear on possible causes of Persian Gulf War veterans' illnesses" to provide to the agency task force.
"They said, if you have Gulf War documents, cough 'em up. It went out to everybody," Eddington said.
The final IG report also makes reference to "a number of" analytical studies the agency has done into Gulf War illnesses.
Eddington said the original draft he examined in December was more specific. "According to the draft IG report, there are at least two other finished assessments related to Gulf War illness that they have not made available," he said. "That's some of what they took out in the final version. They changed some language, softened some things and deleted other sections completely.
"But they made the mistake of letting us have access to it for six hours."
As to whether agency officials trashed the Eddingtons' careers, it depends on who you ask.
The IG report states there was "no evidence to support any of these allegations," but details cannot be divulged because "the Eddingtons object to the release of personal information about their careers."
Patrick Eddington said he and his wife have requested the CIA declassify their performance reports and security files and have offered to waive their Privacy Act rights. The Eddingtons have filed suit in federal court demanding their personnel records be released.
Originally published in the Belleville News Democrat, January 26,
(c) 1998, Belleville News-Democrat, Belleville, Ill.
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