Ex-CIA analyst Patrick Eddington accuses agency of ‘sitting on’ Gulf War illness documents
A former CIA intelligence analyst says in a new book that the agency is “sitting on” 1.5 million documents that could shed new light on the mysterious maladies that have afflicted veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
“Twenty years after these veterans were exposed to Iraqi chemical agents and other toxins, they should not have to keep begging the government they fought to defend to make this information public,” the former analyst, Patrick G. Eddington, said in an interview Wednesday in advance of next week’s publication of his book, “Long Strange Journey: An Intelligence Memoir.”
Eddington, who quit the CIA in 1996 because he felt veterans were not getting the full truth about chemical contamination, contends that the agency has continued to resist full declassification of the documents because it “risks embarrassment and condemnation from Congress and veterans if the documents show evidence of additional exposure incidents that were not investigated or followed up."
CIA spokesman George Little rejected Eddington’s charge.
“It’s simply wrong to suggest that the CIA hasn’t publicly released documents on Gulf War illnesses,” he said in response to a query. “In fact, such material is readily available on our Web site.”
Soon after the end of the so-called "100-hour war" that ousted Saddam Hussein’s troops from Kuwait, U.S. troops and civilians began complaining of “fatigue, headache, joint pains, sleep disturbances and memory problems,” according to a list of symptoms compiled by the Veterans Administration.
Arguments have raged for years over the causes of “Gulf War Syndrome,” including whether it was caused by blundering U.S. attacks on Iraqi chemical weapons depots.
In 1998, the agency admitted to having more than a million previously undisclosed documents on the Gulf War, including chemical weapons incidents, in a CIA inspector general’s report on allegations by Eddington and his wife, also a CIA analyst, that agency bosses had retaliated against them for their criticism.
“The amount of the data the agency admitted sitting on in 1998 is what I found staggering,” said Eddington, now an aide to Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), who was chairman of the House intelligence committee’s oversight panel from 2007 through 2010.
Last year Holt inserted a provision into the fiscal year 2010 Intelligence Authorization Act mandating a CIA declassification review of its documents.
“Given how the CIA embarrassed itself 15 years ago on this issue, it’s not terribly shocking the agency would drag its feet on declassifying this material,” Eddington maintained, “but that doesn’t make it any less unconscionable.”
Despite CIA spokesman Little's denial of Eddington's charges, the former analyst is not backing down.
“Clearly, those 1.5 million documents are not on their Web site," he said. “They’re trying to peddle the nonsense that, since they’ve put a pitiful handful of documents on their Web site, Gulf War Syndrome-related intelligence is ‘readily available.’”
“Just as soon as they declassify in full those 1.5 million documents and post them to CIA.gov," he added, "I’ll be happy to acknowledge that—after nearly 15 years—they’ve taken a real step to come clean on what they know."
| February 17, 2011; 12:00 PM ET
Categories: Foreign policy, Intelligence, Media, Military
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