Monday March 3 6:56 PM EST

Defense Probe Ordered on Gulf War Logs

WASHINGTON (Reuter) - Deputy Defense Secretary John White ordered the Defense Department's inspector general Monday to investigate the loss of most of the Gulf War log on war gas alerts.

White directed the inspector general to determine whether computer or paper versions of the log can still be found and if not why not.

A progress report given to Congress last week said all but 36 pages may be lost of the about 200 pages of logs of war gas alerts during the 1991 war. Congress wants to know if any of the alerts showed war gas was actually released near U.S. troops.

The alarms were sounded during Iraqi Scud missile attacks or any other possible use of war gas and then called off as soon as experts determined no gas had been released.

Gulf War commander Norman Schwarzkopf told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week he received no report of an actual war gas release throughout the Gulf War.

The retired general said he was therefore shocked when the Defense Department announced last year that up to 20,000 U.S. troops may have been nearby when U.S. engineers blew up an Iraqi weapons dump immediately after the war that proved later to have contained war gas weapons.

White ordered the inspector general, who heads a team of full-time professional investigators, to take over the investigation from Dr. Bernard Rostker, White's special assistant for Gulf War illnesses.

Rostker's staff said in the progress report given to the Senate Armed Services Committee that part of the log may have have been destroyed by a computer virus and more was missing after Gulf War files were shipped to the U.S. Central Command's headquarters in Tampa, Florida.

"While our study is incomplete and will now be continued by the IG, I have seen no evidence thus far that anyone intentionally destroyed the log," Rostker said in a statement.

The progress report supported defense officials' argument last year against an allegation that the eight days of the log covering the Iraqi weapons dump explosion had disappeared. It said most of the log was lost, not just eight days of it.

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