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Context of 'June 12, 2003: US Owns Fleet of Hydrogen Generator-Equipped Humvees'

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Iraqi informants cited in internal US intelligence reports dispute Curveball’s claims (see January 2000-September 2001) that Iraq has mobile biological weapons factories. Some of the informants suggest that Curveball is actually referring to trailers designed to produce hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. [Washington Post, 4/12/2006]

Entity Tags: ’Curveball’

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The US Army’s 101st Airborne Division finds a suspicious looking trailer at al-Kindi, a former missile research facility in Iraq. US authorities suspect the trailer might be a biological weapons factory. Another suspect trailer was found by US forces three weeks earlier in Mosul (see April 19, 2003). [Houston Chronicle, 5/9/2003; US Department of Defense, 5/13/2003; ABC News, 5/21/2003] Senior Iraqi officials at the facility, as well as Iraqis working for the company that produced components for the trailers, say the trailers produce hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. [Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency, 5/28/2003]

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

Several newspapers report that a number of US and British intelligence experts do not believe that the two trailers recently found in Iraq (see April 19, 2003; May 9, 2003) are mobile biological weapons factories. According to the London Observer, experts believe the trailers were probably “designed to be used for hydrogen production to fill artillery balloons.” The newspaper also reports that the Iraqi army purchased its original hydrogen producing system, known as an Artillery Meteorological System, in 1987 from the British-owned Marconi Command & Control. [Observer, 6/8/2003] The experts offer the following reasons for why they do not believe the trailers were intended to produce biological weapons:
bullet No trace of pathogens are detected in the trailers’ suspected fermentation tanks. [Observer, 6/8/2003]
bullet The trailers have canvas sides which would not have made sense if they were meant to be used as biological weapon labs. [Observer, 6/8/2003] “The canvas tarps covering the sides of the trucks appeared designed to be pulled away to let excess heat and gas escape during the production of hydrogen. The tarps would allow in far too much road dust and other contamination if the equipment inside were meant to produce biowarfare agents.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/21/2003]
bullet There is a “shortage of pumps required to create vacuum conditions required for working with germ cultures and other processes usually associated with making biological weapons.” [Observer, 6/8/2003]
bullet The trailers have no “autoclave for steam sterilization, normally a prerequisite for any kind of biological production.” Without a means to sterilize “between production runs would threaten to let in germ contaminants, resulting in failed weapons.” [New York Times, 6/7/2003; Observer, 6/8/2003]
bullet There is no “easy way for technicians to remove germ fluids from the processing tank.” [New York Times, 6/7/2003; Observer, 6/8/2003]

Entity Tags: AMS

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

The Los Angeles Times reports that the US military owns a fleet of 20 Humvees equipped with AN/TMQ-42 Hydrogen Generators that produce hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. The vehicles were purchased from Environmental Technologies Group of Baltimore in 1998. The revelation calls into question US intelligence’s rejection of claims by Iraqi scientists that the two trailers discovered in Iraq were designed to produce hydrogen for balloons. A recent CIA and DIA white paper suggested that the Iraqi scientists’ explanation was just a convenient “cover story” . But some US intelligence officials agree with the Iraqi scientists’ assessment . [Los Angeles Times, 6/21/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

An investigation sponsored by British intelligence and headed by British defense officers and technical experts from the Porton Down microbiological research establishment determines that two trailers recently discovered in Iraq by US forces (see April 19, 2003; May 9, 2003) are not mobile biological weapons factories as has been alleged. Rather the team concludes that they are for producing hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. “They are not mobile germ warfare laboratories,” says one British scientist and biological weapons expert who has seen the trailers. “You could not use them for making biological weapons. They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were—facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons.” [Observer, 6/8/2003; Observer, 6/15/2003]

Entity Tags: UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

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