- Source "B" was shaken but not stirred when
we first met. The odour of fear and uncertainty was palpable - a fact that
was no surprise in view of what I was about to be told. This wasn't my
first 007 Bond-like covert rendezvous, but it would certainly be my most
startling. We had agreed to meet in order that the source could tell me
about a highly secret and even more highly sensitive US operation known
as "Black Dog." Neither of us trusted electronic communication
and, therefore, a face-to-face meeting was essential.
- It was a sunny day and our encounter was in a seamy pub
somewhere in the countryside of England. I had watched my back the entire
journey - just in case. The meeting followed a story I had written on Gulf
War Illness, when I had cautiously been told about a top secret US mission
known as "Black Cat." This, I was told, involved a "black"
US B52 bomber launching from Offut AFB in Nebraksa, and flying a round-trip
to the Persian Gulf.
- The hulking bomber carried one bomb packed with VX nerve
agent, the most potent chemical weapon in the US CW armoury. The bomb was
dropped on elements of the Republican Guard in Southern Iraq, I was informed.
Heavy casualties apparently resulted. The operation, directed by the Central
Intelligence Agency, was a counter-strike, following an Iraqi Scud that
fell on Israel. The missile had contained Sarin and drove the Israeli government
almost apoplectic with rage. Fuming, the Israeli's had readied to detonate
a nuclear warhead high above Baghdad. Only the swift intervention of President
George Bush forestalled what would have been a cataclysmic move destined
to unravel the carefully wrought Arab backed Coalition lined-up against
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
- To avoid any of the nerve agent being blown back towards
coalition troops, the mission involved the launch, from Dhahran of a C130
Hercules carrying one, possibly two, massive five ton Fuel Air bombs. These
were detonated above ground zero - the location of the VX chemical agent
strike - to ensure all traces of the nerve agent were destroyed. Quite
possibly, the Fuel Air Device destroyed all evidence of the illegal counter-strike
too, by incinerating bodies. Cleansing by fire is as old as warfare itself.
- This information led me to speak to various sources as
I searched for corroboration. I was advised to contact Tim Sebastian, former
BBC correspondent and well-known author. During a brief telephone call,
Sebastian confirmed he also had the same information as I, as recommended
I contact the Countess of Mar - a House of Lords representative with a
special interest in Gulf War issues. I met Margaret Mar one evening in
late summer 1997. A charming and honest individual, she confirmed she had
taken Sebastian's information to the Ministry of Defence in private. They
later informed her that following consultation with the US Department of
Defense officials, no record of the mission had been found. Clearly this
was no denial.
- Moreover, their explanation didn't gel in other significant
ways. The official who responded to the MOD enquiry was Bernard Rostker,
the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illness. Hardly, I thought, the person
one would expect to be privy to top secret information on a sensitive CIA
operation. Besides, I was to later learn that Black Cat almost certainly
was subject to a "compartmented" mission name. This simply means
that at different levels of the command structure the mission would have
been assigned a different name. This nifty device - not dissimilar from
Admiral Horatio Nelson holding a telescope to his blind-eye and observing
he "sees no ships," - caters nicely to instant deniability, but
also helps to identify the level that leaks originate from. Clever. In
any event, months later, in December 1997, Tim Sebastian told me that he
had fully corroborated Black Cat during a month-long trip to the USA. This
was good news but not surprising.
- In any event, Source B was concerned not with Black Cat
- which I learned he knew about in some detail - but a second, far more
sensitive mission known as "Black Dog." This mission had occurred
around 25 February 1991 and involved Biological weapons, I was told. Specifically
the weapon was a bacterium that resulted in those contaminated drowning
in their own bodily fluids. Black Dog involved an aircraft launched from
a US carrier in the Red Sea that was targeted on an Iraqi CB weapons plant.
The bomb was designed to spread its load via an aerosol spray. Source B
provided additional information that cannot be revealed for fear of identifying
the individual and other sources.
- My first meeting with Lady Mar was predominantly to discuss
this second mission. Both she and Tim Sebastian were aware of a second
mission that they both knew as "Black Cat 11," but possessed
no details. I was not surprised. Some weeks earlier I had contacted a senior
US journalist, asking if he would collaborate on my story. I gave him a
brief outline of Black Cat, hoping he may stumble on to Black Dog, too.
He did, or at least got details of a mission remarkably similar.
- Months of investigation resulted in the development of
the following mission details:
- Original source (B) states that Black Dog entailed the
launch of a US Navy warplane from a US Carrier on station in the Red Sea.
The source remains unable to identify which of two carriers the aircraft
launched from (both the USS Saratoga and the USS Kennedy were on station
in the Red Sea during this time-frame: 24/25 February 1991). Nor is source
able to provide exact date of this mission. The source further stated that
aircrew and ground-crew were CIA.
- The source continued by stating that the aircraft dropped
biological warfare munition(s) on an Iraqi chemical/biological weapons
factory and that numerous deaths resulted. Source states the munition (s)
contained a bacteriological agent with a life of no more than 48 hours.
The bacterium was not communicable, and had no given name, only a batch
number. Those attacked with this weapon drowned in their own bodily fluids,
according to the source, who added that the bio-bomb was parachute deployed
and its contents dispersed by aerosol spray.
- US Sources state that a US Navy S3A Viking aircraft crash
landed (presumably as a result of ground fire) behind enemy lines prior
to the commencement of the ground war. It is unknown if the aircraft was
outward bound on its mission or homebound afterwards. In any event, the
spectre of a US "sanitised" aircraft heavily armed with chemical
and possibly biological weapons, over-flying hostile territory during time
of war logically excludes the possibility this was a training or any other
- The Viking is used in a long-range recconassaince/anti
submarine warfare role. It is thus only lightly armed for defence. In this
instance, however, sources say the aircraft was heavily modified with stealth
capabilities and was coloured a flat dark grey. The aircraft had no markings,
insignia or other identification. Instrumentation was United States manufacture.
Bombs were externally attached to wing pylons. The procedure of using unmarked
military aircraft (known as "sanitised" i.e., plausible deniability)
is known to be consistent with numerous other CIA "black" operations
that have reached the public domain.
- Sources additionally confirm the mission was conducted
under the auspices of the Central Intelligence Agency and that the pilot
was an Agency employee (presumably a "sheep-dipped" USN pilot).
The aircraft carried, we are told, only two bombs due to "weight considerations."
The downed aircraft had one remaining bomb attached to external pylons.
This munition contained a deadly mixture of Tabun, Sarin and Cyclo-Sarin.
However, US sources are unable to identify a target or confirm whether
this aircraft launched from a USN carrier - giving rise to understandable
caution that this was one and the same mission - although the mission profile
- Meanwhile, US sources confirm that the crash site was
approximately 60 kilometres behind enemy lines (exact co-ordinates 45.90E
- 29.73N) - in a barren wilderness. There the aircraft remained for several
days. In the interim, the pilot, who did not eject but came down with his
aircraft, was recovered alive.
- Following the launch of the Ground War (24 February 1991),
US and French divisions swept Iraqi forces away from the general area (As
Salman), thereby permitting intact recovery of the aircraft. Consequently,
a US two man Black Ops "Search Team" were dispatched from Camp
Four, in Saudi Arabia (co-ordinates 44.30E-29.00N) to locate the crashed
aircraft and provide exact co-ordinates for recovery.
- Camp Four was a large sprawling complex that housed mostly
US forces, but some British elements too. It was a jump off point for the
US 101 Airborne (Screaming Eagles) into Iraq on the night of 23/24 February
1991. The complex was extensively used to house and repair a variety of
- The two man search team travelled North, into Iraq, by
Jeep on or about 27/28 February 1991. Sources state the aircraft crashed
approximately one week earlier and that the delay in commencing search
and recovery operations was due to the imminent commencement of the ground
war. Neither members of the two man search team were US Government employees.
In fact, a private US company, almost certainly a CIA proprietary, employed
both. Both individuals wore battle-dress but no insignia or other identifying
patches - a fact that is again consistent with CIA black operations. An
independent British military source has confirmed the presence at Camp
Four, of a two man US "Spec Ops" team, in late February 1991.
Source stated they were US SpecOps, no insignia or rank apparent and provided
a physical description of one individual.
- Some distance into Iraq, heading due north along the
45.90 East Latitude co-ordinate the search team observed the downed aircraft
from a distance, we are told. Inspection via binoculars showed the right
wing of the aircraft to be missing. The left wing was intact. Further observation
revealed the presence of one remaining bomb located on the external pylon
closest to the fuselage. The bomb was coloured a matt black with no visible
marking. It was leaking.
- Both team members donned CB protective equipment, we
are informed, and approached. The bomb contained a German manufactured
fuse designed to ignite the munition above ground. It was identified as
a Mark Eleven Seven munition (MC 117) modified for liquid chemical usage
and comprised of a steel body with a Mark 131 fin assembly and Central
Bursting Tube - according to information made available.
- A chemical weapons test with a field test kit (designated
"Mary 256") was conducted and revealed the munition to contain
a mixture of Tabun, Sarin and Cyclo-Sarin. It must be stressed that a chemical
weapon field test kit would not, repeat not, be capable of detecting the
presence of any biological weapon whatsoever. Field detection of biological
organisms/bacterium is considerably more complex and requires specialist
personnel and equipment. This point is stressed for obvious reasons. The
presence of a bacterium as outlined by primary source is neither corroborated,
nor ruled out, by these discoveries. However, it is significant that prevailing
NATO and Soviet doctrine in the use of biological and chemical weapons,
called the use of a "mixed load" - that is to say, munitions
would typically carry a varied mixture of inter-acting chemical and biological
- The search team reported their discovery to base, and
was ordered to withdraw immediately. Prior to departing the crash site,
both team members were puzzled by the presence of a number of dead Iraqi
soldiers. All wore face masks (possibly CB protective gear, but may also
have been protection against wind-borne sand) and showed no apparent entry
wounds or other manifestations of their fatalities. Both team members were
said to be sufficiently perplexed by these bodies to take colour photographs
of them, we were informed. These photographs and other details were later
forwarded to a United Nations source for investigation.
- Having left the crash site, the search team were replaced
by a US Navy affiliated "Recovery Team." The latter team recovered
the aircraft. The bomb was recovered and transported elsewhere. The damaged
aircraft was airlifted - presumably by a Jolly Green Giant helicopter -
back to Camp Four and temporarily housed in a compound surrounded with
barbed wire. Here, a number of individuals managed to photograph the damaged
aircraft on site. Copies of these and other supporting data were privately
forwarded to the United Nations for investigation. Meanwhile, other military
sources confirm the presence of the barbed wire compound at that location.
- The two man Black Ops (search) team were in the Gulf
acting under Army Command. Their mission, and, we are told, that of the
latter recovery team, was conducted under the orders of General Fred Franks,
commander of V11 Corps - the single largest unit in the Gulf war. Both
the "Search" and "Recovery" teams formed part of a
Special Unit with the designation "SCRSWA" operated under the
direct command of Colonel Johnson (attached to AVSCOM - Aviation System
Command, US Army). This unit has not been identified, despite a telephone
call to the Pentagon library. A Pentagon employee told this writer, with
a nervous laugh, that the unit designation is unknown. According to sources,
there was a British involvement. This has yet to be identified and confirmed,
but it thought possible the bacteriological weapon may have been of British
manufacture. In any event, the remaining munition was placed in the custody
of Colonel Johnson, sources say. Both members of the search team were specialists
in placing, concealing and camouflaging surveillance devices, we were told.
These included placing aircraft laser targeting packages.
- In November 1997, at my request, the Countess of Mar,
in the company of the former Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister,
Lord Howe, met with a senior Ministry of Defence official to discuss Operation
Black Dog. The meeting was acrimonious. The result was that the MOD official
could neither confirm nor deny the operation but, personally doubted the
possibility that a Viking aircraft would be cast in such a role. If this
remains the official's only qualitative doubt, I have some advice for him.
- A phone call to the premier and highly respected publication,
Janes Defence Weekly, will be rewarded with an informative discussion about
the aircraft's capability and the US Navy's "Gung Ho" attitude
when it comes to "black" operations. One of Jane's expert journalists
told me - months prior to the MOD meeting - that there is nothing theoretically
to stop a Viking from flying a mission as outlined. The journalist went
on to describe other missions even more "apparently" unlikely,
including the launch of U2 "spy-planes" from US Navy carriers
- amongst other facts.
- It remains to be stated that I was advised - from entirely
unrelated sources and, in fact, an entirely unrelated story - that a special
CIA team of flyers was stationed at Offut AFB during the Gulf war. One
of these, a former Navy pilot, and senior team member, is alleged to have
been posted to a US aircraft carrier to assume temporary duty (TDY) as
Commander Air Group (CAG) during the same time-frame. For a variety of
reasons, I now nurture some suspicions that this later information may
have been artfully "planted" as disinformation in order to discredit
this story. The identity of the senior team member, employed by the CIA
and ONI, is known to me, as is his background, and somewhat adds to my
concerns. However, I cannot rule out the possibility that this additional
information might have reached my attention innocently and coincidentally
and, could be accurate?
- As our investigation of this story continued, we learned
of a possible reason for Black Dog. In late February 1991, an Iraqi Scud
had landed in Israel. Sources were able to confirm that the missile contained
biological organisms that were "dead on arrival." Whether the
organisms were meant to be dead or not wasn't clear, but Iraqi in-expertise
in these matters is well-known. This clearly, in the light of the prevailing
logic of Black Cat, to be sufficient reason to authorise Black Dog, I believe.
- The foregoing, it must be said, is powerful evidence
that the US may have engaged in at least two chemical and biological warfare
missions during the Gulf war. It is not, however, proof positive. Caution
is understandably a key-word amongst the journalistic fraternity. At the
same time outside and perverse influence to "spike" or otherwise
discredit highly sensitive news stories is increasingly a fact-of-life.
Those who might doubt that the media could be so easily seduced need only
focus their attention on the consequences of the Gary Webb/San Jose Mercury
News "Dark Alliance Series," to witness media timidity.
- Having personally worked on the foregoing story for almost
nine months, and witnessed numerous editors, journalists and other media
representatives shy-away from it for no good reason, I am inclined to conclude
that this is one of those stories destined never to reach the light of
- The hell with that.