DoD "Welcomes" CNN Retraction, Apology for Sarin Report
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 7, 1998 DoD's senior spokesman said July 2 he welcomed CNN's retraction of its recent story alleging the U.S. use of sarin nerve agentin Laos in 1970 and the network's apology to veterans of the militaryaction in question.
"We believed those charges were wrong, and that's what our reviewso far shows," Ken Bacon said during a news briefing. The DoD review ofwhat was known as Operation Tailwind will continue, he said. DefenseSecretary William S. Cohen ordered the review right after CNN aired thereport on June 7.
CNN President Tom Johnson said a report written by media attorneyFloyd Abrams, whom CNN called in for its in-house review, concluded theCNN NewsStand broadcast of "Valley of Death" cannot be supported.
"There is insufficient evidence that sarin or any other deadlygas was used," Johnson said. "Furthermore, CNN cannot confirm thatAmerican defectors were targeted or at the camp as NewsStand reported."
Bacon said he was particularly glad the news organizationapologized to the men involved in the action. "[The Special Forces team]felt, I think, personally betrayed and hurt by the report," he said. He said the men performed valiantly, with all being wounded. The 16-manteam with its Montagnard allies collected valuable information onlogistical procedures of the North Vietnamese army, Bacon said. "Thestory of this mission is really a story of incredible bravery and heroismby all 16 of the Americans who participated in it."
Bacon said the DoD review shows no sign of sarin or any othernerve agent being used during Operation Tailwind. The Air Force did droptear gas on North Vietnamese positions in order to allow Marinehelicopters to evacuate the Army team.
Of defectors, Bacon said, "There were rumors throughout the warthat there were many more [U.S.] defectors, but we believe there wereonly two. One of those died in Cambodia in the mid-'70s. The other isnow back in the United States." He said the original story does not helpU.S. credibility. "Iraq made some statements after this report came outalleging, falsely, our use of chemical weapons," Bacon said. "We haveworked very hard in this department, led by Secretary Cohen, to focusworldwide attention on the risks posed by weapons such as VX and sarin,and biological weapons such as anthrax. They are a threat to civil andstable countries and we're trying to address that threat."