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DoD News Briefing, Operation TAILWIND, Tuesday, July 21, 1998

Presenters: Rudy de Leon, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and retired General Jack Singlaub
July 21, 1998 11:00 AM EDT

(Participating in the briefing are Rudy de Leon, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and General Jack Singlaub (Ret.), former commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam - Special Operations Group (MACV-SOG)).

General Singlaub: I'm General Jack Singlaub. I was the former commander of MACV-SOG and was consulted by the CNN team, but my comments were not accepted. The whole program changed in its result after the interviews of many of the people who are here.

I'd like to introduce Colonel Skip Sadler who was my replacement once removed. He is here from San Antonio. He was the commander at the time of the whole SOG operation.

His operations officer, Colonel Bobby Pinkerton, did the planning for the operation, conducted the operation, and did the after action report for the whole operation.

At the time, Captain McCarley, who retired as a lieutenant colonel, was the overall commander on the ground. He demonstrated an unusual quality of leadership during that time, and that was recognized by the Army and by General Abrams at the time as being one of the best commanders that he had seen.

And mentioned earlier, the medic on the ground, Mike Rose on the end here. Mike is the one who showed personal bravery way beyond the call of duty.

Behind Mike Rose is John Plaster. John Plaster was a major at the time on the ground in South Vietnam, monitoring the dispatch of the team, monitored the whole fight from aircraft and debriefed the team when they got back.

Next to him is Rudy Gresham who is a spokesman, was not a part of the operation, but is a spokesman for the Special Forces Association.

Q: General, how do you feel about CNN not disciplining Peter Arnett any further?

General Singlaub: I think you could accept the idea that we think very strongly Peter Arnett had more responsibility than he has been given credit for. We believe that he should be discharged. We also believe that the report that they make should say the operation did not take place, not that the reporters did not find enough evidence to support the accusations.

Q: General Singlaub, how did you feel overall, what was your reaction to this first report that these men had been sent on a mission to essentially kill other Americans and use a deadly nerve agent to do that. What was your reaction to that initial report?

General Singlaub: When we saw the report we were horrified that they would try to establish that fact. I was embarrassed that my picture appeared on that program. I had refused to give an interview or be interviewed live, and we could not believe that they would make those charges because the number of times they brought it up to those of us who were interviewed, we would say, "April, it did not happen. You're on the wrong track. It did not happen." Either of those two accusations.

Q: Sir, the issue of Laos. Your team, as I understand, was about 110 men, a hatchet force. You were supporting a CIA operation in that same area. If the Ho Chi Minh Trail was so important and the effort was being made to cut it, why didn't we send in the 1st Cavalry Division? They were there. They could have done something like that.

General Singlaub: Well, because we had indicated that we were not sending troops in. Later on, as you know, we did, but at that time the policy from the White House was that we would not send regular troops in. We were sending in these Special Operations forces in small numbers, normally a 12 man team. This was a case where there was known to be a headquarters in the area, and it was an area that was close enough to the Bolovans operation that we thought that if we raised enough hell in there they would come and commit forces against it which would ease the pressure on the operation in the Bolovans, and it did.

Q: Do you believe more documents should be made available to historians and to reporters so that the truth can be told about covert operations?

General Singlaub: It's my view that all the documents covering MACV-SOG operations have been made available. They were declassified several years ago, they're available in the archives. Any good researcher doing a story such as this could have had access to those without permission from the Department of Defense.

Q: General, just out of curiosity, during the Vietnam War, what was the official U.S. military position, doctrine, orders, whatever, in regard to U.S. defectors, those who would aid and abet the enemy?

General Singlaub: Well, there undoubtedly was personal animosity against them by individuals, but the policy was quite clear. We would try to return them, and we exerted a great deal of manpower, lives, materiel trying to get some of those that were in enemy hands -- whether they were defectors or not. There were only two defectors, so that was not a big problem.

Under Secretary de Leon: The Department of Defense reports on Operation TAILWIND while we released it as a single document, it actually reflects five separate investigations -- the United States Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and also the Central Intelligence Agency. Thousands of man hours were spent in this comprehensive investigation. It included interviews of TAILWIND participants.

Before discussing the contents of the report and taking your questions, I'd like to introduce the people who have assisted in the preparation and who will participate in this Q&A session right now.

I'd like to thank Brigadier General Dave Armstrong who is the historian for the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Mr. J. B. Hudson who is the Administrative Assistant for the United States Army; Mr. Byron Wood who is the Executive Assistant and Special Counsel for the Department of the Navy; Mike Monigan, Director of the Marine Corps Historical Division; Bill Davidson who is the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force; Mr. Bob Destatte, who is a Senior Analyst at the Defense POW/MIA office; Mr. Jim Schweiter, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Personnel and Reserve Affairs; Colonel Tom Bowman, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, also a Judge Advocate General; and then I'd also like to thank Lee Strickland who was the information and privacy coordinator at the Central Intelligence Agency for his hard work; Mr. Brad Carson, our White House Fellow who also shared in the work; Staff Sergeant Brian McKew; Charlie Craigen, my Principal Deputy. I'd like to thank them all for their assistance in preparing this report. I'd like the briefing team to join me up here and we are happy to answer any questions that you might have.

Q: You say there are some aspects of recognition and benefits that these men are entitled to but which they're not receiving. Specifically, what are they?

Under Secretary de Leon: The one issue that was raised with respect to whether there was a disability claim that had not been properly adjudicated, I have asked the Army to review this matter.

The second issue which the Secretary did discuss was the question of whether the members of TAILWIND received appropriate awards, recognition. This is particularly the case of Captain Rose. The Secretary has given me instruction to review those personnel records in conjunction with the Army and to determine what follow-on action is appropriate.

Q: Can you be a little bit more specific on who the disability claim pertains to? Who does that pertain to? And is it a case of someone who did not qualify up till now for disability?

Under Secretary de Leon: I really don't want to discuss the specifics because he's covered by the Privacy Act. But this pertains to one of the sergeants that participated in the mission where questions have been raised as to his disability and the treatment that is being afforded to him.

Q: Are there any elements of this mission at all that still remain properly classified today? Or is all the TAILWIND completely declassified or unclassified as of today?

Under Secretary de Leon: I believe that we have been able through the report and all of the materials that you have, to tell the definitive story. Let me ask Colonel Bowman to essentially go through a discussion, but I do not believe that after the release of this data there are documents that are still pending. There are some documents that have been released in their redacted form, but I know that the materials are quite comprehensive that are being released.

Colonel Bowman: When you have the opportunity to review in the reading room the volumes that relate to the service reports you will obviously come across the Joint Staff report. In that report there are certain documents that have redactions. We're not aware of any repository of documents as it relates to TAILWIND that exists elsewhere that are subject to a FOIA request, not yet having been acted on.

So as far as we know, what we have in our basic report plus the services' reports in their tabs is the history of TAILWIND as we have it in documented form.

Q: Can you give the reasons behind some of the redactions in the documents in the reading room?

Colonel Bowman: As it relates to certain of the redactions, I think the question will have to be addressed to the Central Intelligence Agency. They in turn can deal with the whole issue as to why something may or may not have been redacted. We can't comment on it.

Q: Can we get your full name, Colonel?

Colonel Bowman: Colonel Thomas G. Bowman, B-O-W-M-A-N.

Q: I'm trying to get a perspective. General Singlaub said most of the TAILWIND documents were available in the archives prior to the story, for some time. What did you have to declassify since this came up?

Under Secretary de Leon: An excellent question. Some of those materials pertained to materials of discussions that occurred by decisionmakers in Washington. Why don't I ask General Armstrong, the JCS Historian, to elaborate on that?

General Armstrong: The particular materials that we found that required action by the Freedom of Information people as Secretary de Leon said, pertained to high level policy decisions that were made here in Washington, D.C. I think you'll see that when you read our report. They also pertain to reports that were made to the Chairman during the course and afterwards on Operation TAILWIND.

Q: Did your investigation verify what armaments were on the A-10 that flew that day? If it did, how did you verify that that's what it was?

Under Secretary de Leon: Sure. Let me ask Bill Davidson who really handled the Air Force munitions and the Air Force aircraft.

Mr. Davidson: There were basically two databases that are in there that are available actually to the public except they're in raw form, in tape form. From those databases are recorded what loads are put on each particular mission by mission number by load and by location where, if they could remember it or when they came back in logged it in, where the actual munition was dropped. One of them is called SEDAB. That's the main system, it's a JCS system. The other system which was a predecessor was called CACDA. SEDAB is just Southeast Asia Data Base. CACDA is the combat air database. Like I said, it preceded SEDAB.

They changed to the new database because it was slow in getting the data back here to Washington. When we changed our system to what we call AutoDin and some of you may be familiar with it, it was the way we would move data. They changed this database and went to the SEDAB database, so we actually had two databases to look at. It would show exactly what was loaded on each aircraft.

Q: What was on the plane?

Mr. Davidson: Which plane?

Q: The A-1s...

Mr. Davidson: There was a multitude of munitions used during this mission. It would be more helpful if you gave me a munition and I could tell you whether it was there...

Q: Can you verify that tear gas was...

Mr. Davidson: Yes. Tear gas was used. Called CBU-30.

Q: Multiples, are there more than a handful? Can you not list them for us?

Mr. Davidson: Of aircraft?

Q: No, of munitions.

Mr. Davidson: Of munitions? I don't have them all up here. They are actually in the report. If you'll look through the report you'll find the actual databases presented to you with the loads that were run on those particular days.

Q: General Singlaub had called on CNN to say that the operation did not take place. Not only that CNN found no evidence to support its report. Where do you come down on that? Going beyond the narrow wording of finding no evidence to back up the CNN/Time allegation, whether any may exist.

Under Secretary de Leon: Give me that question again.

Q: General Singlaub called on CNN to go beyond what it said so far and beyond what the Pentagon has said so far, that is that, to say flat out that no such operation aimed at hunting down American defectors and killing them by using sarin took place. So I'm asking you the same thing. Are you prepared to take that extra step?

Under Secretary de Leon: Let's take the allegation that sarin gas was used. When you look at all of the materials from the five separate investigations, what do you see? You see that the munition never left Okinawa. That the people on the flight line in Thailand, the base where the A-1s came from, they knew what they were loading, it was CS gas. Some of the senior logisticians had been trained in sarin, they knew how that munition was to be handled. They were very clear that the munition was not there at the base.

The pilots who are carrying the munition all state that it is tear gas. SOG members on the ground, you can refer to the notes of their interviews that are in the report. They talk about surviving this cloud of gas; of choking, of it being CS gas. Then finally, there was the statement from one of the Marine Corps helo pilots that was flying the extraction mission that talks about even with the gas being laid down, that the enemy was still able to fire upon the helicopters that were performing the extraction mission and that one of the helos in the extraction was hit, did go down, and a helo had to divert and essentially pick those crew members up.

So when you look at all of those different elements from statements from people at different bases, at different locations who would not normally come in contact with each other, I think it's a very definitive picture.

Q: I guess General Singlaub must not be satisfied with your inability or unwillingness to state flat out that no sarin was used against, in any operation to hunt down and kill defectors in Laos in September 1970.

Under Secretary de Leon: I think we've made a pretty definitive statement.

Lieutenant Colonel McCarley: Lieutenant Colonel McCarley, I was Captain McCarley at the time, and I was the commander of TAILWIND. I'm by far not an expert on chemical operations, but what I've read and what I've studied and what I've heard from so-called chemical experts, the very fact that these two seats right here are filled today should be all the evidence anyone should ever need that sarin gas was not used. Thank you, sir.

Under Secretary de Leon: And finding number three under B, use of sarin, "No evidence could be found that sarin was used in Operation TAILWIND," that's pretty clear.

Q: If I could ask Mr. Davidson just to complete the line of questioning we had before, this is taking so much time to be thorough here. Do you have records that account for all the flights that would have flown in TAILWIND? And secondly, are you saying that if we narrow the question of what kind of munitions were flown down, was it only tear gas? Was there some sort of chemical agent? Or do you have other chemical agents that you're saying were carried ?

Mr. Davidson: The only chemical agent that was used in that process was tear gas, yes. That's what the database says.

Q: It covers all the flights...

Mr. Davidson: It covers all the flights as we know it. I mean we weren't there, but it looks like it covers all the flights that were involved.

Q: Can you say, was the tear gas CS or isn't there also other types of tear gas? CS-1, CS-2...

Mr. Davidson: What it's showing is CBU-30, is the title of the weapon.

Q: The database says CBU-30.

Under Secretary de Leon: Why don't we ask Colonel Bowman to just do a followup, because the CBU-30, the CS gas versus another form of riot control gas called CN, there is a change...

Colonel Bowman: What our inquiry as we began to collect the information revealed was that you had an earlier version of tear gas, and that earlier version was CN. Then in 1970 the use of that was changed to CS. Now the distinction between CN and CS essentially is that the CS, the later version, was a stronger, it had a greater quantity, greater concentration of gas as opposed to the CN.

Now that occurred in 1970. It's taking place just prior to Operation TAILWIND. That is what CBU-30 was at the time that TAILWIND took place. They were using the newer, more potent form, but it is still tear gas. It is not sarin.

Q: Does it create symptoms that go beyond watery eyes, the symptoms that...

Colonel Bowman: Yes. The symptoms are those that would be consistent with the use of a tear gas. There would be a burning sensation. If we're talking a comparative distinction between tear gas and sarin, Mr. Schweiter, Jim Schweiter, conducted an interview with Dr. Sadell, an extensive interview, that is part of the report. If I could ask him to speak to the issue of the impact.

Q: Would the symptoms include, other than burning sensation, would they include convulsions or anything stronger than that?

Colonel Bowman: Yes.

Q: Some of those who CNN talked to, apparently, that were involved in Operation TAILWIND, talked about a super duper gas, some concoction, a combination of a number of things that were more powerful.. (Laughter) They said "super duper". Was there anything above and beyond the CBU-30? Or were they referring to the CBU-30 because suddenly they were confronted with something that was far more concentrated than they had ever experienced before?

Colonel Bowman: It's our belief that that is probably what has taken place.

Q: ...gas is a sleeping gas that... I think that was the new tear gas.

Colonel Bowman: There may have been the use of those terms, but we're talking tear gas -- either in a lighter form or in the more concentrated form.

Q: Were you able to actually locate the official orders ordering what munitions were to be loaded on these planes?

Mr. Davidson: Commonly known as frag orders?

Q: Right.

Mr. Davidson: No. What the databases are is the results of data taken from those frag orders and put into a database.

Q: On the database, it's my understanding that there was an initial run requesting references to the weapon CBU-15 which is the sarin nerve gas, that initially you came up with a large number of weapon systems, of reported use of that, but you decided it was some sort of data input error. Can you explain what happened there?

Mr. Davidson: Sure. The actual search we did was ask for what weaponry, actually the question I was just asked, what weaponry was on the A-1Es. When it comes back, it comes back in a raw data form, meaning a numeric form. There is a key code book that you look at to find out what that actually means.

In the particular look-up that we had, we had multiple hits, 2,000 hits on item 415. If you go back to the NARA and look at the guide book they had received when they received the documents from JCS in the middle '70s, 215 is recorded as SU-15, or CBU-15. That translates to sarin gas.

Q: How many hits in the computer database?

Mr. Davidson: Two thousand hits.

Q: Wouldn't that...

Mr. Davidson: Remember what we're looking at because I'm going to have to go back and explain it to you. When you take the data directly from the computer and compare it against the guidebook that you have that's with it, you end up with 2,000 showing that there's 415s and that guidebook says 415 is CBU-15. Okay?

Q: Wouldn't that indicate that CBU-15 had been used 2,000 times?

Mr. Davidson: Immediately. That's why we went back and said there's something wrong.

In addition to saying CBU-15 it also said "anti-materiel". CBU-15 has never been identified as anti-materiel. That caused us to go back and look at the record and see what was the problem in the data that we were receiving. By going back and finding key books -- not necessarily changing the data. The database stays the same. But you go back and pick up the key book for 1970 and you run that same basis and you look for 415, the item that's showing up in the database. 415 is actually CBU-14, an anti-materiel bomb. What we think happened is sometime between 1972 and 1974, when they transcribed the new key book, they got the wrong data.

Q: Your own computer records indicated that CBU-15, which is sarin gas loaded munitions, was used more than 2,000 times. Your own records indicated that.

Mr. Davidson: No. What the records indicate is item 415 was used 2,000 times. The guide and the key book used to translate that, which was created in 1972, was the only one that translated it to CBU-15. All guides prior to that time, including the one used during the time that we're talking shows it as being CBU-14, an anti-personnel weapons.

Q: Are the key books like maps? Can you explain how exactly that works? The key books, are those manuals ?

Mr. Davidson: The key book is a great big thick book like this with computer printouts with numbers in it, and basically it will have a number 415. Next to it it will tell you what 415 means. In all the prior books it says 415 means CBU-14, an anti-materiel bomb, weight 250, which is also relevant -- it shows the weight. When you look at the one that was used in 1974, and it appears to have been changed in October '72, or the mistake had been changed, it says CBU-15, weight 250 pounds, which is not the weight of a true CBU-15; and it also says it's an anti-materiel bomb.

So the only data that's incorrect is in the guide, the key that you're using to translate, for the period 1972 on.

Q: If somebody had looked at that database a year ago...

Mr. Bacon: There's a lengthy discussion of this in Tab H, page 24. If you want to review this that's where it is.

Q: But if someone had looked at this database a year ago, they could have been led to believe...

Mr. Davidson: That could be. The indication we have is nobody looked at the database. We asked the contractor to go do it for us as a result of the CNN Story.

Q: Could you address the perception that there was a firm belief of the producers of this report that because they were dealing with a black operation, a secret operation, that there would be no documentary record of it, and that the smoking gun, as it were, would not have been put in the record, or would have been taken out.

Can you just deal with that perception that in this kind of an operation you wouldn't find the documents to prove it?

Under Secretary de Leon: A couple of things in that area. One, as in this investigation, as in the one we just concluded on the unknown soldier, the archives particularly after they have been essentially catalogued by the historians, are phenomenal. Once they get into the historical archives, and this is very much part of military history and how you get ready for the next operation by knowing and studying the previous operation.

I think the fact that one of the items in General Armstrong's package of the Washington Action Group where Admiral Moorer is talking about the use of the CS gas just shows that the data is there.

Now as a government, our problem is how do we release this data and declassify it in a timely way so that it can tell a comprehensive story? But I think our methodology, and it was best articulated by General Armstrong. You start by what do the written records tell you, then what do the personal accounts tell you, and it's the combination of all of these different pieces.

But the records are there. Accountability and oversight is very much part of the process whether it's the budget we submit to Congress. There are very few things that are not documented and that in the end you can't do a post mortem on if you really take the time.

Now in this case there were thousands of hours of time spent. The individuals here are the senior individuals from their military department that can get these documents, that can essentially have access to them. Our responsibility is how on a more routine basis, when I don't have the Administrative Assistant of the Army, when I don't have the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and his historian moving to get documents through the Freedom of Information Act process, how do we do that more timely? I think that's one of the lessons.

But back to your central question, there is a tremendous amount of data that is in the archive. Two of the members associated with SOG have written books on it.

Q: How do we know all this stuff isn't sanitized? I'm just asking this in a theoretical sense. I'm not accusing you of sanitizing this information. I'm just asking for members of the public, when they're looking at this and they're trying to have a level of confidence in what the government is saying, how do they know that the key information isn't simply erased?

Under Secretary de Leon: Because folks would have had to have erased the information years ago, and they not simply would have had to do it in terms of SOG records, but they would have had to do it in terms of flight line records in Thailand, after action reports of Marine Corps pilots who were flying extraction missions, senior Army personnel.

The thing about this report are the number of levels that were examined. We spoke with former Secretary Laird. But we also have statements of individuals who flew helicopters, individuals who were munitions experts, of people who have really made their career and their professional work tracking the accountability of U.S. servicemen in Southeast Asia.

So it would not just simply have to be an isolated recovery of a single document and the changing of that document. You would have had to do it in five completely unrelated chains of command.

So that's a hard issue for me to swallow .

Q: You say that only two U.S. military personnel were known to be defectors during the Vietnam War. I understand that to read that during the war, up to 1975, you had only identified two. Is it the Department's position that subsequent to that no other defectors were identified?

Under Secretary de Leon: We've had a lot of question as we have put this report together about the issue of defectors versus the issue of deserters. Let me ask Bob Destatte of the POW/MIA office to speak to this issue.

Mr. Destatte: As of today our current knowledge, there were two and only two American servicemen who defected, who joined the ranks of the enemy during our conflict in Southeast Asia. One of those gentlemen, a young Army enlisted man, we believe died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge in approximately 1974-1975. And the other gentleman was a young Marine who came home in 1979.

Q: Were there any documents that CNN requested prior to its broadcast that you're making public today? Any documents you've seen since then that might have altered their report?

Under Secretary de Leon: That's a fair question. Tom or Jim, do you have a comment on that?

Voice: That documents that have been released, it is my belief that it would not have altered the ability to come to a conclusion other than our conclusion. I don't believe that the documents, if they were in the hands of those reporters would have been determinative. They reflected information that could have been culled from personal experiences, observations, and other resources. I think when you go through those, you'll see that the vast majority of those documents don't necessarily reveal information that will confirm their allegations and be determinative of their results.

Q: Was anything denied to them that you're making public today?

Voice: Not that we're aware of, sir.

Q: Mr. de Leon, did any of your researchers report the striking similarity between the Time Warner novel "Charm School" and the sarin story as reported by April Oliver?

Under Secretary de Leon: I don't think any of us are aware of the book. (Laughter)

Q: There's a book called the "Charm School", I read it in my own research, published by Time Warner, that has the U.S. using sarin gas against Americans who came from Vietnam to the Soviet Union. There were some striking similarities.

Under Secretary de Leon: I don't think any of us were aware of the book.

Q: On the frag orders, they were not locatable? Were they destroyed?

Voice: Basically we attempted to find some. We couldn't find any. They were just not locatable. Now our historians tell me, and I asked the specific question, that frag orders were not something that was kept as a permanent valuable record because they were being turned into other documents that were more definitive. And that's the only answer I can give you on that one.

Q: To kind of close the circle on the sarin, the report documents that sarin gas was never moved from Okinawa into theater. If anybody had even planned to use a chemical agent, a lethal agent, they would have had to have units and equipment. I would assume they wouldn't have the guys loading sarin gas on airplanes if they didn't have full protective gear.

Under Secretary de Leon: Right.

Q: Was there any, have you all come across any records that there was a unit capable of handling sarin gas in theater, and that protective gear was in place anywhere in Vietnam or Southeast Asia?

Under Secretary de Leon: I have no information. Again, we were focusing specifically on the TAILWIND allegations. I think, if I can find the citation, one of the Air Force persons interviewed was there at the base in Thailand who had also been trained on lethal agents, and he knew that the procedures for handling sarin gas were completely different than the procedures for handling CS gas. And his comment was that, and I'm trying to find the citation directly here for you, because when these munitions were loaded onto the aircraft, many of the people on the flight line were stripped to the waist.

I take you to page ten of the report where there's discussion with Lieutenant Colonel Spencer of the 456 Munitions Maintenance Squadron where he talks about him being familiar with the processes for handling the more lethal munitions. He talks about the need for masks, rubber aprons, other protective items that would have had to have been used in the storage areas if sarin had been present. He also would have been aware of it. "If it was there I would have known it." These are on page ten.

Q: Was Operation TAILWIND a so-called black operation or was it merely classified? And can someone please explain what the difference between those two is?

General Armstrong: TAILWIND is a covert operation. Black is a term that, as a historian I'm aware of, but I can't give you a definition. That is more a slang term.

Covert operations were conducted in Laos specifically because the 1962 Geneva Accords had neutralized that country.

Q: So it was an unacknowledged mission at the time.

General Armstrong: That's true.

Q: You've done a lot on things that tend to disprove the CNN story. In all of the research that was conducted and everything else that you came across, with the possible exception of the key book that you talked about here, did you find anything which in your opinion could have led someone, either the two CNN producers or people they might have talked to, that might have given them the mistaken impression that these things were taking place? Did you find anything that could have led them down the wrong path?

Under Secretary de Leon: Our report was really what could we prove that we knew, not what did we assume. We went back to Professor Ernie May, the uses and misuses of history, and how decisionmakers always can cross themselves up by transitioning from what they absolutely know versus what they assume.

Again, it's the combination of five different reviews, and it's examining the document, it's examining what was written down at the time, and then in addition what people were saying 28 years later. It was the accumulation of that information. It's not to say that people didn't have disagreements or different recollections. Some SOG members say a gas mask was a common piece of equipment on every mission. Others say this was the first time we've used it. So there are differences of opinion.

But everything in terms of this mission came back to the fact that it was CS gas that was used; that the chain of command had authorized CS gas; that on the flight line that's what they said they were loading. That's consistent with the records, that's consistent with what the pilots said, that's consistent with what SOG members said, that's consistent with the written accounts. So from a historical point of view...

Q: What you're saying is that in going through all of this you did not find something which you could look at objectively and say that could have been misinterpreted and could have been part of whatever it was that sent these people down the wrong trail.

Under Secretary de Leon: My answer is I believe the historical record is very clear.

Q: I understand that. I'm not disputing what you found. I'm trying to see if there's a logical point to see where it was that people went wrong in putting this story together.

Under Secretary de Leon: That's one I just don't want to speculate on.

Q: The CNN report interviewed a retired Air Force sergeant who said he was inserted inside Laos before the mission, and he said he could see the camp, and that he saw suspected Americans. Did that mission ever take place?

Under Secretary de Leon: I don't believe so, and believe there is a statement from that individual indicating that he was never in Laos...

Q: No, you're thinking of Jay Graves.

Under Secretary de Leon: Right.

Q: I'm thinking of the retired Air Force Sergeant Cathey.

Voice: We found no record on it, and I believe our office didn't try to contact him, but I think DoD did try to contact him and he did not want to talk to us after the report. We went back and looked for his records as to where he was. He was over in Vietnam the whole time. His mission didn't glue in at all with even the comments that he was making. We checked all records and could find no reason why Cathey would have been in Laos unless he was on vacation. There's just nothing there. (Laughter)

Q: So what would you say he is a fraud ?

Voice: You'll have to make your own conclusions.

Under Secretary de Leon: We just can't find any information that he was there.

Press: Thank you.