DoD "Welcomes" CNN Retraction, Apology for Sarin Report

By Jim Garamone American Forces Press Service 07 July 1998 WASHINGTON -- DoD's senior spokesman said July 2 he welcomed CNN's retraction of its recent story alleging the U.S. use of sarin nerve agent in Laos in 1970 and the network's apology to veterans of the military action in question. "We believed those charges were wrong, and that's what our review so far shows," Ken Bacon said during a news briefing. The DoD review of what was known as Operation Tailwind will continue, he said. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen ordered the review right after CNN aired the report on June 7. CNN President Tom Johnson said a report written by media attorney Floyd Abrams, whom CNN called in for its in-house review, concluded the CNN NewsStand broadcast of "Valley of Death" cannot be supported. "There is insufficient evidence that sarin or any other deadly gas was used," Johnson said. "Furthermore, CNN cannot confirm that American defectors were targeted or at the camp as NewsStand reported." Bacon said he was particularly glad the news organization apologized 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-man team with its Montagnard allies collected valuable information on logistical procedures of the North Vietnamese army, Bacon said. "The story of this mission is really a story of incredible bravery and heroism by all 16 of the Americans who participated in it." Bacon said the DoD review shows no sign of sarin or any other nerve agent being used during Operation Tailwind. The Air Force did drop tear gas on North Vietnamese positions in order to allow Marine helicopters to evacuate the Army team. Of defectors, Bacon said, "There were rumors throughout the war that there were many more [U.S.] defectors, but we believe there were only two. One of those died in Cambodia in the mid-'70s. The other is now back in the United States." He said the original story does not help U.S. credibility. "Iraq made some statements after this report came out alleging, falsely, our use of chemical weapons," Bacon said. "We have worked very hard in this department, led by Secretary Cohen, to focus worldwide attention on the risks posed by weapons such as VX and sarin, and biological weapons such as anthrax. They are a threat to civil and stable countries and we're trying to address that threat." ##end##