Transcript of Oliver-Smith program on
                  CNN retraction of nerve-gas story

                  7.24.98

                  Bob Giles: Welcome to this media breakfast with Jack Smith and April Oliver, the producers of the CNN NewStand report on Operation Tailwind. I'm Bob Giles, senior vice president of The Freedom Forum, and executive director of the Media Studies Center. The Freedom Forum is the world's largest foundation devoted to free press and free speech. One of the missions of The Freedom Forum is to help improve journalism and to help the public and the press understand one another better.

                  One of our major projects at The Freedom Forum is called
"Free Press, Fair
                  Press," which is an examination of public concerns about
fairness in the news
                  media; and it is in that spirit that we present this
morning's program. This
                  program is being heard around the world on "free! radio,"
The Freedom
                  Forum's audio webcasting service. Our online listeners
are welcome to send
                  e-mail questions to our speakers today, at
talk@Mediastudies.org.

                  Our moderator this morning is Alex Jones, whose
distinguished career as a
                  newspaper journalist, author, host of the PBS program
"Media Matters" and
                  professor at Duke University is described in detail in
your program. Alex
                  thought so much of this program and its importance that
he agreed to break
                  off his vacation on the Carolina coast to be with us this
morning. He will
                  introduce our panel, and begin the discussion. Alex?

                  Alex Jones: Thank you, Bob. I've been asked to tell you
that we have just
                  about an hour for this, but after it's over, April Oliver
and Jack Smith will be
                  available for further questions, and those of you who
have them, on the
                  mezzanine levels, two levels above where we are right
now. I also want to
                  state that the Media Studies Center has offered to host a
similar opportunity
                  to speak to the meeting, to Floyd Abrams and to CNN, at
some later date.

                  Five weeks ago, the inaugural broadcast of "NewsStand" on
CNN began with
                  the following statement. "Earlier this year, the U.S.
nearly went to war with
                  Iraq over technical and biological weapons. CNN and Time,
after an
                  eight-month investigation, report that the U.S. military
used lethal nerve gas
                  during the Vietnam war. The producers of that report,
April Oliver and Jack
                  Smith, were later fired, after a review by Floyd Abrams,
at the instigation of
                  CNN, in the wake of a lot of controversy and attack of
the credibility and the
                  correctness of the piece. Floyd Abrams, in his report,
found fundamentally
                  that it was not supportable; that the charges were not
supportable, by the
                  journalism that he felt he had found in his review of the
interviews and other
                  supporting material." April Oliver and Jack Smith totally
reject that
                  conclusion. Yesterday, they jointly released a 78-page
rebuttal to the Abrams
                  report and fundamentally, that's what we're here to talk
about today.

                  April Oliver, your rebuttal concluded, "we stand by our
reporting and
                  producing on the Tailwind story." What do you hope would
happen as a result
                  of issuing the 78-page rebuttal to the Abrams report?

                  April Oliver: Well, I hope that people really read this
statement very carefully
                  and thoroughly. Our reporting for that 18-minute report
was based on this
                  reporting that we did. There were thousands of pages of
transcripts. Every
                  single line of that report, the Tailwind Report, from
early June, was
                  buttressed by multiple sources, some of which you don't
see on camera. And
                  that's one of the things that Abrams was hitting us on
very much was, "why
                  didn't you put this in? Why didn't you put that in?"
Because we weren't given
                  the time to put all of our sources on camera, and, in
addition, a number of
                  our sources were confidential sources, which we could not
breach.

                  Jones: What do you hope will happen?

                  Oliver: I hope that the media will move off of this whole
media circus about
                  Time versus CNN, and whether or not Peter Arnett should
be fired, and
                  concentrate on the fundamental journalist questions of
what happened out in
                  Laos in 1970, and come to the view that we had the
support necessary for the
                  claim, the journalistic claim that nerve gas was, indeed,
used out there.

                  Jones: Pared down to its ultimate issue, the factual
issue, it seems to me,
                  for most people, is the question of whether saying gas
was used. Do you feel
                  any uncertainty about whether that was in fact what
happened in Laos in
                  September of 1970?

                  Jack Smith: The information that we gathered for our
report not only
                  supports that it was used out there, but confirms that it
was used out there.
                  This, of course, in spite of what the Pentagon said
yesterday.

                  Jones: The Pentagon said yesterday categorically that it
did not.

                  Smith: That's correct. But I think what needs to be done
here is there has to
                  be a thorough review of what was said to us by the people
that we spoke
                  with, and questioned, and interviewed. This is a
source-based story, just as
                  the Pentagon review was based on personal recollections,
is their word, of
                  what happened out there. Our story is based on the
personal recollections of
                  the people that were there and were in the chain of
command at the time.

                  Jones: Look, one of the things that has been most
fascinating about this
                  whole situation is the fact that the two of you had been
so adamant in your
                  rejection of everything in the Abrams report. Was there
anything in the
                  Abrams report that you feel was a justified criticism of
you? Of the way you
                  conducted and the way the piece was put together?

                  Oliver: Well, I will say this, it's a very interesting
report, because they come
                  out and say, this piece of journalist was based on
exhaustive research.
                  There's no fabrication here. Her notes seem very
accurate. And then they go
                  on to conclude that despite all of that, despite all of
that, a couple of weeks
                  afterwards, with this new bar of burden of proof, that we
don't meet this new
                  bar of burden of proof. My fundamental objection to their
criticism, it still
                  continues to be, that they seem to have raised the bar
after the fact. What
                  we provided them earlier, CNN management ear lier, was
plenty, and in fact,
                  they were thrilled with it; they were sending me flowers
after this particular
                  piece aired.

                  Jones: One of the things that you say in the rebuttal,
and I'm quoting from
                  the rebuttal, "much of CNN's post-retraction coverage was
concentrated on
                  the assertion that the broadcast did not have proof.
Since when is this the
                  journalistic standard?" what do you mean by that?

                  Smith: Well, we mean precisely this. That, first of all,
that when you read
                  that first Tailwind story, and everybody at CNN top
management read it, it's
                  evident, just a common reading of it, that this is a
story based on what men
                  at war told us. What men at war told us. And CNN
management, before all the
                  furor erupted, was willing to go with that story. They
signed off on it.

                  Jones: Well, one of the things that I think was
effectively raised in the
                  Abrams report was, what should the burden be, when you
are making a charge
                  as inflammatory, as wounding, to America, in its dealings
with Iraq,
                  especially, as this? What should that standard be?

                  Smith: Well, if you go back and you read carefully, the
Abrams-Kohler report,
                  you will find there is not one word of mention of the
standard of proof in the
                  Abrams-Kohler report. CNN management made a leap, a leap,
after the
                  Abrams-Kohler report to this new standard of proof that
applies in the
                  criminal justice system. Not in the journalistic
community. There is nothing
                  in the Abrams-Kohler report that goes to the bar of
proof, and at what level it
                  must be ... it's not in there.

                  Jones: I have to disagree with you. This is from a very
fundamental
                  conclusion, I'm quoting from the Abrams report. "Our
central conclusion is
                  that although the broadcast was prepared after exhaustive
research, was
                  rooted in considerable supported data, and reflected the
deeply-held beliefs of
                  the CNN journalists who prepared it, the central thesis
of the broadcast could
                  not be sustained at the time of the broadcast itself, and
cannot be sustained
                  now. CNN's conclusion that United States troops used
nerve gas during the
                  Vietnamese conflict on a mission in Laos designed to kill
American defectors
                  is insupportable." That was his judgment, but that
certainly goes to the issue
                  of proof.

                  Oliver: Well, I would say this. Mr. Abrams, as far as we
can tell, and we don't
                  know for sure, since he never interviewed us after
reviewing the transcripts,
                  reviewing the tapes, as he had promised, he only spent,
at maximum, you
                  know, eight or nine days on this project, and we feel
that eight months of
                  research, he couldn't possibly have read every word of
our documents.

                  Jones: No, obviously he didn't.

                  Oliver: and in fact, we only know of two interviewee
tapes, two of our
                  interviewees, that he actually saw. We feel that how can
he make these
                  sweeping conclusions about what our proof is? When he
hasn't even mastered
                  the material at hand?

                  Jones: Let me ask you a hypothetical question. In light
of the adamant
                  denials by the Pentagon, and by other people, who are now
saying that they
                  were either misquoted, or tricked, in the case of Admiral
Moorer, and so
                  forth, what evidence would you accept as proving that
you're wrong about the
                  use of sarin gas on that operation. Is there anything
that could be
                  demonstrated, that would change your mind?

                  Smith: Well, as a reporter --

                  Jones: I mean as a reporter.

                  Smith: As a reporter, I'd say, show me. Show me what
you've got. And the
                  Pentagon, yesterday, says we have no evidence. We have no
evidence. So
                  they've got nothing to show.

                  Jones: They said that there is, as I understand their
report, I've read their
                  report, what they said, there is no evidence and this
material, sarin, was not
                  in Vietnam, categorically.

                  Oliver: Well, I can address that. One of the things that
really the turning
                  point for me on this story was in February, when I had
gotten in a list from
                  Maxwell Air Force base of A-1 pilots based at the secret
airbase in
                  [inaudible]. Networks for a community of about 24
different A-1 pilots who
                  are the guys who actually fly search and rescue, and the
guys that flew on this
                  mission, to drop the gas. Of those 24 pilots, our initial
cold calls speaking
                  with them, 12 of them or was it 13? Thirteen are
recognized, admitted to a
                  gas far stronger than tear gas, that was continually used
on search and rescue
                  missions. They would go on to describe it alternatively
as "sleeping gas,"
                  "nerve gas," GB gas or CBU-15 as a dedicated sarin nerve
gas weapon.

                  Jones: I'm glad you mentioned this. One of the things
that was not really
                  addressed in any of this, as far as I can recall, anyway,
I was struck by this in
                  your rebuttal. I was not aware of interviews with all
these A1 pilots. But one
                  of the things that struck me was, one of the arguments
against this
                  happening, is that using Sarin gas is a very, very tricky
thing, and it requires
                  very special handling. Rubber clothes, it can go into
your skin, all of these
                  kinds of things.

                  Oliver: That's what the Pentagon said! But if I could
address that --

                  Jones: O.K., let me ask you this. In your dealings with
these pilots, did any of
                  them mention anything about any special handling of the
gas that was put on
                  their planes?

                  Oliver: The first and most important issue here is that
there are a lot of
                  people that are believing a lot of lines out there about
Sarin nerve gas.
                  Another crucial turning point for me was last November,
when I started
                  networking through the chemical weapons munitions
community, and started
                  talking to the people that actually weaponized 30 million
pounds of sarin for
                  the U.S. military. Which was available to the U.S.
military in 1970, and,
                  consistently, the informed view of experts is that sarin
nerve gas is a
                  respiratory gas. It kills by breathing it. People are
mixing up sarin nerve gas
                  with the x(?) nerve gas. At the temperatures in Laos,
sarin is not lethal
                  through the skin. It evaporates faster than water.

                  Jones: But is it still plausible to you that this gas
would handled and loaded,
                  and no one, who is in incredible jeopardy from using it,
would have been told
                  anything about it?

                  Oliver: Well, there is the standard called "need to know."

                  Jones: But I mean, the people handling it, just putting
it on the plane?

                  Oliver: We are talking about 13 A1 pilots, who were
certainly aware of it. As
                  far as I could tell, the Pentagon only interviewed two
handlers.

                  Smith: We could never get to the NKP personnel. Save, I
believe, one
                  commander, who just said that it wasn't there. This was
his secret airbase,
                  and I think what we have I read the Pentagon report
yesterday, and you know
                  what struck me about it/ It sounded as though the entire
SOG operation, the
                  entire Tailwind operation, was a completely open and
conventional mission.
                  This was a black, black operation. This was a secret
operation, the deepest
                  military secret of the Vietnam war SOG. The war in Laos
was not covered,
                  virtually not covered, by journalists. If you read that
yesterday, that sounds
                  like we're talking about the 25th infantry.

                  Jones: Let me go on to another journalistic issue as far
as you all are
                  concerned. That's the fairness issue, which is one of the
things that Floyd
                  Abrams badgered you for. And in your rebuttal, you note
that in the 156 page
                  briefing book that you prepared, 35 pages of that were
devoted to CON this
                  didn't happen, this is not really what happened, this is
wrong. I don't know
                  quite what CON meant, but obviously it was a significant
amount of
                  information against the idea that this happened. My
understanding is that you
                  wanted to use that material in the report. But that is
not the thrust of the
                  report as I saw it. At all.

                  Oliver: We do have in this area [a source] in the person
of Captain McCarley.
                  You have to admit that he does say that I would not use
any lethal gas on my
                  missions. He also says, we stumbled upon that village by
accident ...

                  Jones: But you also said that he, off camera, said that
it could have been.

                  Oliver: ... and he did!

                  Jones: What I'm saying is these. One of the things that's
been suggested
                  here, is that he had a longer time. The thrust of the
story would have been
                  more, there is evidence, there is also evidence to the
contrary. That to the
                  contrary evidence did not make it into the 18 minute
segment, at least, from
                  my reading, it just wasn't there.

                  Smith: Well, Captain McCarley is the principal party in
that piece, in the first
                  Tailwind piece, who says, no defectors, no nerve gas. He
says that clearly in
                  the story.

                  Jones: I don't mean he didn't have a voice saying it, but
what I'm saying is
                  that you have made the argument that that was a
significant part of the
                  material that you had. Was it underrepresented?

                  Oliver: It was!

                  Smith: There was the Bishop quote.

                  Jones: Which was taken out.

                  Smith: We had him in there, he's a principal on the
mission that day, he, to
                  this day, says it's tear gas, he was in the report, cut
out in the final cut, in
                  Atlanta, to preserve Rick Kaplan's paragraph on
demonstrations in the United
                  States, in 1970, that's a very bad call in Atlanta.

                  Jones: But, journalistically, you know that you can put a
quote into a story,
                  the thrust of whom which is overwhelmingly one way, and
it doesn't really
                  balance it by saying so-and-so said something else.

                  Oliver: I'd like to address this, it's an extremely
important question. So many
                  of these vocal nay-sayers that came out of the closet the
week after the
                  broadcast, we approached before hand, and begged, to be
in the broadcast.
                  Like Henry Kissinger. People like Colonel John Saber, who
told us our requests
                  were in the trash-can, he was the SOG commander. There's
multiple, multiple
                  sources. Oh, Doc Rose, the medic, who was supposed to,
according to Mr.
                  Abrams, have included because he had the special medical
knowledge. Doc
                  Rose is crucial in this. We approached him last fall, and
he told us, oh, there
                  was no gas used. No gas used at all. The only reason I
had my gas mask on,
                  on the extraction zone, was to protect my face from the
pebbles being kicked
                  up by the helicopter.

                  Jones: This is some of the strongest material in your
rebuttal, in my opinion,
                  the stuff about Rose and the fact that he was saying one
thing and now saying
                  another.

                  Oliver: And it's been McCarley, too one of McCarley's
statements to our
                  credit, which we did not use, was and I want to make sure
I get this right, he
                  says, he told us on camera, "if being across board is
considered unethical, or
                  deniable, I reckon I'm denying it."

                  Jones: I guess I took that less seriously than you did
about that seems to be a
                  denial that nobody would believe for a moment.

                  Oliver: But that's what they were taught to say.

                  Jones: I know they were. But they were also taught to say
that nobody was in
                  Laos in the first place --

                  Oliver: ... and that was the U.S. official position, and
that's what the records
                  reflect.

                  Jones: Well, the thing is, that the Pentagon says one
thing, your people,
                  fundamentally, the best sources that you have, as Floyd
Abrams said in his
                  statement, are off-camera, and in many cases, are off the
record. They're
                  anonymous, none of the pilots is ever identified, for
instance, none of the
                  three critical sources that you use, who really had the
most direct, absolute,
                  authoritative say that this happened were willing to come
forward. One of the
                  things that surprised me is that in all this furor,
people haven't come of the
                  woodwork. These people have not said, see the kind of
distress you guys were
                  in, if nothing else, we will say it on the record. We'll
be here, and we'll stand
                  up and say did you ask them? Did you try to get them to
come forward?

                  Smith: You know, the furor that arose after this story
was enormous. The
                  pressure that was brought to bear on people that were in
this story has been
                  enormous/ This comes from the veterans' organizations,
the special forces
                  group, the commandos association. There was one source
that received a
                  death threat, some got a death threat over the telephone.
This has not been
                  a cricket game out there, for these men who had the
courage to come
                  forward and talk to us. They have taken an enormous
amount of heat. Their
                  lives were wrapped up in the Army; they were wrapped up
in being
                  commandos. They had the guts to come out and tell us
about what happened
                  over there, and now, from their own community, that's
just like I'm a member
                  of the journalism community, they're a member of the
soldiers' community,
                  the full force of the soldiering community came at them
afterwards.

                  Jones: But I have to say, I'm surprised that nobody has
stepped forward to
                  say, "listen, " I mean people who were not identified,
who's come forward the
                  thing is, this is one of those situations, it seems to
me, you're talking about
                  something that happened almost thirty years ago,
something that there's
                  huge emotion about, and something that if you are, in
fact, right about sarin,
                  it was dropped without the people on the ground knowing
about it, without
                  the pilots knowing about it, and it's certainly in
violation of American policy.

                  Oliver: Why should they put their lives and reputations
and jobs on the line
                  for a story which CNN management didn't even have the
guts to stand by?

                  Jones: Let me ask you. Did you try to get them to come
forward? Did you
                  approach them about it?

                  Smith: Approach which people?

                  Jones: The anonymous sources you had many anonymous
sources that were
                  quoted in your rebuttal, anyway. And the three especially
the three critical
                  ones that were used.

                  Smith: The confidential sources will remain confidential.

                  Jones: I'm not meaning that you expose them. I'm saying,
did you ask them,
                  exact a confidential source from the trial, did you say,
my career is in the
                  sea, and I'm not I need somebody to come forward and help
me.

                  Smith: Confidential sources will remain confidential, on
both sides of the
                  equation.

                  Jones: I don't quite follow.

                  Smith: Well, they don't want their identity known. And we
certainly are not
                  going to tell anybody.

                  Jones: Did you pitch them, Jack? Did you try to persuade
them?

                  Smith: To ... ?

                  Jones: To come forward.

                  Smith: Well, confidential sources have to remain
confidential. And if you try
                  and persuade them to come forward, then you're going to
reveal their
                  confidentiality.

                  Jones: I mean privately, of course. Certainly you could
call your source, and
                  say, listen, would you think about it? I'm not trying to
trick you here, but is
                  that something that you're reluctant to say, one way or
the other? What about
                  the pilots?

                  Oliver: Well, I think there's an interesting dynamic
here. I think that, of
                  course, CNN management would have been delighted to have
met with a
                  number of our sources. I'm not saying that the request
was not made of us by
                  CNN management; but I think you have to go back to the
standard of Deep
                  Throat and Katherine Graham here. I don't think that
Katherine Graham ever
                  demanded to meet eye-to-eye with Deep Throat. And I'm not
sure that it
                  would have been appropriate for her to make that demand.

                  Jones: But then Bradley demanded to know who Deep Throat
was.

                  Oliver: Yeah, but he didn't demand to meet with them. So,
are we changing
                  the standard here, of confidential sources, by this hue
and outcry?

                  Jones: Well, you've been fired; the story has been
discredited by your own
                  employer. I mean, you're here today rebutting; and if you
had those guys
                  standing behind you, it would give you a lot of ammo.

                  Smith: But CNN caved on the story. What incentive is
there for anybody to
                  come forward?

                  Jones: I give it to you, to look out there (indicating
audience). There's a lot
                  of interest in this story.

                  Smith: There's a lot of interest in the story, and that's
what has to be
                  accomplished here. Is that we hope that journalists will
move forward on it. In
                  fact, the one thing that we agree with on the
Abrams-Kohler report is,
                  reporting should go forward on it.

                  Jones: I think that anybody (who) reads your rebuttal
cannot help but be
                  persuaded, that there are a lot of people who think this
happened.

                  Oliver: If I could just address a further point. After
the broadcast, we were
                  flooded with new admissions, other missions where this
occurred. You have to
                  be discerning because you don't know how many of these
people are calling
                  just because they've seen our show. But, we went to great
efforts in checking
                  out one of these sources, who sounded creditable to us,
he talked the right
                  speech, he talked the talk and walked the walk. His
paperwork checked out.
                  We flew down to where he was, interviewed him on camera.
He told a very
                  similar tale about going into Cambodia in 1970, with a
team, to wipe out
                  defectors, and was caught out with the use of what he
absolutely termed on
                  camera was nerve gas. He was issued Atrope, and he was
issued a special gas
                  mask. This was these are three tapes that are sitting on
CNN's shelf right
                  now, that I truly believe will never see the light of
air. Because CNN has
                  decided, has made a corporate decision, to kill this
story. They don't want any
                  more, as far I can tell, they want any more reporting it.
I had to sit there and
                  listen, on the day I was fired, to speech by a manager
saying, we're going to
                  drive a stake through the heart of this story, so it's
dead and it never comes
                  back again. I do not believe this is an appropriate
journalistic position for any
                  journalistic company to take.

                  Jones: Do you have knowledge or evidence that the
Pentagon's account of the
                  use of a very potent tear gas was not, in fact, possibly
what was used,
                  because it sounds plausible to me.

                  Smith: I'm no expert in --

                  Jones: ... sounds plausible to me ...

                  Smith: ... in the command history of SOG; you will read
that on terawin,
                  CS/CN gas which now, which is it?

                  Jones: CS and CN are both tear gas, and one is a heavy,
heavy dose of it.

                  Oliver: ... on what this ...

                  Smith: ... but if you read the command history of SOG --
incidentally, we
                  asked for that in December of 1997. And they never gave
it to us. And why,
                  we must ask, the Pentagon sat on this information for
virtually six months,
                  when it was declassified, they could have given that to
us. But in that
                  command history, if you read it, and you've got to do a
lot of reading on this
                  story, it says, (that) on Tailwind, CS/CN it may be
reversed, but combo gases
                  were used. Now they're saying, it was CS. Now, which is
it, Pentagon? Did you
                  use CS/CN or did you use CS?

                  Jones: CS, could a major hit of CS with I mean, a big one
could it have done
                  this?

                  Oliver: I would just like to address this, since I did a
lot of the chemical work.
                  We interviewed multiple chemical sources. Multiple. These
are men who
                  weaponized chemicals. Almost uniformly, not absolutely,
but almost
                  uniformly, the response back was, CS was a tear gas. It
makes you cry. The
                  Army abandoned using CS ... in the open field because it
just disperses too
                  quickly. They did use CS in tunnels in Vietnam, where you
can [use] really
                  heavy concentrations to drive people out, and thereby get
your objective. But
                  in the open fields, two A1 aircraft.

                  Jones: ... these big things, it was exploding gas, could
not have done that
                  job.

                  Oliver: Can I explain about that big thing, that big
dispenser that everybody's
                  describing, the big box? The special experimental CS
weapon that they're
                  describing is the same dispenser as the standardized GB
nerve gas dispenser.
                  Those pilots cannot see inside that dispenser, to see
what's inside there. It is
                  that big box, that big, special box they're describing,
is the dispenser, which
                  GB nerve gas comes out of. It's the only dispenser it
comes out of.

                  Jones: We're going to go to the audience in just one
moment, but first, I
                  want to ask you about the personal toll this is taking on
you. The two of you.

                  Smith: Well, the personal toll is this. The biggest
disappointment was CNN's
                  cave. CNN's gagging us during that two-week period; CNN's
spiking any
                  further reporting to go forward; Kaplan, it was his own
idea, let's do the
                  opposing voices of Tailwind, a full hour. The whole team
was ready to do
                  that. All of a sudden, it's dead. Pam Miller and I,
scheduled on "Reliable
                  Sources," pulled off. We're gagged for two weeks as we
watched our corporate
                  leadership, Kaplan and Tom Johnson, cave under this
pressure. That was the
                  biggest disappointment in this whole situation. I can
take a firing; but it was
                  very, very difficult to watch CNN's execs collapse and
not go forward. What's
                  CNN got? It's got air time. Let us expand all the views
on Tailwind here. The
                  old CBS principle of fairness and balance says, you must
do it over time. You
                  don't need to do it in any single report, but you must
have fairness and
                  balance over time.

                  Jones: What about you?

                  Oliver: I'm nine months pregnant. I have a rash, I'm not
sleeping. But I feel
                  very proud of what we're doing. I think it's the right
stand to have. I am very
                  grateful to Jack. I don't know if I would have had the
courage to take on CNN,
                  and Time-Warner, Floyd Abrams and the Pentagon, as well!
But, this work is
                  grounded not just in the past eight months, but in a
prior piece. It was not
                  done casually, and I think that the appropriate
journalistic stand, given the
                  amount of sources that we had, given the amount of
information that we had,
                  is not to cave to military pressure, but to put out the
information to the
                  people that really want it, and really want to understand
the depth and
                  breadth of what went into it.

                  Jones: I think it must be said that in their rebuttal,
they are inviting
                  journalism deans, journalism professors, others who may
be may be
                  interested, to examine all of this material, to compare
it with what was on
                  the air, and to come to their own conclusions, but you've
got a job ahead of
                  you, I assure you. It's a lot of material.

                  OK, let's go to the audience.

                  Jane Hoff, L.A. Times: This is obviously a complicated
story. You issued 78
                  pages. The thing that I still don't quite understand in
reading Admiral Moorer's
                  quotes. You say that that is confirmation, and the
criticism is that you seem
                  to be asking him a hypothetical question. Did you say to
him, did we drop
                  nerve gas, and he said, yes? That's puzzling to me.

                  Oliver: Certainly. Do you want to take this one?

                  Smith: Go ahead.

                  Oliver: In the first on-camera interview, which was the
second meeting with
                  him, we approached the question different ways. As
anybody in a
                  reporter-source relationship knows, there can be
equivocating at the
                  beginning. Further into that interview, I asked him a
question, which I
                  believed was phrased something like, "doesn't Tailwind
prove Tailwind prove
                  that CBU-15 is an effective weapon?" He responds "yes,"
to the CBU-15, which
                  is a dedicated sarin nerve gas weapon. I went back to
meet with him, in May;
                  we talked extensively about the wider use of sarin nerve
gas, and he told me
                  that this weapon was by and large for certain rescue
missions, and it was
                  used a great deal more out there than people realize; in
addition, I went back
                  out to him a fourth time, for him to read the script. He
read the script, and
                  signed off on it. We went out there a fifth time, the day
after the broadcast,
                  with Jack Smith in his presence; Jack Smith asked him
directly, "sir, you did
                  tell April Oliver that sarin nerve gas was used on this
mission." And three
                  times, during the course of that two-hour conversation,
he said yes.

                  Jones: Yes?

                  Marlene Sanders: As a former (CBS News) correspondent and
producer, I'm
                  very interested in the role of Peter Arnett, because you
can spend a lot of
                  time, or you can be the "face." According to published
reports, he said he did
                  two interviews, left to do something else, and came back,
raised a few
                  questions, and read the script. Could you describe
exactly how much time he
                  spent and what his role was in the production?

                  Smith: Yes. Peter's participation I would rate at about
20%. You've worked on
                  stories and I know you a bit from CBS days, and you were
a reporter ... to the
                  top of your head. I think that magazine reporting,
however, in television, we
                  all know that you have a ratio here of participation, and
it can range from
                  very little to 110%. And I put Peter at 20%, based on
doing three interviews,
                  reading the briefing book, talking extensively about our
sourcing. April Oliver
                  is a very, very good writer, and I'm a pretty good
editor. We wrote a bloody
                  good script. Arnett didn't have to change the words in
there, as long as he
                  was satisfied with the foundation on which they were
built, and he was. So,
                  give him 20% on this story.

                  Now, furthermore, my last talk with Peter was there.
"Peter, come on back,
                  come on back and read every word that's in those binders
of ours, and make
                  your judgment after that." And I think Peter will do that.

                  Richard Powell, Associated Press: I have two questions.
Number one, you
                  have a story here that essentially accuses American
troops of a war crime.
                  You have a lot of people who you're talking to who are
disputing this story.
                  Which means that it's quite sensitive, and quite
controversial. CNN had two
                  in-house people, one a paid military consultant, a
retired major general, the
                  other, one of the most experienced reporters from the
Vietnam war, who
                  covered Vietnam and Laos. Why weren't either of these two
people asked to
                  look at this material, vett it, and render opinions,
together or separately, on
                  the value of this story, and the validity of it?

                  The other question is --

                  Jones: Let's take one at a time.

                  Oliver: You're talking about Perry Smith, and who's your
second person?

                  Powell: Peter Arnett.

                  Oliver: Peter Arnett read every single preinterview, and
every single
                  interview. And he would not have participated on this
show unless he had
                  believed it 100%.

                  Jones: But he said he should have blown the whistle on it.

                  Oliver: I cannot explain Peter's quote on that line.
Peter participated fully,
                  from April he took time off in April and May just to be
available to us for this
                  program. He came under a lot of pressure, and I'm not
sure what took place in
                  management meetings, when he was trying to keep his job.
I'm sure he had a
                  lot of different motives for saying different things. But
as of the time we
                  went to broadcasting, in the week, even the second week
afterwards, he was
                  behind us 100%.

                  Jones: Now, what was your second?

                  Powell: Did anybody raise the question concerning
defectors. That if you're
                  going to go after defectors, why you would kill these
people rather than try to
                  capture them, since the defectors would be the most
valuable sources of
                  information on various topics, including other American
MIAs?

                  Oliver: We put that question directly to a number of
people, including Admiral
                  Moorer. And Admiral Moorer's response to us on that
particular question was
                  that in this particular case, a determination first of
all, we wanted to make
                  sure that he understood that there were no POWs in this
camp, and he said,
                  no, the determination was made that there weren't POWs,
these were
                  defectors. And he said that he understood that a
particular group at this
                  particular site was to be too large a group to capture;
that it would endanger
                  too many American commandos' lives to try to capture such
a large group. In
                  principle, his feeling was that, yes, you do try to
capture individuals or small
                  groups, if that's at all possible, because it is better
intelligence. But when you
                  have such a large group, it poses a problem.

                  Jones: What about the issue of Perry Smith, though? The
question was, why
                  was he not included?

                  Smith: Perry Smith is a military analyst. I don't know
the man very well. I
                  never worked with him except I think he was on a lecture,
twice, perhaps a
                  weekend broadcast that I may have produced. But he was
always seen as the
                  analyst who for lack of a better term was a megaphone for
the Pentagon. And
                  would carry the water for the military and the air force.
And I think there has
                  to be a certain separation between those who had that
role as an analyst,
                  wedded to the military, and the reporting side. Kaplan
certainly had this
                  position throughout the couple of weeks leading up to the
broadcast.

                  The position that Perry Smith should not have been
brought, Johnson had a
                  different view. Tom Johnson had a different view, and
Rick Kaplan's view was
                  Perry Smith shouldn't have been brought in. So I think
you need to go to those
                  two fellows to work that one out.

                  Jones: Let me ask about another member of your team, Pam
Hill, who has
                  said that the program should not have been aired, that it
was proper that
                  Abram's report, basically, was on the money. How do you
feel about that? Do
                  you give any credence to her judgment?

                  Smith: Well, we give credence to Pam Hill's judgment,
because she's a fine
                  executive producer, and was a very good boss. And one of
the tragic
                  consequences of the CNN executive suite just collapsing
was that she's out of
                  work, too, after a distinguished career. I'd just say the
same to Pam, and I
                  haven't had many I haven't had any long conversations
with her, that she, too,
                  now that we've got a lot of time, should sit down and
read everything. Read
                  everything in the transcripts. Go forward from A to Z.
Read the rebuttal.
                  Carefully analyze it, and then see where you come.

                  Oliver: Pam's involvement in this particular issue did
come towards the end.
                  And the Abrams report is extremely selective in the
quotes that it used. It
                  almost seems to purposefully undermine each of our
sources. The quotes that
                  they used, for instance, with Admiral Moorer, they used
an equivocating first
                  quote from Admiral Moorer, where he's not decided how
much to cooperate
                  with us, to say, whoops! See, he didn't confirm, because
in the very first
                  interview, he says, no, I'm not absolutely confirming
this for you. I think that
                  our rebuttal should be reviewed with the same scrutiny
that that Abrams
                  report was viewed. I certainly welcome Pam Hill to read
our rebuttal, as well.

                  Jones: Do you, as journalists, have any real reservations
about depending on
                  memory in a case like this, and so little on
documentation? Because it's been
                  my experience that memory is the least reliable way to
figure out what
                  happened, especially a long time ago.

                  Smith: Well, when you've got other witnesses to events,
and you've got
                  people high up in the chain of command, you can't do much
better than that,
                  in terms of their stories. Which is what we reported.

                  Jones: You could do better if you had documentation.

                  Smith: Well, we could! But, you know what? We were
dealing with a black
                  operation here. We were dealing with a Pentagon which
wouldn't give us a
                  scrap of paper, number one and, Alex, it was available!

                  Jones: I understand.

                  Smith: Plenty available!

                  Jones: Could you have done better with people who
actively were involved,
                  standing up, and saying --

                  Oliver: Well, we had let's not forget, we had four people
on camera, actively
                  involved, standing up and saying --

                  Jones: They were the ones who it was dropped on. I mean,
the people who
                  were, who had, who said, I know that they used sarin, I
saw these documents,
                  I was in a position to know.

                  Oliver: So are those documents?

                  Jones: I was part of the command structure.

                  Oliver: A black operation, the very purpose of it is to
conceal the truth. I'm
                  not dependent on saying there's lots of documents, but if
I could just point
                  out that even these men's awards, their silver stars,
their citations, some of
                  this action took place in Vietnam, not in Laos. The
standard practice on a
                  black operation, before you commit anything to paper, is
to figure out what
                  the cover story is, what the code words are, that go down
to represent what
                  really happened out there, to misrepresent what really
happened out there.

                  Olive Talley, ABC News: First of all, I want to applaud
you for having the
                  courage and the willingness to step forward to discuss
these things. But, two
                  questions, please. One is, would you please specifically
enumerate those
                  sources and the number of sources, in addition to Admiral
Moorer, who were
                  willing to, on the record, say this gas was used?
Secondly, did it not give you
                  pause when Admiral Moorer finally said, yes, I'm
confirming your report. But
                  you didn't have him on camera stating flatly and
unequivocally that fact.

                  Oliver: I'm more -- I felt very confident of Moorer
because he read the script.
                  That is an unusual step to take with any source. And I
have to tell you, he
                  read it very carefully, for a period of 20 to 30 minutes.
He read it so closely,
                  that he was reading word for word, and challenged me on
one word. He was
                  the reason I went out there that day was that we thought
it would be a
                  controversial report. We wanted the extra layer of peace
of mind, that this
                  man would be prepared if the whole world's media ended up
on his doorstep
                  next Monday morning, some of which happened.

                  What happened with Admiral Moorer the next day was that,
the way he
                  explained it to me and Jack, was he said, look, people
today don't understand
                  the context of the times back then. That may be true.
This is a very different
                  era from 28 years ago. And then he went on to say, and
people are taking my
                  appearance on your program, what I said on your program,
they're implying
                  that I authorized this operation, that I signed off of
it, I ordered it, I
                  authorized it. And Admiral Moorer simply does not want to
be the man to go
                  down in history as the person responsible for this. And
that's why he explained
                  directly to us, he was wavering after the fact. He gave
us his absolute
                  sign-off before hand, so that's why I had that extra
confidence regarding that
                  report.

                  Smith: What needs to be --

                  Oliver: In terms of my enumerating my sources, could we
please clarify that?

                  Smith: Just a word on that. What hasn't been addressed
here this morning is
                  the fact that Abrams-Kohler breached source
confidentiality in their report.
                  Their rush to judgment, their speed, which created
sloppiness, which created
                  recklessness, which violated the fundamental, the
cardinal tenet of us as
                  reporters, is maintaining the confidentiality of our
sources. It was breached
                  by these lawyers, because they were speeding around that
track, they had to
                  get that report finished before the Fourth of July
weekend, so CNN could
                  dump it in the Independence Day holiday, when not many
people are not
                  paying attention to the news, and lo and behold, what was
next week, the
                  critics conference in Pasadena, the critics conference in
Pasadena, Johnson,
                  Kaplan, all the rest of those guys wanted to go out there
with the apology in
                  hand, the retraction in hand, they did not want that
story alive, they wanted a
                  stake through its heart when they went out to Pasadena,
to face the critics.
                  This was the reason that you had this hastily-prepared
review by Abrams and
                  Kohler, to meet that artificial deadline.

                  Jones: I have to say one thing before we go on, to make
sure that this is
                  clear. The violation of the confidentiality, such as it
was, was not a matter of
                  revealing the sources of your information. That was not
in the Abrams-Kohler
                  report.

                  Oliver: There were some sources mentioned that should not
have been.

                  Smith: There was let me say this, there's a bit of a bind
here, because
                  damage was done. With respect to confidentiality of
sources in the
                  Abrams-Kohler report. To discuss it further multiplies
the damage.

                  Jones: One of the things that --

                  Smith: ... multiplies the damage.

                  Jones: The most surprising thing about that was one of
your critical sources
                  was someone you never interviewed, but had to deal with
through an
                  intermediary. [Do you think that] was a violation?

                  Smith: That arrangement? Again, damage has been done. I
cannot multiply it.

                  Jones: OK, I just wanted to make it clear.

                  Oliver: I want to follow up on your question, because I
just want to remind
                  people that in the piece, there was not just Admiral
Moorer talking about
                  sarin nerve gas ... there were two references made.
Forrest Jay Graves, a
                  reconnaissance officer, who says it was GB, GB, the sarin
nerve gas, we had
                  Bob van Buskirk, who did multiple interviews over the
course of eight months,
                  from the beginning, has called it either a lethal war gas
or nerve gas. Bob van
                  Buskirk never said the word sarin to me, that is true. We
discovered that
                  from our research. But he did use the word nerve gas, and
even on camera,
                  he tells that he was briefed before hand, by an Air Force
colonel that the gas
                  could be lethal. So there is Bob; and then there's Mike
Hagan, on camera, who
                  says flatly, this was not incapacitating gas, the
government wants to call it
                  incapacitating gas. This was nerve gas. And it's a
deduction on his part, in
                  part because he's paralyzed from the knees down; his
doctor has diagnosed it
                  as nerve gas poisoning; the government has told him that
it can't be nerve
                  gas poisoning...when you look at these statements, and I
know it's frustrating
                  for those many critics out there haven't seen a piece,
they're reading it,
                  maybe maybe they're reading it but they haven't seen it.
And if you watch this
                  particular piece of recording, there's no one
unequivocal. They're unequivocal
                  when they state these things. For them to break secrecy
oaths and come
                  forward is impressive, and with the amount of confidence
that they say it
                  with, is impressive to me, too.

                  Jones: Yes.

                  Mike Godwin, Media Studies Center fellow: My question is
and I speak as
                  someone who has seen the piece, I came away from the
piece still skeptical,
                  and this is why. Even if we assume that one part of the
nation, or one of the
                  goals of the people in the mission was to kill defectors,
neutralized defectors,
                  I can't quite accept the marginal utility of using nerve
gas as opposed to a
                  more acceptable weapon. At the time of this mission, you
know, we had a
                  very public war, the potential downside of it being
publicized, that this
                  particular weapon was used, was pretty great. And I don't
it doesn't make
                  military or political or strategic sense to me.

                  Oliver: If I could address that. Let's take political and
strategic. I scratched
                  my head for quite a long time on that one, because it was
a big risk. What
                  one of our very senior confidential sources told us was
they recognized that
                  risk, but for the MVA to complain about it publicly, they
would have to reveal
                  that they were in Laos. And the MVA's public position
was, we're not there.
                  We're not using the Ho Chi Minh trail. So that was the
political rationale. If
                  they complain about it, we'll have to out them, that
they're in Laos.

                  As far as tactical concerns goes, this was a big
breakthough in my thinking,
                  and our thinking, when I came across the research, that
in fact, you just
                  needed an NBC gas mask. You look at the situation
tactically, there are 16
                  men and 100 plus mountain rides, surrounded by enemy,
they're out of
                  ammunition, they haven't slept in three days, they all
think they're going to
                  die. The only advantage they have over the enemy, is that
they're sitting up
                  on a ridge line above them, with three anti-aircraft
guns. They've got the gas
                  masks, and the enemy doesn't. They'll get out alive. 3500
enemy die. I ask
                  you, is that tactically nonsensical? Or was it effective?

                  Gary Monsemeter, Fox News Channel: I wanted to ask you
about a couple of
                  your principal sources in the piece. First of all,
Sergeant Jay Graves, who,
                  according to your report, was a recon team leader, who
positively identified
                  American defectors in Laos. Peter Arnett reported that he
made this I.D.
                  relayed it back to the base in Kontil.

                  Oliver: The team made the I.D.

                  Monsemeter: They sent -- he was told, according to the
script, wait for the
                  hatchet force that went in to execute the defectors. I
interviewed Mr.
                  Graves; he told me on camera he was never in Laos; he was
in Vietnam. I've
                  got his military records; the military records shows that
he was not in SOG,
                  he was part of the mobile strike force, based at
Ma-trang. That still wasn't
                  good enough. I then tracked down his battalion commander,
and two other
                  members of his company in the strike force, who
distinctly remember him on
                  an operation in ICORP in the Happy Valley in Vietnam, not
Laos.

                  Secondly, four sergeants in the first platoon, a Roscoe,
Vivell, Sherer, and
                  Schmidt, talking about the assault on the base, not a
village, but an MVA
                  logistics base, where the 559 North Vietnamese
transportation company. All
                  four said, on the record, they saw no Caucasians, let
alone defectors; there
                  was no gas attack on the base on the previous night. They
saw no women and
                  children, and in fact they saw no MVA. There was no enemy
contact in that
                  assault, until after they left.

                  Oliver: ... no enemy contact.

                  Monsemeter: They said no enemy contact until they left
this area. Now, the
                  reason why I cite their particular testimony is
significant, is because all four
                  served directly under Lieutenant van Buskirk, their
platoon leader. Now all
                  four of these men, his NCOs, directly contradict
everything that Lieutenant
                  van Buskirk. How do you explain that? These men haven't
seen each other for
                  28 years, and yet their testimony is unanimous, in that
there were no
                  Caucasians or defectors.

                  Oliver: The testimony is unanimous after the fact, maybe.
Their testimony to
                  us before the fact is quite different, and you will see
some of that reporting
                  laid out. Graves, I would like to address head on. Of
course, in a black
                  operation, his 201 form will say he was not there. No
one's 201 form is going
                  to say that they were in Laos. This was a black
operation; the way the
                  government maintains its blackness, is by having paper
that all these men
                  were someplace else. And I find it very interesting that
both Graves and
                  Cathey would turn around and refusing to recant when they
came under great
                  pressure; Graves came under a death threat in order to
recant. I find it very
                  interesting that these were the 201 forms, that were
somehow leaked, we can
                  only assume, by the Pentagon, to discredit them. My
understand was that it's
                  not legal for a 201 form to be given out to anyone other
than the veteran
                  themselves, without their permission. But as far -- but
it takes six weeks,
                  and these 201 forms were out right after the event. That
can only have come
                  from the Pentagon. That was Special Forces Association.
So, as far as Jay
                  Graves' credibility goes, because there's no paper work
that proves he's there,
                  where his commanding officers say he isn't there, I don't
accept that because
                  I sat with Jay Graves for many hours over multiple
meetings on the phone and
                  in person, and in the first cold call, when I said the
word "Tailwind," he says,
                  "Oh, yeah! That's the mission where we went in on that
prayer that you can't
                  slash(phrase?) hospital, and wiped it out, marine
trappers went down,
                  marines pulled them out, but it was a big hatchet force
team." He knew that
                  mission from beginning, middle to end. Without having
barely to ask the
                  questions. You don't get that kind of accuracy on a cold
call unless the man
                  was there.

                  We also went to the extra step of getting corroborating
sources that he was
                  out there. And we do have a corroborating source in
another reconnaissance
                  man, who said, "oh, yes, Graves was out there. I was out
there, just ahead of
                  him." So, it's not surprising at all that Graves would be
pulled from
                  Wong-Ton, which was the SOG's elite special commando
school. This was a
                  very important mission. This was one of the most
important missions of that
                  war. They want the most experienced people out there,
doing the
                  reconnaissance. Jay Graves was one of the most experience.

                  Smith: Let me just add that Jay Graves told our people
down at the Special
                  Forces convention in Albuquerque, that he stood by every
word on the tape,
                  our tape. So, and I think you reported in your report
that the SOG team was
                  out there to execute. You used the word execute, right?
Execute defectors --

                  Monsemeter: No, I didn't.

                  Smith: Yes, you did. I believe you did. ... (inaudible)

                  Monsemeter: No, I said in that report --

                  Smith: No, we never used the word execute. You used the
word execute. We
                  said they were out there big difference, execute is when
you kneel somebody
                  down and you shoot them in the back of the head. When you
go out to kill
                  defectors, you go out to kill them as the enemy.

                  Oliver: Do you want to address the four other men?

                  Jones: No, let's go on to another question. Yeah, right
here.

                  Dick Telfo, Dow Jones: At the very beginning of this, you
said, Ms. Oliver, I
                  think that you had asked for more time for this
reporting, and I thought you
                  strongly suggested that a number of the things that Floyd
Abrams says should
                  have been in the report. What if that request had been
granted, could you
                  walk us through how much time you asked for, who said no,
when they said
                  no, whether you repeated your request, and why you
decided to accede to that
                  judgment?

                  Oliver: We asked for an hour, [inaudible] brought us an
outline for a program
                  that was one hour long. The word came down from
management that we don't
                  do documentaries, we're a magazine unit now, and maybe
we'd get two
                  segments, but for now, keep in mind that the guidelines
were fourteen
                  minutes for this piece. In any event, we did convince
them to get two
                  segments out of it, and the piece ran at eighteen
minutes. But the decision,
                  in the end, for how long it would be, was directly Pam
Harris and Jim
                  Connors, who are CNN management.

                  Jones: Would it have been more equivocal if it was longer?

                  Smith: Well, I think that if it had been longer, we
probably would have done it
                  later in the year, because there was we were putting a
new broadcast on, and
                  in order to do an hour, we would have had to have gone
back and done some
                  more interviews. We would have given our eyeteeth to have
taken some more
                  time to get some of the pilots on camera. And I think we
could have filled it
                  out with some other officials, perhaps those with
contrary views. We would
                  have certainly gone back to Henry Kissinger, and
requested of Mr. Kissinger,
                  who was of course President Nixon's National Security
Advisor at the time, to
                  see if he would come forward and speak on that, this
topic. And of course, to
                  my knowledge, to this hour, he has not. He only chooses
to disclose what he
                  knows.

                  Jones: I guess what I'm saying, was it a different piece
with the thrust of it?

                  Smith: It's always different no, the thrust of it isn't,
but the elements are.

                  Jones: ... the thrust was ... unequivocal ...

                  Smith: No, no, the thrust was there, but the elements
that you could put into
                  it are obviously different, as we only had half the time.

                  Jurgen Sanders, Group Division: Does anyone recall that
the United States
                  military still functions under the Poindexter Rules of
Information? Admiral
                  Poindexter, a blast from the past, was, maybe you'll
recall, in the heyday of
                  his years, and the Reagan-Bush administration, it
occurred one day that if the
                  military thought it appropriate, they would reserve the
right to conduct a
                  policy of disinformation, whenever it seemed desirable.
And that despite his
                  fall from grace, the Poindexter Rules of Disinformation
have never reversed.
                  Would this be a factor in what's going on?

                  Oliver: I think there's no question that this is a
factor. I watched Secretary
                  Cohen release the Pentagon Report yesterday, and his
first statement was
                  something to the effect of "these men, who are sitting
here with me, are
                  living proof that nerve gas could not possibly have been
used." And I'm
                  saying, "they're living proof that it WAS." Because they
were in an impossible
                  situation, where they would not have gotten out alive,
unless they had had s
                  special last-resort weapon, that they were protected
from, mostly, and the
                  enemy wasn't. It was dropped approximately 1,000 meters
away from them,
                  on top of the enemy. So I think there's no question, but
do you have to face
                  that?

                  Jones: Yeah?

                  Lynn Degets Holmes, the Australian: I know that in your
rebuttal, you didn't
                  have the opportunity to take into consideration the
Coward press conference
                  and [General Singlaub] saying, 'We repeatedly said to
April, our people said to
                  her, April, this didn't happen, you're on the wrong
track.' Would you comment
                  on that?

                  Oliver: General Singlaub's presence and his comments I
read with great
                  interest. I would refer everyone back to my September
piece that was the
                  predecessor to this piece, September 14, 1997, in which
General Singlaub
                  says on CNN Airspace, something to the effect that and
this is paraphrased,
                  because I don't have the exact quote in front of me, but
he goes, "I had
                  requested of the Pentagon an incapacitating agent," and
he goes on to
                  describe the incapacitating agent as being something that
knocks the enemy
                  out so that they're paralyzed, and he goes to tell us
that it affects the human
                  nervous system, that it's sometimes lethal; that it
requires an antidote,
                  although at the time, he refused to name for me what the
name of the agent
                  was. That quote, that on-camera quote, was the starting
point for me, of this
                  next chapter of reporting. I got lots of calls after that
particular quote aired;
                  many of them from people who said, "don't pursue this,
you're opening a can
                  of worms that we don't want opened and we will make you
pay for it if you
                  do."

                  Other people called me to say, "Finally! Finally,
someone's telling our story!"
                  and I will tell you that the reason many of the people
that stepped forward on
                  camera that did come forward was the very fact that a
retired two-star
                  general went on CNN Airspace, and said the words referred
to as "a gas" or a
                  dark gun, incapacitating agent, human nervous system,
sometimes lethal, for
                  them it was a sign that it's o.k. to talk about it now.
And so, as far as this
                  piece, yes, we talked to General Singlaub for this piece.
He is quoted in our
                  piece on defectors, if you read the script very
carefully, he refers to the fact
                  that kill ing defectors was always sort of an unofficial
mission for SOG. And
                  so you will see that we talked to him.

                  Holmes: OK, just a followup, for your information, the
properties that
                  General Singlaub described also are applicable to mustard
gas, which is also a
                  nerve gas, which was secretly tested in Australia during
World War II, and to
                  their horror, they found out that in the tropical
climates, mustard gas and its
                  derivatives are eight to nine times more powerful, so
that some of the
                  aftereffects, it can't be ruled out that it really was a
very strong tear gas,
                  mustard gas.

                  Oliver: Mustard gas burns people. And one of the reasons
we ruled mustard
                  gas out is that these men did not get the commanders
themselves did not get
                  blistered, although what they were not heavily blistered,
but they were
                  exposed. Also, in our talks with the chemical people, and
when you look at the
                  manuals that are available from that era, there's only
four weaponized gases
                  that were actually in the U.S. inventory at the time.
Mustard had been drawn
                  down, but 30 million pounds of sarin were available,
however.

                  Jones: Yes?

                  Martin Garbus, media defense lawyer: I do know that when
confidential
                  witnesses, and other witnesses, come under attack,
whether it be libel suits,
                  or investigations, they turn and they don't make
themselves available, and
                  you've made representations to them that you will protect
them. I've been in
                  the experience where you've asked people to come
forward,d and they don't
                  want to do it. But I think that I didn't hear the answer
to the question about
                  whether or not you attempted, April, to speak to any
confidential sources and
                  ask them. Given what had happened in this case, given the
importance of the
                  allegations, whether you at least asked people to come
forward.

                  Oliver: I'll say this: I had contact with at least two of
the confidential sources
                  afterwards; but we never progressed to that question. The
question itself was
                  never raised.

                  Voice: Why?

                  Smith: I think that I'd better go back to the breach
here. We're not going to
                  multiple the damage that was done by the Abrams-Kohler
report, by giving
                  any other information on the confidential sources. We're
not going to do it.
                  We're going to protect them (from the) Abrams-Kohler
breach.

                  Voice: If you don't protect them, would you ask them of
their own volition to
                  come forward?

                  Smith: It's not a question. The question's out there
right now, for all to hear.
                  Right?

                  Garbus: Since it's my question, I just want to add one
other thing. People of
                  course can come forward, and the fact that they haven't
is an indication that
                  that's something they would prefer not to do. At some
level, asking the
                  question is redundant.

                  Jones: One of the other elements, though, of a situation
like this, given that
                  there are so many, many people involved, why haven't SOME
people come
                  forward? People, perhaps, that you didn't interview?

                  Smith: Well, we have other people, but they have that's
the point.

                  Oliver: This is really important. This is very important.
We have had multiple
                  sources, multiple new leads, we shot a whole other
interview of a whole other
                  mission. It's sitting on CNN shelves.

                  Jones: On the record, people who were on camera or on tape?

                  Oliver: It was on tape, he's laid down the tape.

                  Smith: ... pixellated ... [inaudible] the guy's scared to
death ... he should be
                  scared to death?

                  Oliver: ... he got a call from the Pentagon, saying, we
hear you're talking to
                  CNN. You'd better shut up.

                  Smith: This is after the interview.

                  Oliver: After the interview. Then I had another call, in
fact, there's a man
                  who put a letter out on the Internet, a Major Bob Warren,
put his name out
                  there, he wrote to us the week after the broadcast and
said, I and some other
                  SOW Special Operations Wing pilots are so relieved that
the word of sarin
                  nerve gas use is finally out there. He went on to
describe how 800 to 1,000
                  lbs of the nerve gas were kept at the House of Ten in
Saigon, which was the
                  CIA headquarters, but the main bulk of the storage was at
NKP, the secret air
                  base that we referred to. He came forward, I had a long
conversation with
                  him, he said he's a fundamentalist Christian he had great
concerns about
                  coming forward, because he knew his family would a huge
toll, but he thought
                  it was the appropriate thing to do. Three days ago, I got
another E-mail from
                  him, retracting saying that he'd been called by the
Pentagon, that under
                  pressure and duress from the Pentagon, he's retracting
what he told, what he
                  said in that letter. And his sign-off was, "God bless
this once-great country of
                  ours." This was a man who had courage to step forward,
but then the other
                  thing that letter said, "and now they're telling me that
I never served in SOW,
                  that they had no records of me ever having served." So,
what seems to be
                  happening, is every time some one takes the baby step
forward, that they can
                  clamp down on, and I'm not sure all of the language
that's being used to shut
                  them up, that, clearly, this is something that someone
very much doesn't
                  want to have legs, and it takes a lot of guts to come
forward in this climate
                  to begin with, when you see the kind of heat we're getting.

                  Jones: Do you have any second thoughts yourself about
doing what you've
                  done, as far as taking this very public stand, we were
right, Abrams was
                  wrong, the Pentagon is wrong, these people who say this
didn't happen are
                  wrong.

                  Smith: We stand by the story, we're free-lancers now For
all the free-lancers
                  out there, I work from my kitchen and my dining room
table. And that's where
                  I'm going to continue to work. I've got to find a job
sooner or later!

                  Jones: Have you been contacted by any mainstream news
organization that is
                  doing a pursuit of this story?

                  Smith: No, not at this moment. We have not. BUT you're
all out there, and
                  you know my number.

                  Question: I don't understand why this issue isn't taken
to the Congress for a
                  full investigation, not a 20-minute investigation, not a
one-hour
                  investigation. Why isn't Senator Moynihan, and other
people on the Hill,
                  taking this issue take the Freedom Forum. We did a
conference on what
                  happened in Chile six months after the coup, in March of
1974. I attended
                  that conference, and we had a man by the name of Ed
Corman come and say
                  that at that conference, that he had lost his son in
Chile. That was six months
                  before; and nobody from the U.S. Navy, nobody from the
Pentagon, nobody
                  from Kissinger's office would confirm or admit
participation of U.S.
                  government in a black box operation. This is a black box
operation. Why don't
                  you take this issue? We will join with The Freedom Forum,
and have the
                  Congress investigate what the CIA did, what the Pentagon
did, it's 28 years
                  later, six months after we couldn't get the answer.

                  Smith: Well, Rick Kaplan said he didn't want this to go
to congressional
                  investigations, that's one of the reasons that he wanted
the story to die.
                  That's the president of CNN. We, as the reporters who did
this story, would
                  welcome that, and we're willing to stand and be sworn.

                  Oliver: Kaplan's statement to a number of us as
producers, was, "this is not a
                  journalism problem, this is a public relations problem,
and I don't want to go
                  to congressional hearings with 3,000 establishment people
on one side of the
                  room, and Colin Powell, and CNN and our Special Forces
guys on the other side
                  of the room. The implication being that somehow, this
would be embarrassing
                  for CNN. Jack and I both strongly object to that stand. I
think that if you're
                  going to take gutsy reporting, you've got to see it
through the full distance.
                  And you should especially welcome that any reporting of
ours ends up in a
                  congressional hearings.

                  Jones: I think it's fair to say that there are compelling
reasons to think this
                  did not happen, and there are compelling reasons,
especially based on your
                  rebuttal, to think that there are serious people out
there. Who Obviously
                  devoted an enormous amount of effort to this, who think
something DID
                  happen that September in 1970 in Laos. And I would bet
that this story is not
                  going to be over now. People who want to continue talking
with April Oliver
                  and Jack Smith are invited to go up to the mezzanine two
floors up, and that
                  wraps us up.
 

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