CNN'S CIA Connection: New 'Tailwind' Controversy p.10

By: allan wolper E&P has learned that ex-CIA agents from the Vietnam War era participated in the
internal CNN review that caused CNN to retract its story about nerve gas attacks in Laos

Wolper is a professor of journalism at Rutgers University and an E&P reporter.
Editor & Publisher has learned cNN used ex-CIA officials who were on active duty during the Vietnam War to investigate its broadcast charging the U.S. military with using nerve gas to kill American defectors in Laos.
The CNN story, which also appeared in Time magazine, claimed the alleged secret mission in September 1970, called "Operation Tailwind," was a CIA-approved operation.
April Oliver and Jack Smith, the CNN producers who were fired in the wake of the story's retraction, contend that using the CIA to investigate itself undermined CNN's internal probe.
E&P's revelations about the ex-CIA operatives, originally published on the E&P Web site on Monday, were a topic at the Wednesday press conference held by Oliver and Smith on the mezzanine of the Freedom Forum's Newseum in New York. "The fact that the CIA was involved is a big story," said Oliver. Earlier, she noted that "those officials would have a vested interest in not confirming what we had found."
Floyd Abrams, the First Amendment attorney who ran the CNN investigation, told E&P he had hoped the former CIA officials would unearth "information that might support the broadcast."
Abrams concluded there was not enough information to confirm the nerve gas thesis and advised CNN and Time to "retract the story and apologize," which they did. Abrams angrily denied that his report was tainted by the use of ex-CIA operatives.

"That is preposterous and utter nonsense," said Abrams, who was involved in the 1971 Pentagon Papers court case. "The very idea that we tapped into the intelligence community was a sign that the report was not flawed. I know that the reporters were deeply committed to their story. My view is that they were wrong."
Abrams said he did not mention the role the ex-CIA members played in his investigation because they did not come up with any information he could use in his 54-page report.

'Independent Investigators'
The Abrams report noted only that "we have utilized the services of independent investigators retained by us."
The New York Times said Abrams told reporters in a conference call after he announced his findings, that he used "enlisted former intelligence officers" from Kroll Associates to help him in his investigation.
Elaine Wood, managing director of Kroll Associates, a division of Kroll-O'Gara, confirmed that five former CIA officials were involved in the CNN investigation.
"The people at Kroll have the highest integrity," said Wood, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan. "We were told to use our sources to find information and report back whether it turned out to be in favor of or against the broadcast."
Wood, who supervised the CNN investigation for Kroll, noted that the agency was not asked to perform a news analysis.
"We were asked to investigate and find facts," she said. "Our job was not to comment on the judgment made in the CNN piece. One of the things that impressed me about the assignment was that we were given no restrictions on how far we could go. It was a profoundly moving assignment to walk back on a piece of history, to speak to the people who lived during that period."
Kroll provided the following thumbnail descriptions of its investigative team members:
u Brian Jenkins, a former Green Beret in Vietnam who briefed Henry Kissinger several times, recently left Kroll to start his own consulting agency.
u Charles Englehart, a vice president in Kroll's Washington, D.C., office, joined Kroll last year after a 30-year career in the CIA. His wife, Deidre, works in CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.
u Ted Price joined Kroll in 1995 after 35 years in the CIA, including a stint as chief of clandestine services.
u Norb Garrett, head of the Kroll London office, spent 30 years with the CIA. He served as director of CIA congressional affairs from 1989 to 1991 before retiring from the agency.
u David Rosenthal, a former senior vice president from Merrill Lynch who spent 20 years with the CIA, joined Kroll in 1989.
Wood said everyone who worked on the investigation was asked beforehand whether there was anything in their past that might influence their research.
"Any person who could not answer that question would not have been allowed to work on the project," she said.
At first, Wood suggested that E&P speak to Englehart about how his wife's current employment at the CIA might have compromised the investigation.
"Charley said he doesn't want to dignify that kind of charge with a reply," Wood said after speaking to Englehart. "His wife is an overt employee of the CIA and not affected by the CNN investigation."
Wood added that Charles Englehart's role in the investigation involved "unclassified document research. He was not a source on any of the people data that we turned over to Floyd Abrams."

No Journalists
Smith said the CIA involvement in Abrams' investigation, combined with the use of CNN attorney David Kohler, showed the report lacked integrity.
"Kohler originally approved the script," he said. "How can he be independent? That's another reason why the Abrams' report has a taint to it. We begged CNN to find a dean of journalism to replace Kohler, but they
wouldn't do it. We wanted a journalist to be involved.'
"Now," said Smith, "we find out from (E&P) that officials who were in the CIA when this all took place also were involved in the investigation. No one told us about that."
Abrams said Kohler's prepublication review of the CNN story should not have disqualified him from investigating the methods used to produce it. "The only potential conflict Kohler had as the lawyer who cleared the story might have been a desire to defend it to the point where it was no longer defensible," Abrams noted.
He said Kohler's original legal analysis of the story was accurate. "The story is legally defensible now and it was legally defensible then," Abrams said.
He added that he did not know why CNN did not bring in a journalist to participate in his independent investigation. "That's something you can ask CNN," he said.
Steve Hayworth, director of public affairs at CNN, said Abrams did not need a journalist to help him decide whether there was enough evidence to support the story.
"We wanted Mr. Abrams' ability to judge evidence," Hayworth said. "The story had already been vetted by journalists. We wanted the story to be true. There is no question that the report we aired should not have been allowed on the air."

Oliver and Abrams
Oliver also said that Abrams and CNN misrepresented his role in the internal investigation, an assertion that Abrams denied.
"When he first came aboard, he said he would advise me on confidential sources and on First Amendment concerns," Oliver said. "I thought he was my lawyer. Then we find out he is the independent investigator."
Abrams denied that CNN retained him just to counsel Oliver and Smith. "I was not brought in to represent them," Abrams explained. "I was called in to look at the validity of the broadcast. I had hoped to mount a serious defense of the broadcast. In that sense, I was on their side."
Oliver said Kohler and an associate counsel read the briefing book a week before the broadcast and made suggestions that were added to the script. "Our script was cleared by the lawyers a week in advance," she said.
"David said he did not think that the story was a problem from a legal perspective."
The U.S. had signed a treaty restricting the use of chemical weapons and President Nixon had pledged a "no first use" policy on nerve gas. The Senate, however, had yet to ratify the treaty before the September 1970 nerve gas raid was supposed to have occurred.

The Kissinger Element
Oliver was stunned when she was told that Jenkins, a former associate of Henry Kissinger, was involved in the internal CNN investigation. Kissinger was Nixon's national security adviser in 1970.
"That would be very important if that were true," she said. "We sent Mr. Kissinger two letters and he refused flatly to take any of our calls. Then
afterward he called up Tom Johnson (chairman and chief executive of CNN News Group) to complain about the story."
Jenkins, who served with the U.S. military's Special Forces unit in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967, said he briefed Kissinger three separate times on assorted issues. "I did not work for Dr. Kissinger," Jenkins said in a phone interview from his West Coast office. "I briefed him in 1968 during the transition of the Johnson administration to Nixon. I briefed him again in 1972 on terrorism when I worked for the Rand Corporation and once again in the
mid-80s. I have also briefed several other secretaries of state."

How It Started
The original CNN story was broadcast June 7 and a follow-up was aired on June 14 on the premiere edition of NewsStand: CNN & Time, both of which are owned by the Time Warner Co.
The Time magazine article that was published June 13 was written by Oliver and Peter Arnett, who won the 1966 Pulitzer Prize for his Vietnam
War reportage at the Associated Press and acclaim for his work at CNN on the Gulf War.
Arnett was reprimanded for his role in the story after he said he narrated the script written by Oliver and was minimally involved in the program. "Peter was not just a face," said Oliver.
"He was active in the story in April and May. He did about 25% of the reporting. He interviewed three people on camera and did some calling around for us. Peter knew all our sources. He read all of our interviews. He was 100% on board before everything came apart."
Pamela Hill, the senior producer on NewsStand: CNN & Time, resigned shortly after Abrams issued his report.

?(Appearing at a Wednesday news conference at the Freedom Forum's Newseum in New York City, fired CNN producers Jack Smith and April Oliver charged CNN with "caving in to the Pentagon so that CNN can be on the front lines of the next war." The two criticized the internal report used by the cable network as a basis for the retraction of the "tailwind" nerve gas story. They also lambasted a report issued last week by the Pentagon that attacked their story as inaccurate.) [Photo & Caption]
?(Wolper is a professor of journalism at Rutgers University and an E&P reporter) [Caption]

?(Editor & Publisher Web Site: http://www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher July 25,1998) [Caption]


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