The primary victims of CNN’s now-retracted story alleging that the U.S. Special Forces had invaded Laos in 1970 to kill American defectors with poison gas were the Special Forces veterans who planned and carried out Operation Tailwind. These brave men who risked their lives in an operation deep in enemy territory were insulted and defamed by CNN’s totally false charges. They have been vindicated by CNN’s retraction and apology.
Admiral Thomas Moorer, the 86-year-old former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was another victim of CNN’s program. CNN tried to make it appear that Moorer had confirmed their charges about the purpose of the mission and the use of deadly nerve gas. A conservative weekly magazine reported that Moorer was in a nursing home and was “mixed up,” false information that was repeated in newspaper columns and on TV shows by people who didn’t bother to get Admiral Moorer’s side of the story. The truth is that he is still physically and mentally fit and is not in a nursing home. He told me that CNN had totally misrepresented what he had said.
Floyd Abrams, the attorney hired by CNN to investigate their Operation Tailwind story, has shown that is exactly what CNN did. Twelve pages of Abrams’ 30 page report are devoted to questions that CNN producer April Oliver asked Adm. Moorer and his answers, very few of which were aired. The transcript shows April Oliver telling the admiral that she had been told by a lot of people that nerve gas had been used in the Tailwind operation. She asked, “How much awareness do you have of this?”
“None,” he replied. He told her she should get the people who had told her that to do so on camera. When she claimed she had already done that, Moorer said, “I don’t have the information to confirm what they said.” That should have ended the interview, but the lady from CNN wouldn’t give up. She kept trying to get him to confirm the use of nerve gas even though he had made it clear that he knew nothing about it. Now we know why. She had only one person on camera who participated in the operation and who claimed nerve gas was used.
The transcripts reveal that the people CNN had interviewed were participants in the operation who said they were issued gas masks. The masks were for protection against the tear gas routinely used to keep enemy troops away from the helicopters sent to rescue our men in enemy controlled territory. Tear gas was used to cover the rescue of the Tailwind team. The wind blew it onto our own men, and those without serviceable gas masks inhaled it. Not one of them died or became seriously ill.
Only one of them claimed that it was nerve gas. CNN used him without saying that he is trying to get disability payments on the basis of nerve gas exposure. Floyd Abrams concluded that “Admiral Moorer’s interviews do not confirm that nerve gas was used in Tailwind or that the Tailwind target was defectors.” CNN has apologized profusely.