Atlanta -- The scrutiny of a controversial Cable News
Network story about the use of deadly nerve gas against American soldiers who defected
during the Vietnam War continues to intensify.
CNN has retained noted First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams
to conduct his own investigation of the network's story on "Operation
Tailwind," which asserted that the U.S. military secretly dropped the lethal nerve
gas sarin on a Laotian village in 1970 as part of an attempt to kill American defectors
from the Vietnam War.
The story -- which aired on the initial broadcast of NewsStand:
CNN and Time June 7, and which was published the following day in Time magazine
-- was criticized soon after it ran. Two weeks ago, retired Major Gen. Perry Smith, who
had been a military analyst for CNN for seven years, resigned from the network in protest.
He called the Tailwind story false, noting that he had not been consulted during its
In its next issue, Time announced that it was going
to investigate the original story. In an unusual letter to readers about the nerve-gas
story and the controversy that it had raised, managing editor Walter Isaacson wrote,
"We believed that the initial CNN report and article were based on substantial
evidence. But we feel that the doubts raised deserve full explanation."
After CNN hired Abrams last week, spokesman Howard Polskin
said the New York-based lawyer would "re-examine every aspect of our process and our
research with regard to the Tailwind story."
Abrams told The Washington Post that he would have
"total independence to speak to anyone and to reach any conclusions," but
"the final judgments about what steps to take will be made by CNN and [CNN News Group
chairman] Tom Johnson."
Johnson declined to be interviewed about the Tailwind