Ex-officer disputes elements of CNN report on sarin

June 27, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

A former military officer used prominently by Cable News Network in a report about the use of nerve gas in an attack during the Vietnam War disputed key points of CNN's representation of his account yesterday.

In a telephone interview, Robert Van Buskirk, who was a lieutenant in a secret Special Forces platoon on a raid into Laos in 1970, said he believes CNN's report of the attack is basically accurate but that he did not confirm, as the network implied, that a gas dropped on the rescue site that day was sarin, a lethal nerve gas whose use is outlawed by international law.

Also, he said he had not told CNN that a soldier he confronted and killed during that raid was an American defector, but had told the producer that his victim was a blond Caucasian and possibly Russian.

In the CNN report, however, Van Buskirk clearly says: "This is a GI." Yesterday, he said that this had been his "gut feeling" but he had no proof.

The CNN report, which was part of a new collaboration between the network and its sister magazines at Time Inc., called "CNN NewsStand," appeared June 7.

The next day, a similar version was published in Time magazine.

Pub Date: 6/27/98

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