MCCARLEY: I never, ever considered the use of lethal gas, not on any of my operations."
For the record, the "AK Report' pronounces that the segment should have given McCarley's perspective more attention, since it provided a balancing counterpoint. The producers, however, protest that they found him to be an unreliable witness, since he wasn't directly in charge of the Tailwind operation; he contradicted himself a few times (at one point stating on-camera what sounded like support for the allegations: "as I understand it, these gases -- these CBU lethal gases -- are an Air Force ordinance and are in their arsenal"), and because he made no bones about a willingness to lie if necessary: "if operating across border [into Laos] is considered unethical or deniable, then I reckon I'm denying it."
Despite the fact Sorkin's entire appearance on The Daily Show was just over six minutes long, there's more in his statement to refute. Sorkin implied that the producers of the "Valley of Death' segment relied on just one source -- the military expert who wouldn't say on-camera what the producer needed to get the scoop. But the transcript of the "News Stand' broadcast quotes multiple sources just within its opening seconds. A montage of four low-ranking veterans of Operation Tailwind and of the Special Operations Group speak about Tailwind as the segment starts -- and that's just the first of two broadcasts. A handful more came forward for the second night.
Furthermore, in the transcript for part 1, host Arnett states that more than two-hundred veterans were consulted. Again, in the transcript for part 2, "News Stand' co-host Bernard Shaw begins the show by asserting: "In the course of eight months of reporting we contacted over 200 people, from the men on the ground, to the pilots above, to those in the military chain of command."
Moreover, the segment's producers refer, in their later defenses of their reporting, to their lead source, someone who could not be identified because he spoke to them on condition of complete anonymity (he could only be used "on background)." They say he read and approved the transcript of the intended broadcast, " giving the "thumbs up' signal a number of times as he read it, including in particular with respect to the use of CBU-15 [sarin gas] on Operation Tailwind." This source was, the CNN internal investigation acknowledged, a military official who had "been highly placed for years", and who was "particularly knowledgeable about chemical weaponry, [and] intimately familiar with nerve agents."
Of another confidential source, described by the "AK Report' as "a highly placed intelligence source" who provided validation "through a third party" that sarin gas was used in the operation, CNN's lawyers actually did conclude that "the statements of the source were properly viewed by CNN as lending considerable support to the broadcast."
The producers also seem to have found themselves in an awkward position wherein career military personnel told them one thing in private, yet felt the need to come out against the story in public. "I have revealed in court papers," April Oliver wrote in response to one attack on the Tailwind allegations in the press, "that a leading critic of the broadcast, retired Gen. John Singlaub, was a prime source for our story."