April Oliver's Denial

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April Speaks Out

April Oliver has been very vocal in defense of her journalistic techniques as showcased by her work on the CNN broadcast "Valley Of Death", and the Time Magazine article "Did The U.S. Use Nerve Gas?".

Please take note that despite the "naysayer" aspect of April's comments, I am reproducing them here in full, albeit with cynical comments provided by me. I am giving her the courtesy she denied to Art Bishop, Eugene McCarley, Mike Rose, et al.

April's Curriculum Vitae

April Oliver, 36, is a 1983 Graduate of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. She worked for PBS for 13 years on the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour before going to CNN in 1994. April is married and has a three year old child. The family lives in the Washington, D.C. area.

April was nominated recently for a CableAce award for her work on the hard-hitting CNN investigative documentary "Di, Death of A Princess". Reportedly, April found no nerve agent was involved in the death of the princess.

Here is a photo of the Poster Children For Sloppy Journalism. April Oliver is on the right. Jack Smith (wearing his "war face") is on the left.

April's Charges

April is quoted by Felicity Barringer of the New York Times in a July 5, 1998 article entitled "Fired CNN producer stands by here story".

To the sound of background music provided by Tammy Wynette, singing "Stand By Your Man", April's comments are presented below.

Quoting the NY Times article

And as late as Wednesday, as Abrams was finishing his report, she [Oliver] sent a letter to Richard N. Kaplan, the president of CNN/US, saying she welcomed the investigation but that "anyone attempting to retrace my eight months of reporting in two weeks -- in this extraordinarily hostile environment -- will simply not be able to match my work."
I thought the whole purpose of her work was to make things clear for the viewer. Apparently April is saying that to verify her work, it would take another eight months.

"There were strong interests out there who wanted to discredit this report," she said in an interview Friday. "The clear tactic was to kill the messenger -- me. They're portraying me as the producer from hell who takes special forces veterans and pushes them against the wall and makes them say things they don't mean."
April is saying that the Military-Industrial Complex is behind CNN's decision to retract the story and can her. She stated explicity on CNN's Crossfire program of Monday, July 6, that Colin Powell and Henry Kissenger called Richard Kaplan and threatened CNN with vague retaliation if CNN did not retract the story. Both Oliver and Smith are vehement in their insistence that there is a conspiracy behind their dimissal from CNN and the retraction. However, like the Tailwind allegations, they offer no proof, falling back continually on "confidential sources". They even mentioned "Deep Throat" in their own defense. However, Woodward and Berstein obtained independent confirmation of everything their confidential source said. Oliver and Smith have shown no credible corroboration of their confidential sources. Oliver slipped on the CNN Crossfire program and referred to these sources as "officers" in the military. The inference is that they are active duty personnel.

So far Oliver and Smith have blamed everyone else for their problems and have not acknowledged making even one mistake in the presentation. They blame Kaplan and Johnson (CNN CEO) for not having the "naysayers" evidence (as Oliver calls it) shown on-camera. They Blame Floyd Abrams for rushing to judge in two weeks what took them eight months to conjure up. They blame Colin Powell and Henry Kissenger for pressuring CNN to "cave in" and retract. They blame their own on-camera sources for recanting their stories, claiming that they caved in to non-specific "death threats". They blame Robert Van Buskirk for now claiming that his recollection was based on "repressed memory syndrome". They blame Newsweek, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, for being competitors who are angry because they were scooped on the story. Oliver blames her colleagues at the Pentagon for being jealous male chauvinists out to get her. Are you starting to see a pattern here? What's next, blame the dog for eating the secret document that would have proved their case?

It is not beyond the realm of possibility that Producer/Director Oliver Stone will make a movie based on this obvious conspiracy-to-discredit-April. Oliver will be played by Julia Roberts, who starred in the "Pelican Brief", and "Pretty Woman".

I do not for a moment believe that April pushed aging, overweight, Special Forces veterans against a wall. She didn't have to. They were putty in her Princeton-educated hands. All she did was misquote them, quote them out of context, and when necessary, ignore their contradictory evidence. If that doesn't sound like "the producer from hell", you might ask what does.

It is worth noting that the harshest criticism of April Oliver and Jack Smith has come from their peers in the news media. Print and television reporters both have been highly critical of the reportage, not the individuals. As a matter of fact, every criticism of both Oliver and Smith has been prefaced with testimonials as to the competence and integrity of both reporters.

Defending her decision to omit contradictory evidence from over 20 witnesses, all of whom were directly involved in Operation Tailwind, April Oliver had the following comments.

"It would have been great to put a lot of things in," Ms. Oliver said Friday. "But there was a time issue. You can overload your audience with detail. There are two main points here. Nerve gas and defectors. To put in all these little details -- maybe this person was a Russian not an American, maybe it was a CIA coverup -- you can overload the audience. There are a lot of maybes in this.

"We felt that we had hard confirmation from multiple sources, some of whom had read the script. So getting into the various potential cover stories could possibly be confusing to the audience."

This is an obvious one. April is saying "Let's not confuse the couch potatoes with facts". After all, had the audience been hampered by on-camera quotes from the pilots who said they dropped tear-gas, they might miss the sensational allegations designed to get next year's Cable-Ace award presented to April. I do agree with April's assertion that "There are a lot of maybes in this". Like maybe April is wrong. Like maybe April was led down the garden path by a couple of sources looking for attention. Like maybe this whole scenario is simply too far-fetched to have occurred. Like maybe the nerve agent April describes was the first "smart" weapon in history since it apparently killed all of the North Vietnamese soldiers, but not one of the friendly forces, despite the fact that it was supposedly dropped "danger close" on unprotected Montagnards and Green Beenies alike.

It is worth noting that two of April's on-camera sources for "defector" testimony, Jay Graves and James Cathey, turn out to be frauds. Jay Graves, who was in Special Forces, was never in Laos, and certainly never on a secret mission to search for "defectors". James Cathey was an Air Force Supply sergeant stationed at Bien Hoa. He never left South Vietnam, and was never a member of any Air Force "rat pack commando" unit as he claimed. How April's careful investigative techniques failed to uncover this deceit is a mystery since she simply refuses to acknowledge the fact. She based much of her Time Magazine article on statements made by these two fakers and has as yet offered no explanation for this major journalistic fax paus. Did she even bother to look at their separation papers? Or did she simply conclude, because they were telling her what she wanted to hear, that they must be genuine?

April is further reported to have blamed "male chauvinists" among her CNN colleagues at the Pentagon who, according to April, said "What does a girl know about wars?". I am certain that April feels "violated" by this alleged remark, and I'm sure she has three or four "confidential sources" to confirm it. I think Linda Tripp is one, but I hasten to point out that that is only speculation on my part.

April's Emails

An ultra-left-wing (i.e., the left's equivilent of the Montana Militia) web site at


claims to be the recipient of several email messages from April Oliver. While this is rather suspect, since the recipient failed to include the email headers which would help establish the bona fides of the purported missives, who am I to doubt the radical left. So in the spirit of enlightenment, the emails are reporduced below.

From: "Oliver, April" April.Oliver@turner.com

Dear Golem,

My name is April Oliver and I produced the various SOG pieces on CNN. A friend passed on your e-mail postings and I have read them with great interest.

Currently, a fairly well orchestrated counterattack on our reporting is underway -- and I am afraid they have decided to make me the target. We tried very hard to get the facts right. And I spent many long months developing sources deep, deep inside to make this accurate. I am grateful for your supportive statements out there. You seem to have an accurate fix on the story...and I wonder if we might start a dialogue...

We have several deep off the record sources [emphasis supplied] who in fact confirmed that sleeping gas was CBU-15. A canard exists out there -- that sarin kills thru the skin. It does not, especially not at the temperatures in Laos. Many people are trying to attack the credibility of our reporting on that ground. But even the Pentagon's own expert, General Busbee, has told us that is incorrect. An M-17 gas mask is sufficient protection. One of the SOG commandos was advised to take extra atropine before they launched. And an Army manual I have uncovered shows that you can be as close as 300 meters to a sarin drop, without a mask at all, and not feel any effects -- if the wind is blowing the other direction.

How did you come by your info that the victims in Tailwind lost conciousness immediately? I have been told that...but of course the "deniability" voices are very loud right now, and they are getting a lot of attention. Many of my fellow journalists over at the Pentagon are portraying me as a gullible female believing fattened up war stories from old men. A turf thing, I think. I can take it...but what I want most is to shore up the truth.

Would the ex-SOG member you know be interested in coming forward to tell his story? Would you -- if we were able to protect your identity somehow? The Pentagon is dumping some documents this week to try and prove it was just a mix of CS and CN out there on that rice paddy. We always expected the paper trail would lead us back to tear gas. I have read enough after action reports and medal narratives to understand just how sterilized the paper trail is.

Thanks for your interest and time. April

[Wed, 24 Jun 1998]
From: "Oliver, April" April.Oliver@turner.com

we will probably do something this weekend. we have had some new voices come forward...this seems to be more widespread than we realize. but we are facing a huge disinformation campaign, full of ugly vicious personal attacks on me. ...i have never experienced anything quite like it. Nothing like going up against professionals at plausible deniability, and shooting down the messenger.

Again the one drop on the skin stuff is bogus. GB kills by breathing it, not by touching it. Mustard is a blister agent....thanks for your help. you are a bright spot in a tough internet world.


April is even more animated here about the conspiracy that has assembled to "get" her. Although she is less than informative about the nature, or sources, of the "ugly vicious personal attacks on me". To the best of my knowledge, all the "attacks" have been directed toward the conclusions April reached, not April. While I fully admit to making snide remarks about April, I have not accused her of War Crimes, Atrocities, violation of the Rules Of Land Warfare, killing women and children, or of parking her BMW 540i in a handicapped parking space. All accusations (with the exception of the handicapped parking) that April seemed free to make.

The "...Army manual I have uncovered..." April refers to is Field Manual 3-9 (FM 3-9) which anyone can purchase at a swap meet, gun-nut show (er, sorry, I meant firearms enthusiast trade convention), or even on the internet.She uses the word "uncovered" to add drama, as if she had to root through secret files in the belly of the Five-Sided-Beast to find this manual.

I have looked through FM 3-9 (I bought it at a swap meet for 2 bucks) and I'll be darned if I can find the reference she mentions about being able to be as "close as 300 meters to a sarin drop, without a mask at all, and not feel any effects -- if the wind is blowing the other direction." However, I am almost certain that if April would volunteer to test this hypothesis, the Penatagon would be more than willing to assist in the experiment.

April is absolutely incorrect when she says that GB (Sarin) kills only when it is inhaled, and that the M-17 protective mask is sufficient protection for people without open wounds. Liquid GB can kill if even small quantities come into contact with exposed skin. Read the appropriate section in the U.S. Army's bible for treating chemical warfare casualties, the Medical Management of Chemical Casualties Handbook for details on this behavior. As listed in the table of toxicities, approximately 1,700mg of GB (about a drop) is lethal. Also, the data show that unconsciousness occurs within 1 minute of exposure.

However, her own reporting indicates that none of the SOG team or the Montagnards were even wearing masks. According to her own reporting, most of the Montagnards did not even have masks, and those that did had "ill fitting" masks.

I am about the same size as your average Montagnard male. I never had any trouble getting an M-17 mask to seal properly. As a matter of fact, it is harder for big guys to get it on their heads, precisely because it was designed to fit the "average" soldier.

April refers to the area in Laos where the agent was allegedly used as a "rice paddy" when all descriptions of the area point to a field of elephant grass (even the photo in the time article shows this). People accustomed to getting their geography lessons from Hollywood movies probably think that there were "rice paddys" everywhere in Vietnam and Laos. Not so. The actual amount of land available for agriculture was limited, and for the production of rice (a water intensive crop) even less was available.

Again, a caveat, I have no way to verify that these emails are actually from April Oliver, or whether they are a figment of the imagination of the web master at the site listed above. Go to the site, read some of the articles. Then decide.

Also, after reading some of the articles on that site, consider that April offers to "...start a dialogue..." with the author of those articles. Does that raise a red flag (no pun intended, honest) about April's political agenda? Or the credibility of her sources?

I think from now on April should go by the nom de plume "Cleopatra" since she is obviously the Queen of Denial.

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Creation Date: Sunday, July 5, 1998
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 7, 1998
Copyright © Ray Smith, 1998