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Officer Sues in Tailwind Case

June 3, 1999

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ A former Army officer quoted in a story that accused U.S. commandos of using nerve gas to hunt down defectors during the Vietnam War has sued three media groups for more than $100 million.

Robert Van Buskirk, a former Special Forces lieutenant, filed suit Wednesday against CNN, Time and Time Warner Inc. over the story that was later retracted. His defamation lawsuit seeks $75,000 in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages.

Van Buskirk has been ``shunned by many persons with whom he previously had social or business relations, and by his former comrades in arms, and has suffered mental anguish by being accused of war crimes and murder,″ according to the lawsuit filed in federal court.

The lawsuit is based on a joint CNN-Time story telecast on June 7, 1998, that claimed the military used sarin gas in Laos during Operation Tailwind, a mission to find defectors. Two U.S. defectors were supposedly killed in the attack, the report said.

The story was retracted after an internal investigation could not substantiate the allegations. Time and CNN, both owned by Time Warner, apologized for the story.

Van Buskirk’s attorney, Elihu Berman, said Van Buskirk’s chief argument is that he was cited as the primary source for what was inaccurate information.

A Time magazine spokeswoman said she could not comment on the lawsuit. A Time Warner spokeswoman referred phone calls to CNN, where a spokesman declined comment.

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