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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Lawmaker Outraged by Sniper Footage on CNN

October 21, 2006|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — CNN has become "the publicist for an enemy propaganda film" by broadcasting a video showing an insurgent sniper in Iraq apparently killing an American soldier, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said here Friday.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon) called for the Pentagon to oust any CNN reporter embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq.

"I think Americans like to think we're all in this together," Hunter said. "The average American Marine or soldier has concluded after seeing that film that CNN is not on their side."

CNN said it broadcast the brief video to show the threat that insurgent snipers posed to U.S. troops.

"Whether or not you agree with us in this case, our goal, as always, is to present the unvarnished truth as best we can," CNN producer David Doss wrote in a blog on the network's website.

Tony Snow, President Bush's press secretary, said the insurgents were hoping to "break the will of the American people" by giving the video to CNN.

The footage was shown first on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" program, of which Doss is executive producer, and then on several news shows. It remained on CNN's website Friday.

Doss said CNN Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware received the video after communicating -- through intermediaries -- with Ibrahim Shammari, a spokesman for the Islamic Army.

Doss said the decision to broadcast the video came after hours of "intense editorial debate."

He said one compromise was made: The moment when the bullet hits the soldier's head is blacked out. The soldier's face and unit patches were not clear, so identifying him was impossible, CNN said.

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Carlsbad), who with Hunter and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, called the film "nothing short of a terrorist snuff film."

Snow, at his regular news briefing in Washington, said the video was misleading because it made it appear that Americans were "sitting ducks" and that insurgents were winning the war. In truth, he said, insurgents "are dying in much greater numbers and suffering much greater damage."

The Pentagon had no comment on the video.

Embedded reporters sign pledges not to show the faces of dead American troops until their families are notified, but nothing prohibits the use of pictures in which identities are not discernible.

tony.perry@latimes.com

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