CNN airs Iraqi sniper vid


NEW YORK -- A CNN executive said Thursday the network's effort to present the "unvarnished truth" about the Iraq war led it to televise portions of a video that shows insurgent snipers targeting U.S. military personnel.

The tape, which came to the network unexpectedly through contact with an insurgent leader, was aired first Wednesday night on "Anderson Cooper 360" and repeated on Thursday.

In one instance, the tape shows a uniformed member of the U.S. military milling in a public area with Iraqis. A shot rings out. CNN fades the screen to black before the result -- described as a victim falling forward -- is visible.

It's one of 10 separate sniper attacks on Americans documented on the tape, which CNN technicians concluded was authentic, said David Doss, executive producer of Cooper's show, in a Web log entry describing the network's decision on what to show.

CNN could not determine the identity of any of the sniper victims, spokeswoman Christa Robinson said.

Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware had been in contact through intermediaries with Ibrahim Al-Shimary, a leader for the rebel group Islamic Army. Ware had sent Al-Shimary a series of questions about the insurgency in Iraq, Doss said.

In reply, Al-Shimary sent two tapes. One reportedly showed him, with face concealed, responding to the questions. The other showed the sniper incidents, seemingly taken by the insurgents themselves, CNN said.

CNN understood that some critics might find that the tape had public relations benefits for the insurgency, Doss wrote.

"We also understood that this kind of footage is upsetting and disturbing for many viewers," he said. "But after getting beyond the emotional debate, we concluded the tape meets our criteria for newsworthiness."

The decision was subject to "hours of intense editorial debate" at CNN's highest levels, he said.

Doss said he had already received several angry responses from viewers of Wednesday's five-minute report, some wondering whether CNN was helping the enemy and others concerned that the tape was inappropriate for young viewers who may have happened upon it.

"Whether or not you agree with us in this case, our goal, as always, is to present the unvarnished truth as best we can," Doss said.