July 17th, 2008
12:32 PM ET

Colombia rescue: If you can't trust the Red Cross, then what?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/17/art.redcross.jpg caption="A side by side comparison of the footage during the rescue and the official Red Cross logo show the similarities."]
Karl Penhaul
CNN Correspondent

We met our source thinking he was going to try and sell us some video filmed inside a Colombian guerrilla camp.

For a price, we thought we could get a scoop showing 15 hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three American military contractors, in the week prior to their rescue.

A Colombian military intelligence team had plucked the captives from under FARC guerrilla noses in an ingenious operation on July 2. News of the rescue and the harrowing experiences of the hostages, some of whom had been held for more than 10 years, was still big international news.

But the material was not as advertised. Instead of documenting the final days of the hostages, it documented the final days of the military's preparation for the rescue mission.

But the video did turn out to be valuable - because it put an end questions over whether the Colombian military used the Red Cross symbol to fool the rebels.

The government and Colombia’s top generals had said all along that their ruse to deceive the guerrillas into handing over their hostages involved intelligence officers posing as bogus aid workers. But they categorically denied real humanitarian emblems had been used.

But in photos our source was now showing us, one of the intelligence officers had in fact used a bib bearing the Red Cross emblem and logo of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

So what you ask? Hadn’t the mission been a rip-roaring success? Weren’t 15 long-suffering hostages now back home with their loved ones? FULL POST

Filed under: 360° Radar • Karl Penhaul
July 17th, 2008
10:28 AM ET

Evading the junta to witness Myanmar disaster

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/15/art.bettydarkness.jpg caption="By nightfall, we were stowing away like fugitives."]

Betty Nguyen
CNN Anchor

There are your tough assignments and then there are those that border on the impossible. Myanmar is one of the world’s most secretive nations for a reason.

Foreign journalists are banned from the country. Tourists are even finding it difficult to get a visa, especially Americans. So the odds were already stacked against us.

I can’t say how we got in the country but that was only half the battle. Devising a plan to get down to the area devastated by Cyclone Nargis in May would be much harder.

The junta government has sealed off all entrances to the Irrawaddy delta. Checkpoints are set up in nearly every town. For days we pored over maps and scouted out the safest routes.

Spinning with frustration, we finally came up with an idea. It was risky. If caught, we could be deported and the locals helping us faced prison time. We had to move quickly and carefully.


Filed under: Behind The Scenes • Betty Nguyen • Myanmar
July 17th, 2008
10:19 AM ET

Reaching out to Catholic voters. The role of sin and repentance.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/17/art.vert.dealhudson.jpg caption="Deal Hudson at a press conference in Washington, D.C., Sept. 2003." width=292 height=320]
Dana Bash
CNN Political Correspondent

The McCain campaign deliberated much of Wednesday about how to handle a demand that Deal Hudson, a volunteer on outreach to Catholics, to step down.

They decided not to cut him loose.

“He’s a name on a list, a volunteer, so when are we going to start talking about gas prices, jobs and the issues facing Americans? The McCain campaign is all done with the gotcha games,” said campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds.

The backstory: FULL POST

Filed under: Dana Bash • John McCain • Raw Politics
July 17th, 2008
08:00 AM ET

Walk in a soldier's shoes – Feel that need for back up

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/16/art.gates.jpg caption="Australia Minister of Defense Joel Fitzgibbon and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert entering the Pentagon on July 16 to discuss a possible troop surge in Afghanistan"]
Nic Robertson
Senior International Correspondent

Every time I go to Afghanistan I hear the same thing.
We are short of troops, we are short of helicopters, we are short of money to put things right.

No surprise when I embedded with the 24th MEU in southern Helmand province I heard the same complaints again. Only this time, a very big difference. The comments were made by a General on camera not privately in a back room briefing. Every time in the past, apart from a few constructive comments about more money nobody was willing to rock the boat publicly and call it like it was, undermanned.

Gen Dan McNeill, the four star who was until a few months ago in charge of NATO forces in Afghanistan and who is a genuinely nice guy to boot, talked around the subject with me in an almost hour long interview last year. He just didn’t want to say he was short of what he needed most, troops. Sure he said the Afghan army needed to train more men with greater speed, and that the Afghan police we woefully underprepared for their task. But on troops, he said he had all those he needed to do the job he’d been told to do.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Afghanistan • Nic Robertson • T1
July 17th, 2008
07:40 AM ET

Morning Buzz: A U.S. Embassy in Iran?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/17/art.tehran.jpg caption="A view of Tehran from April 2008 where, according to The Guardian, The United states will establish a diplomatic presence."]
Morning people....

Breaking news...The United States will announce in the next month that it plans to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time in 30 years...the reports coming from the British newspaper The Guardian. The paper said Washington would open a U.S. interests section in the Iranian capital, not a FULL Embassy, but a halfway house to setting up a full embassy. "The move will see US diplomats stationed in the country." "a remarkable turnaround in policy by President George Bush who has pursued a hawkish approach to Iran throughout his time in office." Pretty HUGE, folks.... We will keep tabs on this one during the day....

On the trail today, John McCain holds town hall in Kansas City...Dan Bash will bring us news from there if there is anything to report...AND with Barack Obama prepping to head to Afghanistan and Iraq, I am sure McCain will have something to say.... Candy Crowley will preview Obama's mission for us...


Filed under: The Buzz
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