Senator says DVD of Syrian chemical attack 'horrendous'

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 05, 2013 6:29 PM
Senator says DVD of Syrian chemical attack 'horrendous'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday said a DVD prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency showing YouTube videos of victims of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria was "horrendous."

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, said she had asked the CIA to prepare a DVD for lawmakers that showed evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people.

The DVD, which the senator described as "largely victims," is another tool that could be used to persuade lawmakers to give President Barack Obama congressional approval to carry out a limited military strike against Syria.

"I saw it this morning and it was horrendous," Feinstein told reporters after members of her panel were briefed by Obama's national security team. "I have no doubt chemical weapons have been used," she said.

The DVD, which was compiled by CIA's "open source center," was about a dozen YouTube videos of some of the people who either died or were being treated as a result of the chemical weapons attack, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It was unclear how much of the YouTube footage had already been widely disseminated. U.S. and international television networks have shown some video coverage of the victims of what appeared to have been a chemical weapons attack.

Feinstein, who said she had seen enough evidence to support a congressional resolution authorizing the use of force, said she was having more of the DVDs made to give members of Congress.

"We are going to hand one out to each member of the Senate and possibly members of the House," so that they can go through it and make a determination if chemical agents were used, she told reporters.

Many lawmakers have not yet decided whether to approve Obama's proposal for a military strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, blamed by Washington for the August 21 chemical weapons attack.

A U.S. intelligence report released last week said 1,429 people were killed, including at least 426 children.

Senators at Thursday's briefing expressed concerns that a U.S. military strike would not stop the Syrian government from using chemical weapons again and said they were wary of becoming entangled in a civil war.

"To me the evidence that Assad engaged in the barbaric use of chemical weapons is clear. What the effects of a military strike will be is not clear," Democratic Senator Ron Wyden told reporters after the meeting.

The nearly three-hour Senate Intelligence Committee meeting was the latest congressional briefing with administration officials. Another briefing for senators and members of the House of Representatives is scheduled for Friday.

(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai and Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Eric Walsh)