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Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- A CNN correspondent on Monday angrily rejected a report by the Fox network that he and other journalists were used as human shields by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to prevent a missile attack on his compound.

The Fox story, labeled "exclusive" and posted on the Fox website Monday, said the presence of news crews from CNN, Reuters and other organizations forced a British aircraft to call off firing seven Storm Shadow missiles at the area that already had been hit.

"Officials from Libya's Ministry of Information brought those journalists to the area to show them damage from the initial attack and to effectively use them as human shields," said the Fox report.

According to the Fox story, the curtailed strike "led to a great deal of consternation by coalition commanders."

Nic Robertson, a veteran CNN correspondent who was part of the CNN crew cited in the Fox story, called the rival network's report "outrageous and hypocritical."



CNN refutes 'human shield' claims

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Robertson said a Fox staffer was among the journalists on the trip -- a fact left out of the Fox report -- and that the journalists in the group were hurried through their trip by their minders.

"To say it was a human shield is nuts," Robertson said, later adding: "I expect lies from the government here. I don't expect it from other journalists. It's frankly incredibly disappointing."

There was no immediate response from Fox to a CNN request for comment.

The incident involved a trip Sunday night arranged by Libyan authorities to the Gadhafi compound that had been bombed earlier by coalition forces.

Robertson said the 40 or so journalists on the bus weren't told ahead of time where they were going, and that there was no attempt by the Libyan minders to restrict anyone from getting on or off the bus before they left.

Upon arrival, the journalists spent about 20 minutes at the damaged building and then were hurried to a tent where they waited with Gadhafi supporters for him to appear, Robertson said. Gadhafi never showed up, and the journalists went back to their bus and departed, according to Robertson.

A government official even pushed him onto the bus as he tried to broadcast a live shot at the end, Robertson said.

"If they wanted to use us as human shields ... they would have kept us there longer," Robertson said. "That's not what happened."

Robertson noted that the sole participant on the trip from Fox wasn't normally a reporter or videographer, but was given a camera and told to go along. In general, Robertson said, the Fox team in Tripoli rarely goes on the reporting trips arranged by the government.

The CNN team goes in order to get whatever information it can to assess what happened and compare it to government versions of events, he said. Otherwise, he noted, the journalists are dependent on government-edited videotape that likely omits key details.

For example, U.S. officials called the Gadhafi compound a legitimate target because it included command and control capability, Robertson noted.

"We want to go and see: Is it a command and control system? What are the telltale signs there that the government wouldn't want us to see?" Robertson said.


Washington (CNN) - The military operation in Libya is resulting in something unusual in Congress these days: a bipartisan response of sharp criticism coming from both parties.

On the left, President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats, including Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-District of Columbia, say the president is "stirring up a lot of controversy."

"We're not coordinating with the rebels. Are we going to leave them surrounded, and with the mercy of Gadhafi? I've never seen anything so confused in my life," Norton told CNN.

On the right, lawmakers are demanding the president better explain the U.S. mission in Libya to Congress and the American people.

"The president should come home and call the Congress back into session and to make his case. He needs to define what the United States' vital mission is here, what is our vital interest, how does he see the potential cost unfolding here," said Rep. Candice Miller, R-Michigan, in an interview from her home district.

Over the weekend, leading Republicans - from House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, to House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, and House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon of California - said President Obama must more clearly define the mission.

In a telephone interview with CNN Monday, Ros-Lehtinen said she, too, believes the president should come to Capitol Hill.

"I would hope that our leadership on both sides of the aisle would ask President Obama to convene a joint session of Congress as soon as possible so that he could better define the mission and clearly articulate U.S. security interests in our operations in Libya," said Ros-Lehtinen.

One major complaint from top Republicans is what they call mixed signals coming from the administration, such as whether the goal is to get rid of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

On Sunday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told NBC, "The goals of this campaign right now again are limited ... it isn't about seeing him go."

Monday, President Obama said, "It is U.S. policy that Gadhafi needs to go."

The president insists there's no contradiction - one is military action to back a U.N. resolution, the other is U.S policy.

Veteran Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana opposed a no-fly zone in Libya from the start. He told CNN's "John King USA" he's more concerned now.

"I do not understand the mission because as far as I can tell in the United States there is no mission, and there are no guidelines for success," said Lugar.

The toughest criticism is coming from the president's own party. Democratic lawmakers issued terse statement after statement arguing that so far he has not fulfilled his constitutional obligation to consult Congress.

"In launching over 100 missiles on Libya this weekend, not only did the Defense Department undermine a carefully constructed consensus, which included the Arab League, but it leveled a devastating blow to our legislative-executive checks and balances," said Rep. Mike Honda, D-California.

"I demand a serious conversation in Congress before new countries are incautiously invaded and before America's legislative branch is eviscerated further," he said in a statement.

"I respect the President's expressed commitment to multilateralism and his attention to the United Nations. Britain and France, and other nations within the European Union as well as the Arab League have called for a no-fly zone in Libya," said Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Massachusetts.

"But consulting with allies does not exempt the Executive Branch from consulting with Congress," he said.
Capuano and Honda represent the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, but some moderates like Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, agree.

"Congress needs to understand the risk involved to the lives of our service members, how long the Administration anticipates U.S. involvement, the impact of our involvement on our other national security priorities like Afghanistan, and what the ultimate objective is," said Begich in a statement.

"The Administration needs to be straight with Congress and the American people about what the cost of this activity will be to American taxpayers," he said.

Rep. Norton participated in a House Democratic conference call Saturday during which lawmakers voiced intense criticism.

"The president is going to have a hard time getting Democrats to support this unless he comes forward with a great deal more," she told CNN.

To be sure, for all the criticism, the president also has congressional support in both parties for actions in Libya.

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, told CNN the president has a "very clear defined role of what the United States is doing in support of France and Great Britain and our Arab League partners and other nations who are going to be leading the charge on the no-fly zone."

Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's second ranking Democrat, issued a short statement Monday backing action so far in Libya.

"With the full and unprecedented backing of the Arab League and the United Nations, U.S. forces, along with our allies, are enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya. I support this limited, international action," said Durbin.

In terms of consultation, the president did send a letter to Congress Monday which he says explains the U.S. mission in Libya but many Democrats say it's not enough - he also needs congressional approval for US military action.

Obama did meet with leaders last Friday in the White House situation room, but many lawmakers had already left Washington and participated by conference call, including House Speaker Boehner.

CNN is told that Boehner – whose support is critical -didn't ask any questions at that meeting.

A senior GOP source insisted the reason was it was difficult for Boehner to hear, and "nobody muted their phones on the 20-person call."

Boehner did not follow up afterward either.

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