Men sprawled on a tile floor, shirtless and
convulsing. Children, too, seemingly unable to control their shaking and
flailing. Panic and screams in the background.
These are some of the hard-to-stomach images
that the Obama administration has shown a select group of senators in
closed-door briefings to make the case that a limited military attack on Syria
CNN was the first to obtain the 13 different
videos seen by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that depict the
gruesome scene of an chemical weapons attack in Syria on August 21. The
administration told senators that their authenticity was verified by the
The attack, allegedly carried out by Syrian
forces under President Bashar al-Assad, has touched off the most critical
foreign policy question since the uprising began in 2011: Is a military
The videos capture a moment of panic, as those
who are standing try to feed water to those who appear incapacitated. Prayers
What is sarin?
Many of the videos were previously posted on
YouTube, but this collection of footage is significant because the intelligence
community has given it a stamp of authenticity.
The footage could be vital in the
administration's quest to convince Congress and the American public that the
U.S. must launch punitive strikes against Syria, former U.N. Ambassador Bill
"That video will sensitize the American
people that this isn't just an intervention, that this is a military strike to
stop that type of atrocity," the former congressman told CNN.
While the videos are hard to watch, they do not
prove who is responsible for the attack, nor do they provide an answer for
whether military strikes are the correct course.
President Barack Obama favors limited
intervention, and his administration has been working nonstop to convince
allies in Europe and lawmakers back home for support.
Hours after CNN obtained and broadcast portions
of the videos, the Senate Intelligence Committee posted them on its website for
An aide to Dianne Feinstein, the committee's
chairwoman, said it's expected the video will be played Monday at a briefing
for all House members. Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck
Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice will be among those representing
the Obama administration at that hearing and one Wednesday for senators,
according to the White House.
Based on her attendance at closed-door
briefings, Feinstein has decided to vote in favor of the measure to intervene
militarily in Syria, defying the wishes of many of her constituents.
"What's coming in is overwhelmingly
negative," Feinstein said Thursday about the feedback from voters.
"There's no question about that. But you see, then they don't know what I
The availability of these videos obtained by CNN
means that anyone can see at least part of the administration's evidence and
come to their own conclusions.
One video shows a room with enough children to
fill a classroom, but they are arranged on the ground, the bright colors of
their shirts -- red, yellow, green, purple, blue -- contrasting the paleness of
their dead bodies. There were dead adults placed in this space, too. The video
captures at least six rows of adults with no less than four bodies each.
Sheets and blankets cover some of the bodies.
In another video, a man uses a manual
resuscitator on a toddler, who appears motionless. Another man comes with a
bottled water and the men together try to rinse the small boy's face. It looks
like the boy's chest moves, but his arms remain pinned to his side like a
soldier at attention.
CNN cannot independently confirm the
authenticity of the videos. But officials have a number of reasons as to why
they believe they are authentic.
The videos were shot from multiple angles,
providing overlap, not just in what could be seen but what could be heard, the
administration officials told the senators.