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Captured U.S. Soldier Free After 5 Years; Interview with Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania

Aired June 1, 2014 - 07:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Wondering, too, about Stockholm syndrome. I mean, here you are depending on these people to feed you, to shelter you, to clothe you, to decide whether you live or die. You wonder what the mindset is when he gets back.

The parents obviously as we said were waiting to hear whether they are going to be reunited with him either in Germany, where he's going to Landstuhl Medical Center or after he comes back, reinstituted in San Antonio at the Brook Medical Center.

So, that is the latest we're getting from the Defense Department this morning. But we do know that the 28-year-old was flown to Germany from Afghanistan and he's going to go through some real medical treatment as they try to discern what his mental state is, his physical state is, and he'll be debriefed, too, before he returns home.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Now, remember, he was captured by the Taliban at the end of June in 2009, just short of five years. Yesterday, the militants freed him in return for the released of five terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay.

Let's now go to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr for more on this incredible story.

Barbara, good morning.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Victor, Christi, it was an extraordinary negotiation, five Taliban for one American soldier.

BOB BERGDAHL, SGT. BOWE BERGDAHL'S FATHER: I'd like to say to Bowe right now who is having trouble speaking English. (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE) I'm your father, Bowe.

STARR (voice-over): An emotional moment as Bowe Bergdahl's parents stand with the president.

JANI BERGDAHL, BOWE BERGDAHL'S MOTHER: I just want to say thank you to everyone who has supported Bowe.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After nearly five years in captivity, their son, Bowe, is coming home.

BOWE BERGDAHL: Release me, please. I'm begging you, bring me home, please? Bring me home.

STARR: Behind the scenes, a secret choreography had quickly been worked out in the last several days. A U.S. command center was set up at an undisclosed location. U.S. commandos secretly flew to a point near the border where the Taliban said they would be waiting to turn Bergdahl over.

Back at Guantanamo bay, officials from Qatar were on standby, waiting to take custody of the five Taliban detainees the U.S. was releasing in return for Bergdahl. That was the guarantee the Taliban needed to let the American soldier go after five years a prisoner.

The Pentagon will not disclose if it was Navy SEALs or Army Delta Force teams. They were taking no chances. Several dozen of America's most elite forces were involved. Other troops stayed at a distance, plankton drones flew overhead keeping watch.

The heavily armed U.S. troops landed facing 18 Taliban and Bergdahl. A senior U.S. official says Bowe Bergdahl was able to walk and they quickly got him on board the helicopter.

Once in the air, an extraordinary moment. Bergdahl wrote down the letters "SF?", asking if these men were U.S. Special Forces.

(on camera): The men replied, yes, they were special forces, and they told Bergdahl they'd been looking for him for a very long time. At that point, Bowe Bergdahl broke down -- Christi, Victor.


BLACKWELL: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us -- Barbara, thank you very much.

Now the question this morning among many of the questions, who are the five Guantanamo detainees released in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl? Other top Taliban commanders the group has tried to free for more than a decade.

We've got pictures here but we have to say these, these are photos obtained by WikiLeaks that match the names released by the Department of Defense, but DOD would neither confirm nor deny their accuracy. All these men held important positions within the Taliban, ranging from interior minister to chief of their army staff.

PAUL: So, these five you're looking at here are due to arrive in Qatar today. Qatari officials are assuring the U.S. they will not become a terror threat and they won't even travel out of Qatar for a year. But a lot of people are wondering how do you assure that?

BLACKWELL: CNN's Richard Quest us live in Doha. Richard, what are the Qataris saying if anything how they will assure these men will not be reintegrated and become a threat to the U.S. and others? RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The authorities are saying absolutely nothing on that crucial question, as they refuse to give any details about the operation, safe to say that the mandate to negotiate was agreed by the emir himself, that it was generally what they described basic foreign policy principles of humanitarian considerations, and when you push them just that little bit further, they say they were able to act as the linchpin in these negotiations because they enjoyed the confidence of both the Taliban, where the Taliban actually have representatives here in Doha and the United States, which, of course, has longstanding military economic very deep ties between Qatar and the U.S.

Even so, which ever way you pass their words, Qatar very much at the center of what has been one of the most delicate and difficult negotiations.

PAUL: Well, defense -- let's talk about Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. We understand that he is on his way to Qatar as well. I want to listen here to something that he said. He said, "Do you think this will help negotiation" -- I'm wondering I guess, do we have sound from him? OK, let's listen to defense secretary here.


CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Whether that could lead to possible new breakthroughs with the Taliban, I don't know. Hopefully, it might.


PAUL: All right. So, Richard, do you think that this will help in negotiations in any way with the Taliban in the U.S.?

QUEST: If there is one country that is well-positioned to act as a broker, an honest broker, if you like, between the two sides, when it comes to the Taliban. Not so in other areas of Middle East policy where Qatar enjoyed the enmity of many of its gulf partners because of its policies with Syria and Egypt and the like. But when you talk about the Taliban, here the Qataris are uniquely positioned to act as this honest broker between the two.

For the time being, the new emir has only been in office a year. The regime change was June of last year. So, the new emir is keen to carry favor with the United States. There can be little doubt that the actions they performed in the last few months will certainly go a long way in Washington to put them in a favorable light.

BLACKWELL: All right. We'll look for the fruits of this relationship moving forward. Richard Quest in Doha for us -- Richard, thank you.

PAUL: So, one of the people who advises the president on national security matter is gong to be right here on CNN this morning.

BLACKWELL: National security adviser Susan Rice was there in the Rose Garden yesterday as the president made the announcement that Bergdahl had been released and this morning she's on "STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY". You have to hear what she has to say, coming up this morning at 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

We're going to have much more on the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in a moment, because there are many angles that we still have to discuss.

But we do have some other stories that broke overnight we want to tell you about this morning.

PAUL: All seven people aboard a private jet, first of all, sadly were killed in a fiery crash. This happened about 20 miles northwest of Boston. Officials say the plane apparently caught fire. Photos appearing on social media purporting to be of the crash site show flames and smoke.

BLACKWELL: Now, the victims have not been identified. Their jet had taken off from Hanscom Air Force Base when it ran into a wooded area there, but we know the NTSB is investigating.

PAUL: And rescuers are not optimistic about finding six missing climbers alive on Mt. Rainier. Park officials say there's "no viable chance of survival" after a helicopter search spotted only climbing gear. Now, it's believed the group most likely died in some sort of fall. Rescuers received a signal from the emergency beacons, but they only continue their search by area because entering the ground is too dangerous. The group vanished several days ago.

BLACKWELL: Well, there's unanimous relief and excitement that Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has been released but there are some lawmakers in the second line of statements, in the second lines of these news conferences expressing some concern. We'll tell you why.

PAUL: Yes, in the meantime, people in Bergdahl's hometown -- oh, they are just over the moon right now.

BLACKWELL: Yes, they are.

PAUL: We're going to take you there, next.


BLACKWELL: More now on the stunning release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

PAUL: Yes, some top Republicans say freeing five Guantanamo detainees in return for the 28-year-old soldier gives terrorists an incentive to capture more Americans. Short time ago, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the U.S. pursued this effort to bring Bergdahl home, but obviously there are a lot of people who say we're concerned about our other soldiers now.

BLACKWELL: Yes, let's bring in retired Lieutenant Colonel Robert Maginnis. He joins us from Woodbridge, Virginia.

Colonel, good to have you this morning. I want to read a sentence from chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Mike Rogers. "This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages."

What's your response?

LT. COL. ROBERT MAGINNIS, US ARMY (RET): Well, certainly, we support what happened in terms of Mr. Bergdahl, Sergeant Bergdahl returning. You know, he's right, there is a threat. These are all Taliban leaders. What are they going to do? They will urn ultimately we think to the battlefield, as others that we've released from Guantanamo over the years.

So, is it sending a message? Well, you know, after Vietnam or toward the end of the Vietnam War, we recovered all our POWs. You know, the president announced this week that the war is going to end in 2016 for the U.S., so you know, it's kind of wrapping things up. The president knows, his term in office is coming to an end and he wants to turn over a warless U.S. perhaps to the next administration.

But yes, I think that it does send a signal that we're going to swap people. What they got, though, Victor, are some operational commanders, some provincial leaders that will likely go back in and try to stir the post-U.S./Afghanistan in the direction that they favor, and, of course, Haqqani, who was holding Bergdahl, not a nice guy, and he has in his cadre of Taliban have a lot of bad stuff in the future for themselves.

PAUL: Representative Mike Rogers said he has little confidence in the security assurances regarding the movement and activities of the new released Taliban leaders and it made us wonder what security assurances could they give the U.S.? I mean, is there any trust involved here?

MAGINNIS: Well, there is trust, and of course we have the same issues with Kuwait City, with Riyadh, those that we released to Yemen. The Qataris are good friend and the Qataris as you reported or indicated earlier, the new mayor is a good friend. So, I suspect what they promised to hold them there in Qatar for the next year will happen.

Now, of course, they're going to have their families there. They're going to have Taliban officials that will negotiate, talk to them, plan the future. A year is not long. So, next June, those people will probably return to Pakistan/Afghanistan and will rejoin their former followers and will probably play an active role in the post-U.S./Afghanistan and what it really emerges into.

PAUL: All right. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Maginnis, we appreciate your insights this morning. Thanks for making time for us.

MAGINNIS: Well, thank you for having me.

PAUL: Sure.

I mean, you would think everybody would be elated that Bowe Bergdahl has been released, right?

BLACKWELL: Yes, and for the most part everything we're hearing is that people are happy that he's home, but -- and some people add that but -- there are concerns, and we talk about a few of them. There are also concerns that quite possibly President Obama did not follow law in the way that this was executed. We'll talk about what some members of Congress are calling a skirting of the law to free Bowe Bergdahl.

PAUL: Also this morning, the fallout over the V.A. scandal could well bleed in politics this fall. Jake Tapper is in for John King with a look ahead to "INSIDE POLITICS."

Good morning, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Political fallout from Eric Shinseki's resignation. How will it affect the Democratic candidates this fall?

Plus, the big rollout to this summer's much-read for political junkies. Is Hillary Clinton intentionally trying to overshadow the current president? It's all ahead on "INSIDE POLITICS."


BLACKWELL: For the past five years, residents of a small town in Idaho, they've been praying and waiting for the release of one of their own, American soldier Bowe Bergdahl.

PAUL: And the folks in his hometown have a lot that they want to say about him. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been the most unbelievable day in my lifetime. It's like 100 Christmases all rolled into one. There is no better news that this town could have received.

PAUL (voice-over): Stephanie O'Neill was planning the annual Bring Bowe Back event when she heard that he'd been released from captivity. So, it's now going to be renamed "Bowe is Back." All over the city of Hailey in central Idaho support for Bergdahl has never faded. Yellow ribbons and balloons adorn main street.

And this morning, residents are putting up new signs that say, "Welcome home, Bowe."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Family is resilient. The community has not waivered in its commitment to get him freed. And so, today was just, I think everybody burst into tears or couldn't get a silly grin off their faces. It's long coming. It's been five years.

PAUL: Dwight Murphy has been handing out bracelets that read "Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl U.S. Army" and the date of his capture. For him, news of the release was an emotional moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They call me on the one phone and said, Dwight, you need to sit down. I went over and sat down at the desk and they said, I got news for you, Bowe Bergdahl's been released, and I'm glad I was sitting down, because it was joyous news to hear.

PAUL: For Sue Martin, the homecoming has a special meaning.

Bowe worked in a coffee shop before his deployment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bowe was in daily contact with all the other employees here, and nobody heard from him.

PAUL: Since his capture, a small lamp inside the coffee shop has burned brightly for almost five years. She wants him to turn it off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they announced it was Bowe, then I put the sign up so our public here would know it was Bowe and they could be part of the support team and that light's been on ever since.


PAUL: By the way, we're talking to sue in the next hour. Her son died and Bowe really helped her pick up the pieces and we'll talk about that, when her son died, and so, that's coming up in the 8:00 hour.

BLACKWELL: You also have a conversation with Representative Tim Murphy. Murphy works with veterans at the Walter Reed Medical Center.

PAUL: We're going to be talking to him in just a moment. Stay close.


PAUL: So rarely do we get to talk about such good news on the air, but everybody is abuzz over the homecoming that will soon be of Bowe Bergdahl.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And the question is this morning, what is Bowe Bergdahl feeling? What is he experiencing? I want to talk with a member of Congress.

Congressman Tim Murphy, a representative, works with veterans every week at Walter Reed Hospital and practices as a psychologist.

Congressman Murphy, good to have you this morning.

First question to you, I heard the president say yesterday in the Rose Garden that Bowe Bergdahl has never been forgotten, but I'd imagine after five years you'd feel some level of abandonment. What is he feeling now?

REP. TIM MURPHY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I'm assuming a lot of elation that takes place, but certainly every soldier knows that America does not leave soldiers behind. Every VFW and American Legion hall in America has flags and ceremonies about that. So, that is a lot of relief. Maybe some disbelief on his part, too. Certainly looking forward to seeing his family and a big welcome home. PAUL: You know, you just mentioned they leave no man behind, and that is coupling it this morning with a lot of people in Congress, since you're a congressman we want to have you put that hat on right now, who also say we don't negotiate with terrorists. That's exactly what happened here, and I'm sure people are trying to find the balance.

But I want to read you something from Representative Buck McKeon of California making a statement that stood out. He said, "In executing this transfer, the president clearly violated laws which require him to notify Congress 30 days before any transfer of terrorists from Guantanamo Bay and to explain how the threat posed by such terrorists has been substantially mitigated."

In your opinion or just in legalese, did the president break a law to make this exchange happen?

MURPHY: Well, we'll be reviewing that in detail to see if laws were broken. There's a basis for that, there's a real concern that a change in U.S. policy against this sort of exchange may lead to further capture of soldiers, and that's that puts others at risk. We know during this time that Bowe has been in prison there's been threats to kill him, there's been calls for ransom, there's been calls for larger numbers of prisoner exchanges within this whole process.

Generally when a war tends to wind down, one does more of these exchanges at the end, but it is a concern and it's a policy -- the fact it's been made, a policy that's going to have to be reviewed, it will help other soldiers understand what they should be doing under these circumstances if they are captured. There's all sorts of questions going to be raised on this.

BLACKWELL: Congressman, Eric Shinseki is out at the V.A. at the start of the week, officials will start to look for the permanent replacement. How broad do you think the problem of these delayed appointments is throughout the V.A. system?

MURPHY: It's a huge problem. I think about 64 percent was the number that came out in terms of these phony or the long waiting lists. In Pittsburgh, they discovered a near list, the people who had called the V.A. for an appointment and just never got one and it's up to 2 years old for those, and those numbers may be well over 80,000 nationwide of people waiting. So, it is Shinseki stepped down because it did need to have that change, and others may be put in charge.

But it is a pervasive problem of a culture that said the appearance of doing something is more important than actually doing something. That's very, very troubling, and I think there's going to be a lot of heads that are going to have to roll in this process and a lot of people who themselves are going to have to understand there's a new culture within the V.A. whose first priority should be to serve veterans and not to make some metrics in order to get a bonus.

BLACKWELL: All right. Congressman Tim Murphy, good to have you this morning and hopefully right now, something actually gets done.

We'll see you back here --

PAUL: Thank you, sir.

BLACKWELL: -- at the top of the hour, 8:00 Eastern for more NEW DAY.

PAUL: Right. But, Brooke Baldwin is with you next for the good doctor. "SANJAY GUPTA, M.D." starts right now.