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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Controversial Rescue of Bowe Bergdahl; Father's Controversial Tweet; Jay Carney Defends Bergdahl Rescue; Interview with John McCain; Keith Stansell Held Hostage For Five Years By Revolutionary Armed Forces Of Colombia; Police: Middle School Girls Tried To Kill Friend To Impress Fictional "Slenderman"
Aired June 3, 2014 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, thanks for joining us. The Bowe Bergdahl story which began as a Rose Garden celebration with his family is now a fire storm. Nearly each new detail fueling the flames including the breaking news tonight suggesting that Sergeant Bergdahl did indeed walk away from his post willingly. And as he recuperates in a military hospital in Germany, President Obama in Poland is feeling the heat. He's defending the deal, the release of five Guantanamo detainees to free him and the necessity of it even in light of allegations that then Private Bergdahl deserted and may have been actively seeking contact with the enemy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity, period. Full stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Meantime, back in Washington, the president's deputy national security adviser calling Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, apologizing for not giving 30 days' notice of the deal as required by law. Unclear if she accepted this apology, but crystal clear she was not happy with the way this all unfolded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D-CA) CHAIR SENIOR INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It comes with some surprise and dismay that the transfers went ahead with no consultation, totally not following the law, and in an issue of this kind of concern to a committee that bares the oversight responsibility, I think you can see that we're very dismayed about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, dismayed Republican committee members even more so. We're going to get a sense of it shortly with GOP Senator and former POW John McCain. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney joins us as well. In addition to a perhaps compounding the political acrimony, a tweet now deleted that Sergeant Bergdahl's father Bob apparently sent to a Taliban spokesman. It reads "I'm still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child. Amin." Which is omen in Arabic. The Bergdahl family declined comment. On top of all that, we're also learning more about what kind of intelligence the military had about where Sergeant Bergdahl was being held and as we mentioned what a preliminary Pentagon report concluded about the circumstances of his disappearance. And they are fascinating.
Covering those angles and more is Michelle Kosinski with the President in Warsaw tonight, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon and Ed Lavandera in Sergeant Bergdahl's home town of Hailey, Idaho. Barbara, let me start with you. The Army announced what they called a comprehensive coordinated review of Sergeant Bergdahl's disappearance. What did you learn?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Anderson. What we are talking about is they are going to conduct another fact-finding investigation now that Bergdahl is back. They will talk to him when he is medically and psychologically able. But there was a preliminary investigation conducted back in the 2009 timeframe when he first disappeared. And the U.S. military official tells me that that initial investigation concluded indeed he did leave that post of his own free will. The evidence left behind, his weapon, his bullet proof vest and his night vision goggles, very key sensitive items. They did not classify him as a deserter at that time. What they're going to have to do is talk to him, get the facts and find out what his intent was. Did he intend to desert the U.S. military?
COOPER: Is it clear at this point, Barbara, how he actually left the base? I mean it's hard to just walk off of a base. I heard some reports he may have gone in a contractor's vehicle?
STARR: Well, you know, that's really interesting. We don't exactly know. By all accounts, this may not have been a full out military base, as most people think of it in Afghanistan, but rather instead a small outpost. Vehicles, concertino wire, maybe a couple of structures, a guard tower. Not clear because so far there's -- as we know, there is no soldier that was there that night that saw him leave.
COOPER: All right, Michelle, now you're traveling with the president in Warsaw. As I said, the White House obviously getting a lot of blowback about the way they've handled this from both sides of the aisle. I understand it led to some type of apology from the White House to high ranking members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. What do you know?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, this is confusing because when we heard about what was turned an apology from Senator Dianne Feinstein, we thought that sounded strange because national security team has been completely unapologetic about this. In fact, today they put out this statement really spelling out why they feel that this operation was completely within the law. Basically because they say that Bergdahl's life was in danger. That they had this window of time that they had to act within. And that to delay that by involving Congress at that point would have put his life in danger. So legal, they say.
But when we asked the national security team about this apology, they say no, they were just calling certain senators to express regrets that they weren't able to be reached personally on Saturday when some other lawmakers were reachable and they were briefed on the situation basically as it was happening. So they are pretty much denying that this was an apology. I think more is going to be coming out on this as we have heard more and more from lawmakers as you mention on both sides of the aisle. Unhappy, not necessarily with the fact that Bergdahl was obtained back from the Taliban. But how this went down and also the number and the type of prisoners that were released from Gitmo. I mean they are all essentially saying the same thing at this point. Yes, there were discussions with Congress. Some are saying that was as long ago as two years, but all these details that they are angry about now were not within what they thought the scope of this would turn out to be. Senator John McCain even calling this wrong, unacceptable to the American people he's saying.
COOPER: Right. Yeah. I'm going to talk to Senator McCain a little bit later on in the broadcast. And as you know, on this program he actually earlier, a month ago, had said he would support some sort of an exchange under certain conditions and depended on the details. I will talk to him about that and Jay Carney as well.
Ed, I want to go to you in Hailey, Idaho. You're finding out new details about that tweet that I mentioned earlier. Apparently reportedly sent by Sergeant Bergdahl's father reading as I said "I'm still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child." What do you know about it? Have they confirmed that's in fact come from the father?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we tried to double check with the Bergdahl family today about whether or not that indeed came from Bob Bergdahl, they were told by the military spokesman who works with the family that they would have no comment on it. But Bob Bergdahl has been tweeting for some time and he is used, it's his kind of an avenue to gather intelligence, gather information, at times communicate with people, send messages and their friends of the family say he has done this always with the hope of creating sympathy for his son and in some way trying to save his son. But obviously, that tweet quickly deleted, apparently, after it was sent out as causing a great deal of criticism of Bob Bergdahl tonight.
COOPER: All right, we're going to have more from all of you later on in the broadcast, appreciate it. Michelle Kaminski, Barbara Starr, Ed Lavandera.
Now, whatever you think of the latest developments, it is safe, safe to say that the picture has changed considerably from the one on Saturday in the Rose Garden. President Obama alongside the Bergdahls hailing his release as another piece of his commitment to winding down the war. Echoing themes he hit just days before on the surprise visit to Afghanistan.
Today that picture of White House pride has become something of a defensive crowd with outgoing press secretary Jay Carney doing a lot of the defending. I spoke to him before the broadcast tonight.
COOPER: So, Jay, Sergeant Bergdahl was held by the Haqqani Network, a group that your administration declared a foreign terrorist organization, I think as recently as 2012. I know you were negotiating through an intermediary, but in reality, can it be said that you were negotiating with terrorists?
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Anderson, Sergeant Bergdahl was held as a prisoner in an armed conflict, one that's been going on for more than a dozen years, has a general principle going back all the way to our founding. The United States military does not leave its men and women in uniform behind when they are held by the enemy in captivity. And in this situation as has been the case for the previous five years, we were doing everything we could and looking at every option possible to try to recover Sergeant Bergdahl. He is, as you know, or was, the lone captive remaining from either the Iraq or Afghanistan war. And you pointed out in your question accurately that we had been engaged in direct talks with the Taliban on broader issues including Sergeant Bergdahl, but also exploring the possibility of Afghan-led reconciliation talks. Those broke down in 2012. In this case, through a third party, the Qataris, we were able to negotiate his release and the transfer of these Guantanamo Bay detainees.
COOPER: I mean I understand the imperative of not leaving anyone behind, but at the same time, can it still be said that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists?
CARNEY: It can be, Anderson, because when you put on the uniform for the United States and you go and fight on behalf of your country in a foreign land at war and you're taken captive by the enemy, the principle that we don't leave our men and women behind doesn't have an asterisk attached to it depending on who is holding you. That principle is in violet (ph), and that's what we pursued here. I think something ...
COOPER: So, even if it was al Qaeda, there would be negotiations with that?
CARNEY: Well, yeah, this is -- but that's not the case here. And what I'm saying is he was a prisoner in an armed conflict and we were engaged in an effort for five years to try to recover him. As I think an admiral said on TV today, I noticed, he said, you know, when one of your shipmates goes overboard, you go after -- you go get them. You don't ask whether he jumped or he was pushed or he fell, you go get him first and then you find out.
COOPER: You said that there was a window of opportunity because the end of the war to make this deal. Secretary Hagel said that Bergdahl's health was in jeopardy. Which was it? What was the reason?
CARNEY: Secretary Hagel very clearly said that it was - his health and safety. And the fact is that we could, you know, we had to move quickly in order to ensure that his life was not jeopardized. I think as you pointed out in your questioning, he wasn't being held by a bunch of nice guys here. And he had been in captivity for five years. And we had reason to believe that it was absolutely necessary to move quickly and not to notify Congress 30 days in advance and forego the opportunity of recovering him. And I would note, Anderson that the conversations about the exchange of prisoners here had been engaged in for quite some time including with members of Congress during the previous episode when there was the potential for direct discussions with the Taliban and recovery of Sergeant Bergdahl through that in 2011 and 2012. I think Senator McCain himself on your air ...
CARNEY: And said he would support such a deal, and that was not that many months ago.
COOPER: You have to note that the details of it, but yes, he would support the deal.
CARNEY: Well, the details -- OK, but this was -- the details are you have the Secretary of Defense in consultation with the entire national security team affirm that there is sufficient mitigation of the threat posed by these transferred detainees to merit the exchange and the recovery of Sergeant Bergdahl. And that's what we did.
COOPER: Senator Feinstein talked about your previous briefings, on the potential prisoners swap and she said that there were very strong views and they were virtually unanimous against the trade. She even suggested that might have been the motivation behind not consulting Congress. To that you say what?
CARNEY: I think that the notification is a notification. It is not a request for permission. And obviously there are diverse views on a matter like this, which is I concede, very complex. Where there are competing imperatives. What was a fact is that in this case, an issue that had been worked on for a long time reached a point where there was an opportunity to secure Sergeant Bergdahl's release.
COOPER: What was -- is there any concern about having a ceremony in the Rose Garden? I mean why go to that level of public attention on it? You could have very easily brought this guy home and sort of kept it relatively quiet.
CARNEY: Well, I guess I'm perplexed by that kind of analysis, which I guess suggests that maybe some of the reporters were surprised by the story that's evolved over the last several days. We were obviously aware of the circumstances around this case. It was the right thing to do because of what we were doing to make it clear to the public that the president thought this was the right thing to do and to join with his parents who have been suffering for five years in his absence. To make that statement.
COOPER: Jay Carney, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
CARNEY: Thank you, Anderson. (END VIDEOTAPE)
COOPER: We had had to edit that interview for time. If you want to see the whole conversation, go to website, AC360.com.
Coming up next, John McCain who himself spent five and a half years in the hands of some especially brutal captors in the Vietnam War. His perspective and why back in February he supported the idea of making a deal to free Sergeant Bergdahl but now has grave doubts about this particular deal. Quick reminder, make sure you send your DVR seeking life box 360 anytime. Also tonight, what made Sergeant Bergdahl tick? What if anything made him if the allegations are true, leave his post? Desert? Some possible clues, next.
COOPER: Covering the Bowe Bergdahl story which seems to grow bigger by the hour, there's repeating the full circumstances of his disappearance and his exact motivations if he in fact walked away are left from his unit remain murky. We have yet to receive a final determination from the Pentagon let alone hear from Sergeant Bergdahl himself.
Now, that said, some of his fellow troops have been speaking out including former Army Sergeant Evan Buetow. He was Bergdahl's team leader the night he disappeared and tell "THE LEAD'S" Jake Tapper about the way the soldier was seeking out the enemy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SGT. EVAN BUETOW (RET.) BERGDAHL'S FORMER TEAM LEADER: I was standing right next to the radio when they heard that there is an American in a village called Yayakale, which is about two miles from where we were at. And it's a village that has a very large presence of Taliban. That there is the American is in Yayakale, he's looking for someone who speaks English so he can talk to the Taliban. And I heard it straight from the interpreter's lips as he heard it over the radio. And at that point, it was like, this is kind of snowballing out of control a little bit. There's a lot more to this story than just a soldier walking away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And that may understate the case. More on that from justice correspondent Pamela Brown now.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soldiers who served with Bowe Bergdahl tell CNN he joined the military as a quiet, well behaved soldier. And in debt portrait of Bergdahl in "Rolling Stone" magazine two years ago, those who knew him said in the days before his deployment he seemed more interested in learning Pashtu, reading military manuals and studying maps of Afghanistan than socializing with his comrades over barbecue and beer. But service members in Bergdahl's platoon say once he got to Afghanistan, he started to change.
JOSH KORDER, SERVED WITH BOWE BERGDAHL: As soon as we had gone to Afghanistan and things started to turn a little bit harder for all of us, he immediately started separating himself away from us and everyone in the platoon and started gravitating more toward the Afghan soldiers.
BROWN: Bergdahl's father told "Rolling Stone" his son was lured to the Army with the false promise he would be helping Afghan villagers rebuild their lives and learn to defend themselves. E-mails from Bergdahl to his family obtained by Rolling Stone show Bergdahl's growing disillusionment and one e-mail calling his command stupid after an ambush on his unit.
BUETOW: Yes. He did talk about how he did not agree with the war effort in Afghanistan. Or the U.S. Army, the way we were handling our war in Afghanistan.
BROWN: And his final e-mail to his parents before being captured, he wrote, I'm ashamed to even be American. The U.S. Army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at. It's the army of liars, back stabbers, fools and bullies. His rant ends with what some are seeing as a clear sign of what was to come. "I'm sorry for everything," he wrote. "There are a few more boxes coming to you guys," referring to his uniform and books. Feel free to open them and use them.
MATT VIERKANT, BERGDAHL'S FELLOW PLATOON MEMBER: I think it was actually premeditated with the e-mails he sent to his father, mailing his stuff home before the mission. It definitely shows intent, premeditation.
BROWN: Just days after that last e-mail, Bergdahl disappeared from his camp and a frantic search ensued. One of his fellow soldiers remembers him asking a strange question about his sensitive equipment. His gun, bullet-proof vest and night vision goggles.
BUETOW: He did come to me at one point and asked me, he said, what would happen if my sensitive items go missing? It was a little odd that he was asking me that questions, but he still asked me. I told him. And it was just one of those other things. That once he walked away and we had all those things and the items left behind, it just kind of made perfect sense.
BROWN: Why he slipped away his outpost five years ago, remains a mystery.
Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: It appears clear. The experience of war changed him. It's also clear that war does different and often unexpected things to different people. So does captivity. Republican Senator John McCain endured more than five years of nearly nonstop mental and physical torture as POW in North Vietnam. He still has the scars to show for it, physically and otherwise. He brings a unique perspective to the debate over how far to go to bring prisoners home.
I spoke to Senator McCain just before the broadcast.
COOPER: Sir McCain, when you and I spoke back in February, you said that you would support a prisoner exchange for Sergeant Bergdahl. You said you were opposed to releasing the -- you called the five really hard core Taliban leaders as a confidence boosting measure, but you did signal that you were open to the idea of exchanging them for Bergdahl, that you cautioned that a lot would depend on the details. What has changed between then and now?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, first of all, I said it twice. Depending on a lot of the details, in other words, do not trade one person for five hard core -- the hardest of the hard core murdering war criminals who will clearly reenter the fight and send them to Qatar, of all places, where they will be free to roam including to the Taliban headquarters there in Qatar and then after a year will be allowed to go back into the fight in Afghanistan.
This is the hard core that we're judged time after time as unworthy of being -- that were needed to be kept in detention because they posed a risk and a threat to the United States of America. These are the hard core. They are Mullah Omar's cabinet. They will go back to the fight and they will try to kill Americans. That is a lousy deal. And let me say, again, I said to you twice it depends on the details. These details are terrible.
And by the way, could I just say I'm just lying about, if a sailor falls overboard, a captain picks him up no matter what. I'm an old Navy person. But also the captain doesn't steer his ship into waters that where the ship could be sunk, which is exactly what is happening in this case. So, you know, I'm sometimes entertained by Mr. Carney quoting me, but I wish he would quote me in full context.
COOPER: There has been a lot of criticism, obviously, of the deal from members of Congress. I think everyone agrees your voice carries an extraordinary amount of weight here because of your own experiences at the very least as the POW in Vietnam. How do you reconcile the fact that you think this was a bad move with the reality that unless the deal was made Bowe Bergdahl would likely still be in captivity tonight. Was there a better option?
MCCAIN: Because we have a much larger obligation. That obligation is the lives of the men and women who are on the battlefield who are laying their very lives on the line when we know full well that these five hard core, top level, which the Taliban designated are going to go back into the fight and try to kill Americans. And unfortunately and tragically, they have succeeded.
And by the way, when we sign up in the military, we know that we go into harm's way and we know that sometimes circumstances may not work in our favor. So to somehow say under any circumstances we would bring this wonderful -- I'm sure he's a fine man and his family is very happy, to bring him home no matter what the cost or the possible cost to America in American blood and treasure is not acceptable.
And again, look, when we sign up, when we volunteer, when we raise our right hand, I didn't complain about having been shot down. I knew what I was doing when I flew into combat. And so we all do take a risk unfortunately, and that's the nature of war and the nature of service in the Armed Services.
And this is the first time I have discussed it in this fashion, but I'm appalled to think that everything that the United States in its national interest is submerged and lower priority than the release of one soldier. That's not how war works and not how national security is addressed, and my heart goes out to Sergeant Bergdahl, whether he is innocent or guilty, I'm glad he's home. But in exchange for that, you cannot put Americans' lives in danger.
COOPER: Senator McCain, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
MCCAIN: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Up next tonight, a hostage survivor shares what Sergeant Bergdahl faces in the weeks and months ahead. Keith Stansell was helicoptered in Columbia for five years, which is the same U.S. military hospital in Texas where Bergdahl is expected to go. I'll talk to him.
Also tonight, severe weather pounding the Midwest. Look at that video with millions of people potentially in harm's way. There are currently tornado watches and warnings in at least two Midwestern states. We have the latest ahead.
COOPER: There aren't that many people who can really relate in any way to what Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl and his family been going through right now. John McCain certainly is one. Keith Stensel is another. He was reunited with his family about six years ago after being held for five years in Columbia. Upon returning home he went to the same reintegration facility at Brook Army Medical Center where Sergeant Bergdahl is expected to go.
In 2003m he was taking part in a counter-narcotics mission for the Pentagon when his plane went down in a remote regional Colombia controlled by guerrillas. The Colombian military rescued Stansell along with 15 other hostages. He joins me now live along with his mother, Lynn Stansell.
I appreciate both of you being with us. Let me start with you. You were held as I said for five years and you went to the same reintegration process that Sergeant Bergdahl is going through. What's the biggest challenge you face suddenly being free after having everything controlled for so long?
KEITH STANSELL, FORMER FARC HOSTAGE: Gosh, I think the biggest challenge initially is the overwhelming emotional shock. You go from having nothing to decide nothing to do except maybe sit as in our case. We were chained to trees for days on end. You go from somebody telling you when to brush your teeth to the modern world as we see today where we're surrounded by the internet. So just that ingest of information it's overwhelming and tough to deal with at first. It's tough to kind of take it in and process it.
COOPER: And Lynn, first of all, it's a pleasure to have you on the program. We're hearing that Sergeant Bergdahl's time with reintroduction to his family is going to be carefully orchestrated. You experienced kind of the same thing with Keith. What t was that like? How did it work to be reintroduced to him?
LYNN STANSELL, MOTHER OF KEITH STANSELL: Hi, Anderson, thank you. You were kind enough to cover this while he was in captivity and we appreciate it. Well, the army and the staff at BAMC, Brookes Army Medical Center have it all well planned out. Not only for the hostages who were released, but for all the family and they couldn't have been more wonderful in terms of pacing everything very carefully so that Keith and Mark and Tom would not have been overwhelmed.
We only had half an hour on our first visit with him. After the tears and the hugs, they took him away and let him rest and then the next day, we were able to have lunch. Everything is carefully planned out for their health.
COOPER: Was that hard as a mom to be told, well, this first time you're only going to have half an hour after being separated for five plus years.
LYNN STANSELL: After five years, we were grateful for the half hour and we knew he was in good hands and everyone was extremely respectful and helpful and advised us that this was the best way to do it.
COOPER: Keith, can you explaining that idea of half an hour? I mean, some people who haven't been through this would think it would be great to spend with family. Is it just so overwhelming?
KEITH STANSELL: That's the exact word for it, Anderson. You know, I remember when I was told I would only have 30 minutes. I said this is crazy. I want days with them, not 30 minutes. Each one of us had a doctor assigned to us. The doctor said I promise you when you get in there, it's going to be tough.
And we had a little signal worked out if I couldn't make the 30 minutes that they would pull me out. I have to be honest with you about 10 or 15 minutes into it, it was -- my breath was very rapid. I was breathing deeply. I had a cold sweat in my hands because it was an emotional overload.
I was beyond happy, but trying to keep it under control was kind of tough for me. Believe me, the half an hour, I was sad when I walked out of the room and left my family in there, but I also walked out in the hallway and could settle down and breathe and I had to sit quietly to put myself together.
COOPER: That's really fascinating. How long did that experience last for in interactions with your family? Was it kind of a little bit more every day?
KEITH STANSELL: It was a little bit more every day. I think really the first reunion for us was the initial shock was the big one. After that it became normalized fairly rapidly. The next day, we had lunch and spent the afternoon together. There was quarters on base where the families were kept. It was on the third day we were taken over there.
So it's all programmed out. No matter what the outcome on this court of public opinion on Bergdahl is for the family and for him, I hope that they trust in the folks will in San Antonio because they know what they are doing and they have their best interest in mind. It helped us tremendously. There was a wall put up around us and we were protected for ten days to get our feet on the ground. It was definitely necessary.
COOPER: Lynn, what would be your advice to the family going through this? I've talked to some people who say take your cues from the person who has been through this and the experts. What would you counsel them?
LYNN STANSELL: Well, I think that would be good advice if they could enlist the help of someone like Keith, Mark and Tom and others who have been held hostage so long and are trying to reintegrate into normal life. The family is going to have to be the rudder and the rock and the anchor and the guide and take care of so many details that they are not even anticipating yet.
Just minor things giving driver's license and just getting back into a normal life and setting up a home, that type of thing. It's a long process and the parents are going to have to really be the strong anchor for their son.
COOPER: Keith, I don't want to ask anything too personal, but are you a different person than the person who was first taken? Has this experience forever changed you in some way?
KEITH STANSELL: Absolutely it has. I hope, and I would hope the people around me would say I'm a better person for it. Anything that I can take from it and turn into a positive is a small win for me. I think that my life is by far better since my captivity than before, but that being said, better in many ways, but there's also scars I will carry forever.
We all face our own challenges. We speak about these all the time, but there's some things you're never going to get over. Some things for me I would say four to five nights out of seven, I have a dream about myself being in captivity still. I'm much better able to cope with that and the details and facts about my captivity don't bother me now.
Summertime we spend a lot of time outside. As you tan, I have scars on my body from the chains, scars on my neck and on my shoulders. As I get a tan, the scars don't tan. Sometimes I look at those in the mirror and I think, gosh, how fortunate am I to be home, to be here because two of my crew members didn't make it out. So in one way it's a badge that I carry and look at, and it's a mix of pride and sadness. There's a lot of emotion tide up into it. But at the end of the day, I made it out alive and there's a couple companions that didn't. So all in all, you have to stack it up as a win just to be here.
COOPER: You both look great. It's good to have you here and to see how well you seem to be. I appreciate you talking to us.
LYNN STANSELL: Thank you, Anderson.
KEITH STANSELL: Thank you, sir.
COOPER: We have severe weather pounding the Midwest tonight. Nebraska is in the thick of it. The latest on that ahead.
Plus police say a child was stabbed because her friends wanted to impress a fictional character they thought was real. Details, ahead.
COOPER: We have a lot more on the release of Bowe Bergdahl at the top of the next hour, a whole new live edition of 360. I hope you stick around for that. In Crime and Punishment tonight, a sleepover that ended with a 12-year-old girl nearly dead. Two of her best friends facing attempted murder charges. The two suspects are 12 years old, which is hard to believe. They have been charged as adults.
All three girls attend the same middle school. The victim is in stable condition after being stabbed more than a dozen times. A bicyclist found her. Tonight, the 911 call has been released.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: What's your emergency?
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: I came upon a 12-year-old female, she appears to be stabbed.
UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: She appears to be what?
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Stabbed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: According to police the attack was not triggered by a fight or jealousy or any other disagreement. They say the suspects tried to kill their friend to impress a made up character called "Slender Man." Miguel Marquez has the latest.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For three months, these two 12-year-old girls plotted to kill one of their best friends according to police and finally put their plan into action on Friday night. That's when they lured her out into the woods and stabbed her 19 times.
According to the criminal complaint, Morgan Geyser came up with the idea of the murder and enlisted her friend, Anissa Weier, to help her. Both girls were fans of horror web sites where they say they were introduced to a fictional character called "Slender Man." They thought he was real and could only meet him if they physically killed someone.
CHIEF RUSSELL JACK, WAUKESHA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Both suspects had a fascination with a fictitious character that often posted to a web site that has a collection of small stories about death and horror. Based on our investigation, it is believed that the suspects had planned to kill the victim for several months.
MARQUEZ: They invited their friend identified in the complaint only as a 12-year-old for a sleepover on Friday night. They planned on duct taping the victim's mouth and stabbing her in the neck while she was sleeping. Geyser told police that was so they wouldn't have to look into her eyes.
But by the next morning, the plan had changed. Police say the two girls plotted to kill her in a nearby park bathroom because Weir said she noticed a drain in the floor for the blood to go down. The three girls left for the park. On the way there, they lifted up the side of her jacket and showed the knife tucked into her waist band. Weier then told police, quote, "I thought, dear god, this was really happening."
(on camera): This is the park bathroom where they initially wanted to kill their friend, but they got nervous. They started fighting and arguing. They decided to do it by playing hide and seek in the woods right down this way. They lured her down there.
Weier telling the police that Geyser did all the stabbing. Geyser says they both did the stabbing. Once the stabbing started in those woods though, they left their friend for dead hoping that they could then see "Slender Man."
JACK: Many of the stab wounds struck major organs, but incredibly and thankfully the victim survived this brutal assault.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): The victim managed to crawl to the road and was found by a bicyclist who called police. Doctors say one of the knife wounds missed a major artery near her heart by just a millimeter. Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser were found walking near the interstate.
They later told police they plan to walk to "Slender Man's" mansion after the crime, which they believed was in the Nicolette National Park. They are now charged with first degree attempted murder and have been cooperating with police.
MARQUEZ: That victim is doing better and better. She's able to sit up today for the first time and isn't talking to investigators. They also say that the investigation continues into looking into the hard drives of all the individuals involved. They do not believe that anybody else is involved in this -- Anderson.
COOPER: Miguel, thank you so much. Let's dig deeper with Mary Ellen O'Toole, a former FBI profiler and author of "Dangerous Instincts." So two young suspects saying they want to kill someone in order to prove themselves to a fictitious online character. One girl says she saw him in her dreams. That he watches her and can read her mind. Have you heard of anything like this?
MARY O'TOOLE, FORMER FBI PROFILER: No, this is really very unusual. Not just because it involves young females, but the brutality of it. Those two things together it's really very unusual.
COOPER: Also one person to have this kind of idea that there's this fictitious character that's real, but for two people to kind of both believe in it seems odd thing. It's kind of bizarre convergence.
O'TOOLE: It is. But I think as the investigation continues there, I think it's likely that a couple things will come out. There's going to be a leader and a follower in this crime. One of the girls reportedly said she dreamt about him. He spoke to her about teleporting that sort of thing. Almost took on perhaps more of a boyfriend crush kind of aspect to her because 12 years old, that's kind of the age where crushes kind of begin.
But I really don't think that this web site caused these girls, who would not have otherwise done it, to go out and attempt to murder their friend. I think there's more to it. I heard early on that maybe jealousy or problems with that friend were not the issue. But I think there's more there in terms of what came first.
Problems with the friend or the web site? I don't think this web site influenced them by themselves to go out and commit this murder. I think the investigation is going to show more than that.
COOPER: So you're saying this idea of this "Slenderman," that was sort of something that allowed them to act this stuff out or kind of gave shape to it, but issues existed before that.
O'TOOLE: I think that's a real possibility that there were issues with that friend and then as they began to research it, it is pretty amazing that two 12-year-olds are planning this for months, maybe even going back to December, but I think there's a real possibility that once they decided that they were going to act out in this very violent way, then they find the web site and the two kind of merge and evolve together.
COOPER: Just bizarre, Mary Ellen O'Toole, appreciate your expertise, thank you very much. There's a lot more happening tonight to tell you about. Susan Hendricks is here with the 360 Bulletin -- Susan.
SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, parts of Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri are in for a long night. Severe weather is pounding the area. There's drenching rain and forecaster say winds could top 80 miles per hour. Some towns in Nebraska are already getting hit with hail as big as baseballs. Polls have closed in Mississippi where we are waiting for results in what has been a close and nasty GOP Senate race. The 76-year-old Senator Thad Cochran is seeking a seventh term on Capitol Hill. He's facing stiff opposition from 42-year-old State Senator Chris McDaniel, who has the backing of the Tea Party.
And in a Florida courtroom, something you don't normally see or hear. A shouting match between a public defender and a judge. What happened next was not caught on tape, but part of it was heard. The public defender said they stepped into the hallway and the judge hit him. No arrests were made, but not the way you want to act in court.
COOPER: So bizarre.
Coming up, "The Ridiculist" is next. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." We're answering the question does a bear sit in a hammock? The answer is a resounding yes. This is Daytona beach, here's what neighbors have to say.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": It's a very important day. We didn't think you were going to do "The Ridiculist," did you? A very influential, highly intelligent and extremely attractive person was born on this day in history. I'm speaking about the singer, Denise Williams, who you will remember from "Let's Hear It For The Boy."
It was on the "Foot Loose" sound track. But also one Anderson Cooper was born. So your staff on 360 wanted to wish you a very happy birthday and tell you how proud they are to work with you every single day.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I would like to point out my birthday was two weeks ago. Did I get an on-air tribute from Wolf Blitzer? I don't think so.
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Happy birthday, Anderson. All of us here at CNN really have so much respect for you as a colleague and for the example that you set for us every day. Your dedication is really an inspiration to all of us. Even before you came to CNN, really you were the picture of professionalism, whether you're posing with dogs or selling big boy spring jackets. You put the model in role model. Happy birthday.
TOOBIN: What is the big deal? Does this kindergarten? Everybody has a birthday.
RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Happy birthday. I was trying to think of what to get you and really racking my brain about it. What could I get Anderson? And finally, it dawned on me. I heard about these really cool limo tours in Denver in Colorado, really cool, if you know what I mean. I thought, you might want to try one of those.
COOPER: How much longer are you going to be there for?
KAYE: I think I need to come home. I'm coming home tomorrow.
TOOBIN: Have you ever walked down the street with this guy? They go crazy. The men, the women. I always tell the women, don't get your hopes up. It's impossible. He's some blue-eyed gazelle with a crew cut.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": I'm wearing my ac 360 snuggi. When you fill in for Anderson, they give you one of these. My understanding is that he's worn every one of them. So before you get it, Anderson has to wear it because I can smell it in it which is the best way to celebrate Anderson's birthday, to smell him. Happy birthday, Anderson.
TOOBIN: It's your 47th birthday. Congratulations, what is that some sort of milestone, 47? This is --
DR. DREW PINSKY: Happy birthday, Anderson. It's such a rare gift to have a colleague like you. Such a joy to work with someone I genuinely like and admire. The great thing is I know it's reciprocated. And I appreciate that.
COOPER: I had somebody yell at me on the street. Hi, Dr. Drew. I was like -- you.
PINSKY: Happy birthday. One thing please do not celebrate with that glass of wine and the Ambien that you normally put together when you travel.
TOOBIN: Happy birthday, Anderson.
BLITZER: Anderson, on behalf of all of us here in "THE SITUATION ROOM: and all of us at CNN, our viewers in the United States and around the world, happy birthday!
COOPER: Thank you very much. I'm 47 years old. I don't know, three years, I'll be 50. Kind of painful. Anyway, thanks for watching. Stay tuned for another live edition of 360 for the latest on the release of Bowe Bergdahl.