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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
Bergdahl Handoff Video; Slenderman Attack and Juvenile Justice
Aired June 4, 2014 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Police say the professionalism of this operation suggests there could be a syndicate specifically targeting Legos, a Lego crime syndicate in Australia. You thought we had problems.
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: That's it for us AT THIS HOUR. I'm Michaela Pereira.
BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. "Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A POW's release captured on video. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl looking pale and weak. His liberators and his captors shaking hands. Coming up this hour on CNN, what the Taliban fighters are saying and decoding the Black Hawk mission that set him free.
Also, a family reunion five years in the making, but it may not happen until Sergeant Bergdahl gets back to Texas. His parents probably want to hold their only son and never let him go, but it might not be that easy. A former hostage explains the trauma of re-entry and re-meeting your family.
And stunning new details of what drove two 12-year-old girls to stab their friend nearly to death, the quaint neighborhood where the brutality allegedly unfolded and the Internet bogeyman possibly behind this heinous crime.
Hello, everyone, I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Wednesday, June the 4th and welcome to LEGAL VIEW.
While the focus remains on how Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl fell into the hands of the Taliban and how that might affect the next phase his life, today we can't seem to take our eyes off a video clip from the Taliban website. The actual, unprecedented handover of an American G.I. by his Taliban captors to United States special forces inside Afghanistan. We have extensive coverage this hour beginning with CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chanting praise for their leader, 18 armed Taliban militants seen standing in wait, perched on grassy hills in the valley, guns and rocket launchers at the ready. The narration says this meeting took place at 4:00 in the afternoon in Khost (ph) province, eastern Afghanistan. At the center of the action, a silver pickup truck, Bowe Bergdahl seen inside sitting in the back seat. Bergdahl, dressed all in white, he appears to be nervous, blinking, shaky.
Bergdahl seen talking with one of his alleged captors. At one point the Army sergeant even cracks what looks to be a smile while talking and then wipes his eyes. Seen flying overhead, a twin engine plane approaching the meeting point. And then suddenly, like a scene out of the movies, the (INAUDIBLE) descends.
Two Taliban militants immediately escort Bergdahl towards the chopper, waving a white flag. Three U.S. special operations commandos approach, shaking hands with the Taliban militants. They pat down Bergdahl's back and immediately begin escorting him to the helicopter. In Bergdahl's left hand, a plastic bag, the contents not yet known.
The commanders wave back to the militants as they run towards the chopper. They pat Bergdahl down again, this time in a deliberate and thorough fashion, presumably a swipe for explosives right before loading him in. This face-to-face exchange lasting less than ten seconds before they were off. A message later emerges, "don't come back to Afghanistan."
BANFIELD: And Barbara Starr joins me live now. We're also joined by former U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Heben.
Barbara, first to you for the direct reporting. This is unprecedented video, to be able to see these guys in action. They are some of the most secretive, I dare say, in the world. What have we learned about their operation from what we can see in this video?
STARR: Well, here's a big clue, Ashleigh. The Pentagon won't say who they were, or who they are, but will say they were special operations forces. In Pentagon-speak, that means SEAL Team 6, Army Delta Force, one of these most elite special forces units. They do not like to be seen on camera, that's for sure. They do not like their faces to be shown. All of them, of course, somewhat disguised, ball caps, beards, scarves over their faces, sunglasses. They knew, clearly, that this might, one, be videotaped. They certainly didn't want their faces shown to the Taliban.
They move very quickly. They know what they're going to do. This choreography has been worked out in advance. I think it's very interesting. You see several of them backing up. Backing towards the helicopter. They do not turn their backs to the Taliban. We also know that there was plenty of backup firepower out of sight but nearby. If things had gone wrong, there were other forces prepared to come in.
BANFIELD: Well, speaking of that, Chris Heben, look, you're SEAL Team 6. You know this intimately. Is there anything you can see? And, first of all, can you - can you tell who these men were? Barbara's mentioned before, SEAL Team 6, possibly Army Delta Force, and some suggestion maybe CIA paramilitary. What can you read into what you witnessed on that tape? CHRIS HEBEN, FORMER NAVY SEAL: That was correct. All three of those options would be fairly accurate. Most of the CIA operatives are made up of former Delta Force guys or SEAL Team 6 guys as well. So it can be either one of those three groups.
But certainly, very, very correct, this was choreographed. They knew what they were doing. They got in, they got out, minimum time on the ground. There was two AC-130 gunships orbiting around the target area, the potential target area. So it was a very overt message to the Mujahideen guys, these Taliban guys. Look, if one thing happens we don't like, none of you guys are going to live this hillside alive. It was very, very planned.
BANFIELD: And to that end, Barbara, do we know anything more? Is the Pentagon saying boo about the backup and the force that might have been there just in case? There's one Black Hawk helicopter on the screen right now. And as Chris just mentioned, there were those two AC-130 gunships that had sort of done a precursor flyby. What else was there to protect those men in that mission to get that guy?
STARR: Well, people are not going into detail, but administration officials have said that there were several dozen troops involved in it. What you see is that one helicopter, the air crew, the commandos, that got off.
I want to follow up on something Chris pointed out, which is, in a lot of these kinds of instances nowadays, you see a mix of forces. Nobody goes into the field alone. There may well have been, it was run by special operations, it was carried out by them, but you can see on the tape, there were people -- there was one man to the left of your screen, he was speaking to them, perhaps helping translate. He may have been from another government agency. There may have been people from a variety of places in the government. You tend to see --
STARR: Yes, Chris, I think you'd agree, you tend to see this much more of a joint operation these days.
BANFIELD: And, Chris - Chris --
HEBEN: Totally agree, hence the term joint special operations command. It's Army, it's Navy, it's CIA.
BANFIELD: The guy on the left, I want to pay particular attention to this -
BANFIELD: Because the Taliban in the translation actually said these words, when they landed, they were too afraid and worried, that they only shook hands with two people and gave a left hand to a third one. I want to go to that video and watch the man on the left. His arm is very stiff and to the - and straight down. He shakes with his left hand only. Is there anything that you can see that might have indicated that that right arm was preoccupied with something else? HEBEN: Well, he does have an object in his hand. From my experience, it wouldn't be a weapon. None of the Taliban guys, none of the Mujahideen guys were armed. That's just a given. You show up to an instance like that completely overtly unarmed. They may have had weapons underneath their clothing, but you always show an open hand. In my experience, he probably had a radio.
If you notice on the right of the screen, there was that gentleman in the black - in the black top. He actually puts his hand to his face. He has a radio in his hand. He's letting either the helicopter pilot know that it's been a successful exchange, we're heading back to the helicopter now.
He could have had direct communication with the Taliban leader letting him know that the exchange was successful and everything is OK. Communication in that situation is key, very key. And he also made the comment that no one turned their backs. That's key too. You always want to keep your eye on your enemy. As a soldier, unlike politicians, we look at our enemies in the face.
BANFIELD: Interesting. And they do ultimately -- as they back up, we're watching it live with you -- well, live - the tape live with you and they do back up and then ultimately they do turn to get on the chopper.
Chris, I want you to stick around, and, Barbara Starr, thank you for your reporting on this, because not only did they tap their hearts and wave, and that's raising a lot of questions for a lot of people. Some very good answers as to why that may have happened. And certainly those of us who have been in Afghanistan, spent some time with some of these folks, we know all too well what the cultural issues are and that matters in this kind of a thing.
We have been glued to every single frame of this video since its release and we have tasked our best translators with figuring out exactly what those members of the Taliban were actually saying on the tape in these moments, right before Bowe Bergdahl got out of that truck and ultimately was handed over to his fellow countrymen. What were the Taliban saying? In addition to that little clip I just read you, what were they saying about the Americans who came to get him? What did they say to Bowe Bergdahl during this exchange? You're going to hear all of it in English, coming up.
BANFIELD: The story of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's release to United States special ops on Saturday is not just told in pictures. The Taliban video that was posted online this morning also has narration. And CNN has translated it from the language Pashtu. That's the local language in that area. That one's pretty clear. We don't have to translate that. But just before this handoff, while Bowe was still in the truck, Bergdahl's captors, one of them leans in and warns him, don't come back to Afghanistan, you will not make it back alive. Friendly. Here's more of the running commentator apparently recorded after the handover happened by one of the militants on the site. Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Yeah, that last part rings true on both sides -- you can never trust your enemy.
I want to bring back in former Navy SEAL Chris Heben.
Chris, as you listen to that, I'm sure it's just -- this is chilling. This is the enemy directly narrating what just happened in this prisoner transfer.
But at the same time, there were a lot of things we didn't see that were going on behind the scenes. I want to play some of that video again, and I want you to tell me in your training when you spent your time in Afghanistan, you had to know a lot about their culture. Know your enemy is a very good strategy.
And when they tap their hearts, when they come and greet the Taliban, some people find that offensive to see that, but what does it really mean when they're doing that?
CHRIS HEBEN, FORMER NAVY SEAL: It's an offering of peace. It's saying, "We come in peace." You're putting your hands over your heart and you're saying the words "salaam" or the Pashto derivative of that. It basically is -- it's a greeting and a salutation. It's saying, "I mean you no harm."
BANFIELD: Yeah, "salaam alaikum" as I recall having to go through Afghanistan, saying it millions of times, and then when it was said to me, "wa alaikum assalam," as well, which means you're sort of in accordance with that greeting and we're all good.
HEBEN: Right, and you just shorten it to salaam. Just salaam.
BANFIELD: So at the same time, while the Taliban said they'd posted all the men in the hills, and it's remarkable, you can't see them, they look like dots of sand, but they were everywhere.
And they were all armed. They had RPGs, some of the strongest weapons that they have. We didn't just have those C-130s. We must have had something else, some other backup plan. And, by the way, if something went wrong, what would have happened to those three guys that we put down on the ground?
HEBEN: It's understood if that helicopter has to leave quick fast, in a hurry, those guys -- you're already under the -- you accept the fact you could be left there, left under your own devices to get out of that situation. If that helicopter has to take off quickly, you accept the fact you could just be left right there on the ground.
But rest assured, there was two AC-130 gunships. These are amazingly devastating air platforms. They would have laid waste to everything in that area, if something would have happened other than a prisoner exchange in a peaceful fashion.
And rest assured there was probably a quick reaction force or immediate reaction force on the other side of one of those hilltops, guys sitting there in a helicopter, waiting to go.
BANFIELD: That's what I was wondering.
This little nugget that comes from the Taliban translation, he's referring to the Americans, "They left very quickly, and we didn't get the time to convey to them our messages."
Is that ever part of the deal? We want to hear you out? Or is it more like, thanks for nothing, we're gone, and that's that?
HEBEN: That's that. It's quick, fast, in a hurry. It's all business. You respect each other's culture, one warrior to another warrior, hence the gesture, salaam.
But they erroneously did it with their left hands, and you never wave with your left hand in that part of the world. It's basically insulting. Whether that was done by design or they just weren't thinking at that moment, it's not really what you should do.
BANFIELD: Well, I also go back to that right arm on that man being very, very stiff and very stuffed, it appeared. Maybe there was something else going on with that right arm that made waving impossible. But you know what? We may never know.
HEBEN: We never know. It could have been a camera. It could have been a jamming device to prevent a bomb from being detonated. It could have been a radio. It's hard to see from that video.
BANFIELD: You've been great, I'm glad you're back with us. We're very thankful for your work.
HEBEN: Thanks for having me.
BANFIELD: Chris Heben joining us live from Wisconsin.
I want to take you now to one of our other top stories that we're following, the stabbing of a child, allegedly by her 12-year-old playmate.
We now have new details about the families of these girls, what they may have known about their obsessions with a cyber ghoul called Slenderman, and what police say the suspects told them about how the character inspired their bloodbath, going to dig into that, next.
BANFIELD: The attorney for one of the two 12-year-old girls charged as adults with stabbing their friend 19 times tells CNN that her family is in shock. But according to "The Daily Mail," they very much knew about her interest in a creepy, fictitious online character called Slenderman who allegedly inspired the attack. Morgan Geyser told police that Slenderman can read people's minds and teleport. According to the affidavit, she says that she sees him in her dreams and that she sees him when no one else does and that somebody can get, quote, "slender sickness" because of "slender radiation."
She even drew this picture of him on a napkin, and according to "The Daily Mail," her own father posted it on his Instagram, writing, quote, "Only Mogo," thinking that may be short for Morgan, "draws Slenderman in crayon on a napkin when we are out to dinner."
Anissa Weier, the other young girl, her brother told "The Daily Mail" that his family knew about Anissa's interest in Slenderman too, that she couldn't tell the difference between dreams and reality.
On May 31st, dreams and reality may have collided as the alleged 12- year-old victim ended up crawling to her own rescue, literally millimeters from death. A man found her on the side of the road and called 911. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A 12-year-old female. She appears to have been stabbed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She appeared to be what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stabbed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stabbed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She says she's having trouble breathing. She said was stabbed multiple times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is she awake?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's awake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is she breathing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, she's breathing. She said she can take shallow breaths. She's alert.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Again, let's remember, that victim is just a 12-year-old girl. The victim did survive this, thank God, and she is still recovering today.
Our Miguel Marquez has walked through this alleged plot and he's now going to take us to the quiet street where this horror actually took place.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For three months, these two 12- year-old girls plotted to kill one of their best friends, according to police, and finally put it 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 Slenderman.
They thought he was real and could only meet him if they physically killed someone. They invited their friend, identified in the complaint only as 12-year-old "P.L." to Geyser's house for a sleepover on Friday night, and at first planned on duct-taping the victims mouth and stabbing her in the neck while she was sleeping. Geyser told police that was so they wouldn't have to, quote, "look into her eyes.
But by the next morning, the plan changed. Police say the two girls plotted to kill "P.L." in a nearby park bathroom because, Weir said, she noticed a drain in the floor for, quote, "the blood to go down."
The three girls left to the park. On the way there, police say, Geyser lifted up the side of her jacket and showed the knife tucked into her waistband. Weier then told police, quote, "I thought, 'Dear God, this was really happening.'"
This is the park bathroom where they initially wanted to kill their friend, but they got nervous. They started fighting and arguing. They decided then to do it by playing hide and seek in the woods right down this way.
So they lured her down there, Weier telling the police that Geyser did all the stabbing, Geyser telling police 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 Slenderman.
CHIEF RUSSELL JACK, WAUKESHA, WISCONSIN, POLICE DEPARTMENT: Many of the stab wounds struck major organs, but incredibly and thankfully, the victim survived this brutal assault.
MARQUEZ: The victim managed to crawl to the road and was found by a bicyclist who called the 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 planned to walk to Slenderman's mansion, which they believed was in the Nicolet National Park. They're now charged with first-degree attempted murder and have been cooperating with police.
Miguel Marquez, CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: And Morgan Geyser's attorney says he expects her to get a mental evaluation soon, and he's pressing to get her case moved down from the adult court to a juvenile court.
Sadly, we couldn't reach Anissa Weir's attorney for comment, but it can probably be expected that will be the same strategy.
For the LEGAL VIEW on this, I want to bring in CNN commentator and legal analyst Mel Robbins and CNN legal analyst and defense attorney Danny Cevallos.
So, Mel, first to you, of this notion that, first of all, these 12- year-olds in a split second were elevated to adult court in Wisconsin, it's automatic.
What are the chances their lawyers, if they both make this effort, will prevail in getting this brought back to juvenile?
MEL ROBBINS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't know what the chances are, and Danny can speak to the three things that they absolutely have to prove, because the burden is on the girl's attorneys to show that they should go back down to juvenile court.
But I have to tell you, as horrific as this is, I think they absolutely, positively, belong in juvenile court, and there's two reasons why, Ashleigh.
First of all, the evidence is undisputed, the scientific evidence, that at the age of 12, the brain is nowhere near fully developed. In fact, the frontal lobe that controls your ability to understand consequences, controls your impulsive nature, controls your judgment, not fully developed.
BANFIELD: The executive functions.
ROBBINS: Yes. And, secondly, if you think about it, in every single instance in the United States, we protect kids against themselves.
If a 12-year-old has sex with an adult, we don't automatically say, because she acted like an adult, she wanted to have it and therefore she consented.
They can't vote. They can't drive. They can't drink. They can't be drafted. They can't sign a contract. They cannot consent to any adult activity.
BANFIELD: Because they're not capable.
ROBBINS: Correct. They should not be tried as adults.
BANFIELD: What's the point of having a parallel juvenile system if, ultimately you're going to put a 10-year-old, in this state, you can do that, you can put a 10-year-old in adult court, and in this case, put two 12-year-olds in adult court?
DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, it's fascinating. We actually used to not have juvenile systems, but the juvenile system itself is a bit of a paradox, because we say if you're under a certain age or a juvenile, then you're not as responsible for a crime as you would be for an adult, unless you do something really, really bad. And then in that case, we're going to call you an adult. So steal something from a store, we'll call you a juvenile. Try to kill someone, oh no, no, that's so bad that we're going to ignore the neuroscience.