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Kidnappers Release American Journalist Jill Carroll; Bush Attends Summit With Mexico's Fox, Canada's Harper

Aired March 30, 2006 - 07:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: On the line right now, from Memphis, Tennessee, is someone who knows first hand what it is like to be held in such conditions in captivity, for 311 days no less, Roy Hallums who was working for a Saudi firm in Iraq was released when U.S. forces happened upon an isolated farm house where he was being held.
Roy, good to have you with us. It must be nice to hear this news.

ROY HALLUMS, FORMER HOSTAGE: Yes, it's great news. I've been following Jill's case closely the whole time she's been held, but having been in a situation she's in, I know today's a great day for her and her family.

M. O'BRIEN: A great day indeed. And we're talking just a little while ago with Nic Robertson about the rush and jumble of emotions that go along with a release. What is it like, at this moment, when you are newly released after such a terrible ordeal?

HALLUMS: Well, you're basically in shock. I mean, you're held in such conditions, you know, where you can't get around. You have no freedom, and everything you can do is controlled by someone else. And then in one fell swoop you're free from that, and you're able to do things on your own. And it just takes time to get used to the idea that you can move around on your own, without having to fear for your life for every second.

M. O'BRIEN: So even though you're free, you're still afraid for awhile.

HALLUMS: Yes. Well, yeah, you know, your senses are so -- you're so tense for so long, you just get in that mode. And basically, you have to decompress when you come out. I mean, you're still highly aware of everything, and looking at your surroundings, because they're all new again, and you just have to take it slow.

M. O'BRIEN: I bet. How long did it take for you to start feeling a little bit normal?

HALLUMS: Well, I mean, a few months. When you first, when you're first released, like Jill has been, you think you're -- as soon as you're released you think you're back to normal. But then, you know, when you're a month from the date you were released, you realize you weren't normal. And then three months from the date you were released you realized, you know, you weren't normal a month ago. So things just come back to you, and I'm sure she will get back to normal. It just takes time. It takes a long time.

M. O'BRIEN: You were released last fall. How are you feeling now? How are you doing?

HALLUMS: Oh, I'm doing real well now. I finished all of my medical tests, and everything's going fine. And, you know, I'm just about back to normal, but like I said, for the person involved in that situation, it takes longer than they that I it will.

M. O'BRIEN: I assume you're not headed back to Iraq?

HALLUMS: No, not any time soon. My older sister told me I can't go back, so that's it.

M. O'BRIEN: You listen to your older sister now?


M. O'BRIEN: One final thing, if you could give Jill some advice, talk to her right now, what would you tell her?

HALLUMS: Well, I would just tell her to sit back and enjoy her new freedom and to not try to do anything urgently and don't make any big decisions right now, just let herself get back to normal.

M. O'BRIEN: Good words. Ray Hallums, held captive 311 days. Thanks for your time, sir.

HALLUMS: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. Miles, thanks. Let's get back to Nic Robertson in Baghdad for us this morning.

Nic, thanks for being back with us. I wonder if you know any more about the process of Jill's release. I mean we've heard about being moved to more friendly hands, obviously from her captors, and then the process going on. Do we know any details?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Really at this stage we don't have details confirmed to us. It appears that she was released, at least as far as we can ascertain, at the moment on the east side of Baghdad. Again these are details that may change as we get more information, as is typical with these situations.

But it does appear as if she was initially released into Iraqi hands. Quite how those steps took place is not clear. And from that position, she's then been transferred to U.S. hands, as she was in a position to use a phone, as "The Christian Science Monitor" that initially said, in the rights hand, able to use the telephone, make a phone call to colleagues at the "The Washington Post," make other phone calls a little bit later to her family.

But I think the key question here is going to be, and what was that first step? Who actually did get her release, and how exactly did it happen? Because unlike other situations, we've heard about so far, it doesn't appear as if there were any U.S. military forces involved in the immediate steps of the initial part of her freedom. But again, I do have to say, Soledad, that the information is still only now coming in.

S. O'BRIEN: Obviously, there's lots to still know and many questions that will be unanswered I imagine for quite a long time probably, Nic.

The colleagues or former colleagues from "The Washington Post" say that their colleagues who have seen her, the colleagues from the Baghdad bureau who have seen her said she appeared joyous and appeared healthy, too, which are two very important elements there.

ROBERTSON: Absolutely. And again, I think if we can compare what we've heard recently from other people who have been held in Baghdad, kidnapped, is that some of their captors actually really look after them. I talked to a British journalist who was kidnapped just a week before Carroll was taken. And he said one of his kidnapers was telling him eat more, you look thin. He said it was like being at his grandmother's house. They were sort of trying to feed him up and look after him so well.

Again, this will, in his case, lead to the sort of confusions over would they have actually killed me? These confusing thoughts. He was just thinking about what Roy Hallums was saying a few minutes ago. This journalist I talked to was held for five days. Two months later he's still trying to adjust and put everything in the right place in his mind about what happened.

And of course, Jill, now at the very, very beginning of that, but a very happy beginning, to be able to talk to her family, being able to sort of feel that sense of freedom that she's not constrained, all of these things just beginning to happen, right now, not far from here, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: It truly gives me, at least, a very big sense of relief when you have her colleagues describe her. And her mom, too, when we talked to her mom, this sort of uncommonly strong woman, because you know at this point, all those things are what she's going to need to be drawing from as she tries to recover. You're right, the stories from the hostages are pretty amazing.

Let's talk about the role of women. Much has been made of the gender of Jill Carroll, and how that could play potentially, her being released, and how that could play in a lot of other elements. Any kind of negotiation, the wording that was used, any time her family went on camera, certainly one has to imagine the wording that was going on behind the scenes, maybe not on camera?

ROBERTSON: You know, if we look at the plea that was made just last night by Jill's twin, Katie, again the family, it wasn't the father that made appeal, it was her twin sister. Perhaps emotional appeal here to women. And they highlighted, Katie mentioned in her statement last night, highlighting that an Iraqi woman, when her daughter had been freed, saying that it was important that she hoped that Jill would be freed soon.

I think this link here trying to appeal women, any women, that might have been involved and knowing where Jill was being held, involved in her captivity in some way. Just because she was a woman and perhaps therefore women who had been involved would know where she was, hoping that emotional link to women; who play such a central, an important role in the Arab culture, in Iraqi society, very central parts of their family, and family here is still really strong.

And is really important in people's lives, people live in extended families. The family, the tribe are all very, very important. The tribe, and the family of who people turn to in their personal hours of need here. So appealing to families, appealing to the women in those families, in Jill's case, being a woman who had been tremendously important. Again, we don't know how that factored into winning her release but the family trying to make that connection to women, probably tremendously important here, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Also one has to imagine the fact that she spoke Arabic fluently would be tremendously important as well. We heard from another former hostage, a woman, who was held briefly, who said that the fact that she was able to communicate directly with her captors made a huge difference. One would have to imagine the same thing in Jill's case.

ROBERTSON: Absolutely. The hostages that I have talked to, the one that seemed to be able to pick up and understand the most for what was going on with his captors was the one who could see some Arabic, not a huge amount but enough to communicate at a basic level. Of course, we're there in one side of the room, discussing your fate, or who you are, or what you are, if you don't understand you're at a huge disadvantage. This person who was kidnapped, I talked to, said he was able to talk to them. There was a level of communication that was important for him.

And also for him to have some sense of what was going on as well. So tremendously important probably for Jill that she was able to talk to them, to get her point across, to be able to explain to them, to make personal appeals, perhaps when the situation seemed to flow against her, she could just say something kindly. And perhaps the very fact that she was a woman might have endeared the men, if it was men holding her, to treat her a little more kindly, with a little more respect, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Maybe she knew more of what was happening around her because she could understand the language. Nic Robertson in Baghdad, thanks for updating the story. We get back to Miles. Nic, we'll get back to you in a little bit.


M. O'BRIEN: Thanks so much, Soledad. We are watching the story closely and as the details come out we'll bring them to you, of course. And we do expect in about 50 minutes' time to hear from the U.S. military briefing coming out of Baghdad. We hope that will shed a little more light on some of the details which led to Jill Carroll's release.

Just to underscore what we've been saying, in case you're just dropping in. The kidnapped U.S. journalist, Jill Carroll, 28 years old, of the "Christian Science Monitor" is free, is unharmed and is safe. And a great conclusion to a very harrowing tale of nearly three months now. We'll keep you posted, and as soon as information comes to us we'll bring it to you.

The immigration battle, meanwhile, heating up in Washington but that's also a hot topic south of the border. President Bush is in Mexico, and just a little later today he'll meet with the Mexican president, Vicente Fox, who has an interest in what the Senate is debating today, to say the least. White House Correspondent Elaine Quijano is in Cancun, covering the meetings.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): President Bush sits down with the leaders of Mexico and Canada later today, and at the top of the agenda, border security and illegal immigration.

Mr. Bush arrived here in Cancun last night. His visit comes at a time when the immigration debate in Washington is boiling over, as Congress takes up the issue. Before he left Washington, President Bush reiterated that in his view, improving border security also means including that proposed guest worker program. That notion, though, of course has infuriated some of President Bush's fellow conservative Republicans, who see it as amnesty.

Now, as for President Bush's schedule this morning, he will take part of a rare sightseeing tour for him. He will stop and take a look at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, before his meeting with President Fox and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Elaine Quijano, CNN, Cancun, Mexico.


M. O'BRIEN: While the immigration battle heats up in Mexico and of course in Washington, today, in our next half hour we'll talk about what's at stake with California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.

For all of the news coming out of the Cancun summit, watch "Lou Dobbs Tonight" anchoring live from Mexico, it is a "Broken Borders" special report 6:00 Eastern here on CNN.

And in our 9 o'clock hour, this morning, Lou will be with us. He'll join us with some of his opinions, strong ones they are, on the issue.

Not long ago now the woman accused of killing her minister husband, not long from now, I should say, the woman accused of killing her minister husband will be back in court. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Mary Winkler, and it may finally provide the answers to some questions for us, or it may not. Big question of course, is why? Rusty Dornin has been following this live now from Selmer, Tennessee. Rusty, good morning to you.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Miles, prosecutors may or may not tip their hand as far as motive and why Mary Winkler shot her husband, the question burning on everyone's mind.


DORNIN (voice over): She was a minister's wife and Mary Winkler kept her private life out of public sight. No one saw or heard anything to indicate she might be angry or disturbed enough to kill her husband Matthew, a popular and charismatic minister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is so unreal, that this is the kind of couple, this would have been the last thing that would have happened to anyone, but especially to them.

DORNIN: A loving couple by all accounts, except one, the one Mary Winkler gave police when she confessed last week. The reason this shy, demure woman pulled the trigger may be partially answered in a Tennessee courtroom this morning. Prosecutors must convince the judge there is probable cause that Mary Winkler planned and murdered her husband.

Expected in that evidence is the answer to the question on everyone's mind, why? It's the subject of much speculation in this small town of 4,500. Could the Winklers have had a dark secret that provoked such violence? Even Defense Attorney Leslie Bowen says if so, it wasn't apparent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fine man, a good minister. That's his conduct that we've heard in public. What his private life was like, what happened within their home is something that we're investigating.

DORNIN (on camera): Have you gotten any inkling all was not well behind closed doors?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have not, but that's not to say that all was well.

DORNIN (voice over): Bowen claims the defense still doesn't know exactly what Winkler told police and says they are exploring strategies for her defense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether or not this is postpartum depression, whether or not this was an act done in a state of passion, whether or not this was an act done with a culpable state of negligence, those are things that we're going to look into.

DORNIN: Bill Smith is a long-time family friend and dean at the religious university where Matthew's father teaches. His son was Matthew's best friend. Smith says the couple seemed incredibly happy about their children, especially the one-year-old daughter.

(On camera): When we talk about the postpartum depression referring to Mary, did you see any indications?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not at all.

DORNIN: Smith says immediately following Mary's arrest Matthew's parents went to pick up the children in Alabama and asked to meet the woman they still consider a daughter, despite being told by police that she'd confessed to killing their son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They hugged her. She hugged them. She was so remorseful, and so sorrowful of what she had done, and they assured her that she was forgiven.

DORNIN: An incredible act of forgiveness, from a family of three generations of ministers.


DORNIN: At this morning's hearing the judge will decide whether or not to set bail for Mary Winkler and is likely to turn the case over to a grand jury and her peers will be the one to determine the final charges against Mary Winkler. Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: Rusty Dornin in Selmer, Tennessee, thank you very much.


S. O'BRIEN: Miles, thanks.

To bring everybody up to speed, if you are just joining us, we have breaking news and really wonderful news to share with you this morning. We're getting word that Jill Carroll has been released. She has been described as being in good shape, appearing healthy, and being full of joy, as she is now coming to terms with the fact that she is out of captivity, after nearly three months being held by hostage takers.

She was kidnapped, you recall on, January 7th. Her translator was shot and killed. The captors had demanded the release of all female detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq by the deadline of February 26th. That deadline came and went.

Last night Jill's sister, Katie, pleaded for any word from the captors on Al Arabia television and this morning, really early, about an hour and a half ago, we heard -- or a little bit less than that, about an hour ago we heard good word, the best word possible that Jill Carroll in fact had been released and was making her way into safe hands and making her way eventually back to her family.

Natasha Tynes is a Jordanian-American journalist who also works for the Arab media as well and is a friend of Jill Carroll's, joins us by phone this morning.

Natasha thank you for talking with us. You just must be absolutely overjoyed with this news. NATASHA TYNES,CARROLLS FMR. CO-WORKER AT JORDAN TIMES: Yes, I'm really excited. I can't believe this has happening It's definitely the best news I've heard in a very long time. I really can't describe my feelings, but you know, we've been praying for this to happen, for almost three months. And, finally, our prayers have been answered.

S. O'BRIEN: Your prayers truly have been answered. And I have to tell you many people, who do not know Jill personally or her family, also joining you in those prayers as well.

You were with Jill when she was working at the "The Jordan Times" several years ago, and I know this was around the time when she started studying Arabic. Tell me a little bit about why she wanted to learn to speak Arabic fluently?

TYNES: Well, Jill always wanted to be a foreign correspondent and knew the Middle East was the place to be as a foreign correspondent, and in order to like portray people's feelings and emotions, and in order to tell the real story you have actually to speak the language of the people in this area. You have to know the language and the tradition of the locals. And Jill was very well aware of this fact.

And this is what made her really persistent on learning the language and she was doing really well. And I remember she used to insist on speaking with me in Arabic so that she can practice her Arabic all the time. And I'm sure this has been fitted her in her ordeal and the fact that she spoke Arabic helped her get released.

S. O'BRIEN: One would imagine truly. Her mother talked about both a combination of an incredible passion for her work and also an incredible sort of good common sense about her safety. Did you see that as well?

TYNES: Yes, I mean, Jill, when I used to exchange e-mails with her when she was in Iraq and she always used to tell me she's being extra careful, she always made sure to wear the local dress, which is the bahyah (ph) and she made sure to go to the safe places. She was very well aware she was in the war zone and she was one who was always being extra careful.

S. O'BRIEN: She was described by some other colleagues from "The Washington Post" as uncommonly strong. Did you see that same thing in Jill?

TYNES: Yes, definitely. She was very strong-willed. She was someone who believed in what she was doing, and this of course gave her some internal strength. And she was someone who managed to go around Iraq on her own, and she managed to obtain stories about all what was happening. And, of course, not any ordinary person can do this, somebody with her age, and her status, it is really difficult. And it's really, requires a huge amount of strength to do this.

S. O'BRIEN: One has to imagine that she's going to have to rely very much on that strength as she tries to recover from her ordeal, even though as people have said she appears fine and she appears healthy and she appears incredibly happy. It's clearly obviously been a long and brutal, in many ways, three months.

TYNES: Yes. I mean, the fact that she's released now is the best news. And I know that it might be hard for her now, after what she went through, but I'm sure with her personality, she's someone who is easy going and someone who can adapt to the changes, I'm sure she can get over what happened to her. And I'm sure she can lead a normal and happy life.

S. O'BRIEN: Does she strike you as a type of woman who, after she recovers from her ordeal, will say, I want to be back covering this story?

TYNES: I will -- I can't tell you now, because you know, I haven't spoken with her yet. But I mean, she believes in what she was doing, and if she believes in what she's doing, I'm sure she's going to pursue it anyway either, in Iraq or in the U.S., or anywhere in the Middle East. If you believe in your dream, eventually you will always pursue it.

S. O'BRIEN: I know you haven't spoke on it her yet. What's the first thing you're going to tell her when you do see her?

TYNES: I'm going to tell her that we're all very proud of you. We're all very proud of what you did, and we missed you. And we're so happy you were released and I can't wait to see you, to hug you forever and never let you go.

S. O'BRIEN: Natasha Tynes, a friend of Jill Carroll's, joining us by phone.

Natasha, thank you for being with us.

TYNES: Sure.

S. O'BRIEN: We appreciate it. Let's get back to Miles in New York.


M. O'BRIEN: Jill Carroll is free, safe, she has spoken to her parents, and throughout this morning, the information is going to be slowly dribbling out.

About 40 minutes from now, top of the hour, we expect to hear from Major General Rick Lynch, who will brief us from Baghdad. He's the number two man in the U.S. Army there in Baghdad, and he will give us some additional details on what led to her release.

Then at the bottom of the hour, 8:30 Eastern Time, we expect to hear from folks at the "Christian Science Monitor" who Jill was working for at the time of her capture back on January 7th. All that lies ahead. Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: After nearly three months of captivity, 28-year-old U.S. hostage Jill Carroll is now free. She is safe. She has spoken to her father and she is beginning the process of decompressing after what can only be described as a hellish scenario.

As the morning progresses we're getting more information about how she was released, why she was released, it comes within 24 hours of a very emotional appeal by her twin sister, Katie, which aired widely throughout the Arab world. And you saw it here just a little while ago. Coincident or not? We don't know.

All these things will come to light, we hope in the next half hour, we'll hear from the U.S. military. Major General Rick Lynch, who is the deputy head of the U.S. military in Iraq, will brief us, and hopefully we'll have more information after that.

Bottom of the hour, 8:30 Eastern we'll hear from the "Christian Science Monitor," Jill Carroll was working for that organization at the time of her capture January 7th.

We'll keep you posted. In the meantime let's check in with Andy Serwer who sits beside me with some word on the world of business.

Good morning, Andy.

ANDY SERWER, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning, Miles. Great news about Jill Carroll.

We want to get to some business news. And this concerns Detroit and fuel standards. The Bush administration announcing a modest rise in average fuel economy standards for pickups and SUVs. We'll get right to the numbers here, and talk about how much more fuel economy these vehicles will get, 24.1 miles per gallon by 2011.

These are really modest increases here. The current is 22.5, expect to add about $200 to the cost of an SUV or pickup. But they say, officials, that within four years, individuals consumers would save that back in fuel economy, an estimated 10.7 billion gallons of gasoline saved.

And what was going on here, Miles, is the Bush administration wanted to increase these standards but it didn't want to impose too harsh a burden on the auto industry right now, because of all the troubles that it faced. Consumer advocates say that this is not enough, and more should be done, but a balancing act here, I think, has been achieved.

M. O'BRIEN: I understand that, but a four-year payback for the $200 difference is, you know, not --

SERWER: It's significant.

M. O'BRIEN: But it's not a compelling reason to make me go out and buy necessarily that. I'd like an SUV that gets 50 miles to a gallon. Why can't we do that? We sent a man to the moon.

SERWER: Well, we probably can. You have to buy a hybrid then.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, fine.

SERWER: Do it on your own.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, fine. Let's make them.


M. O'BRIEN: Let's -- do it on my own. We'll do it in a garage. We'll go in together. Let's do that. I don't have a garage anymore, forgot about that.

All right. More on the breaking news out of Iraq in a moment. Jill Carroll released, after being held hostage for almost three months. We'll keep you up-to-date on this story throughout the morning. Stay with us.

We're looking at other stories as well. Bird flu worries here in the United States. The government is stockpiling a vaccine, but the big question is, will it work? The first results of human testing, not so promising. Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING."


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