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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Captured in Libya
Aired April 21, 2011 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: March 15: Opposition forces in Libya have retreated under heavy fire from several cities they had controlled.
Government forces are bearing down on Ajdabiya, the opposition's last defensive line before Benghazi, their de facto capital in the east.
Under intense shelling, residents of Ajdabiya are fleeing.
Four New York Times journalists covering the battle decide it's too dangerous to stay.
Lynsey Addario, Stephen Farrell, Tyler Hicks, Anthony Shadid and their driver Mohammed Shaglouf head out of the city but are stopped at a checkpoint.
It will be the last time anyone will hear from them for days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Let's just start at the beginning. You guys were driving out of Ajdabiya because you knew Gadhafi forces were moving in, right?
TYLER HICKS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes. We had been treating this in the same way that we had with other cities that had -- had fighting in them like Brega, Ras Lanuf. And we've -- we've seen these towns fall between the two sides over and over.
So as Gadhafi forces were -- were bombing from the west of the city inwards, we were kind of pulling back slowly as that advance was coming.
COOPER: And you're all in one vehicle, you have a driver, a guy named Mohammed and you're driving what -- to the -- to the east gate of the city?
ANTHONY SHADID, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Correct. And that was kind of the most, I think, the haunting -- you know one of the things that played over my head was that that creeping realization of what we were actually up against. And Lynsey was the first to realize it was a government checkpoint.
And it must have been seconds but it felt like minutes as we got closer and closer, we saw the green military uniforms, the military vehicles and then almost I mean, almost instantly you realized that you were -- you were actually at a government checkpoint and that we had few -- we had pretty much no options.
COOPER: And that's got to be the worst feeling I mean, to suddenly see the green vehicles and realize OK, wait a minute there's a level of organization here. These guys aren't the opposition forces, this is Gadhafi's people.
LYNSEY ADDARIO, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": And you can't turn around and go back, because they'll open fire I mean, you would assume they would open fire. You look more suspicious if you try and run away. So we just sort of -- we've made a decision to go forward. And at some point, you know, there's -- it's so chaotic, you don't know what the best option is.
I mean, Tyler was saying "Don't stop, don't stop," because we kind of just wanted to coast through and hope that they didn't recognize we are foreigners. But at the same time, they -- they knew that we were. I mean they saw Tyler in the front seat.
COOPER: And the risk is if you don't stop, they'll just open fire.
ADDARIO: Right. I mean, you -- it's kind of a no-win situation. So -- and then, our driver when he stopped the car and he jumped out and said, "Sahafa (ph)" "journalist." And then it was --
COOPER: And all hell broke loose.
COOPER: You -- you were yanked out of the vehicle first? Is that right Tyler?
HICKS: Correct, yes I was grabbed by my -- by my jacket and my camera straps and literally you know, pulled out violently out of the car. And at the moment that I was not even completely out of the car, we were attacked with heavy gunfire, very accurate gunfire from opposition fighters who we had just been with, just moments earlier.
COOPER: So the opposition guys are firing at you?
STEPHEN FARRELL, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": They were firing past us towards the check point. We were just caught in the middle. So as we were being pulled out of the car I think I've gone two steps, three steps into the road. Tyler was slightly in front of me. There was a soldier grabbing my bags, trying to pull me out. So I'm screaming at him "journalist, journalist, you know, foreigner, Americans, British" whatever and he's -- he's trying to grab my bags.
And I'm sort of basically saying to him, really, in the middle of a gun battle? I mean can we do this over that sand dune over there and try -- and you're -- you're facing the risk of am I going to get shot by these guys who I can't see or am I going to get shot by the guy pointing the Kalashnikov straight to my face.
COOPER: Quickly you find yourselves laying on your stomachs bound and you hear one of the soldiers -- you speak Arabic, right? You hear one of the soldiers say, "shoot them"?
SHADID: That's correct. We were -- you know, we were put on our knees first and there was a lot of you know kind of slapping, there was you know, emptying our pockets. And I remember one of the soldiers was yelling at me, "You're the translator, you're the spy."
And then soon after that, they forced us on our stomachs. And I think we all had that that very sinking feeling that this was it. And I remember on my stomach I'm looking up and I remember him being a tall soldier and he was saying, "Shoot them". And it felt like to me again, I felt like a lot of time, you know, lapsed but I think it was just probably a matter of seconds. And another soldier said to him, "You can't, they're Americans."
COOPER: I want to read something that -- that you wrote about that moment. You said, "At that moment, though, none of us thought we were going to live. Steve tried to keep eye contact until they pulled the trigger. The rest of us felt the powerlessness of resignation. You feel empty when you know that it's almost over." What do -- explain that, what do you mean?
SHADID: You know, I -- I don't know how -- how my colleagues felt, but I remember not -- it wasn't panic necessarily; it wasn't that kind of like desperation or flailing about that you know, you're about to be killed. It was almost that, you know, it's hard to describe other than calling it resignation or emptiness that the moment is drawing near and you're kind of waiting for it.
ADDARIO: Well, there's nothing you can do. You can't -- you're literally captive and you know that any move you make they can shoot you. So it's almost easier to just not move and say, OK, I might die right now and you resign to the fact that this could be the end.
COOPER: It sounds stupid, but I mean, you see that moment in movies of people lined up, put on the ground and then, shot and you always kind of think, well, why don't they run or do something? But do you --
ADDARIO: There is no point. I mean, what's the point? It will just be more violent. I mean you -- you know, I think your -- your better chance is to just hope that they take pity on you for being so terrified, you know.
I mean I think we all just assumed we were about to die. And I mean for me I just said OK, if this is the worst thing that's going to happen to us, I probably won't feel it, you know. I mean it will probably be quick.
HICKS: I agree that that you see these things in movies. Or you -- you know, for me, I played them through my head so many times --
COOPER: You've been in a lot of tight situations. All of you have --
HICKS: Yes -- yes, and I -- I kind of -- I always thought I had myself mentally prepared, like if it gets to this point, I would do this. I would run. I would you know, just -- just try to get away. I would -- I would, you know, there are so many things that you kind of have in the back of your mind, but really when that happens, all of that just got thrown out the window.
COOPER: You really thought you were going to die?
HICKS: Yes, yes. When they demanded we lay on our stomachs, we all -- were begging, "No, no we don't want to go". We're sorry; we're begging not to go on our stomachs. We all felt that once we were on our stomachs, they're just going to start shooting. And we're -- as soon as I went on my stomach, I was just waiting to hear gunfire. And it was really a sinking and empty feeling.
COOPER: Stephen, is that why you wanted to maintain eye contact?
FARRELL: Yes. It's never over until it's over. I mean unfortunately I've been in this situation before more than once.
COOPER: You were taken hostage in Afghanistan.
FARRELL: -- in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2004. And the --
COOPER: Are you lucky or incredibly unlucky?
FARRELL: Both. The -- I mean -- there was no real question of making a run for it at that point because you're surrounded by guys with guns. And if you present your back to these guys, they're just going to shoot you and enjoy doing it. You can only work them if you're looking at them, if you're looking in their eye --
COOPER: Because if you're showing your back, what you're no longer a person, you're just -- you're easier to kill?
FARRELL: I just -- you can't be talking with them, you can't be negotiating with them, you can't be pleading with them. If you're -- if you're back's turned to them, they're not going to have any compunction about shooting you; they're going to enjoy it.
So we we're just, OK Anthony was working, Anthony was throwing the Arabic and I was throwing what Arabic I had at them. You listen. And you just try -- you're just pushing -- you just push every button you can and as quickly as you can in the seconds you may or may not have.
Journalist -- that wasn't working; Americans -- that did seem to hit a cord. Anthony is saying other things, these guys, Lynsey, I distinctly remember saying, "I just don't want to be raped. I just don't want to be raped."
ADDARIO: I'm begging, I just kept saying please don't, please don't, because we were all waiting to be shot and so I just said, please.
FARRELL: And they were forcing us on a -- they were saying, get down. And we were all -- we all went halfway. Like it's crazy, you're like compromising with -- with -- with nothing, to -- no cards to play. But you're trying to play them.
Get down, right, I'll go on my knees; I'm just not going all the way down face down, because then you've -- you've kind of lost everything.
COOPER: And you think it's the fact that they viewed you as Americans, that's what made the difference?
SHADID: I think the idea of executing three Americans and a British journalist was -- would have had implications and it was -- there was -- there was going to be you know, repercussions of, you know, of basically executing us there at a checkpoint, that we were somehow --- I'm afraid to say this without reading value into it -- but we were somehow worth something.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: March 15: Lynsey Addario, Stephen Farrell, Tyler Hicks, and Anthony Shadid, colleagues at the New York Times, are taken captive by pro-Gadhafi forces at a checkpoint in Ajdabiya, Libya.
Along with their driver, they are pulled from their vehicle. Minutes later, opposition forces began firing on the checkpoint. The journalists, now captives, were caught in the crossfire.
They were able to dodge the bullets but not the blows from their captors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: They don't shoot you. You find yourselves in the back of -- in your vehicle the battling continues to go on. But how violent were they with you? I mean it seems like you were, you met lots of different groups of militia members and soldiers and each time you met them early on they kind of wanted to exert dominance over you. Is that --
SHADID: That's right. And I think it was always those first moments. I think we all experienced that. I mean, when I was getting loaded in, there was a head butt. I know -- you know --
COOPER: They head butted you?
SHADED: They -- at the very beginning other of us were getting, you know slaps and hits to the back of the head. And then, you know, as the time -- I mean, this was apparent as time were on in each of these occasions you know way, I kind of describe it to someone else is that you know, the society's deeper instinct for -- for generosity or hospitality would show through, but that initial kind of rage and fear and you know, and I think it shows something about the government that's been in place for so long. And how it's disfigured that society and state that was what we were we met with you know, initially.
FARRELL: When you are captive in this situation, it's extraordinary how you resist change. I mean, to you I'm bound, my feet are bound, I'm blind-folded, I'm in a cover (ph) but I'm not dead. Please just don't change that. I don't want to be moved to another car. I don't want to meet another group, I don't want to go anywhere, because I'm not dead here and now and I don't know what will happen.
COOPER: And what -- and what the next group will be like.
COOPER: And Lynsey, you weren't spared any different treatment because you were a woman.
ADDARIO: I think I was spared. I -- I was punched in the face twice.
COOPER: While you were bound?
ADDARIO: Yes, while I was bound. The first time was right at the beginning when they took us, they put Steve and I in one car and they -- they lifted me up first, two men picked me up and put me in the car. And this was before Steve got in, and I -- I remember I was sitting in the car, and I'm bound and they had bound my hands so tight they were starting to go numb.
And I'm sitting there, and my hair was falling in my face and you can't do anything. You know, it was really irritating me. And I was sitting there sort of blowing the whiffs -- whiffs of hair out of my face.
And this guy came up next to me, and my instinct was that, oh, he's going to help me, and he just punched me in the side of the face. And to me, I've never been punched in the face before. I mean it actually was -- I was really surprised. I thought, wow, that's really strange.
And then, I started crying, because I thought it's only going to get worse. This is just -- this is you know, we're in the first 15 minutes. I'm -- you know, this could last months.
COOPER: What happened when you started crying? What was his reaction?
ADDARIO: He started laughing. He started laughing and he didn't hit me again, he started laughing. And then, like -- about ten minutes later, a different guy came over and actually untied my hands. And gave me -- another guy came over and came to bring me a tissue and a soldier pulled it out of his hands and threw it on the ground.
So there was a real sort of -- there was a -- you know, some were nice, some took pity -- pity on me and others were just really aggressive.
COOPER: Obviously as a woman, as you've mentioned early on, you were afraid about -- about being raped. They -- they would come and sort of grope you, right?
ADDARIO: They came and groped me every -- from the minute we were taken from when we were put on the ground face down and then they started searching our pockets. A guy flipped me over and immediately he started touching me. And I think, for me, I've never been touched like that in the Muslim world and I've been working 11 years in the Muslim world.
And yes, I've had sort of in Pakistan a grab here, a grab there. But this was -- this is different. Because I knew -- I knew that this was -- it was a line that had been crossed and that it was going to consistently happen. That's when I said, oh, God, I just don't want to be raped.
And so for me the entire time this went on, my one fear was that I was going to get separated from the group, because I kept thinking they might drag me off. And so every time I was blindfolded or moved somewhere, I kept saying are you there, are you with me? We all were very scared about being separated.
But I wasn't. I mean there was one time in the prison where someone came in and picked up my leg and tried to drag me out of the cell and I squirmed up and literally like spooned Anthony. And I think you were like, you weren't even conscious. You were like asleep or something. And the guy -- the guy put my leg down and then he picked it back up and started pulling out again and I just squirmed back up and I basically just lied next to Anthony and he left. He just sort of gave up and said ok.
COOPER: Would people say anything to you while they were doing this to you and would you say anything to them?
ADDARIO: No. I mean, one time in the back of an APC, an armored personnel carrier, a guy, they sort of threw us all in the back and we all were sort of jumbled sort of on top of each other. And one of the guys laid behind me, he had -- it was my back to his front. And he put his hand over my mouth and he started touching me. And I -- and I started -- I didn't scream but I said, please, I have a husband. And he said, don't speak. And he just kept touching me more.
And ironically, one of the other soldiers heard me begging him and pulled me away from him. And then the guy pulled me back against him. And then the soldier pulled me away from him and kept his arms around me. So it was as if he was sort of ashamed of the treatment that the guy, you know, that the guy was touching me and making me so uncomfortable.
COOPER: Tyler, one guy who I think they called the Sheikh threatened you with --with beheading. What did you say?
HICKS: He kind of put his hand in my hair. He couldn't see my face, because I had this -- this blindfold on. And he said, I -- I like your head. You have a very nice head or something like that. He said, I'm going to have -- I'm going to cut it off, I'm going to take it off of your body and I'm going to remove your head from your body. He kept saying that.
And I think just from that -- the whole -- all the stress and exhaustion of this, I actually really felt at that time very hot, very -- actually kind of dizzy. And at that point, the whole thing just felt very surreal to me and quite terrifying.
ADDARIO: Lynsey, another guy -- I was really struck by this in the article that you wrote -- there was another moment where somebody was stroking your hair.
ADDARIO: Yes, this was -- it was twisted. I was sitting next to Anthony and we were all put in the back of a Land Cruiser. And I was on the end, and again, blindfolded and hands tied behind my back at this point.
And I was sitting like this, and a guy reached over from the front seat and started caressing my hair like either -- like a mother would a son or a daughter, and then he started touching my face, very sort of gently and saying this phrase over and over. And I sort of tried to put my head down and he picked it up and just kept caressing me in this weird sort of tender way.
And I -- and he was saying this phrase over and over and I said to Anthony, I said, "What's mort," right, or mort, yes, I said, "What is he saying?" And Anthony said, he's telling you you're going to die tonight. And I just -- I mean, what can you say? I mean there's no -- it's so incongruous. You have a guy who is like --
ADDARIO: -- you know, he's caressing your hair and he's telling you, you're going to die.
COOPER: I once saw a video of a -- of an American kidnapped in Chechnya. And that was a video made by the kidnapper and we watched it during -- I mean these war courses. You know they make us pay. And I'll never able -- it really reminded me of that, because he was really gentle with the guy, and he was stroking his hair and then he cut off his finger at that exact same moment. And there was something so incongruous about the --
COOPER: -- the gentleness with which he was stroking and that's what really struck me about it. It's so disturbing.
ADDARIO: It's as if these guys take a course on how to psychologically traumatize you, you know. I mean each one of us, I think -- I can only speak for myself. But it was this psychological trauma that was the worst. You know, we can all withstand getting punched in the face. And we we're all pretty tough.
But I think you know, the -- the mystery of not knowing what's to come, the sort of the gentleness mixed with the cruelty, the repeated being handed over to new people every few hours. I mean, it -- that just tortures you -- and it makes you -- it breaks you down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: March 15 - March 20: Four seasoned New York Times journalists are held captive by pro-Gadhafi forces as fighting escalates in eastern Libya.
Lynsey Addario, Stephen Farrell, Tyler Hicks, and Anthony Shadid are bound, beaten and threatened with death. Their driver, Mohammed Shaglouf is still missing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Just one of the things that -- that you wrote in the article, said, "The act is probably less terrifying than the unknown. You don't know when it's going to end or what comes next." Is that -- is that really true, that kind of the not knowing? Does your mind, I mean do you run through scenarios constantly?
SHADID: I think that's what we did after that. You know the first step, the first 12 hours was so -- was tough. And you know, we probably should have died those first 12 hours, given the intensity of the fire fight and the positions we were in.
I think after that, as we were talking to each other, it was you know, what's next? What are the scenarios out there? What might happen to us? And I think that you have little else to do but talk among yourselves. And that I think in a lot of ways of that unknown was, in some ways, you know, the most terrifying thing.
FARRELL: I mean these guys -- these guys understood power. And this is all about power. Power expressed sexually, power expressed in terms of beating, power expressed in terms of fear. And they play power like a musical instrument and they had absolute power. Every single thug we met that are hundreds of miles had absolute power over us and you got none, I mean none. And your hands are bound, nothing.
So that's -- your mind just starts racing away all the time. And we constantly -- we're all breathing out saying, "Don't think about it. Don't think about it. Where are we? What can you see? What can you hear? What can we do? And how can we work this?
It was constantly a case of coming back from -- from the fears that you're projecting and into where you are now and what you can do about right now.
COOPER: One of the things I think often being in an experience like this, and not that I've ever been in anything really close, but -- but when you realize that -- that it's the state itself, which is after you and which has the complete power, you do get a sense as a reporter a little bit more about what it's like for people who are living there, and who have been living under this.
And you wrote something close, that you wrote, "Over the years all of us have seen men detained, blindfolded and handcuffed to places like Abu Ghraib (ph) or corralled after some operation in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Now we were the faceless. Now, we were the faceless, we had covered perhaps too dispassionately. For the first time, we felt what it was like to be disoriented by blindfold, to have plastic cuffs dig in to our wrist, for our hands to go numb."
Does -- does it, does this experience change the way you see things?
ADDARIO: It definitely changes the way I see people prisoners, definitely. I mean, I -- I never -- I photographed prisoners with hoods on and their hands bound and I've never thought about what it feels like to be -- to be removed of all of your senses. So definitely I think that all of us sort of thought, oh, my God, I can't believe we never realized how horrible it is to be blindfolded and bound. I mean it's just -- it's a horrible feeling.
COOPER: And it's not just a question like well, is something torture or not. I mean, there's many degrees before it even gets to torture that are horrific.
SHADID: But you really have to dehumanize somebody, I think, before you commit violence. And I think that's what -- what happened in a way with blindfolds with the binding. You know, it would be harder for them I think to hit us in the face -- they did -- but it would be harder for them to hit us in the face if we weren't blindfolded. If they can see our faces, eye to eye.
But I think that whole process of binding and blindfolding and throwing us in the back of a pickup truck was -- you know, was part of dehumanization in a way; that made it easier to commit violence.
FARRELL: I -- I have been through this before. One thing I found in Afghanistan, too and I did quite of a lot this time as well, I asked to go to the toilet more than I actually had to, because there's something, as you say, dehumanization there's some sort of re- humanizing in an act as personal as that. They have to take you. They have -- you have to commit -- they have -- for a start they have to untie your hands and I felt that that did break it down a little bit, just a little bit of that hostility.
COOPER: How do you deal with the fear? I mean, how do you not become sort of overcome with -- with -- with fear?
FARRELL: There's just no point. What -- what -- if you panic, you die.
ADDARIO: I -- I think it helped that we were together. I mean, you know, there were moments when I was -- I couldn't stop crying and I felt so weak and I -- and I tried to sort of muffle it and I -- and I was trying not to cry. And you know, inevitably one of them was sitting next to me and would say like there are people who love you. We're going to get out of this. You just have to -- and you know and so it's very helpful to have colleagues with you. I mean, we were so lucky that we were together.
COOPER: And I know, early on, you didn't know if -- you know, anyone knew where you were, but -- but it's got to also help to know ok, I work for an organization that has resources that will be looking for us.
ADDARIO: We -- we hoped so, but you don't know anything in this situation.
HICK: And you really -- and when you're -- you have absolutely no information here, it's so isolated and of course, we knew that the "Times" and our families were working on this 24/7. But -- but you still have that feeling of, we're in the middle of nowhere. How are they ever going to find us here? And it's -- it's really, you just feel like you've dropped off the end of the earth.
COOPER: How do you get through? I mean, what do you think about to -- to get you through?
SHADID: I think each person, you know, had their own -- I mean Tyler was a great storyteller. Lynsey has a great sense of humor. Steve's -- he's got a British education. I think over time it actually was, you know, the camaraderie that started to come out. It really was a way to get through it.
COOPER: So you're flown to Tripoli, you're handed over. The groups are arguing over who's going to get you. You also wrote that in hearing them sort of debate over you and argue over you, you said, "The more they talk, the clearer it became: the semblance of a state was not a state."
SHADID: I think our destinies really were decided on that tarmac in Tripoli. You know, I mean it's hard to say exactly what was transpiring there but you get the sense the different ministries are in different brigades so different sons were fighting over who got custody of us.
And I think we got lucky in the end. We didn't go to the interior ministry; we didn't go to the dreaded intelligence apparatus. We went to military intelligence. And I have to say we were treated well after we were delivered to them.
But that very conflict, you know, different branches sitting there on a military airfield debating who gets to take these hostages, who gets custody of these hostages illustrated the chaos that's afoot in Libya, that this is four decades of rule by a man who at least ostensibly vowed to dismantle the state; that there was going to some hell in this revolutionary state of the masses. And here it was playing out in front of us.
COOPER: You had a driver, Mohammed, who was stopped at a checkpoint with you. You're not sure what happened to him. He hasn't been found, but you think you may have seen his body?
ADDARIO: It's hard to say. I mean I'll tell you what I did see. And you know, obviously, it was -- I was in sort of semi-shock. This is in the first sort of 20 minutes to an hour after we first got stopped. And I looked over and I saw our car and one of the doors was open and there was a guy taking our stuff out and putting it on a sidewalk.
And I looked down and next to the driver's side was a man face down with one arm outstretched and he clearly wasn't moving. And my initial thought was, it's Mohammed. But I didn't see his face. And it's hard to say, because we don't know, you know, there was so much chaos after the car was stopped.
COOPER: We all rely on locals so often. Fixers, you know, taxi drivers, drivers; you must still be thinking a lot about him.
HICKS: Oh, yes. This has become the focus, and it has been from the beginning. You know, Mohammed has been part of our group that we've been inquiring about. Of course, we've been checking the jails, the hospitals, morgues, everything. And still nothing has come forward and, you know, this is all weighing very heavily on all of us.
This driver was, you know, a great driver; he was working with us. About 21 years old. And -- and we feel this huge responsibility and really --
COOPER: Anthony, you wrote, "If he died, we will have to bear the burden for the rest of our lives that an innocent man died because of us; because of wrong choices we made for an article that was never worth dying for. No article is, but we were too blind to admit that."
SHADID: That's right. And I think that -- you know I think the full impact of that burden, it's certainly starting to dawn on me. You know, why didn't I leave earlier? Why did I stay as long as I did? You know. You hope that you're doing it because that story wouldn't have been told otherwise. But even if that story wasn't told otherwise, it wasn't worth someone's life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: March 17: Four New York Times journalists held by pro- Gadhafi forces in Libya are turned over to Libyan defense officials in Tripoli. They are allowed to call their families.
March 19: Negotiations for their release are underway as an allied coalition begins bombing Tripoli to enforce a no-fly zone approved by the United Nations.
March 21: Lynsey Addario, Stephen Farrell, Tyler Hicks, Anthony Shadid are released to Turkish diplomats and leave Libya.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You must get this question a lot. Why do you do this? I mean what is it -- why do you feel it's important? I mean all of you are incredibly experienced in incredibly difficult circumstances. You've all risked your lives numerous times.
You've had two kidnappings. You, I believe, had one in Iraq. You've all been in jams. What is it that drives you to do it?
SHADID: You know, I think there are some stories that are worth taking risks for. You know, I think back to the decisions I've had to make, you know, over the years, staying in Baghdad in 2003 or covering a war in Lebanon in 2006, Ramallah in 2002.
These stories, you do have that sense, and it is a little bit of a cliche, but there is some meaning to it that, you know, unless you're there covering it, no one is going to know about it. Unless you're there trying to bring meaning to it, to bring a certain depth to it, it won't be done otherwise.
I think that's the question I've been struggling with, is that the case in Ajdabiya before we got abducted? You know, would that story have not been told otherwise, and I don't know the answer to that, to be honest.
HICKS: I really think that you take risks and they really -- those risks are always worth taking when you're back at your hotel and you've sent in your pictures or you filed your stories and nothing happened and you got away with it. That's when a risk is worth taking. And when something bad happens, then you realize it wasn't worth taking.
ADDARIO: And I think in a place, you know, in this conflict, particularly there was no one else on the ground. So if we weren't up at the front line, no one knew what was happening. And you know, you could not get accurate information. We would ask the rebels, hey has Brega fallen? They would always say yes, we have Brega but they lie, you know.
I mean when we would go up, we realized you couldn't get, you know, five kilometers past the town before. So you really had to go on your own and work at it, because there was no one else to bring that information. And so, you know, I personally felt it was very important that we were there covering it, especially now that the U.S. is getting involved and, you know, there's talk about arming the rebels.
You know, we need accurate information. Who are the rebels? What's going on, on the ground? People need to see that if they're going to make decisions.
FARRELL: This was one of those stories -- this was one of those conflicts where if you were 20 miles behind the front line you had as much idea about what was going on as if you were 2,000 miles behind the front lines.
FARRELL: What you're trying to do is you're going to try to put yourself in a position where you can cut through -- cut through this mess and say, this is what is happening.
These rebels are -- these people, these Gadhafi forces are doing this and this at a time when as Lynsey says, it's gone geopolitical; this, at a time when governments are about to commit lives and hundreds of millions of dollars into a conflict. And we're trying to say, if that's the resources you're going to be putting into this conflict, if you're going to choose to come in and interfere in this, this is what you're dealing with. This is the situation on the ground.
And it is the same risk you take that gets that journalistic or that information that also puts people in mortal peril. It is the same risk. If it works for you, it comes off. If it doesn't work for you, you get the blame. And that's just the way the job is.
COOPER: Is it hard being back? I mean I know you want to come home after a situation like this, that's completely normal and understandable. But it's got to be strange at the same time to see -- still see this stuff going on.
Is it -- I always find it hard going from one world to the other, you know. All of a sudden you're on a plane and then you're in a completely world and the world keeps spinning and nobody knows what you've gone through. Is it strange being back?
HICKS: For me, it was really -- I wouldn't say strange. The reality of how this affects the people that I love really came forward. I mean what you put your family and your friends and your loved ones through and your employer and everyone. It was really quite emotional to come back and see how --
COOPER: More than anything has in the past?
HICKS: Yes, definitely because there are three days that my family, for example, didn't know if I was dead or alive. That's a lot -- a lot to put your family through and everyone else that you know.
SHADID: I think that, you know, it's happened to me twice in my life. I was shot in 2002, and then, this experience a couple of weeks ago; looking at death or coming that close to death, I think it's not only the emptiness and resignation that you feel as it happens, but it's something that lingers a little while. It perhaps fades away over time, but it's something that you don't necessarily bounce back from right away.
ADDARIO: And I also think when you -- you know, there's nothing like coming home, you know. But also when I walk around the streets of New York and I'm so happy to be home. But I look around me and most people don't care about what's happening in Libya. And I ask myself, why do I do this? Why am I so dedicated to this profession that no one cares about?
You know, it's me -- I spend ten months out of the year in some weird hotel room alone like trying to watch whatever is on TV.
COOPER: Stuck watching CNN.
ADDARIO: Yes. Or I'm -- it's lonely, it's physically and emotionally taxing. It's a difficult profession, and when we walk around the streets of New York, I look around and most people have normal lives, you know. And I think why do I do this? Why do I torture myself?
It's simply because I think it's really important for people to see what they don't want to see; and for people to see the reality of people's lives outside of their little box.
COOPER: Do you think this is going to go on a long time in Libya, short of Gadhafi being killed?
SHADID: The one thing that was so clear to me, you know, seeing this kind of wreckage of the state, as we went from Ajdabiya all the way to Tripoli is that this is absolutely not going to be anything like Egypt or Tunisia. It's going to be messy. It's going to last a long time.
I think a generation is going to be haunted by this reckoning that is going to have to be made of what Gadhafi's rule is representative of for more than four decades.
COOPER: I really admire all you so much. So thank you very much for talking to me.
ADDARIO: Thank you.
SHADID: Thank you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: March 15 to 21: For three days, the families of Four New York Times journalists held by pro-Gadhafi forces in Libya did not know if their loved ones were alive.
Once they surfaced, it took three more days to negotiate their release.
Paul de Bendern is Lynsey Addario's husband. Reem Makhoul is Stephen Farrell's wife.
Their spouses risk their lives to do their jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Reem, where were you when you realized something was wrong?
REEM MAKHOUL, STEPHEN FARRELL'S WIFE: Steve and I are used to speak with each other every couple of hours, especially when he's in the field covering a story. And that day he didn't -- he called me in the afternoon and didn't contact me for five or six hours after. So I started to be worried.
And then I contacted his colleague, who was in Benghazi in Libya. And he told me that he hadn't heard from Steve and the others about the same time. And then we knew that they were missing.
COOPER: That's got to be the worst feeling, I mean to not -- you have -- have your husband that far away and not be able to get information.
MAKHOUL: Yes. It's a very difficult feeling. Unfortunately I went through this before in 2009 when he was kidnapped by the Taliban. And I just know in situations like this, I just have to be strong. I have to be able to -- answer e-mails and phone calls very quickly and be in control of my feelings.
COOPER: When did you know something was wrong?
PAUL DE BENDERN, LYNSEY ADDARIO'S HUSBAND: I spoke to her in the morning on that day. And she said that she had a feeling that things were turning negative and that, you know, that the government forces were quite near and she wanted to get out of there. And I didn't -- a colleague -- a friend of mine called me in the evening and said have you heard from Lynsey or Tyler and then I got a suspicion that something was wrong. And then we started talking to each other, other friends and found out, and "The New York Times" got in touch.
Then, of course, you are on 24 -- every minute of the day it gets worst and worst because you don't know anything. I was in Delhi (ph) on my own flat and you know, pacing. I was kind of wearing down the floor as I was walking around, you know, with two laptops on the Reuters screen, what's going on, e-mailing, everything.
And then I didn't have any sleep for several days.
COOPER: And is there really anything you can do? Because you don't have access to the information -- I mean no one knows where they are. What do you -- how do you pass the time?
MAKHOUL: You basically wait. "The New York Times" was in touch with us every single day. They were calling us, e-mailing us when they have news and when they didn't have news; all you have to do is wait.
And I was trying to call Steve's phone all the time, because the first few days we didn't know where they were. They were missing. No one called us; no one took responsibility or said that they have them. So I was trying to call his phone. They were ringing but no one answered.
So I was basically thinking maybe they managed to run away and hide the phones or maybe something more terrible happened to them.
DE BENDERN: Everyone wants to help, as well, which I always -- which is difficult, as well, because it kind of exhausts you, too. Sometimes you don't want to talk to anybody. You just want to wait it out, in a way. And you want friends near, but at the same time I think the first -- the worst was the first three days, the days of not knowing because it was very odd that four Western journalists disappeared completely like out of thin air.
COOPER: Very experienced Western journalists who have been in the hottest places there are.
DE BENDERN: Yes, exactly. I had a positive feeling they were OK, but at the back of my mind, you always have this thing, well, what if a bomb dropped on their car. But then you would still think that they would be at one point recognized somehow.
Like you were saying was, Lynsey had a mobile phone and it kept ringing. And this is kind of -- I mean I stopped at one point. It was ringing and then somebody hung up. They didn't pick up, they just ignored the call. Then I had to kind of stop calling because it just drove --
DE BENDERN: Yes. Completely.
MAKHOUL: Because you don't know if they're -- I was thinking the same -- calling them all the time and then at some point, I thought what if they are hiding the phone and they need it to call us and contact us and someone finds out that someone is trying to reach them. It's very confusing and emotionally exhausting not to know where they are and what state they are and what they're doing. It's really tiring.
COOPER: Did you -- in a case like this, do you watch the news? Do you -- are you trying to consume all the information you can? Or does that just make it worse?
MAKHOUL: Yes, I tried to watch the news. They read every piece of information about anything, whatever I could get from Libya. I speak Arabic, so I followed both Arabic news and English news. But at some point I started reading about things that happened to other journalists that were kidnapped in Libya and it wasn't very pleasant.
At that point when I was reading these things I decided I shouldn't. And I should stay focused and positive in order to be able to handle this because I didn't know if it was going to last for days or weeks.
COOPER: Now subsequently that what you've heard about what they went through, particularly in the first several days, what is it like for you hearing Lynsey describe what she went through?
DE BENDREN: I mean it's tough but you know, you have to -- this is the job we do. I mean I think they were all lucky, the four of them, that they got out alive. They're all strong people and they obviously -- this was very tough on them. You can clearly see that. And it is disturbing and it is -- you know, I will spend time with her and I'm here for her.
You know, they went through things that nobody should ever have to go through. It's difficult to kind of process it still.
COOPER: Then they finally got to Tripoli and basically were handed over to what they believe were military intelligence, they were able finally to make phone calls. What was that -- what was that call like for you?
MAKHOUL: It was very short, five to seven minutes but it was very assuring and it was in the middle of the night. Steve called and we spoke briefly and he sounded OK and he assured me over and over again that they were safe and uninjured and unharmed. That was very comforting.
One of the things that he told me was the things that kept him going was thinking of me and our 3-month-old daughter. And that's what kept him going and it was a very beautiful thing to say. It was just really -- it took the stress away.
DE BENDERN: My most emotion was when I spoke first to Lynsey which was a day and a half after her. That's when you realize how traumatic it is, as well. Like you stay strong and when you hear the voice, it's really comforting. But you also -- it's like, so you get relieved but at the same time you also feel, wow, this is like, you know, we can't have this a lot of times.
COOPER: Would you want him to go back to Libya ever?
MAKHOUL: I think it's a -- no, I don't think I want him to go back there. But I do want him to continue doing journalism that he does best. I met him when we both were covering the Israeli-Lebanon war in 2006. And I knew what kind of job he has and the passion he has for this job and telling the world what is going on in the Middle East.
So I think I trust his judgment and I know that he's very careful. I worked with him and I still work with him and I know how he works in the field. So I know and I'm confident that he's able to take care of himself.
COOPER: This is his third close call. I mean, he was kidnapped in Iraq and Afghanistan and now here.
MAKHOUL: Yes, it's difficult every single time. And it's very stressful. But he decided after Afghanistan not to go back to work in Afghanistan or in dangerous places in Iraq. So these things do affect him and me and us as a family. These are decisions that we have to make and soon.
COOPER: Would you want Lynsey to go back?
DE BENDERN: I think she can wait until, you know, if Gadhafi leaves and there's a new government. They're all very determined journalists and that's why we love them, too. This is part of their life and character. It's like cutting off an arm if you tell them to stop.
The number one thing you realize very quickly is how much you love the person. You don't think about the negative, you just think about how important they are and that you want them back.
But I also love what she does. So it's a kind of double-edged sword. Yes, I want her to be home more, but at the same time she's an amazing woman and I married her because of that. Am I going to say stay home and not do that, you know, and have her complaining every day? No. I don't think that's going to work and I'm sure it's the same.
MAKHOUL: Yes. Absolutely. It's the same feeling.
COOPER: Well, I'm really glad it worked out the way it did.
COOPER: Thanks very much for talking.
MAKHOUL: Thank you.
DE BENDERN: Thanks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: Today journalists continue to be targeted while covering the unrest in Libya.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, there have been more than 70 attacks against journalists in Libya since February.
At least two journalists have died.
(END VIDEO CLIP)