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Girls Kidnapped in Nigeria; Boko Haram's Goal; Monica Lewinsky's "Vanity Fair" Tell-All

Aired May 6, 2014 - 12:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Islamic militants who kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls could be at it again. Suspected Boko Haram gunman storming a Nigerian village, stealing even more girls away from their families.

Also this hour, a car tumbled off a Colorado mountainside, landing upside down at the bottom of a ravine, leaving Kristin Hopkins badly injured and trapped for five long days. Her story of survival will amaze you.

And, she's back. Monica Lewinsky says it is time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress. The ex-White House intern breaking years of silence, revealing her shame, even her suicidal thoughts, and her newfound desire to leave her past behind. A preview of her "Vanity Fair" tell all just ahead.

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Tuesday, May the 6th. And welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

Barely a day after the Islamic terror group Boko Haram not only admitted to kidnapping but vowed to sell off more than 200 teenage schoolgirls from that school in northern Nigeria, reports have emerged that those heavily armed seemingly fearless attackers may have struck again. A villager in Borneo state, where the first kidnappings took place 22 days ago, tells CNN that gunman raided several homes late Sunday, making off with money, livestock and eight girls who were aged between 12 and 15 years. My CNN colleague Isha Sesay is following all of these late breaking developments from the Nigerian capital Abuja.

Isha, what's the latest on the fate of these late eight girls who have been taken?

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, good to talk to you.

We have no word on what is going on right now in attempts to find these eight girls. It is almost too much to bear, to think that having seen that video just a couple of hours ago, the video of the Boko Haram leader talking about what he intended to do to the previous batch of girls he took some three weeks ago, that Boko Haram has struck again, taking eight girls. These all younger than the previous group. These girls, we're told, between the ages of 12 and 15.

As you said, those Boko Haram militants storming this village of Warabe in northeastern Nigeria, making off with these girls late Sunday into Monday. And one can only imagine the sheer fear, the terror, the heart break that these new families are now enduring. And also with the very fact that the government in Nigeria has already admitted that when it comes to the 200-plus girls that went missing some weeks ago, they have no idea where they are. So to have this happen off the back of that, Ashleigh, I mean one's almost loss for words. It is truly heartbreaking, truly horrifying. We're working on getting more details to see what is happening in response to this new outrage.


BANFIELD: Well, and that is my next question, the response. You know it took weeks before the president even really publicly acknowledged what happened to the 200-plus girls. But what about this most latest development? The whole world is watching. The pressure is mounting. Is the government doing something faster now to react to this?

SESAY: Well, you know, the government says that when it comes to the 200-plus girls, they are doing all they can. They are following up on every lead. They talk about using helicopters and aircraft. But we have been speaking to people that are in the local area, the area where the girls, the 200-plus girls were taken, and they said really up until quite recently there had been little movement on the ground. They also said that forested area where we believe the 200-plus girls were taken in the immediate aftermath, that the soldiers never went in there.

So, you know, all of this undermines the credibility of the Nigerian government and raises questions about capability and commitment. So when it comes to these latest eight girls, we are all waiting and watching to see how they all respond, if they will respond differently because to date the feeling here on the ground and for many around the world is that their response has been underwhelming and inadequate.


BANFIELD: That's so distressing. Isha Sesay reporting for us live. Thank you for that.

Boko Haram is effectively hell-bent on overthrowing Nigeria's government and installing what can only be considered a radical Islamic state really akin to Taliban rule in Afghanistan. CNN's Carol Costello looks at their methods.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This video shows the leader of Boko Haram making an outrageous and repugnant announcement, vowing to sell 223 girls abducted last month from a school in northeastern Nigeria.

This isn't the first time the Islamic extremist group has taken responsibility for a horrific deed. According to Amnesty International, in just the first three months of this year, more than 1,500 people have died in violence related to Boko Haram. The group dates back more than 10 years, but became increasingly violent in 2009 after widespread clashes in northeast Nigeria with the military. In the aftermath, hundreds of Boko Haram members were killed. Among them, the groups then leader, Muhammad Yusef.

Since then, Boko Haram has carried out audacious attacks on churches, mosques and markets. Entire villages have been razed to the ground. Residents killed in firebomb attacks, shot and some victims have been even hacked to death.

TISEKE KASAMBALA, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, SOUTHERN AFRICA: What we've seen is increasingly vicious attacks by Boko Haram in remote villages, schools and businesses.

COSTELLO: Last November, the State Department designated Boko Haram as a terrorist organization and they estimate the membership ranges in the hundreds to a few thousand. So what motivates this diabolical group? Boko Haram translates to "western education is a sin." The group aims to establish a fully Islamic state in Nigeria and implement Sharia law. A 2013 congressional report on homeland security called Boko Haram "a sophisticated ally of al Qaeda."

As for Abubakar Shekau, the current leader, he's been on the radar of U.S. officials since he came to power in 2009. Last June, the U.S. put a bounty on him, offering a reward of up to $7 million for information leading to his location.

Carol Costello, CNN, New York.


BANFIELD: I want to bring in CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, who's standing by live in London.

Christiane, I know you just heard these reports coming in about an additional eight girls who have now been taken. I want you to give me some scope on what Boko Haram is capable of doing, what they can do in the future, how big they've become, and given the fact that it's been a year since they announced this was their new strategy, are they now being considered more serious and more successful and really a force to be reckoned with?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, firstly, the kidnap of the eight girl has been confirmed. And we're still waiting to hear, as we heard from Isha, to figure out details. But in terms of Boko Haram and what their aims are, they're playing them out. What they need is help. The government needs help in surveillance, in figuring out an actual strategy because even the U.S., over the last few years, even special representatives from the State Department have said, while we stand ready to help our ally Nigeria fight this threat, what happens is that the Nigerian government, according to the United States and according to so many people on the ground, are fanning the flames, if you like, in the way they go after them. It's a scorched earth policy when they do actually go after them. There have been, you know, homes that have been burned, land that has been burned, victims who have been raped, civilians who have been attacked and that is what many people say is turning the people against the government's actions and fanning the flames and the support for Boko Haram. So that is a really very difficult situation. In addition to that, despite coming out and saying that they're devoted to doing everything they can to find these more than 200 girls who have been now abducted for the last nearly four weeks, it took a long time before the president even came out in public and addressed the nation, as if it really were a national crisis, such as it is, and it took - taking them ages to even start the hunt, to the point that the parents of these girls said, we saw them, we ran after these people. We saw them with their guns and we followed them as far as we could. For the first 11 days, they were within shouting distance and within capturing distance but the government didn't do anything about it. And now nobody quite knows where they are. So it's a pretty bad situation, compounded by government inefficiency.

BANFIELD: At the very least. And even the first lady apparently calling some of the mothers together for a meeting to suggest that they, in effect, be quiet, that they're bringing shame and embarrassment to Nigeria. And then they - you know, our Richard Quest was able to get an interview with the finance minister who has said perhaps they've had a problem in their communication issues. Christiane, is this government capable, at all, if working alone, of finding these girls and saving them?

AMANPOUR: No. No, it's not capable. Nobody thinks that it is and nobody thinks that it actually understands that this is an existential threat. I interviewed President Goodluck Jonathan several times and I asked him many times about this very situation, do you believe that Boko Haram is an existential threat to your country? And he said to me, yes. And, of course, the girls being kidnapped is massive and huge and it has managed to spark international outrage. Unlike the fact that so many of these girls, in smaller batches, have been abducted over the years and there was there - you know, almost no peep from the international community.

Plus, the incredible campaign of bombing in Abuja and elsewhere. And this has been going on for a long time. It's great now that the focus is on the situation and perhaps somebody can, you know, try to help move it along. But the government also does, in fact, need a communications strategy because it was in denial. It hid under a rock. It didn't even address this situation. Thus turning the country against the government and you can't fight this kind of thing unless you convince the people that we're all in it together, that we have to go and fight it, and we have to do what it takes and we have to go out and --

BANFIELD: Can I ask you --

AMANPOUR: And also do it in a way that doesn't violate basic human rights and cause a massive backlash, which is what the government's been doing.

BANFIELD: Looking at the video that these terrorists released, I can't help but think that the leader, who's speaking, looks like he's drug addled. He sounds as though he's somewhat affected in this way. Just watch his body language. At the same time, there is no honor among thieves. And when there's a $7 million bounty that's been announced on that man's head, does that somehow perhaps speak louder than whatever the Nigerian government can do?

AMANPOUR: Well, do you know what, Ashleigh, I'm not sure that that's the case. You know, Joseph Kony's had a bounty for years and years. I covered Joseph Kony's first abduction, you know, in 1997 and before and even with the, you know, stop Kony video that went viral, nothing has happened to get Joseph Kony, even though it's about the only thing in Africa that the United States has committed some forces and some intelligence to helping try to find him and bolstering their allies in that region.

Osama bin Laden was not given up because of the $25 million bounty. And who knows whether this will be the case. You're right, in this case, they say they want to sell these girls. Maybe there is some way to haul them in with money, unclear. And certainly unclear as to whether the government has even tried that.

We are going to be talking to the information minister on my program not so long from now. But I must say, it's been almost impossible to get government officials to actually talk about this. They have been hiding under a cover. They've been in denial. They don't want to talk about it. And guess what, we tried to get the interior minister, the guy who's actually meant to be in charge of this kind of security, and he said, sure, I'd love to talk to you but I'm busy today with -- and I thought he was going to say with chasing after this Boko Haram group and finding those kids - but, no, they're busy because the World Economic Forum is taking place in Africa in Nigeria right now -


AMANPOUR: And they've got to, you know, protect obviously a lot of dignitaries that are coming. But, you know, the army also has intrinsic problems. So do the police. They're barely paid. The country's riddled with corruption. And even though it's now a democratic state, there's so many fundamental systemic problems that it just simply does not know how to go after this existential threat to the nation.

BANFIELD: I dare say that the shame and embarrassment that the first lady was suggesting the mothers were bringing on Nigeria is perhaps instead being brought on Nigeria by the first lady, her husband and perhaps the leaders of that country in this debacle.

Christiane Amanpour, always good to talk to you. Thank you for your time.

AMANPOUR: Thanks, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: In some other late-breaking news and big news too, a very famous name from what some might say a long time ago back in the spotlight today. Monica Lewinsky. She is writing for the first time about her affair with President Clinton and what she says about it and her life since then in the decade-plus of silence.


BANFIELD: It's time to bury the beret and bury -- burn the beret and bury the dress, and that's a quote from the woman who had an affair with President Bill Clinton.

Monica Lewinsky is now talking in a tell-all article that she's penned for the June issue of "Vanity Fair." If you can believe it, that former intern is now 40-years-old, and she's finally breaking her silence. And all of it comes just as Bill Clinton's wife Hillary is possibly making another run for the White House.

I want to bring in Suzanne Malveaux and commentator Mel Robbins in Boston. Suzanne, you covered this scandal. I can't even begin to launch the myriad questions I have about what she's saying about all this because it's been two decades --

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's 16 years ago that we both covered this story. Back at that time, you saw Monica Lewinsky. We were basically staking out her every move. You see the video getting in and out of the cab at the Watergate where she was staying. You could tell it was a very difficult time, a tortured time, for her to be in the spotlight in this way.

And now she's 40-years-old. She was 24 at the time. She really paints this picture of going into hiding, of disappearing, of finally coming out and saying, look, she's going to tell her story, but she couldn't hold down a job.

She had to get loans from her family and friends because she was known as really the center of this scandal. It was the president. It was Monica Lewinsky. So she explains this. She talks about it. She said, "Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I always remain firm on this point. It was a consensual relationship.

"Any abuse came in the aftermath when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position, the Clinton administration.

"The political operatives on both sides of the aisle and the media were able to brand me, and that brand stuck in part because it was imbued with power."

And, Ashleigh, I have to tell you, you understood this, back at that time, there were so many debates in the newsrooms with our bosses, with managers, amongst ourselves, because everybody kind of felt like they had to take a shower after all of this because it was so salacious and certain media outlets would put more of the blame on Monica Lewinsky. Others would put the blame on the president.

The Starr Report, the investigation, really made it news. It made it public. It made it something that we had to cover despite the fact that she's absolutely right that she was branded.

BANFIELD: You know, you bet, I remember having very, very heated debates about who was to blame for this because the media and everyone else just loaded it up on this young woman, an intern at the time.

She writes about this. She talks about how this is now a purpose for her past. To stop humiliation. Particularly online. If you think about the timing, Suzanne, she apparently writes, she was possibly the first person whose global humiliation was driven by the Internet. You think about The Drudge Report and how it attacked her. They called her names. I think one of the big newspapers called her the "portly pepper pot" on a regular basis thinking this was appropriate.

She became sport for everyone, notwithstanding her own role in this as a consenting adult, but want you to talk a little bit about the suicidal notion of what she writes, how her mother had to sit by her bed, hoping she could protect her daughter from trying to kill herself, very distressing to read.

MALVEAUX: That all came out in the Tyler Clemente case. That freshman at Rutgers who the webcam video went out. He was secretly taped. He was kissing a man, and he was humiliated. He didn't know this was going to be for the world to see. He ended up killing himself in 2010.

It was Monica Lewinsky's mother who actually worried desperately about Monica Lewinsky because of her own suicidal thoughts. She said she never tried to commit suicide, but she had suicidal thoughts that essentially she thought she'd be humiliated to death.

She says, "My own suffering took on a different meaning. Perhaps by sharing my story I reasoned I might be able to help others in their darkest moments humiliation. "The question became, how do I find and give a purpose to my past?"

This is what she's trying to do. She's trying to give a purpose to her life here, to her past, because every single turn, she says, there have been situations where, you know, employers say, look, you know, we appreciate your credentials, but you're just -- your history. Your history, it's just not right for the job. So she's been stuck for a really long time.

BANFIELD: I'm sure Twitter's already blowing up of people accusing me a sympathizer or lefty freak or whatever they do on Twitter these days.

There will be those who say the timing is uncanny. Although I will say this not the first time Hillary Clinton has made a bid for president and Monica Lewinsky said nothing.

MEL ROBBINS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yeah, you know, Ashleigh you're exactly right.

Jumping off of Suzanne's point, I don't buy this has any political motivation at all. This is a story about how you survive deep humiliation. This gal has been dragged for the last decade and more through the press. She's been branded. In fact, when Beyonce dropped her album, she's a line in the song "Partition." So the way you resurrect yourself when you're humiliated is you reclaim your story, and that's exactly what she's doing.

Couple bits of information. Matthew Drudge is the one that broke this story. The Drudge Report started in 1998. It's still averaging 23 million page views a month. When Barbara Walters interviewed her, 70 million people tuned in. And so I got to say, you go, girl, Monica Lewinsky. What we can all learn from this is, look, she had an affair. It was between two consenting adults. What she got in return, she certainly didn't deserve, but I applaud the fact that she is an example of somebody who suffered world humiliation and survived to tell it.

And she's coming out in a powerful way and owning her story and I think that she will do a lot of good, because there's a lot of people in this world that are harassed online. She, more than anyone, has the authority and has the victory over the story in surviving it.

BANFIELD: Yeah, and you know what? Coming up after the break, you're looking at these old pictures, as we sort of relive this again, 16 years ago, the story that just wallpapered cable and broadcast news, day after day.

What about her day to day now? Does she get recognized on a regular basis? Is she able to say her name without additional embarrassment, again, this many years later? And how about a current photograph?

Coming up after the break, you are going to see the photograph that is going to be published in "Vanity Fair," and we're going to ask a few other questions about some of the most recent comments Hillary Clinton was revealed to have made back when she found out that man and that woman, Miss Lewinsky, indeed had sexual relations.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to LEGAL VIEW.

This late-breaking story, "Vanity Fair," about to come out with a pretty intense look from Monica Lewinsky's own hand, penning an article about what her life has been like since the scandal that rocked the cable news world, the broadcast news world and certainly almost brought down a president, brought him to impeachment anyway.

Monica Lewinsky, finally talking, and saying despite having been offered up to $10 million to tell her story, she didn't. She kept quiet. She moved on. She moved to London. She got a graduate degree. She tried hard to get jobs, regularly being told, you just don't fit, obviously for the history and the baggage that you bring. Now she's talking about what that's like.

Our own national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is still with me to report on this, along with Mel Robbins, legal affairs commentator here at CNN.

Suzanne, just a little bit more about the reporting on what she writes, tell me a little bit more about how she and Hillary Clinton's most recently revealed words about that scandal, how that meshes and what Monica Lewinsky's now saying about Hillary Clinton.

MALVEAUX: You know, it's interesting, because you might recall when this first came out, the Starr Report, the investigation, this thing, Ashleigh, it was like phonebooks. It was about like three or four, like, phonebooks worth of stuff that we all just sifted through and went through. And it was a very sad and pathetic story when you read it about the relationship between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. It almost seemed like it was this mutual interdependent relationship, dependency, that these two had on each other.

And of course there was the Hillary Clinton component. And Hillary Clinton in the past has called her a "narcissistic loony tune," which Monica Lewinsky, she says -- in response, she says, "If that's the worst thing she said, I should be so lucky."

But then she also goes on to say, look, you know what, I might have been courageous or foolish, maybe. These her words. But she also writes, "Narcissistic and loony?" She asked the question, because she doesn't believe that she was either.

And she also says something that is -- I think is just fascinating, the fact that she points to comments that Hillary Clinton made essentially saying perhaps some of this was my own fault.