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American POW Free After Five Years; Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Deserter or Hero?; Does the U.S. Negotiate with Terrorists?; Interview with Representative Buck McKeon; Bergdahl Face Intensive Recovery Process After Taliban Affiliate Held Him For Five Years; Donald Sterling's Attorney Speaks Out

Aired June 2, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.

Ordinarily the release of an American serviceman after five years of wartime captivity would be cause for universal celebration, joy, plain and simple. However, in the case of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, America's only prisoner of war in Afghanistan, that is not entirely so.

There's little that's ordinary and nothing that's simple or free of controversy about his story. How he vanished five years ago and was captured by a Taliban affiliate group. What he said before disappearing in a letter home that were sharply critical of American policy, then there's the trade of five Guantanamo detainees, Taliban members, to get him back. Whether the Obama administration broke the law in making the deal and is sending out mixed messages about the whole thing right now.

We'll talk about it all tonight. You'll hear from all sides including a soldier who served with then Private 1st Class Bergdahl who says that for the last five years he was under strict orders not to talk about him but can now speak his mind freely.

First, George Howell with how Bowe Bergdahl and we got here.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bowe Bergdahl enlisted in the Army in 2008. The next year he was deployed to Afghanistan. Then on June 30th, 2009, officials say Bergdahl was captured. The details into exactly how that happened remain murky. Some soldiers who served in his platoon say he deserted, that he just walked off the combat outpost in a remote region of Afghanistan.

For nearly five years Bowe Bergdahl remained a prisoner of war believed to have been held by members of the Haqqani network, affiliated with the Taliban. His captors started releasing videos of the soldier. The first on July 19th, 2009, though it's unclear whether his remarks may have been scripted by his captors.

SGT. BOWE BERGDAHL, FREED PRISONER OF WAR: Scared I won't be able to go home. HOWELL: Bergdahl's father spoke out publicly about his son May 6th, 2011 releasing a video on YouTube asking his son's captors to release him.

BOB BERGDAHL, FATHER OF BOWE BERGDAHL: We ask that your nation diligently help our son be freed from his captivity.

HOWELL: May 2012 the U.S. government acknowledged it was engaged in talks with the Taliban to free the soldier. Two years later it finally happened, in a controversial prisoner swap, exchanging Bergdahl for five detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Bergdahl's hometown now anxiously awaits his return.

SUE MARTIN, BERGDAHL'S FAMILY FRIEND: We're not holding our breath anymore and hoping and waiting and just waiting for Bowe to have his freedom.

HOWELL: A close friend of Bergdahl's family Sue Martin transformed her coffee shop for a hometown hero. But on some social media and through statements made by some of Bergdahl's former platoon members his service is viewed in a much more critical manner. Some call him a deserter. There are claims that he was critical of the war effort. And that when he disappeared from his post, the search to find him cost other soldiers their lives.

Martin says people are too quick to make judgments.

MARTIN: We're going to learn what happened to Bowe. And I don't think anybody else can tell that story. I think that's his story as to what happened and why and all the circumstances surrounding his capture.


COOPER: And George Howell joins us now from Hailey, Idaho. So he has the support clearly of his friends. A lot of people in the town. How have others in Hailey been reacting to the criticism that he abandoned his post?

HOWELL: Well, Anderson, here in the city limits you really find that people are very supportive of who they call a hometown hero. And you can see this building here decorated with balloons and ribbons. That's the sense you get here. However, people are not unaware of the controversy. They know that there are big questions about his capture. And why and how he was released.

We also know that there are people who believe he is not a hero. And we even saw a news release, basically to that essence, from the city of Hailey, Anderson, a news release saying look, that they are being inundated with phone calls, inundated with e-mails, people voicing their concerns, many people not happy about what's happening in this case. But still the city is saying look, they want people not to pre- judge in this case.

They say that due process should play out here and that they hope the facts will be sorted out and that we will hear from Bowe himself to basically explain what happened in those days.

COOPER: All right. George, thanks very much.

Nathan Bradley Bethea served with Bowe Bergdahl. As we mentioned he says that he and others were ordered not to talk about it. Now he says they can and tonight he is. He joins me.

Nathan, you served in the same unit in Afghanistan with Bowe Bergdahl. And I read an article in "The Daily Beast" that you wrote and you didn't mince words. You said he was a deserter. Explain that.

NATHAN BETHEA, SERVED IN SAME BATTALION AS SGT. BOWE BERGDAHL: Looking at the evidence that I've seen and that, you know, has been presented over the years and really in the immediate first couple of days, there's no reason why after being relieved from his guard shift he would have left the perimeter of that outpost particularly having, you know, left behind his weapon, his body armor, his helmet, all of his gear, but having intentionally taken his compass, his digital camera, and his diary.

The evidence seemed to mount that based on the guys who knew him personally, you know, and seeing him on a day-to-day basis there wasn't any other explanation that he must have intentionally left the guys in his unit behind and wandered off. And, I mean, deserter is a really strong word, it doesn't get thrown around very often, but I mean, in the essence of orders, one leaving with the intention of not coming back, that is desertion.

COOPER: There early on had been conflicting reports about whether he had abandoned his post or whether he'd gotten sort of fallen behind while on a patrol. According to what you know there was no patrol at night, correct?

BETHEA: There was no patrol at the (INAUDIBLE) that night, and the problem, I think, that a lot of veterans of the unit have with the story that was presented originally is that anybody who knows anything about being in an infantry unit would understand that to say we let this guy lag behind and no one acknowledged he was missing and they were able to snatch him up makes it sound like this unit was absolutely garbage.

When the truth is he was on guard duty. A guy came to relieve him. Once that -- it was his turn to basically, he just vanished and the next morning when they were trying to do a roll call they couldn't find him and realized this guy sneaked out.

COOPER: Can you explain how big an operation it was to try to search for him and what that actually meant in terms of other ongoing operations, what happened to other ongoing operations? I mean this was obviously a very tense area. And I know you write that other soldiers in your unit died while searching for Bowe.

BETHEA: That is true. When the -- when the report came up that there was an American soldier missing and he was likely captured, we wound up -- we stopped everything that was happening in Paktika Province, and to be honest with you the whole of Regional Command East, Paktika, Paktia, Ghazni, and Khost provinces, every American soldier got a change of mission.

And people started getting sent out on these large scale cordon and search operations in which any village, any location where they have received information of a possible, you know, safe house or area where guys involved might be hiding or where Bergdahl was being held, they would go and surround the village and search every house. And this went on for days and then weeks.

COOPER: I mean, this is a tough question, but do you hold him responsible for the deaths of those soldiers?

BETHEA: For the -- it's different than saying Bergdahl was the one who pulled the trigger, so to speak. But, yes, what he did had second and third order effects that rippled through the area and those effects harmed people and honestly I do -- I think the situation was made more dangerous.

COOPER: Do you think, I mean, that he should serve some sort of sentence or see some form of justice for deserting, for leaving the base if that, in fact, is proven that's what he did?

BETHEA: In Bergdahl's case I think it would be politically impossible for them to punish him after having brought him back and expended so much effort. But I don't -- I don't think that it would make sense to imprison him. I think that he should at least face the administrative reprimand or at least be made to make a statement as to what happened to acknowledge the gravity of what he did.

COOPER: You've forgiven him, though?

BETHEA: I have. I mean, ultimately he needed to come home. You don't get to pick and choose which POWs deserve to come home. If a guy is in captivity and we have the opportunity to bring him back, he should be brought back. In Bergdahl's case, I mean, so many of us have already spent so much of our lives being obligated to care about Bergdahl, being forced to risk life and limb for Bergdahl, and the fact is, it doesn't make any sense to still be angry about it but it still needs to be brought to light if that makes any sense.

COOPER: Yes. I hear what you're saying.

Nathan Bethea, I appreciate you being on. Thank you, Nathan.

BETHEA: Thank you.

COOPER: I want to broaden the conversation now with Dan O'Shea, a former Navy SEAL commander and former coordinator of the Hostage Working Group at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Also CNN's national security analyst and former CIA officer, Bob Baer, and investigative reporter David Rohde who was held captive for seven months by the Taliban before he managed to escape.

David, let me start off with you. Your thoughts on hearing about the exchange. I mean, is it -- what goes through your mind as somebody who himself was held captive? DAVID ROHDE, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, REUTERS: I believe the story about, you know, Bowe breaking down in tears on the helicopter, the sort of relief he feels, but let's be honest, there's a lot of controversy about this, there's a lot of anger towards him. Whatever happened that night at his base he regrets it. He has spent five years in captivity. He'll carry this, you know, with him for the rest of his life.

At this point he may not even know that soldiers died in the search for him, he's been so isolated. So he has to answer these questions. He should tell all the members of his unit what happened but he's had a harrowing five years already.

COOPER: But you think he does have questions to answer. He --

ROHDE: I do. I mean, I think that's fair. I had questions to answer when I went off to interview the Taliban, and you know, got kidnapped. One of the things, you know, former hostages have, and, you know, I still have it, is a lot of guilt. I felt terrible that what I put my family through for five months and my news organization the "New York Times" then, and I'm sure he has enormous guilt for what, you know, the family has been through, the military, but let's hear from him. Let's give him some time.

COOPER: Dan, you're a former Navy SEAL with hostage negotiating experience in Baghdad. A, I'm curious about your thoughts of whether this was an appropriate exchange and also just the way it was handled with his parents in the Rose Garden really making a big deal of it. The alternative would have been kind of keep it quiet, have him return, make the exchange but not kind of have a Rose Garden ceremony about it. I'm curious about your thoughts.

DAN O'SHEA, U.S. NAVY SEAL COMMANDER (RET.): Yes. I can only speak -- I managed the coordination for over 400 kidnapping incidents from 2004 to 2006 in Baghdad and the U.S. policy that everyone assumes is that we don't negotiate with terrorists. That's not officially U.S. policy. But our policy was, we don't make concessions to terrorism. And we all know that negotiations behind-the-scenes happens regardless of -- you know, want to put into their -- you know, the Iran contra situation or others.

But this -- the backdoor tactics to get someone back needs to be in the shadows and I believe that by putting this out in the Rose Garden it really compromised it. Now we basically made -- the president has made a statement to the world that not only does the U.S. negotiate with terrorists but we do make concessions to terrorism. I think that's a dangerous precedent that has been set.

COOPER: Bob Baer, how do you see it? Do you see -- I mean, there are those who say, well, look, the Taliban, they're not al Qaeda, it's a different group, that they're not necessarily terrorists. That they were a group that was in control of the country, there was a hostage exchange, as happens in other wars. How do you see it, Bob?

ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think we should look at Bergdahl as a prisoner of war. I think we should look at the Taliban as, we may not like to call them, legitimate combatants but they are. They, as far as I know, have nothing to do with the taking of American civilian lives like 9/11. You know, most of these guys, the five released, were there before 9/11. And there's --


COOPER: They're -- I mean, you know, we shouldn't paint them with the kind of a rosy brush. They're certainly bad actors that committed great atrocities to civilians in Afghanistan.

BAER: All five of them war crimes. There's no doubt about it. But even the people that we negotiated with indirectly, the Haqqani network, is even worse. They have killed a lot of American soldiers. So this is a hard decision, but on the other hand we can't leave anybody on the field of battle. It's the way militaries, you know, go to war. And that was properly done.

COOPER: David, I know you talked to family members who have people who are still being held hostage, civilians and others. There is no real consistent policy, is there?

ROHDE: Yes, there's no policy, no coordination at all between the U.S. and its allies. So it's correct, the United States, you know, doesn't pay ransoms, but, you know, a few years ago Israel released a thousand prisoners for one soldier and there's European countries, France, in particular, that do pay ransoms. There's a British estimate that the British don't pay ransom but al Qaeda affiliates have received over $100 million in ransom in the last three years.

COOPER: In just the last three years.


COOPER: Al Qaeda affiliates --


ROHDE: Primarily -- Yemen, Boko Haram, which has gotten all the headlines with the kidnapping of the girls and the honest truth here is that militants kidnapping people, civilians or soldiers, is working and there isn't a coordinated response and my captors didn't believe that the U.S. didn't pay ransom and they made these crazy demands. I may have been held -- it was the Haqqani, is the same group, you know, I could still have been there. I could have been part of this exchange today.

COOPER: So the fact, though, that this exchange has been made now does that make it difficult -- does that put a price now, more of a target on Americans overseas from, say, the Haqqani network?

ROHDE: It could. They're so delusional that there already was a target, they already believe that this is happening. I was a captive when Captain Phillips was rescued off the Somalia coast. And they said there really was no SEAL raid, there was actually ransom paid. So it's a very difficult issue. I just -- we need more I think consistency from Western governments because it puts these American families -- I was speaking earlier today with the family of Warren Weinstein. He's an American civilian. He's 72 years old. He is being held captive by the Taliban in Pakistan right where Bowe Bergdahl was.

They are thrilled for the Bergdahls but they say what's going to happen, you know, for us. There's at least two American journalists missing in Syria, Jim Foley, Austin Tice.

COOPER: Right.

ROHDE: So these American families, the French are paying, you know, huge amounts to get French journalists out of Syria. What are these American families do?

COOPER: Dan, does it complicate efforts for the next time?

O'SHEA: I can just tell you from my experience in Iraq, citing the countries that, you know, France, Germany and Italy, it became well- known on the street that these countries paid multimillion dollar ransoms. And what it essentially did is put a target on the head of anyone holding a French, Italian or German passport.

It absolutely blew up the business and it's been cited earlier, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Africa itself, and Boko Haram in Asbar (ph) also involved in this kidnapping game. They are funding terrorism on the continent of Africa based on lessons learned from Iraq and now we've just added to that by making this public announcement that we do negotiate and that there is a -- there is a price to be paid in exchange for an American citizen or American soldier.

COOPER: So, Dan, do you see any difference there between negotiating with clearly a terrorist group and a group like the Taliban which, you know, an argument can be made they once ran Afghanistan, that they were, you know, a quasi state actor?

O'SHEA: Well, listen, we're in a fourth generation warfare. So the rules that applied during Vietnam and previous engagements, they've really been thrown out. So we're in a very difficult situation. And, you know, listen, Bowe Bergdahl will have to answer has been addressed about his actions and consequences of what happened when he walked off his post or did not.

The reality is it's the long-term consequences that we have now entered in the same arena that a lot of these European countries have, where they -- you know, they made negotiation, they made concessions to terrorism and that only encourages more of the same.

COOPER: It's good discussion. Bob Baer, thanks for being here. Dan stick around and David Rohde as well, because I want to continue the conversation about what Bowe Bergdahl is going to face mentally and physically, what he's facing now and in the months and years ahead.

We'll talk about the team of professionals in Germany and Texas who have been developing and rehearsing his re-introduction to life out of captivity. Quick also reminder, make sure you set your DVR so you can see 360 whenever you like. Tonight we're on at 8:00 and at 9:00, an additional special hour of broadcast at 9:00.

Also ahead in this hour, the sharply critical voices weighing in on how President Obama and the administration handled the negotiations and whether he broke the law.


COOPER: Well, you saw at the top of the broadcast, there are many areas of contentions surrounding Bowe Bergdahl's release. One concern is, though, price of his freedom, the release of these five men, mid to high level Taliban figures, who will spend the next year in Qatar under unspecified supervision potentially free after that, to return to the fight.

Then there's the question of whether it was appropriate to make a deal at all, whether this was a case of recovering a POW which has been done for centuries or negotiating with terrorists, which the government says it doesn't do.

Today on "NEW DAY" Chris Cuomo asked White House press secretary Jay Carney flat-out did the administration cut a deal with terrorists. Here's what Carney said.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He was held in a non- conflict by the Taliban. We were engaged in an armed conflict with the Taliban and we have a history in this country of making sure that our prisoners of war are returned to us. We don't leave them behind. He was not a hostage, he was a prisoner. And it's entirely appropriate given the determination made by the secretary of Defense in consultation with the full National Security team that the -- the threat potentially posed by the return of detainees was sufficiently mitigated to allow us to move forward and get Bowe Bergdahl back home where he belongs.


COOPER: That's clear. The White House view. Others disagree on that and whether President Obama skirted a law, broke a law requiring Congress be notified 30 days before releasing Guantanamo detainees.

Late today, Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein said it would have been better if the Intelligence Committee which she chairs had gotten advance warning of the swap, others go a lot further including her California Republican counterpart on the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Buck McKeon who joins us now.

Mr. Chairman, thanks for being with us. So did President Obama break the law?

REP. HOWARD "BUCK" MCKEON (R), CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Yes. COOPER: Broke the law clearly because he didn't give 30-day notice?

MCKEON: Last year on our National Defense Authorization Act that passed out of our committee 59-2, passed on the floor about 3-1, conference with the Senate, finally passed by both bodies, signed by the president, stated specifically that before any detainees would be released from Guantanamo the administration would give Congress 30 days notice.

COOPER: The administration cites a so-called signing statement that it issued when Congress created this law and the 30-day notification requirement regarding Taliban prisoner releases. The signing statement they believe creates a waiver for the president when conditions are exceptional, the same types of signing statements used by George W. Bush frequently. Previous presidents of both parties. Is this situation different?

MCKEON: All I know is we passed the law, he signed it. Now if he has some wiggle room because he says the bill that I'm signing I don't really believe, then I don't know why he signs it. There's another way to treat that, it's called veto. He didn't do that. He signed it.

You know, this president has a history of doing this. Deciding which laws he wants to enforce, which ones he wants to follow. I don't think the Constitution gives him that kind of leeway but that's kind of the way he's functioned now for almost six years. In fact, his attorney general, the lead law enforcement officer in his administration, has told the attorney generals from the states that they don't have to enforce all the laws. They can kind of pick and choose.

I've never seen anything like this. It's really over the top as far as I'm concerned.

COOPER: Do you believe there should have been negotiations for the return of Bowe Bergdahl? I mean, there have been exceptions to the whole idea of not negotiating with bad actors, Ronald Reagan, you know, as we talked about before sent missiles in Iran in exchange for Americans captured, George W. Bush 2010 released a militant Shia cleric in exchange for British private contractor.

Is there -- I mean, is there a place for these kinds of negotiations?

MCKEON: Let me just say I'm glad that Sergeant Bergdahl is going to be reunited with his family. We don't like to see any of our men held as hostages or as prisoners. It's the way this was done in contradiction to the law. Now I heard Secretary Rice, Ambassador Rice, saying congressmen about this we've been talking about this for three years. They have told us and we had briefings that they were negotiating with the Taliban for a future peace.

I thought that all fell apart. But several years ago they did bring that up and tell us they were working towards that end, and I never heard them say -- I've never been briefed to my recollection about Sergeant Bergdahl. So I just think they've gone over the top. COOPER: Do you --

MCKEON: The problem is what happens now is that the rest of our people in uniform or civilians around the world are put in a more dangerous spot than they were a few days ago.

COOPER: And we were talking about that before the break with our other guests. Do you buy the other administration argument that Sergeant Bergdahl was -- had a health reason and that they couldn't wait, that there was a time -- it was a time sensitive matter. They had to move when they did because of his health?

MCKEON: I don't know. It's interesting that it's -- that it's gone on for five years and all of a sudden when they were able to make a breakthrough they made a big point about we didn't negotiate with terrorists, but we negotiated with the Qataris and they acted as a broker.

You know, I think this is really a parsing of words. If you're -- if a terrorist is holding somebody, and you worked out a deal to get somebody, now -- you know, when we buy a home you might have a realtor in between there but who are you really negotiating with?

I don't think that's the important thing. I think the important things is that they have now released five hardcore Taliban and what I'm concerned about is what are they doing to keep them from getting back in the fight? That's what I want to hear. We're going to hold hearings on this. We're going to look into this because, you know, we're going to leave -- the president made a big speech a week or two ago about we're going to leave 9800 troops behind, NATO will leave about another 5,000, it's almost 15,000 men and women in uniform that we're going to leave there that are now put in more jeopardy than they were in before.

And each of those people have husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, and they all care about them, too, and I don't want to see them have to go through kidnapping or --

COOPER: Right.

MCKEON: Any kind of being held.

COOPER: Right. Of course, the question is how long is it going to be before these five return to the fight, especially once they're released by Qatar?

Chairman McKeon, it's good to have you on, sir. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

MCKEON: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

COOPER: Up next an update on Sergeant Bergdahl's recovery and what's going to happen when he is finally back on U.S. soil, how he'll be reunited with his parents, what actually psychologically he's going to be facing. Also tonight Donald Sterling's estranged wife making some moves, trying to retain a role with the Clippers even after the team is sold. We'll talk with Donald Sterling's attorney and get his take on the new developments and the accusations that his client is mentally impaired. He has some really interesting things to say about that and was Donald Sterling tricked by Shelly Sterling to actually get neurologic exam.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: Whatever you think about the circumstances of Bowe Bergdahl's release or his disappearance they pay on a human level against the raw fact that he spent five horrible years at the hands of people who think nothing of torturing and beheading their captives.

The military has learned what that does to people and has developed a process for getting former captives reacquainted with freedom. It's happening right now in Landstuhl, Germany where Sergeant Bergdahl is reported in stable condition and will continue in Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio where Martin Savidge joins us tonight.

So he's going to be flown, Martin, from Germany to San Antonio Military Medical Center to continue what they call the re-integration process. What does that entail?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we don't know exactly, Anderson, when that's going take place. That decision is left up to the doctors there in Germany to determine when he's fit to basically be transported. Moment he is special team member, the events members from U.S. Army South will get on the military flight to Germany receive him and then transport him here.

COOPER: They have been waiting and training for his arrival for a long time I understand.

SAVIDGE: Yes. This absolutely blew me away when I heard this. The army officials said that they have been training specifically for Sergeant Bergdahl's return almost from the day they knew that he became a captive and his personal recovery team as it's now referred to has grown to hundreds of people and they actually have been training every six months, they have been meeting and training for a week for the last five years. That means they've rehearsed the scenario including (inaudible) for the sergeant and his family at least ten times now.

COOPER: Do we know what his daily life will look like once he gets to Texas?

SAVIDGE: Well, I mean, they are main things they focus on. Of course, medically they want to make sure he's OK. Mentally they want to make sure he's OK. They will continue debrief to see if he's got any intel of how he survived captivity and also anything that might aide the war fighting effort. On top of that, of course, the reunion, reuniting with his family. There's no specific schedule. The reason being, his life has dictated for the last five years by somebody who said when he would get up, when he went to bed and what he wore. They are going to slowly return that control to him. It's all about that process, small steps.

COOPER: They also are very careful about how they reintroduce him to his family, correct?

SAVIDGE: Yes, I mean, reunion really is what it's all about that's what the whole process is for. But it's also potentially the most overwhelming and they know this because these are lessons learned dating all the way back to POWs from World War II. In fact, it was back in 2008, there were three Americans held in Colombia. They were held for five years about as long as the sergeant was held.

And they talked to CNN about that moment of reunion and about how powerful it was and it's carefully controlled, the families will only meet for the first time for a few minutes. Listen to what they said.


KEITH STANSELL, FRIEND HOSTAGE: I opened the door, now imagine you got these two children, to me which is -- I hear pa, pa, pa. It hit me. It was like I had never been gone. There's an intensity level to it. You're only going see your family for 40 minutes. There was a reason for it.


SAVIDGE: The reason just so overwhelming. Small steps. Reunion plane side won't happen. It will happen after Sergeant Bergdahl checked into his hospital room and only then -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Martin, appreciate the update. One other detail, when Sergeant Bergdahl got on the helicopter on the Afghan/Pakistani border it was so loud. He was so disoriented he wrote on the paper plate the letters SF with a question mark, SF meaning Special Forces. The soldier yelled back, yes, we've been looking for you for a long time and that's when he broke down in tears as David mentioned back.

David, you escaped from the Taliban after seven months in captivity. Can you explain some of that process of being free again and kind of the reintegration?

ROHDE: It's wonderful. You know, what martin mentioned you can't control when you eat, what you wear. It's really debilitating. I was lucky and I want to be careful. I was held one tenth of the time Bergdahl was held. I don't really know. I was elated. I very quickly saw my family.

COOPER: You saw your family very quickly.

ROHDE: Yes. I met them in Dubai, flew to Afghanistan from there. I went very well. There were issues. I didn't sleep very well. I remember particularly the first few nights I wasn't sure if this was real. I was afraid I would wake up and the whole thing was a dream. COOPER: Do you still think about it every single day?

ROHDE: No, I don't not every single day. I talked to Bowe's family and other hostages, I think a lot about him and he has a lot of questions to answer as we talked about earlier, but he's -- I also don't want people to see him as necessarily broken, as unusual that he has having these language issues.

COOPER: His father said he's having trouble with English.

ROHDE: I think he may rebuild his life. I hope he will rebuild his life and should be given a chance to do that after he answers questions about what happened. He's had a very brutal five years, but I don't want to see him re-victimized if he answers these questions that everyone's asked.

COOPER: Dan, it's interesting yesterday he hadn't even talked to his parents yet. Once he's back stateside those visits will be brief at first. Why is that important, that gradual re-entry into his life?

O'SHEA: Well, there's three phases to reintegration and the first phase, phase one happened in Afghanistan. Obviously seen by a doctor to make sure his medical concerns were addressed and then this army in depth process they have a psychologist, an escape psychologist who is trained in this, this is his whole mission to train and walk Bowe through this whole process of reintegrating.

As David alluded this is a traumatic experience waking up not knowing if you're still back and held in captivity. I can tell you witnessing this and we debriefed, I personally debriefed a handful of folks held in Baghdad and part of it was giving them a piece of their life back.

Everything was taken away and now freedom is given back. It's a process and phase two is going on in Germany and then, of course, the final phase, which will be a lifetime phase he'll always have access to the help that will come through the warmer this repatriation process.

COOPER: Does it surprise you that he's having trouble with English?

O'SHEA: Of course not. For five years, his companions were locals that only spoke no English. The one way you survive a captivity like this you build an understanding of the common ground with your captors so they look at you as a human and not a captive itself or an object to be exploited.

COOPER: Extraordinary process coming back. David Rohde, I appreciate you being on. Thank you very much and Dan as well. Thanks, Dan, so much.

We're going to have more on the release of Sergeant Bergdahl in our next hour we have another special hour of AC360 at 9:00 tonight starting in 20 minutes.

I'll talk to Donald Sterling's attorney about his client being declared mentally incapacitated by two different doctors. Did Donald Sterling know he was being examined by doctors to be ruled that way? The surprising answer ahead.


COOPER: New details about the deal that Shelly Sterling made to keep her ties to the Los Angeles Clippers with the pending sale of the team. As you know, she agreed to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft Chairman Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, a deal the NBA has approved.

CNN's Brian Todd broke this news that Mrs. Sterling has also worked out a position on the team for herself a type of owner emeritus position presumably allowing her to at least attend games in the arena. At the same time, her estrange husband, Donald Sterling has filed a $1 billion lawsuit against the NBA.

Not everyone is convinced the Sterlings are in fact fighting each other over the sale despite their public statement. Some think it's all an act. Brian Todd has the latest.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some say this was kabuki theatre at its worst. Legal analysts say don't believe Donald and Shirley Sterling are truly estranged at least when it came to this case, but they likely coordinated the sale of the L.A. Clippers together behind-the-scenes.

(on camera): Why do you think they have been working together?

JEFFREY JACOBOVITZ, LEGAL ANALYST: Everything happened so quickly and easily. The sale of a team, a major sports franchise team occurred within a couple of weeks. Donald Sterling stepped aside at some point. Shelly Sterling came forward reached some agreement with the NBA on the sale of the team. It all was too easy. It happened too quickly.

TODD (voice-over): We couldn't get response from Shelly Sterling's attorney to that. Whether they colluded or not there are questions. On Friday, News that Donald Sterling has been declared mentally incapacitated by two doctors making Shelly Sterling the sole trustee and clearing the way for Shelly to have the authority to sell.

But for that diagnosis, Donald Sterling had to willingly be examined by two neurologists. Did he see those doctors knowing that the diagnosis would clear the way for his wife to sell? Shelly Sterling isn't saying.

Another question, is Donald Sterling helping fast track the $2 billion sale because he would get half. That's right half of that money? The short answer it sure looks like it.

JACOBOVITZ: Under the trust agreement most likely Donald Sterling would receive half of it. In addition the two of them are married, California is a community property state, so arguably even if for some reason Shelly Sterling receives $2 billion, 1 billion of it belongs to Donald Sterling. TODD: A huge windfall for a man who's gone from this racist rant.

DONALD STERLING, OWNER, L.A. CLIPPERS: Don't come to my games, don't bring black people.

TODD: To attending a service at a pre-dominantly African-American church in South Los Angeles over the weekend at the invitation of the pastor. An effort some experts say was both misguided and mistimed.

ERIC DEZENHALL, STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS EXPERT: We expect people in this situation to go to an African-American church and our reaction isn't well I guess they are not racist, our reaction somebody advised him to do this thinking it was a good idea.

TODD: The woman who started this whole saga by taping Donald Sterling has problems of her own. V. Stiviano, according to her attorney, was attacked by two men in New York on Sunday. The lawyer says the men followed her after she left a restaurant yelling racial slurs and punched her several times leaving one side of her face swollen and red. Lawyer said he expected Stiviano to file a police report. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Later tonight, I'm going to talk to the pastor who invited Donald Sterling to that church service. First more from Donald Sterling's camp. His attorney, Max Blecher, joins me tonight. Mr. Blecher, first of all the sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer how does Mr. Sterling feel about it? Is he pleased about it, about the price?

MAX BLECHER, DONALD STERLING'S ATTORNEY: He's not displeased about it as far as I can perceive, but he's unhappy that he's not the seller. He believes he still owns the team that he's run for 33 years and that he should be at least a participant in the sale from which he's been excluded by the apparently collusive action of the NBA, Mrs. Sterling and Mr. Ballmer.

COOPER: Your client with another attorney did sent a letter indicating that Shelly Sterling had the right pursue a sale.

BLECHER: That depends how you view the letter. Mr. Sterling believes the letter, which was ambiguous, I can't say Shelly is off the wall. Mr. Sterling believes she could only negotiate the sale and bring the sale back to him for approval. She read it in a broader way saying she could conclude the sale and taken the liberty to have him declare mentally incompetent.

So that he doesn't have anything to say about the sale and isn't even required or obligated or allowed to sign the sale documents, which to me is totally obnoxious state of affairs and by the way, he is not mentally incompetent. Not mentally incompetent. That's a lot of nonsense.

COOPER: What is his mental state? It was reported he was found mentally incapacitated by two independent physicians, neurologists according to source. To your knowledge, was he examined in person by these two neurologists?

BLECHER: Mr. Cooper, I think you know that experts tend to give the opinion of the people who hire and pay them. I'm not making any accusations against these psychiatrist. Maybe they have abundant good faith, but there are will be dozens of psychiatrists out there who like me after talking to him will tell you that this guy is very far away from being mentally incompetent.

COOPER: Just for the record, do you know was he examined by neurologists?

BLECHER: He was examined by either two neurologists or psychiatrists or both.

COOPER: Why did he agree to be examined? Was he aware of what the examinations were for?

BLECHER: You're giving me soft balls. Why do I think he agreed? I think Shelly induced him to do these examinations without disclosing to him what she was really doing just on the theory, gee, why don't we get an examination maybe you can use some medication.

COOPER: He didn't know at the time that's what these tests were for?

BLECHER: Correct.

COOPER: There are those who believe that Mr. Sterling and Shelly Sterling are actually in some ways colluding that maybe perhaps this ruling of him being incapacitated works in his favor in negotiations with the NBA.

BLECHER: I don't believe they are colluding. Now having said that I would describe their estrangement from my observation as being strange, but I don't think they are colluding.

COOPER: How is it strange?

BLECHER: Well, I think they are particularly friendly. I think there's no apparent hostility or animosity and get along and are closer to business partners than marriage partners. I don't sense any hostility, but I don't have any suspicion that they are colluding together in the conduct of what's going on now.

COOPER: So it's very possible that you may just go along with this deal? You may not go ahead with the lawsuit, you may just go along with this $2 billion deal. That's a possibility?

BELCHER: I can't exclude that possibility, but I can make to you as clear and certain as possible that Mr. Sterling is stunned by what happened to him as a result of a purely private conversation with his girlfriend, which she illegally record and disclosed and which she egged him on. He's stunned by what happened to him. He's not going to go away without some sense of his dignity being restored and that is a condition precedent to taking the next step forward. If the league is not willing to meet him on that ground then there's going to be war. COOPER: I appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.

BELCHER: Thank you very much for having us. My pleasure to be here.

COOPER: We have a lot more about the release of Bowe Bergdahl at the top of the hour about 10 minutes from now another edition of 360 at 9:00 p.m., a special hour. "The Ridiculist" though is coming up next.


COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." I want to take a moment about wedding rings. A wedding ring is a wonderful symbol of two people joining their lives in an everlasting circle of love. They will be together for as long as they both shall live until somebody throws their wedding ring away with the trash three days after their wedding, which is exactly what happened to a woman in Florida. Apparently, she had her wedding ring sitting by a pizza box on the counter in a teeny little ziplock bag.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they cleaned up all the stuff from dinner, trash went away.


COOPER: That was Christie Efferson, waste management and root manager. Now the problem is by the time she realized that her wedding ring went into the trash, it already joined about five tons of other garbage, so basically like finding a needle on a haystack or as the other popular saying goes, it's like finding a 3-day-old wedding ring in landfill.

Enter the unsung heroes of waste management, all they knew they were looking for pizza box and white trash bag with a red handle which is not uncommon sights in a landfill. Lo and behold after 15 minutes of searching somehow they actually found it. The little ziplock bag, the wedding ring and engagement ring still safely inside. Frankly a garbage miracle.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Me and my driver were just patting each other on the back and, you know, it's rough rock debris out there and I couldn't walk fast now my truck or couldn't dial the phone fast enough. I said we found your ring and she started crying.


COOPER: No problem. Now if ever you accidentally throw something away in Collier County, Florida, call-up waste management and they will find it for you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not something that we can probably ever do again.


COOPER: It was probably a one-time thing. But I got to say, this is the most romantic tale I've ever heard about true love, marriage and a garbage landfill. It's safe to say that's the ringing endorsement you will ever hear of waste management on "The Ridiculist."

We'll be back for another live hour of 360 right after a quick break. Stick around.