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Parents: Freed Soldier's Battle "Not Over"; Taliban Claims "Great Victory"; Politics of a Prisoner Swap

Aired June 2, 2014 - 04:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: controversy and questions surrounding the release of a U.S. soldier held captive by the Taliban for nearly five years, freed in a prisoner swap for five Guantanamo detainees. This morning, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl recovering in a German hospital where his parents say their son's battle is far from over. We are live in Germany with the latest.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Taliban leaders calling the prisoner swap a great victory right now. The five high-ranking terrorists traded for Sergeant Bergdahl's release arriving in Qatar. But who are these men? Why were they picked for release? We're live there with that part of the story.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START this Monday morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Great to see you today. It's June 2nd, 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And you've made it, you're free -- that was Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's mother sending a heartfelt message to her son as he recovers this morning in a German hospital after nearly five years in captivity. Bergdahl's newfound freedom touching off a firestorm on Capitol Hill, critics accusing the president of breaking the law and crossing the line by negotiating with terrorists, this as new questions are raised about the circumstances involving Bergdahl's capture five years ago. Some soldiers who served with him are calling him a deserter.

Let's bring in our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, who is live from Landstuhl, in Germany, this morning, where Bergdahl is being treated.

Good morning, Nic.


What we're being told here is that his care is being well taken care of, that his health is a priority. This is a several-step process. No one knows how long it will take.

What we are told is that staff here are sympathetic to everything that Sergeant Bergdahl has been through, that they will proceed with his reintegration, as they call it, at a pace that he is comfortable with. But, of course, while looking after his mental well-being, his physical well-being, there will be debrief sessions here. The military will want to know, does he have any useful, timely intelligence? They'll also want to learn lessons from his capture.

Just his current condition, that's not being shared with us here right now, but perhaps the best indications coming from Sergeant Bergdahl's father, Bob Bergdahl, when he said that he hadn't talked to his son and he gave this reason. This is what he said.


BOB BERGDAHL, SGT. BOWE BERGDAHL'S FATHER: We're talking like this because we haven't talked to Bowe yet. We haven't called him on the phone. Although you all know, we have the capability to do that with satellite technology. There is a reason for that, and that's because Bowe has been gone so long that it's going to be very difficult to come back. It's like a diver going deep on a dive and has to stage back up through recompression to get the nitrogen bubbles out of his system. If he comes up too fast, it could kill him.


ROBERTSON: So, part of their job here is going to be bringing him up from that deep dive. Some of the techniques used will be quite simple, to try to get Sergeant Bergdahl to realize that he can predict the future, that he does, if you will, regain some control over his life. The uncertainties of being a captive are over. These are very basic concepts to you and me, but of course, for somebody who's had that taken away for five years, a very, very long road to go, John.

BERMAN: Not to mention simply communication issues. The man may not have heard a word of English in upwards of five years.

Nic, there have always been questions about how Bowe Bergdahl was captured, why he simply walked off that base in Afghanistan. Some of his fellow soldiers are questioning that even today, even now that he's been released. Some calling him a deserter.

ROBERTSON: Yes, and obviously, for those that would believe that, there will be concern that such a high effort was put into recovering him, essentially, people's lives put in place, even down to the moment those special forces landed a helicopter opposite 18 armed Taliban right to the last minute. People were putting their lives in danger and going a long way to help save him.

So, people are raising those questions. What do we actually know about how he came to be captured by the Taliban? We've heard Taliban commanders talk about firefights in the past, but we don't know the details. Certainly, for the military, this would be the first time they've heard from him.

One of the important parts of this process, this reintegration, is not just the learning of useful, timely military intelligence, but also what lessons can be learned from his actions that can protect soldiers better in the future. So, does that -- may that include some action that he took that wound up with him being captured, we don't know. But certainly, this is going to be the focus of some of the questioning and some of the help, the reintegration that's going on here right now, John.

BERMAN: We'll learn what they can as quickly as they can, but it will be a painstaking process.

Nic Robertson live for us in Landstuhl -- thanks so much, Nic.

ROMANS: So, the five Taliban terror suspects who were swapped for Sergeant Bergdahl are in Qatar this morning. These pictures released by the Taliban reportedly show their arrival. Under the terms of this prisoner exchange, they'll spend the next year living there in Qatar with their movement and activities restricted. This morning, we're getting a clearer picture of these five, who these former detainees are and the threat they may pose.

I want to take you back two years. Listen to National Intelligence Director James Clapper in 2012. His warning here to Congress, these five men are too dangerous to ever release.


JAMES CLAPPER, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: I don't think anyone harbors any illusions about these five Taliban members and what they might do if they were transferred.


ROMANS: And they have now been transferred.

Becky Anderson joins us live on the phone from Qatar, the country that brokered this controversial, high-stakes swap.

Becky, what can you tell us about these five and the next steps for them?

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, let me tell you what we know at present, which is fairly vague, but I'll bring you up to date on what we've been able to gather since we've been on the ground here. The prisoners were handed over on Saturday to a delegation from Qatar who had been waiting in Guantanamo Bay for the previous three days.

Now, they landed in Doha on Sunday. I think you've seen those pictures tweeted by the Taliban's political office, as it's known here. We're told by sources here that this deal had been in the works now for some time. When the Taliban opened this office here in 2013, they made it absolutely clear that this prisoner swap was an absolute priority. That's more than a year ago now.

Where those prisoners are at present is unclear. We went down to that office earlier on today. There was no activity. Interesting, it is very innocuous for the situation and locations, very close to U.S. embassy staff quarters, very close to the foreign ministry here in Qatar and also to the financial district, but no activity at all. There's no name plate any longer on the office. There is no flag being flown from them.

We spoke to a security guard who said there have been no activity there over the past 24-48 hours.

Now, there is talk that their families have been flown in from Afghanistan to join them here in Qatar, though I can't confirm that at present now. According to senior administration officials in the U.S., Qatar agreed to take custody of these detainees and provided assurances that they wouldn't pose a threat to the U.S., including a one-year ban from travels out of Qatar.

So, that's where we are at this stage. What they do next, where they are, and how they'll be looked after and prevented from leaving this country, those are the questions that we are trying to get answered here for you on the ground. Mullah Omar in a very statement, leader of the Afghan Taliban, praised the release of these men. He said in a statement we have distributed by e-mail that he's lauded the efforts of the Taliban's political office in Qatar and those who, as he said, captured Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. He also thanked the mediation efforts.

So, that's what we know to date so far as where these men are. What we know about these men -- well, we know that they are mostly mid-to- high-level officials, detained because of their positions in the Taliban, not because of their ties to al Qaeda -- Christine.

ROMANS: Very interesting, Becky Anderson. They will not be able to leave Qatar for a year and will be monitored by officials there, by Americans, of course.

BERMAN: Needless to say, 48 hours now, an extraordinary controversy. That prisoner exchange that led to Sergeant Bergdahl's release is triggering a firestorm on Capitol Hill, the debate pitting America's commitment to leave no soldier behind against its policy to never negotiate with terrorists -- at least its stated policy to never negotiate with terrorists.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel insists the security risk posed by the prisoner swap is being overstated, but Arizona Senator John McCain does not see it that way.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I certainly believe that the administration broke the spirit, if not the letter of the law. But again, my major concern is not what the administration did as far as the law is concerned. My concern is what these individuals will be able to do in terms of this release, and it's a great concern to all of us.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I don't think what we did in getting our prisoner of war released in any way would somehow encourage terrorists to take our American servicemen prisoner or hostage.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: That is the concern, however. Critics of the prisoner exchange believe it will give terrorists strong incentive to capture more Americans in an attempt to negotiate the release of other detainees.

ROMANS: The president is set to unveil a plan that sets new limits on carbon emissions from the nation's power plants, the measures calls for a 30 percent reduction by 2030, and states have a wide range of options to meet that goal. The new initiative takes effect next year. It's part of a larger climate action plan that also promotes renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

BERMAN: This is a big deal and will spark a big debate when it's announced today.

The Senate expected to announce a bill to end long delays for veterans at V.A. hospitals. This will allow vets to seek care outside of the V.A. if private doctors' offices, military bases or community health centers. It also calls for emergency funding to hire new doctors and nurses. So many doctors and nurses need. This would forgive college loans for health care professionals who agree to work at V.A. medical centers.

ROMANS: That is a really, really interesting, interesting initiative there.

We're learning details this morning about the NSA's global surveillance program, citing documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. "The New York Times" reports the agency is building a comprehensive facial recognition database by intercepting millions of electronic images, often from e-mail, text messages, social media. The report says NSA officials believe this new technology will revolutionize how they find intelligence targets around the world.

BERMAN: President Obama kicks off a four-day trip to Europe today. The goal, strengthen ties with U.S. allies over the situation in Ukraine. The president will meet with Ukraine's new president-elect in Poland. He will also stop in Belgium and France, where he will help commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, landing in Normandy.

ROMANS: All right. Time for an EARLY START to your money this morning. Here's a look at stocks around the world, markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai closed today. U.S. futures slightly higher right now after the Dow and S&P hit records Friday.

Today's big business story, the FBI and the SEC are investigating golfer Phil Mickelson, sports bettor Bill Walters and hedge fund manager Carl Icahn for insider trading. That's what the investigation is for. It's a probe. It's tied to Icahn's 2011 play for Clorox.

"The New York Times" reports suspicious trading in Clorox shares prior to Icahn's bid, saying both Mickelson and Walters bought shares before Icahn announced takeover intentions. Clorox stocks jumped on the news. In the end, Icahn dropped his bid. None of the men have been officially accused of wrongdoing. Again, it is just a probe. Mickelson told CNN, quote, "I have done absolutely nothing wrong."

BERMAN: A lot of big names involved in that probe, as we're calling it right now.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BERMAN: All right. This news hit a lot of us very hard last night. Actress Ann B. Davis, the optimistic housekeeping on TV's "The Brady Bunch," she has died in a San Antonio Hospital. Davis, of course, you're at it right now, best known for her role as Alice in "The Brady Bunch." The show ran in the late '60s and early '70s. It ran on reruns every day about a hundred times a day for several decades after that.

They have not determined a cause of death in this case right now, but she did hit her head in the bathroom Saturday morning, never regained consciousness. Ann B. Davis was 88. I feel like I was raised by Alice. I watched four hours of "The Brady Bunch" for four hours a day for 10 years. I mean, the parents weren't home, but Alice and "The Brady Bunch" were. It was just on every hour.

ROMANS: I know. And American families across the country wondered, why don't we have an Alice?

BERMAN: I know. Where does this Alice exist?

ROMANS: No one is cooking for me! She was a wonderful actress.

BERMAN: Very talented. She will be missed.

All right. Breaking news overnight. The woman at the center of the Donald Sterling scandal attacked and beaten on the streets of New York! We'll have the very latest ahead.

ROMANS: And a children's party turns into a nightmare when a bounce house suddenly goes airborne. There are children inside that house. How they're doing this morning, ahead.


ROMANS: V. Stiviano, the woman at the center of the Donald Sterling scandal, reportedly attacked by two men last night as she left a restaurant in New York City. Stiviano's attorney says the attackers shouted racial slurs, including the "N" word, and left her with bruises on the right side of her face. The incident taking place just days after Stiviano was caught on tape making a derogatory remarks about African Americans.

She's scheduled to sit down for an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper for a segment airing tonight. Her attorney says she plans to go through with that interview. So, stay tuned.

BERMAN: A nationwide manhunt under way this morning for a California man who officials say could be armed and dangerous. The FBI swarmed the San Francisco apartment of 42-year-old Ryan Kelly Chamberlain Saturday. Agents say they did recover illegal explosives.

Now, Chamberlain, who has not made any known threats, is reportedly on the run. Officials are asking for the public's help locating him, so take a look at that picture.

ROMANS: A follow-up now on the California college rampage that left 13 people wounded and seven dead, including the killer. Sunday, a heartbreaking meeting between two grief-stricken fathers. Richard Martinez, whose son, Christopher, was killed, coming face to face with the father of the shooter.

Martinez reached out to Peter Rodger, whose son, Elliot, posted hate- filled videos with his motive for that attack. The meeting was held in private.

This morning, federal investigators are trying to find out what caused a private plane crash that caused the co-owner of "The Philadelphia Inquirer" and six others in Massachusetts this weekend. Seventy-two- year-old Lewis Katz had reached a deal to gain full control of the newspaper just a few days ago. Witnesses say the jet failed to get airborne, slammed through a chain-link fence, burst into flames, killing everyone on board.

BERMAN: Just a couple miles from where I grew up. Very, very scary.

Search efforts set to resume this morning for several passengers on a boat that capsized Saturday in Lake Michigan. One woman died and a man is in critical condition after being pulled from these dangerously cold waters. Not clear how many passengers were on board or what caused the 30-foot vessel to turn over.

Chicago officials say the victims could be several miles apart at this point. They were and are believed to be wearing flotation devices.

ROMANS: Six climbers have died after a 3,000-foot fall on Washington's Mt. Rainier in the worst disaster there in over 30 years. The victims, two guides and four clients. They were following a perilous route prone to slides. They were expected to return Friday.

Searchers found only their tents and their clothing mixed with rock and ice. Officials say there's little chance of recovery. The guides were from the same company that lost five Sherpas at Mt. Everest this spring.

BERMAN: That's sad.

All right, parents, take a look at this. This may not surprise you, horrifying video of a bounce house horror in Colorado this weekend. Watch.

There goes the bouncy house. Two children are recovering this morning after the inflatable thing they were playing in took air and tumbling, rolling over some 300 feet. Witnesses who were watching in terror say a little girl was ejected immediately. A boy did remain trapped inside.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were on the sidelines with the parents, watching the game.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Me and one of the defenders looked over and we saw the wind pick up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then, all of a sudden, it picks up, and there's a girl going down the slide. She flies out about eight feet in the air.


BERMAN: Officials say the girl was treated and released. The boy was rushed to the hospital. His injuries not believed to be serious, luckily. High winds are blamed for this incident.

Now, I have to say, even when there isn't this problem with them blowing over, I think these things are so dangerous. You know, your kids get in. It's a cage match. They just brutalize each other inside these things.

ROMANS: Yes, my kid came out with a bloody nose. First got in, came out, bloody nose right away.

BERMAN: So many problems. That said, I let them go in every time.

ROMANS: It's hard to hold them back when it's there, but when it's rolling around like that, to see the terrified parents rushing in to try to hold it down.

All right. More arrests after a pregnant woman beaten to death by her own family. They were furious over her marriage. Beaten to death. We're live with the latest after the break.


ROMANS: Police in Pakistan arresting four men for the public bludgeoning death of a 25-year-old pregnant woman. The so-called honor killing allegedly committed by two dozen of her relatives, including the woman's own father and brothers. This case shedding new light on Pakistan's horrific, horrific violence rate against women.

Saima Mohsin live from Lahore, Pakistan, for us, the scene of last week's deadly attack.

There have been arrests now. What took so long?

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, apparently, Christine, people simply stood by while this attack took place, and the people involved ran off. They were just simply allowed to literally get away with murder.

And let me explain to you exactly where it happened. It happened just nearby the Lahore high court, where this woman was going to declare that she had married this man of her own volition, surrounded by police officers, lawyers and judges. In fact, I spoke to a lawyer who was there just a short while ago, and he said that he was inside the courthouse, he heard screaming. He came out and that's when he saw these people attacking her, beating her with a brick. An incredibly brutal, and as you say, horrific attack on this young woman in broad daylight in what is Pakistan's second largest city.

So, this is not a rural area, a remote area where they thought they could get away with it, but actually, it turns out that they can -- Christine.

ROMANS: Her family outraged that she had chosen to marry a man they didn't want her to marry.

MOHSIN: Yes, it is as simple as that, apparently, according to this witness.

The women as well who were beating her saying, she has dishonored us, she shamed us. The men beating her, saying you've disgraced the family. And this notion of disgrace and honor, Christine, it isn't universal here in Pakistan, it's incredibly difficult to explain how Lahore is a very vibrant, modern city, and yet, we have horrific crimes like this.

And what activists are saying is that this is actually being incubated by the justice system here in Pakistan, where people basically carry out violent attacks with impunity because they are not taken to court. And this all starts at grassroots with police officers, in this case who just simply stand by and watched or don't take the issue seriously. And what they're calling for is a complete change in the criminal justice system, more training, more understanding, because until the people are brought to justice, the most vulnerable in society, women, children, the disabled, mentally disabled, are the ones that are going to be the targets -- Christine.

ROMANS: And the bitter irony that she was killed right there, steps from the seat of the legal system where she should have been protected and her rights protected.

Saima Mohsin, thank you for that.

BERMAN: You know, people use the term honor killings. That's an awful term. These are honor murders -- repugnant, repugnant crimes.

Twenty-seven minutes after the hour.

A controversy this morning surrounding the prison swap that freed a captured American soldier and sent five Taliban terrorists back home. We'll have live team coverage, next.