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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Official: Bergdahl Left Outpost Deliberately; Exclusive Interview with Roy Hallums, Kidnapped in Iraq for 311 days; Severe Weather Threatens 35 Million People; Polls Closing in Key Primary Races
Aired June 3, 2014 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Next, breaking news from the Pentagon, a report just revealed to our own Barbara Starr shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl left his post of his own free will.
And details just in to CNN about the terms of the prisoner swap that secured Bergdahl's release. The five senior Taliban officials will be able to move around freely.
And a young girl stabbed to death, her alleged attackers, two 12-year- old friends who may have been trying to impress a fictitious character known as "Slender Man." Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, we begin with the breaking news, a major bombshell in the Bowe Bergdahl case. We are learning tonight about the Army's investigation into how Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl ended up in the hands of the Taliban. And here is what we can tell you.
A military official tells our Barbara Starr, an Army investigation that was conducted immediately after Bergdahl's disappearance came to the conclusion that Bergdahl left his outpost deliberately and of his own free will. That of course has been part of the firestorm over his capture and the terms of his release. But it had not been confirmed.
There were debates. There were members of the platoon, one of whom you saw on the show, who said that. But this is a report from the Army and Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon.
Barbara, this is pretty incredible that there was this report, that there was this conclusion and this just happened in terms of the release this week.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, here is what we have. When Bergdahl first disappeared, the Army did exactly what you would expect. They conducted a fact finding investigation into what happened. A military official told me a short time ago that initial investigation back in the 2009 time frame did conclude he left the base voluntarily.
Because what was left behind, his weapon, his helmet, and his night vision goggles. Key elements. Key pieces of equipment. That's what led them to that conclusion at the time. They did not find that he was a deserter because that is a legal issue. They would have to be able to determine he had the intention to desert and they couldn't because they couldn't talk to him. But now today we know the Army is going to launch a full new investigation.
STARR (voice-over): The Army announced a comprehensive coordinated review of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's disappearance and captivity. CNN has learned the Army will also ask Bergdahl about reports he may have tried to escape but was recaptured. But they are not asking him anything just yet.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We obviously have not been interrogating Sergeant Bergdahl. He is recovering from five years of captivity with the Taliban.
STARR: Today President Obama defended the decision to get Bergdahl back.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he is held in captivity, period. Full stop. We don't condition that.
STARR: It comes as allegations continue to swirl that Bergdahl deserted his unit. Evan Buetow who was Bergdahl's team leader on the night he vanished spoke to CNN's Jake Tapper.
EVAN BUETOW, BERGDAHL'S FORMER TEAM LEADER: When he comes up missing and all his sensitive items are left behind, it kind of hit us in the head. It was a light that went on. Man, he just walked away.
STARR: The political controversy surrounding Bergdahl's release drove the nation's highest ranking officer, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to respond on his Facebook page saying, like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our army's leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred.
A 2012 "Rolling Stone" article detailed a seemingly disillusioned Bergdahl and a unit in trouble, saying from the start everything seemed to go wrong. When a lieutenant was removed from duty, it was, quote, "quickly followed by a collapse in unit morale and an almost complete breakdown of authority."
But Bergdahl's former team leader insists allegations the men weren't doing their jobs correctly were not true.
BUETOW: I believe that was incredibly blown out of proportion. There was no discipline issues in our platoon.
STARR: A U.S. official tells CNN that during the five years when Bergdahl was in captivity, there were a couple of instances when they had some intelligence about where he might be, but they did not launch a rescue mission because it was deemed too dangerous, too concerning that his captors would kill him -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Barbara, thank you very much. Joining me on the phone right now is Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Corn. He is a former Jag attorney. Let me ask you. People here at the top of the program, Jeffrey, he left deliberately and he left of his own free will when he left the base that night. That was the army conclusion.
But then as Barbara said, that is distinct from deserting. What is the difference between these two things? You leave deliberately of your own free will. How is that not deserting?
LT. COL. GEOFFREY CORN, FORMER ARMY JAG ATTORNEY (via telephone): That's AWOL. That's unauthorized, unofficial absence, but desertion requires a conclusion that soldier left to permanently absent himself from the unit. And that specific mental requirement that if you're going charge somebody or accuse somebody of desertion, you have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
And you're either going to have to have some confession from the soldier that he never intended to return or some conduct that creates a logical conclusion that the soldier would never return. For example, the soldier who tried to bring the bomb on to Fort Hood obviously was never going to go back to his unit. But because this individual ended up in Taliban custody, it really was impossible to determine whether when he left it was a permanent absence or a temporary absence.
BURNETT: So we've heard about the e-mails, of course, that he had sent to his father a few days before he disappeared. And one of them, he expressed his frustration with his job, and some of that many people might have felt. But it also included talking about his shame as an American in some of the situations he was put in. Would that -- are those going to be things they look at? Do you think there is going to be any chance there are charges here, especially given that there was just this deal made for his release?
CORN: What I think is that if all of the information that is considered by the investigators and the reviewing officers points to the fact that he committed a criminal offense, a violation of the uniform code of military justice, there is a good possibility that his commander will initiate criminal charges. I think this point there is still a lot we don't know.
I think it is relatively clear that his absence was voluntary and unauthorized, which is a violation of the code and it complicates matters because it now means if the investigators or the intelligence debriefers want to question him, then they're really required to give him what is called an Article 31-B warning, which is the military version of the Miranda warning. And they have to tell him what they suspect him of. So when they get to that point, he may actually decide he doesn't want to explain what happened.
BURNETT: All right, well, thank you very much, Geoffrey Corn. We appreciate your taking the time explaining some of those questions that so many of us have. Now, as part of this, when you take a step back and you now know this new Army report that Barbara Starr is reporting on, you have to think again was it worth it in terms of the deal that was struck with the five Taliban commanders in exchange for the American POW.
And our foreign affairs reporter, Elise Labott, has been working her sources on the story. She has new details about those five senior Taliban officials that are freed and what they are doing. Elise, you have learned some pretty incredible things.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Erin, those five are back in the capital of Doha. They're not under house arrest. They're able to move freely throughout the country. They'll remain for the next year. But U.S. officials from the president on down have said that they got personal assurances from the emir of Qatar that these five would be closely monitored.
And U.S. officials are telling me look, when the head of a country says he is going to keep a very close eye on these five, we believe that they're going to keep a very close eye. They're really going to have a kind of detail assigned to them.
Now, Erin, a lot of congressmen have been voicing concern about the threat that these five might pose to U.S. troops after the deal is done. Officials are telling me the combination of these assurances from the emir, the fact that these five have been in detention for so long and might have lost the kind of power of their networks over the last decade or so.
And the fact that most U.S. troops will be out of Afghanistan by the time that they get back, they feel that the risk that these five might pose to U.S. troops in Afghanistan will mitigated. And they think this is a very good trade to bring Bowe Bergdahl home. They have confidence that it was the right thing to do -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Elise, thank you. And these developments are now adding to what was frankly already a political firestorm. Today, the president repeatedly defended his decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I wouldn't be doing it if I thought that it was contrary to American national security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Republicans, though, aren't letting it go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It is a mistake and it is putting the lives of American servicemen and women at risk. And that to me is unacceptable to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Joining me now our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger and our political analyst, John Avlon. John, this reporting that Barbara Starr had, the breaking news, an investigation by the Army concluded that Bergdahl left his outpost deliberately of his own free will. It doesn't seem there is any question. This guy left voluntarily and was unauthorized. Does this just fuel the fire for Republicans? I mean, this is sort of handing them something on a silver platter, isn't it?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly does raise questions about why prioritize, but consider the alternatives. Do you just leave Bowe Bergdahl in the hands of the Haqqani network because of the way he left and apparently deserted, which his comrades said he had done?
You know, the president this morning in his press conference made the point that there is a transcendent principle that's been in place for decades, for centuries, that we leave no soldier behind, no matter what the circumstance is. It's looks like this is a murkier case than most POWs. That said it is extraordinary to politicize a POW. This quickly as we are now seeing.
BURNETT: Go ahead, Gloria.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I was just going to add that I think this is sort of one of the downsides of not consulting politically, for example, the Democratic chairman of your own Senate Intelligence Committee.
BORGER: You know, this is kind of pattern here. This is a White House that likes to operate on its own. But when you're kind of in that bubble and you don't have that kind of a feedback, you know, I would argue that they might have been able to benefit from it in this particular case because I think what we're seeing now is that politically, at least, how he was captured is very much germane to this entire issue.
BURNETT: It is. You know what? You're referencing, of course, Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrat, and let me play her exact words -- John.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR DIANE FEINSTEIN (D), CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I strongly believe that we should have been consulted, that the law should have been followed, and I very much regret that that was not the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Laws being followed, John, of course, it seems she is referring to the fact that to release anyone from Guantanamo Bay, the president is supposed to give a 30-day warning to Congress. What I don't understand, John, there something you think we don't know here? Because it doesn't make sense. He is doing something.
He had to have been aware that there was a report that was going to come out that this guy left voluntarily. He is aware that there is a law that says you have to give a 30-day notice and yet he goes ahead with it anyway.
AVLON: Well, the argument the administration is made that he was -- there was a severe health crisis that created a window of opportunity that needed to be acted on swiftly. But when you have Senator Dianne Feinstein really castigate the administration for a lack of communication, yes, it's a political problem, but it could be a legal problem as well.
Now, let's all rush to all of the sudden overheated conversations about impeachment. But the administration is going to have to explain why it felt that it did not have time to talk this over with members of the Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill. That's a major problem when Democrats are criticizing, and you can expect a lot more questions that deserve answers in the coming days.
BORGER: And the top leadership was told about this, Erin. You know, Senator Reid and Nancy Pelosi were told about this the day before. But that doesn't -- that's not consultation with your intelligence people.
BORGER: As Dianne Feinstein was saying and by the way, politically down the road, if this is a president who wants to close Guantanamo, this could make that a lot more difficult.
BURNETT: What about, Gloria, the word John just used. I know you used the caveat let's not rush to have a conversation about impeachment. But Gloria, this is something that has become politicized. You have people on the right who are going to jump on it just like they did with Benghazi.
You have people on the left already mad at the right for doing, that calling it Bergazi, which I thought was a typo today until I realized. This is going to be something that could become that kind of a conversation.
BORGER: Well, look, it's going to be an issue. Dianne Feinstein's a Democrat, OK.
BORGER: And she is upset she wasn't consulted. So that's her issue. She's got a right to be upset. She is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. She got a call from somebody at the White House sort of saying to her oops, right. And then you have Republicans who will put this in the same thread as Benghazi, et cetera, et cetera.
BORGER: I think this is an issue the White House is going to have to deal with and probably the fallout of which they did not anticipate on certain levels, particularly given who these people are who are now in Qatar, right?
BURNETT: I don't know. I don't understand how they couldn't have foreseen what is happening right now.
BORGER: Well, that's where consultation comes on.
AVLON: Now we're all focusing on the circumstances of his disappearance. But the White House did expect that this would be a positive news cycle, as every POW story always is. It's a feel-good story for the American people. The fact that this is being so politicized isn't just a mark of fact that maybe they didn't do their due diligence with Congress, but a wing of the Republican Party that can't wait to talk about impeachment about anything. Don't take them seriously. Also don't not take seriously about why they took this extra legal action to extradite his removal after five years.
AVLON: The fact that this is being so politicized isn't just a mark of fact that maybe they didn't do their due diligence with Congress, but it is also a mark of a high partisan atmosphere.. They are going to be considered a wing of the Republican Party that can't wait to talk about impeachment about anything. Don't take them seriously. Bu don't also take seriously folks who say this isn't going to require more inquiries and legal questioning and more information by the administration about why they took this extra legal action to expedites his removal after five years.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And you know, by the way, let me point out there. People on both side of the aisle, there are Republicans who changed their mind about Bergdahl, right, since they know the circumstances of his capture, and they know the deal. So, you know, there are people who are trying to feel this out right now, understanding the entire story. And the problem for the White House is that even Democrats running the Intel committees don't know the whole story at this point.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. Thanks to both.
And more on our breaking news. The report showing Bowe Bergdahl left that base of his own free will, and why was his father communicating with the Taliban just days before the prisoner swap?
Plus, a man who understands what Sergeant Bergdahl may have gone through. Whatever the circumstances of that night, what happened for five years? Roy Hallums spent 311 days in captivity in Iraq, and he is OUTFRONT tonight.
And China's crackdown. Tonight CNN internet sites and news outlets are being shut down. We'll tell you why.
BURNETT: And our breaking news. We are learning that an investigation conducted in the months after sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's disappearance showed that he deliberately left his outpost. Now, he was never accused of actual desertion because it was not clear why he left on his own. They were never able to talk to him. Also tonight, the controversial comments Bergdahl's father was making during the time his son was in captivity, and his most recent contact with the Taliban.
Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT in Hailey, Idaho, where Bergdahl's parents live.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB BERGDAHL, SERGEANT BERGDAHL'S FATHER: I'm father of captured U.S. soldier Bowe Robert Bergdahl.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bob Bergdahl released this video three years ago. It was the first time he had spoken publicly about his son's capture.
BERGDAHL: Strangely to some, we must also thank those who have cared for our son for almost two years.
LAVANDERA: Bergdahl use as veiled reference to the controversial issue of detainees in Guantanamo Bay to connect with his son's captors.
BERGDAHL: No family in the United States understands the detainee issue like ours. Our son's safe return will only heighten public awareness of this. That said, our son is being exploited. It's past time for Bowe and the others to come home.
LAVANDERA: But Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is coming home to a firestorm of criticism, and his father is also being criticized for a tweet he allegedly sent to a Taliban spokesman which read "I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child."
The Bergdahl family has declined to comment on the tweet, and it was deleted shortly after it was posted. In the last five years Bob Bergdahl has immersed himself in Middle Eastern culture. Friends have said it's a way of understanding the minds of his son's captors.
BERGDAHL: Mothers all over the world are suffering because of this war. And I don't forget that even for one day.
LAVANDERA: But to others it now seems like sympathy for the enemy through tweets and a few public comments, Bob Bergdahl has expressed frustration over the war in Afghanistan and drone strikes that have killed Afghan civilians. And he told "the Guardian" newspaper this past win it they're he hoped Guantanamo prison would be shut down.
BERGDAHL: There is something inhumane about keeping somebody in limbo for ten years. I'm thankful that Bowe's most likely in a house somewhere. At least it's not chain link and cement and barbed wire. My son is a prisoner of war. And war's end with reconciliation and negotiations with the enemy. And prisoners of war should be part of that dialogue. And I insist, I insist that it will be.
LAVANDERA: Bergdahl family friends say those are thoughts of a father fighting for his son's life.
STEPHANIE O'NEILL, BERGDAHL'S FAMILY FRIEND: Wouldn't you try and connect with the people that had your child? Bob and Jani did everything possible they could to ensure Bowe's safety. And if Bowe -- I'm sorry, if Bob was trying to connect with them, it was to keep his son safe, I'm sure.
LAVANDERA: And Erin, since all of this controversy has erupted in the last couple days, the Bergdahl family has not spoken publicly. The last time they did that was Sunday afternoon when they returned here to Idaho. And their friends say they are simply focused on this point on reuniting with their son and making sure that he is reintegrated successfully and gets all the medical attention that he needs at this point -- Erin.
BURNETT: Ed Lavandera, thank you very much. A really powerful piece.
You know, it's unclear when Bergdahl is going to return to his family in Hailey, Idaho, when he'll be questioned by authorities, when we're going to get answers to what really happened. The military has already said once he is able to leave Germany, his treatment is going to continue at a military medical center in San Antonio, Texas.
There is a lot of questions about what this treatment entails there was a report that when he first was released, he was only speaking Pashtu.
Roy Hallums is an American contractor. He was kidnapped in Iraq in 2004. He spent 311 days in captivity. Much of it spent in an underground cell.
Roy, you're one of the few people in the world who can understand perhaps some of what Bowe Bergdahl went through. Again, regardless of the circumstances under which he ended up in captivity. He ended up in captivity. You were found in a small concrete room. You were blindfolded, your arms and legs bound, 311 days. What was your state of mind?
ROY HALLUMS, AMERICAN HOSTAGE HELD HOSTAGE IN IRAQ FOR 311 DAYS: Well, at the time I was being held, I was just trying to get through day by day. I mean, every day it was you hopefully get something for breakfast, hopefully get something for dinner. You're alive at the end of the day, and you want to get to the next day and go through that.
And like in my case, you don't think about, I'm going to be here for 311 days because you don't know. You might be actually dead at the end of the first day.
BURNETT: Did you think every day you were going to die? I mean, I think most people -- none of us can understand what it must have been like. I mean, the claustrophobia, the fear, you don't understand what the people around you are saying. HALLUMS: Well, you never knew. I mean, the gang that I was with wanted money. So I was hopeful they would keep me alive trying to get the money. But you never knew what they were going to do. And from time to time they would take me out of the little room and have like a mock execution and say OK, we're going to kill you now. And they would after a while put me back down in the hole and put the straps back on my arms. So it was just constant.
BURNETT: You know, one of the things we have heard about Bowe Bergdahl, his father is the one who said his son is struggling to speak English after the five years. And again, the reports that he was really only speaking in Pashtu when he was rescued. You were rarely allowed to speak. Can you understand what happened, that he may have only been speaking Pashtu?
HALLUMS: No. I saw that. It sort of surprised me. In my case, I wasn't allowed to talk. The gang had told me and the other hostages that were taken with me not to speak or they would kill us. And so my vocal cords sort of like a muscle I guess. And when I was released, I couldn't talk. But that was a physical thing. Not that I didn't know English. I knew English just fine. It was just my vocal cords were giving me a problem for a few weeks.
BURNETT: One thing that we also heard was that he is -- Bowe Bergdahl would not understand at this point the concept of having freedom. And I mean on a very simple level, right, that you know, someone was describing yesterday on the show that the choice to decide what you're going to eat for lunch, right. The choice of when you're going to go to sleep. The decision on what you're going to do on a given afternoon. These small little freedoms in life that it's impossible to imagine not having. You didn't have them.
How long, how hard was it for you to -- I mean, when you were free, were you suddenly jumping up and down and you could go about your regular life, or was it a long and difficult process filled with fear?
HALLUMS: No. When I was rescued by army special forces. And when it happened, it's like this is a miracle. And I was in shock, just like the day I was kidnapped. You're in shock that is this really happening. And then it takes time to adjust to the freedom because in my situation, you can't go to the bathroom, you can't get a drink of water, you can't get anything to eat unless somebody else allows you to do it. And then you're free. And I explain it to people as it's like a funnel, and you're at the small end of the funnel, and your world is opening up. And it just takes time to get used to making all those normal decisions again. In my case, it took me about eight months to basically get back to normal.
BURNETT: Eight months. Thank you very much. We appreciate you taking the time to join us. And when you think about that, eight months and he was in captivity for just under a year. Think about Bowe Bergdahl with five years.
Still OUTFRONT, the breaking news on the severe weather.
And right now 35 million Americans are in a major storm path. And Slender man. Who is the shadowy figure, and why did two children allegedly try to kill their friend to impress him?
BURNETT: Breaking news: we have severe weather right now ripping across the country. Over 35 million people are at risk.
In Nebraska, storm sirens are going off. A major tornado just hitting the ground. There are warnings of more tonight. And we're also seeing images of baseball, baseball-sized hail -- look at that -- hitting the Omaha area. Officials warn of hurricane-force winds along with all of that.
Meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking it all.
Chad, I mean baseball-sized hail?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, yes. And the storm is at a time when 55,000 feet tall, from the base at the surface to the top, ten miles high. And that's what we're seeing. That's how you get the intense cold air aloft. You get the updrafts and you get the hail to fall out of it.
We have a few storms still right now, right there along the same path. We actually have our Indra Peterson right there. We'll get to her as soon as we can, trying to get a hookup on the radio there is a hook echo right through here. That's the tornado she is on right now.
Let me show you this in three dimensions, because I think this is so cool there is a lot of hail up here in the parts of the storm. Here is the hook right here. Our Indra is here, looking at the southwest part of the storm where it is rotating, here is all the hail and all the rain. It stretches now for miles and miles.
This is going to be, again, a big night for severe weather. But one thing I'm looking at right now is this storm, this storm, that storm, and the one that just moved over Omaha all moving over the same place. All over the same area. I think the threat of flooding may be very big in this area, from Omaha back into Ohio, Iowa, all the way down even into St. Louis, because this isn't stopping.
This is going to go all night long. This may go all the way until tomorrow. And if it lines up the way we don't want it to, like this, this may turn into that thing called a Derecho that we had across the D.C. area, into West Virginia, Richmond, a couple years ago with a lot of wind damage as these Derechos roll from the planes. They can go from thousands of miles and an awful lot of wind damage all the way along, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you.
Chad, hold on -- one thing I just have to ask you. How do you get baseball-sized hail? I mean, that just seems sort of fictional it's so incredible. MYERS: It truly is. And I've seen it. There is a couple of different ways you can get it there can be a conglomerate hail stone, which means a number of golf balls or ping pong size glue themselves together, or as the storm goes up and down, up and down, they get a coating of ice. If you cut the stones in half you would see like rings on a tree.
The hail stone would fall down. It would get sucked back up by an updraft of 100 miles per hour or more, and then fall back through, get sucked up again. And around and around and around, until you get enough rings in the hailstone that it turns that big.
Eventually, the storm can't hold it anymore. And it has to fall out.
BURNETT: All right, Chad, thank you.
And now, kids trying to kill kids. This is a bizarre shocking story out of Wisconsin. Two 12-year-old friends allegedly lure their friend into the woods after a sleepover and then stab her 19 times. Police say that the two suspects were fascinated by "Slenderman", a fictional online character they were looking to impress with the brutal attack.
Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Twelve-year-old Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier accused of attempted murder of their 12-year-old friend.
RUSSELL JACK, WAUKESHA, WISCONSIN CHIEF OF POLICE: One suspect held the victim down, while the other suspect stabbed her 19 times in the arms, legs, and torso. Many of the stab wounds struck major organs, but incredibly, and thankfully, the victim survived.
MARQUEZ: The man who discovered her described the scene.
DISPATCHER: Does she have a bike or anything with her?
CALLER: No, I don't see it. One sandal is off, you know, maybe three feet away from her.
MARQUEZ: The motives say police, to win the favor of a fictional Internet horror character named "Slenderman".
The plan: stab their friend to death and then head to "Slenderman's" fictitious mansion in Wisconsin's Nicolet National Park.
The "Slenderman" character, often tall, faceless with long sharp tentacles was created in 2009 by writer Eric Knudsen. Since then, it's taken on a life of its own. The character used and referenced in horror stories online and elsewhere.
The girls accused of attempted murder found the character on the horror fantasy Web site, creepypasta.wikia.com.
JACK: A parent would never let a 45-year-old male in a bedroom of 12- year-old girl. But if you leave your 12-year-old girl in that bedroom with a computer with Internet access and close the door, that's exactly what you're doing.
MARQUEZ: Police say Geyser and Weier plotted for months the best way to kill their friend. According to authorities, they first plotted to duct tape her mouth and then stab her in the neck. Then they wanted to stab her in the park bathroom because they said there was a drain on the floor for the blood to go down.
After arguing nervously in the bathroom about who would stab the victim, they decided to go in the woods and kill her while playing a game of hide-and-seek. Police say that's when Geyser holding the knife was told by Weier, "go ballistic, go crazy". Geyser responded, "Don't worry, I'm just a little kitty cat," and then began stabbing her friend.
Her heart, liver, pancreas, all stabbed. And one stab wound coming within a millimeter of a major artery.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just don't know what gets in these kids' heads. I guess parents need to get more involved.
MARQUEZ: Parents of the young suspect trying to make sense of it all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Morgan's parents are very sad about what has happened. They're horrified and our condolences to everyone.
BURNETT: Miguel, I mean, you know, police say that this is a fictitious character, which I guess it's very hard to understand watching this, how they could take it and turn into it a reality. But they obviously enmeshed themselves in this world have. You found out more about the site about "Slenderman" and Creepy Pasta, what it's called?
MARQUEZ: Well, "Slenderman" is incredibly popular, and it sort of populates the Internet at large. There are films related to it. There is lots of Web sites that have it on it. These girls found "Slenderman" on creepypasta.wikia.com back in October. They started reading it there.
It features very heavily on the site, but it is everywhere. Police are now looking at their computers, trying to figure out what the entire planet, the entire world of what they were looking at online to see what else was influencing these girls in the days and a months leading up to this horrific crime -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Miguel, thank you.
And still to come, polls about to close in the nastiest political race in America. One of the most iconic images of all time.
Tonight, the Chinese government trying to do everything it can to keep anybody from seeing what you're looking at on your screen right now.
BURNETT: Breaking news. It is the biggest day of primary voting this year. Several high profile races across the nation tonight. Polls are about to close in several states. And we are tracking races in eight states tonight. These could have major implications for the midterm elections for who wins the Senate.
The primary everybody is talking about is in Mississippi. Supposed to be the Tea Party's best hope to bring down a GOP incumbent. But it is a downright bizarre scandal that's taking this race down to the wire. The one tonight everyone is watching.
Dana Bash is OUTFRONT at Senator Cochran's campaign headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi. He is the incumbent.
But, Dana, this story is one of the most bizarre political stories ever, and the nasty esterase in the country. How is it looking tonight?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's unclear, Erin. The polls close in just about 15 minutes. And I talked to sources in both parties, and it's pretty unclear how it's going turn out.
BASH (voice-over): Chris McDaniel taking his young son to vote in his Republican primary challenge against 36-year Senate incumbent Thad Cochran. This image speaks volumes about the start contrast in battle for the heart and soul of the GOP.
CHRIS MCDANIEL (R), SENATE CANDIDATE: How is social media trended right now? Are we good?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Looks good.
BASH: A 42-year-old scrappy conservative who has the backing of the Tea Party trying to defeat a courtly 76-year-old old school establishment Republican. Cochran calls his seniority a plus. If the GOP takes the Senate, he would chair the Appropriations Committee, in charge of directing federal dollars.
SEN. THAD COCHRAN (R), MISSISSIPPI: With the Republican majority, we will make sure Mississippi has a voice to bring more economic opportunity and growth to our state.
BASH: McDaniel calls Cochran a big spending Republican.
MCDANIEL: People of this state recognize it's time for new blood and new energy and new leadership in Washington.
BASH: This GOP primary race is just about the nastiest in the country. A conservative blogger was arrested for breaking into this nursing home to photograph Cochran's ailing wife, suffering from dementia.
AD NARRATOR: It's the worst.
BASH: Cochran's campaign points fingers at McDaniel. It has put McDaniel on the defensive.
MCDANIEL: Our campaign have no connection to that whatsoever.
BASH: But the mud is slinging from both sides.
Henry Barbour runs a super PAC to help Cochran.
(on camera): You sent it to Mississippi voters?
HENRY BARBOUR, PRO-COCHRAN SUPER PAC DIRECTOR: We did.
BASH (voice-over): They sent voters this card. Open it and hear controversial clips of McDaniel nearly 10 years ago when he was a radio show host.
MCDANIEL: Mamacita works. I have no idea what it means actually, but I've said it a fw times just for, you know, fun. And I think it basically means, 'Hey, hot mama."
BARBOUR: He is making a derogatory term about mamacita and saying hey, hot ma. It's embarrassing. Mississippi wants a U.S. senator we can be proud of.
BASH (on camera): This is pretty dirty politics.
BARBOUR: Look, it's public statements he made. I think it's fair game.
BASH (voice-over): Also fair game, Democrats can vote in this GOP primary. Life-long Democrats like Gary Gusick are crossing over for Cochran.
(on camera): Do you think that Cochran has been a good senator?
GARY GUSICK, MISSISSIPPI DEMOCRAT FOR COCHRAN: I disagree with him on all the fundamental issues. But I think his performance as a senator over the years has been very good. And he is in a very powerful position and can bring lots of advantages to Mississippi.
BASH: Now, Erin, some of that Democratic crossover is organic and natural. Some of it is being driven with a very concerted effort by Cochran supporters. I'm told that is part of the game here because it is an open primary. Anybody can vote, not just Republicans.
Going into today, it was the Cochran campaign, their internal polls had him three points up, but they're thinking that maybe some of that crossover vote could help him.
BURNETT: Wow. All right. Dana Bash, thank you very much. We're going to be watching for that poll to close tonight.
And next, CNN and popular Web sites are offline in China tonight. They can't be watching this program because it's blacked out. We're going to tell you what the Chinese government is trying to keep from its people.
And the dress, if you can call it that, that everyone is talking about. Jeanne Moos investigates.
BURNETT: It is June 4th in China right now, where 25 years ago today, the bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square led to unforgettable images like this one. The man stepping in front of the government tanks, an image that defined a childhood for many of us.
Today, Internet sites are down. CNN is off the air right now as the nation tries to make sure no one remembers or commemorates those events, those protests in 1989.
David McKenzie reports on a stunning development in Beijing.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 1989, thousands of student activists believed they would change China. During one euphoric summer in Tiananmen Square, many thought they could.
Then, the communist party ordered the crackdown.
And soldiers mobilized, crushing the democracy movement.
"I was there", said this woman. "It was chaotic. There were guns and shooting."
"There were bullet holes in the walls", says this witness. "It was a night of fear and for many, of shame."
"Everyone thought they should not have opened fire", he says. "Why did they open fire?"
But those questions are left unanswered in China because the communist party is determined to erase the history of Tiananmen. As we've reported on the show, scores of activists have been detained in the run-up to June 4th.
CNN's coverage of the crackdown blacked out in China.
(on camera): This is not legal what we're doing.
(voice-over): And warnings have been put out to foreign journalists.
So, it's no surprise that before long the police track us and shut us down. "We don't know why you can't come here right now," he tells me. (on camera): The democracy movement started long before June 4th, and this place, Baidal (ph) University, was where the discussions started and the ideas started forming for the students to protest.
(voice-over): "Does a day June 4th mean anything to you?" we asked.
"What is it? A national holiday?" she says.
Many young people have never heard of June 4th. But fresh from graduation, this student says some talk about the massacre in private.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a little sensitive.
MCKENZIE: "Because you never know who could be listening," she says.
(on camera): Have people forgotten history here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. People have not forgotten history, but in China, people are really tyrant. People know that things happen and we need to focus on the future.
MCKENZIE: It seems like the blackout of history is almost complete. Because the party wants to make sure that this never happens again.
MCKENZIE: Well, Erin, all through this city, there are police everywhere. We have gone through several road blocks to get here.
And you can imagine, 25 years ago today, there were students going down the streets doing prodemocracy talks, wanting some freedom in China. But, today, of course, those freedoms never came and there have been 60 odds of dissidents pulled up and put into detention by the Chinese government just in recent weeks.
The Chinese government told us there's no such thing as a dissident here, only lawbreakers -- Erin.
BURNETT: Thank you very much. Pretty incredible reporting. You saw those girls, what is it, a holiday?
Still OUTFRONT: Rihanna bares too much. Jeanne Moos is next.
BURNETT: Rihanna and a see-through dress. Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What to wear is always a dicey question. Picking what to wear when you're going to wear it to pick up your fashion icon of the year award, that's pressure.
RIHANNA, SINGER: I'm nervous. My hand is shaking. I might drop this. MOOS: Rihanna chose to wear next to nothing to the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards. Or rather she left nothing to the imagination.
There were over 200,000 Swarovski crystals on her gown, but you could still see right through it, front -- and rear, as one online commenter posted, "I don't get it. Is this an award ceremony for porn stars? Why is she naked?"
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's disgusting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's becoming a bad influence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's kind of gross.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think it's disappointing. I haven't looked at her face once.
MOOS: The same probably goes for the Usher performed the difficult duty of helping Rihanna mount the stage where she reminisced about using fashion as a defense mechanism, even as a child.
RIHANNA: I remember thinking she could beat me, but she could not beat my outfit.
MOOS: Rihanna's outfit seemed to pay homage to Josephine Baker. Designer Adam told Style.com, "The dress is just fish net and crystals and a couple of fingers crossed."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, we approve.
MOOS (on camera): We're handing out our own awards for most original design censoring the private parts of Rihanna that she chose to flaunt.
(voice-over): "The Today" show opted for a ribbon, but had to advise viewers --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She wasn't wearing a red ribbon.
MOOS: "The View" went for the black bar mug shot look.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could see her butt and her boobs.
MOOS: "The Wendy Williams Show" used its own initials to do the honors.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she looks amazing.
MOOS: And HLN avoided concealment measures by sticking to a side view.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like she's hailing a cab with that. Every single cab in New York would stop short on a dime. That's my fare, no, that's my fare, that's my fare.
RIHANNA: It's, you know, every little girl's dream to dress up.
MOOS: Even if you're state of undress leaves many shaking their heads.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just too much, too little.
MOOS: Now, this is too much. Twerk alert.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: And Anderson starts now.