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Classified Briefing On Bergdahl Just Ended; Exclusive Video Of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's Return To U.S. Troops Released; Sterling Agrees to Sell the Clippers for $2 Billion

Aired June 4, 2014 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Next breaking news, White House officials have just finished briefing the Senate on the controversial deal that freed Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. A top Republican senator who was just in that closed door meeting OUTFRONT.

Plus two 12-year-old girls allegedly stabbed their friend 19 times, and police say a fictional character called "Slenderman" was the inspiration.

And President Obama, he is just like us. The commander in chief's workout routine actually caught on tape. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. Tonight, we begin with the breaking news, at this moment, top White House officials just finishing briefing the Senate. It was a closed door briefing on the prisoner swap in which Bowe Bergdahl gained his freedom. Officials from the State Department, the Defense Department, and National Intelligence were all present. And we're going to hear from one top Republican who was at that briefing in just a moment.

But first, there are major developments in the case today. First of all, we got the images of the handover. These are the first ones we've seen. The moment Bergdahl's Taliban captors turned him over to U.S. Special Forces. That video released today by the Taliban. U.S. officials say they're reviewing the video. We're going to go through it frame by frame, coming up. You're going to hear what they said and be able to watch this go down. It's pretty stunning video.

Also today, new details from the Army's official investigation into Bergdahl's disappearance. Bergdahl's commanders referred to him as a good soldier. Other soldiers, though, say Bergdahl wandered off his post on previous occasions. We're going to have more on the very latest on that as well.

But first, we start with Republican Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Wonderful to have you with us, Senator Collins. You just left that classified briefing. What is the headline?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME), SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: To me what is most concerning is that everyone agrees that the five Taliban detainees that were released are extremely dangerous and after their one-year confinement in Qatar is over, they can go wherever they want. Their return is also being celebrated by the Taliban in Afghanistan and each one of these men have horrendous records that really make me question the decision to release them.

BURNETT: So -- and this is something that you're saying everybody agreed to, meaning the administration officials that briefed you, they all acknowledged, you're saying, that these men are a risk to the United States?

COLLINS: They all acknowledged that at least four out of five, and in some cases the judgment is all five of these Taliban detainees are extremely dangerous, and that they pose a threat in the future to our country. The likelihood based on all of the briefings and evidence that I have seen as a member of the intelligence committee and in the press reports and the briefing today indicates that a very high likelihood that these men will return to the fight and that is very disturbing.

BURNETT: So Senator, what did they tell you then, then when you asked why that was worth it? If they're acknowledging that there is now a very real risk that they take seriously that they think these men will try to strike America then why was it worth it?

COLLINS: The focus that the administration has had is on the return of Sergeant Bergdahl. And it's very interesting to me that they would be willing to release five extraordinarily dangerous Taliban members in exchange for this soldier who apparently left his post. We don't know all the details.

BURNETT: Right, we don't.

COLLINS: And I want to make sure that he gets due process from the Army, but that certainly appears to be what happened.

BURNETT: You know, it's interesting, though, because Democrats are accusing your party of playing politics. You know, Harry Reid, of course, said the GOP is very worried of Bergdahl's release, quote, "Be seen as a victory for President Obama." And you know what? There has been some real flip-flopping going on, Senator.

Memorial Day, Kelly Ayotte wrote an op-ed in her hometown paper saying, "I renew my call on the Defense Department to redouble its efforts to find Sergeant Bergdahl and return him safely." And a couple of days ago once he was released, in a statement she said, "The administration's decision to release these five terrorist detainees endanger national security interests," obviously completely switching.

Senator Inhofe had written it's important we make every effort to bring the soldier home to his family. Now he is saying the president did this just in an effort to try to close Gitmo. This does sound political when you have people saying do whatever it takes, criticizing the president. And then when he does it, they criticize him for doing it.

COLLINS: Well, I can't speak for the statements of my colleagues. All I can tell you is what I think and that is that the evidence is overwhelming and uncontested that these Taliban detainees pose a threat to our country and are very likely to return to the fight. And disturbs me, regardless of what the facts turn out to be about the sergeant, the sergeant leaving his post, the fact remains that these detainees have been judged to be extremely dangerous and very likely to return to the fight. And I think that should concern all of us.

BURNETT: But if the reality is, though, that Republicans wanted this soldier freed, and it was going to come with a price. I mean, Guantanamo Bay is sitting there. It's hard to imagine there would be any deal that didn't involve a prisoner swap. Of course your committee had heard than possibility for a long time. Even though of course they did not observe the window of 30 days in terms of telling you. Is it fair to say you thought there would be a prisoner swap at some point to get this guy back?

COLLINS: No, not in my case. I joined the intelligence committee just this year. I do know that there was bipartisan opposition to the concept of the swap when the administration did brief the previous members of the intelligence committee a couple of years ago about this possibility. But it's hard for me.

I'm not saying that we don't want our soldiers back, regardless of the consequences of their leaving. Those consequences can be dealt with once they are back. But what I am saying is it's very difficult for me to understand a trade that results in the release of such dangerous people. They're out to get us and that has been the assessment right from the beginning by the intelligence community.

BURNETT: So you would have point-blank said no to this deal had the president asked?

COLLINS: I would have, yes.

BURNETT: All right, and before we go, one question on the video that has come out. You know, they are saying that Sergeant Bergdahl was very sick. That's why they had to move so quickly and couldn't observe the 30-day period of notifying you in Congress that they wanted to do this. You have got to see the proof of life videos in which they saw that he was very ill and had to move quickly. What did you see?

COLLINS: I saw an individual who looked like he had been drugged. I did not -- it was very difficult to judge his medical condition. I'm not a physician. I have asked whether there is any evidence that he has a serious illness or was about to be killed. And I have not received such evidence. But a lot of that takes place in a classified session and I can't really go into the details of that.

BURNETT: All right, well, thank you very much for sharing all the details you did. And, of course, that's Senator Collins being very direct. She would not have done this deal.

Joining me now is Democratic congresswoman and chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Great to have you with us.


BURNETT: You just heard Senator Collins, she would not do this deal that she said five of the administration officials who testified today, they all said that these Taliban members would want to come back and threaten the United States. Was this a bad deal?

SCHULTZ: Well, what shocks me is that we just heard from a United States senator. As much respect as I have for Senator Collins, for a United States senator to suggest that we should leave a member of our armed forces who was in the midst of an armed conflict, regardless of the circumstances that he will likely be tried for and considered innocent until proven guilty later.

That she would leave a soldier in an armed conflict behind when we had intelligence from everything that I understand, Erin, that he was -- this was our last best opportunity. That he was potentially on death's door. You know, looking at grainy video is not a way for us to determine that. But from everything I understand, this was our last best opportunity. And throughout the entirety of our military history, we do not leave our military behind.

When we have captives we do everything we can to bring them home and we had the highest levels of our military serving now who also said, you know, General Dempsey said we don't leave anyone behind, regardless of the circumstances. We should all be unified around that.

BURNETT: So, I'm curious. Because Republican Senator Lindsey Graham raised something in terms of the terms of the deal that I thought was very interesting. He said the president didn't want to get a better deal on the Bergdahl exchange. Here is exactly how the senator said that.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's not the best deal we could have gotten, it's the deal they wanted. I don't think there was any real effort, would you just take one, would you just take two? I don't think they fought very hard to not release five because they're looking for ways to get rid of these people.


BURNETT: Could the president have gotten a better deal, Congresswoman?

SCHULTZ: Come on, I mean we are grasping at straws now. Is that what -- is that what the Republicans are resorting to now? We're going to nitpick over the number of prisoners we exchanged? We have throughout the tenure of many Republican and Democratic presidents, including George W. Bush, including President Nixon, President George W. Bush released 500 detainees from Guantanamo.

So we should not be second guessing the administration when they have intelligence available to them and military advice. And the last best opportunity, as we are actually winding down our involvement in Afghanistan, the bottom line is we don't leave our soldiers behind. We deal with the situation behind his finding himself captive later and we bring him home.

BURNETT: Earlier today, I spoke with a former administration official who said look, maybe they did what they had to do. Wasn't talking about the terms of the deal itself, but was saying, what was the president fully informed what was happening. Why, given the controversy that was likely to ensue, given the controversy around the circumstances of his leaving that night, why have a ceremony in the Rose Garden? Why put the president of the United States with the family or the president's face next to a prisoner swap? Do you think the rose garden ceremony was a mistake?

SCHULTZ: I think we are really putting the details under a microscope that are -- that pale in comparison in terms of their importance than the fact that we brought one of our own home. That's the bottom line. And it's so disingenuous when you have many senators and a number of house members who were previously pressing the administration, Erin, to do all that they could to bring Bowe Bergdahl home.

And when Barack Obama does that, now of course he didn't do it right. He should have brought one, not five. He should have not had a ceremony in the Rose Garden. President Obama stood with Bowe Bergdahl's parents, with a mom and a dad who were thrilled to have their son home. And America should be glad to have one of our own home.

We will deal with and the military has a long history of dealing with the situation that he is accused of. I have no doubt about that, but to suggest that we're going to nitpick the president of the United States as commander in chief, bringing one of our own home and standing with his parents to celebrate that fact that we were successful and to celebrate our soldiers to help bring him home is really utterly ridiculous. It's offensive.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

BURNETT: OUTFRONT next, the Taliban releasing the video. We were just talking about this. This is the moment Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was freed. We're going to break it down, frame by frame so you can see it, you can zoom in. You can hear what they said.

Plus, the military's unwritten rule. You just heard the senator and the congressman refer to this, no man left behind. Why many now are questioning that motto.

And President Obama's workout routine, separate from this, caught on tape.


BURNETT: Tonight, we're seeing the exact moment Taliban fighters turned Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl over to U.S. forces. All so the video was actually shot and released by the Taliban. You see Bergdahl there. His head is shaved. The U.S. helicopter lands. He is there in the pickup truck. And then what happens is a helicopter actually lands. And you'll see American troops come face- to-face with the heavily armed fighters.

Jim Sciutto is OUTFRONT. You're going to now watch this frame by frame.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The riveting eight-minute Taliban propaganda video contains intriguing clues about Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, his Taliban captors, and his American rescuers. A thin, aging Bergdahl blinks repeatedly while seated in the pickup truck, and again as he stands looking at the approaching American helicopter. Signs his eyes were unused to natural light or signs of emotion. At one moment Bergdahl manages a brief awkward smile, evidence of happiness or nervousness. One taps him three times on the shoulder and says to him don't come back to Afghanistan. Next time you won't make it out alive. An ominous threat and sign of fear between captor and captive.

A Taliban narrator sets the scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We waited in the area for around ten minutes before the helicopters arrived. And there were 18 mujahedeen fighters with me in the area. And we had armed mujahedeen on the peaks of the hills around the area.

SCIUTTO: And he is carrying a white plastic bag, contents unknown. Then the unprecedented face-to-face meeting between U.S. special forces and the Taliban fighters. Handshakes. An American places his left arm across his chest, an Afghan sign of respect. Another quickly frisks Bergdahl. The Taliban narrator recounts what he claims they said to each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They first asked us about the health condition of the captive and told us to tell them the truth if he was not well. But we saw that he was fine and told them that.

SCIUTTO: The soldiers wave, one keeping his eyes locked on the Taliban, even as he walks backwards. Bergdahl keeps his eyes focused straight ahead. He is stumbling. The legs of a man repeatedly shackled, or just a nervous walk across rocky terrain. At the Hilo, Bergdahl is patted down once again, this time more thoroughly, a precaution against a bomb or booby-trap before the black hawk helicopter disappears into the sky.


SCIUTTO: This propaganda video all about sending messages. And one former Special Forces commander told us that even shaving Bergdahl's head may have been an attempt to make him look feminine, subservient to the Taliban. The Taliban attempting to use these images and the prisoner exchange as a momentum they stood up to the U.S. and came out ahead. That's the message, at least, Erin.

And as always with these things, they're look for any advantage. And I'm told there were so many people downloading this video from the Taliban Web site that it actually crashed their servers, a sign that maybe this propaganda is having some success.

BURNETT: Wow, they have servers. All right, thank you very much, Jim Sciutto.

And OUTFRONT tonight Seth Jones, who is a former senior adviser of the U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan. He was actually involved with the Bergdahl's search effort. Roy Hallums, an American contractor who was kidnapped in Iraq in 2004, spent nearly a year in captivity, 311 days. And Cade Courtley, a former navy SEAL.

All right, I want to get each of your reaction in this video. What stood out to you the most? I mean, was it the blinking that could have been that he didn't see light or could it been emotions? The stumbling that could have been because he was shackle or could have been because he was nervous.

Cade, what did you see?

CADE COURTLEY, FORMER NAVY SEAL: Nothing on the ground. All right, I can say is I was amazed they even let him take one step closer to the helicopter without doing a complete search, including the bag. So I was kind of surprise.

BURNETT: You mean the special operations forces? Sorry, the special operations forced when they searched him?

COURTLEY: Absolutely.


COURTLEY: It should it have been the very first thing that was done. I mean, he was walking towards the helicopter with a bag. Again, I wasn't there. But what I've seen, that was a tactical mistake. It was huge.

BURNETT: What do you see when you look at this, Seth?

SETH JONES, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER OF THE U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: Well, I think what stands out to me is the fact, they had camera waiting to film this whole thing. They were clearly prepared to put out information on websites. Mullah Omar had a statement ready. They had video in Qatar when these guys landed from Guantanamo, the five individuals. And they had video ready for the handover. This was part of a much broader effort of propaganda, that they were really ready to take advantage of.

BURNETT: Which may perhaps explain why the president went ahead and made a big deal of it too. And you know, you knew the other side was going to. So you want to go with your best foot forward.

Roy, when you see this video, it's got to bring back memories. Looking at the moments how he was stumbling, how his eyes kept repeatedly blinking, you know. What does it make you think happened to him?

ROY HALLUMS, HELD CAPTIVE IN IRAQ FOR 311 DAYS: Yes. It reminded me a great deal of my rescue. In my case, the helicopter had to land about 50 yards from the house I was being held in. And because my feet had been tied every day, I couldn't walk out to the helicopter. Had to have two of the Special Forces people help me out. And they gave me sunglasses because the room I was in was just totally dark all the time.

BURNETT: Wow. So when you see that, you think, I mean, he could have been walking because he had been shackled? Or stumbling as he looked.

HALLUMS: Well, that's the way it was in my case. I mean, he was similar. I don't know for sure exactly what his case was. But in mine, because my muscles had become so weak from being tied, I had to have somebody help me out to the helicopter.

BURNETT: And Cade, you know, the Taliban makes it clear that they wanted to get out of there. They also say of course don't come back to Afghanistan, because you won't make it out next time. That pretty much does set up -- I mean, obviously, it could just be a propaganda video, so who know what's the relationship really was like. But it certainly doesn't sound like he had at this point wanted to be with them or anything like that.

COURTLEY: Well, I'm sure he didn't want to be in that situation. But he put himself in that situation potentially when he decided to desert his unit. So when you're going down range in a military unit, the one thing that helps you do your job is you know no matter what situation you find yourself in, everybody will be there to help get you out of it, no matter what. Until you decide to desert your unit. It's the same as deserting your country. Then that ability for us to go do what we need to do is gone.

BURNETT: Right. And of course, I want to emphasize we don't know the circumstances. And they're going to be looking into that. I think there is no question there will be an investigation on that.

Seth, what about that one moment in the video which Jim Sciutto was reporting, the moment where he smiled at his captor. What do you see when you see that smile? What do you read into that?

JONES: Well, it's hard to know. But I suspect the prospect that he may have felt that he was coming home and he was leaving. The end of his five years in captivity. And, you know, the prospects that he would be coming back to his family, that may have been going through his mind. It's gone through many of the mind of people I have spoken to in that exact same position.

BURNETT: And what about, Seth, the issue here that the administration is saying the reason they did this deal and they did it now is because they thought that he was on death's door. This was their last chance. Does this look like a man on death's door to you? JONES: Well, again, it doesn't look like it from here. But we should be able to determine that pretty quickly. He is in Germany now. He'll be coming home. We'll have a sense from doctors that examined him. Was he actually in bad shape? If not, then there is a problem with the administration's argument.

BURNETT: And Roy, when you look at that, when you're talking about how the special forces had to help carry you because you were unable to walk, when you see him moving here and walking on his own, you know, what does that make you think?

HALLUMS: Well, I mean, he is obviously strong enough to walk. What other problems he might have, I don't know. I mean, I had several physical problems besides just trying to walk. From the poor food, the poor living conditions, and, you know, you don't know what type of other medical problems he might have.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to all three of you. We appreciate it. Of course we'll be watching that video, all of us, many, many times.

Still to come, Bergdahl's homecoming celebration abruptly canceled tonight in his hometown. We are going to tell you why.

Plus, breaking news on Donald Sterling. Days after he said he was suing the NBA for a billion dollars, well, he is changing his mind.


BURNETT: We are just learning that the hometown celebration for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has been cancelled. The organizers say they are calling of the event in the interest of public safety.

Also tonight, new details in the investigation top Bergdahl's disappearance. A U.S. official briefed on the Army's initial report tells CNN, Bergdahl left his post on other occasions. Bergdahl's commanders, though, did refer to him as a, quote, "good soldier." And some colleagues thought he was bored, his unit was too passive.

The verdict is still out whether Bergdahl was a hero or a deserter. But the question is, whether the military's response should always be the same. This whole question, the unwritten rule, "Leave no soldier behind," whether they deserted or not.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Many of the most heroic moments in military history involve American troops rescuing their own. The movie "Black Hawk Down" was about a real battle in Somalia to save helicopter crews after they were shot from the sky. Central to such efforts, a military touchstone found in the Army Ranger creed, "I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy." REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: It's often unspoken. I don't know that it's written or codified. But if you're taken captive, we're going to do all we can to get you back.

FOREMAN: That commitment has led to amazing moments such as the Special Forces rescue of Private Jessica Lynch, captured in Iraq.

JESSICA LYNCH, FORMER POW: And he told me, "We're American soldiers, and we're here to take you home." And I looked at him and I said, "Yes, I'm an American soldier, too."

FOREMAN: The goal of rescuing the fallen can undeniably be complicated by circumstances and costs. In the "Black Hawk Down" case, the battle to save a few troops cost 18 American lives and hundreds of Somalis died, too.

So, while Bergdahl's fellow soldiers roundly agree he deserved rescue --

JOSEEPH BAGGGETT, FORMER PRIVATE 1ST CLASS, U.S. ARMY: Of course, he needs to be saved. He is an American soldier. We never leave anybody behind.

FOREMAN: -- they also want accountability, saying it appears he was not abducted but simply walked off. And according to fellow soldiers, at least a half dozen of their comrades were killed trying to find him.

The Pentagon is not officially linked those deaths to the missing soldier, nor has he been charged with any crime. However --

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The Army will conduct a comprehensive review of all the circumstances regarding Sergeant Bergdahl's disappearance. And I think I would leave it there.

FOREMAN (on camera): And there are serious questions about whether Bergdahl was trying to connect with the Taliban. If that's true, if he willingly joined the enemy, that would likely nullify any responsibility of his fellow soldiers to bring him home.

(voice-over): But even that gets tricky in a war-like Afghanistan, where alliances are murky, battle lines are vague, and a soldier can disappear in a cloud of questions.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, Matthew Farwell, "Rolling Stones" writer who contributed to that great 2012 report on Bowe Bergdahl's disappearance, also a veteran and served in the same area in Afghanistan as Sergeant Bergdahl.

Also with us, Alex Berenson, a former "New York Times" reporter who was embedded with the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, also best-selling author recently of "The Most Faithful Spy." Great to have both of you with us.

All right. So, Alex, you know, you -- the U.S. military has this motto, right, unwritten -- leave no soldier behind. And you just heard Tom's reporting. I mean, in this case, was it the right thing to do? Is there ever a case where it isn't?

ALEX BERENSON, FORMER "NEW YORK TIMES" REPORTER: No, I don't think there is ever a case where it isn't right thing to do. I will -- you said, earlier, we don't know if this guy is a hero or a deserter. Maybe we don't know for sure. It certainly looks like he is on the deserter side of that chasm.

But that doesn't mean you don't go get him. Among other things, until you get him you don't know whether or not he is a deserter. He should be subject to our justice system, not the Taliban's justice system.

So, anybody who says he was not worth getting, I don't buy that. Anybody who says we shouldn't have traded Taliban commanders for him, I think that's a total misreading of what the situation in Afghanistan is right now. The Taliban are a legitimate political force, and we're going to be dealing with them whether we like it or not.

That does not mean that the White House handled this well at all. They've been incompetent from the minute that President Obama stepped into the Rose Garden with Bergdahl's parents.

BURNETT: All right. So, Matt, let me ask you, because the new reporting today, the U.S. official comes out and says that Bergdahl was a good soldier. Now, it doesn't go against the army report that said that they think he walked off the base. But nonetheless, a good soldier.

Does that square with what you heard and saw on the ground when you were reporting that piece?

MATTHEW FARWELL, WRITER, ROLLING STONE: Yes, that's actually old reporting from my standpoint, because that's the same reporting we did. The guys we spoke to in his unit said he sat on his cot reading Russian, you know, manuals from the war in Afghanistan prior. He studied his weapons like no other. He was Mr. Intensity, as his old platoon leader called him.

But he was an odd duck within the platoon. He didn't go out to the strip clubs with them. He didn't really like hang and do the thing. And he didn't gel so well with the platoon.

BURNETT: So, a good soldier makes sense to you. It doesn't fly in the face of him walking off the base.

FARWELL: Absolutely not.

BURNETT: All right. Alex, let's talk thank issue of desertion. It's going to become crucial. In your op-ed you actually define it, OK? And that is a soldier commits desertion if he quits his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid hazardous duty or shirk important service. That's a pretty low bar in a certain sense, because some people say he went AWOL. This is not saying you hate America. This is not -- this is not that kind of a bar. This is just -- you don't want to do it anymore.

BERENSON: The difference between desertion and being absent without leave, soldiers absent without leave in the military's judgment intends to come back. A soldier who has deserted does not intend to come back.


BERENSON: Ultimately, if he is charged -- first of all, he needs to be found competent, right? You know, there is an argument to me that walking off your base in Afghanistan with no weapon is so close to suicidal as to be, you know, evidence of mental illness on its face. But let's say he is found competent.


BERENSON: And let's say the Pentagon decides that he should be charged and they go forward. And this obviously, we're looking several steps ahead, he could be found guilty of desertion. He could be found guilty of absence without leave.

The penalty for desertion in wartime goes as high as death. That does not mean --

BURNETT: Well, they're not going to go for that.

BERENSON: No, exactly. There hasn't been an American soldier put to death for desertion since 1942.

So, we are a long way from all of that. But it's clear. You know, it's your piece really was the first major piece to say this in 2012. He did not want to be there.

FARWELL: Clearly, yes.

BURNETT: I mean, you're the one, you had the e-mails that he had sent, all of the evidence that you put together. And you talked to members of his platoon, to all of the people he had served with.

FARWELL: Well, not all of them.

BURNETT: Well, most of them, all right? And a lot of them have been speaking in the past couple of days since this news happened. I just want to play a very quick snap so the viewers can understand. These guys are very, very much on the same page about what they think happened.


EVAN BUETOW, FORMER BERGDAHL TEAM LEADER: Bergdahl is a deserter, and he's not a hero. And that he needs to answer for what he did.

SGT. JOSH KORDER (RET.), SERVED WITH BOWE BERGDAHL: There is not a doubt in my mind that he deserted us.

BAGGETT: The truth is that he did desert.

MATTHEW VERKANT, SERVED WITH SGT. BERGDAHL IN AFGHANISTAN: Me and a lot of other people think that it was pretty planned. It wasn't just a spur of the moment thing. He was planning it out, and then made it happen.


BURNETT: The thing is now some people are trying to take away the credibility of these guys. They're saying, well, look, they're being repped by Republican strategists. That is who is coordinating them and getting them out in the media.

OK, that's true. But does that mean what they say there isn't what they think?

FARWELL: No, absolutely not. And look, the really important thing with these guys is they've had a gag order put on them, you know, a nondisclosure agreement, a blanket nondisclosure for 3,500 American soldiers coming back from Afghanistan to just shut up about this. Not talk about it.

And they've held that in for five years. Can you imagine that? I came back from the war, and I was traumatized.

BURNETT: They are very intense about it.

FARWELL: And now, they can finally just release it.

BERENSON: The level of fury is, you can see it on those guys.

BURNETT: That's a good word to use. You feel it. You feel the intensity and the sort of why are you even asking this question.

FARWELL: We felt it talking to them, you know? I mean, these guys, the ones that were brave enough to come and talk to us two years ago when they could have faced sanctions --


FARWELL: -- were still furious.

BURNETT: So, before -- I just want to play this video one more time, the video that the Taliban released, which obviously is a propaganda video of the whole release when he drives up in the car, the helicopter comes, gets out, walks over, stumbles, keeps blinking with his eyes. What do you see when you see this video? What stands out to you, Matt?

FARWELL: Really, the professionalism of the exfiltration team is fantastic. I mean, those guys are on the ball. They're gutsy as hell. They know what they're doing. And they flew in with --

BURNETT: Risking their lives. FARWELL: With one Black Hawk. And guys with RPGs standing on the ridge side. I mean, those guys, they have stones.

BURNETT: Those guys are heroes?


BURNETT: What about you, Alex?

BERENSON: I question the narrative that the White House has put out that they couldn't have waited 30 days more, that they couldn't have notified Congress. When I look at that, Bergdahl certainly seems scared, as you can understand.

BURNETT: But not on death's door.

BERENSON: He does not seem on death's door. He walks, essentially, unaided. I don't see a guy who if we didn't get him out in 30 -- you know, imminently he was going to die.

FARWELL: Well, look, we could have gotten him out two years ago with the exact same terms, you know? So, putting a 30-day window on it, I'm just happy he is home.

I'm happy for his parents. They're great people. They're great Americans. But they're finally going to get reunited with their kids, which they deserve.

BERENSON: You're a veteran and you have credibility here.


BERENSON: Do you think he should be investigated or tried for desertion?

FARWELL: You know, I have -- I think the circumstances should be investigated. I think he should be evaluated, given the best treatment possible, given the best care possible. He is going to have a hell of a reintegration process. His family is as well.

And I think we should defer judgment on that until we know I really what happened and what we should go on and do about it.

BURNETT: If we ever know.

FARWELL: Which we might not.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.

And still to come, two 12-year-old girls allegedly stabbed their friend 19 times to impress a fictional character. The story is stunning, and gets even more so with the developments tonight.

And during the Cold War, secret underground bunker was built to protect U.S. leaders. No one knew about it for 30 years. Tonight, we're going to take you inside. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Breaking news: CNN has learned Donald Sterling has agreed to sell the L.A. Clippers for $2 billion. It was only days ago that Sterling announced he was suing the NBA for more than a billion dollars.

Today, Sterling reportedly telling a local news outlet he is ready to move on from the team. He feels fabulous.

According to that report, Sterling's lawyer says all disputes have been resolved. The deal was made by his wife Shelly with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. It still has to be approved by the NBA's board of governors. He bought that team for 13 million bucks.

Well, 12-year-old girl allegedly stabbed 19 times by her two friends. And police now say the fictional character "Slenderman" could have been the inspiration.

Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT with the latest on how the line between fantasy and reality crossed with these two girls.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mug shots of 12- year-old Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, pictures of innocence. But their actions say authorities beyond belief.

CHIEF RUSSELL JACK, WAUKESHA POLICE DEPARTMENT: I have not seen a crime of this nature, especially when you take into account it was 12- year-old girls stabbing 19 times and leaving the victim for dead.

MARQUEZ: The plan, the attack, the motive, all to please the fictitious horror character "Slenderman". You may not know him, but your kids just might. Created in 2009 in an online contest, the character who preys on children has taken on a life of its own, with thousands of pictures, videos and stories posted online. A virtual world, those obsessed with the macabre can access.

But 12-year-olds making the leap from fiction to reality?

(on camera): What affect does this have on students in general there?

TODD GRAY, SUPERINTENDENT, WAUKESHA SCHOOL DISTRICT: I think students and parents, there is a certain amount of fear. Are things going to be OK? Are students safe? And I can tell you, we do have a very safe school.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Gray, who oversees the school the victim and her alleged perpetrators attend, says some parents have kept their kids home. Other children have sought counseling in at the school in dealing with the emotion of the three young classmates involved in such a tragic and frightful incident.

GRAY: I have never witnessed anything like this in my 30 years of administration. This is the most horrific thing I've had to deal with.

MARQUEZ: The school has now for now banned the Creepy Pasta Web site, from all its computers and iPads pending a review. It's also urging parents to monitor what their kids are accessing online and to talk about it.


MARQUEZ: Now, the good news, if there is any good news in this is that the victim has now been upgraded to stable at the hospital here. We understand that she is walking just a little bit and talking, getting a little better by the day. The next hearing for the accused is coming up next Wednesday -- Erin.

MARQUEZ: All right, thank you very much, Miguel. It's just a bizarre story.

Still to come, at the height of the Cold War, secret underground bunker was built to keep American leaders safe. And tonight, you are going to go inside.

And the president, his workout routine caught on camera. What are those, 10? What are those weights? Come on, someone tell me.

All right. We'll be right back.


BURNETT: The strain between the U.S. and Russia has not been this intense since the Cold War. And that's the subject of tomorrow's episode of CNN's original series, "The Sixties".

Tonight, our David Mattingly takes you inside a secret Cold War bunker. It was meant to protect Congress in the event of a nuclear attack. It's never been seen before. It's been kept a secret until it came OUTFRONT now.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 30 years, it was one of America's biggest Cold War secret, locked behind tons of steel and concrete, buried 40 feet underground, a massive bunker built to hold Congress in case of nuclear war.

MARK KRAMER, HARVARD COLD WAR STUDIES DIRECTOR: The prospect of a large-scale nuclear war created a sense of vulnerability. Policymakers, because they knew they were among the first targets of such a war.

MATTINGLY: Literally hiding in plain sight the bunker was built to look like an expansion of West Virginia's exclusive Greenbrier Resort. In reality it was a classified fallout shelter designed for over a thousand people to live and work for as long as they possibly could.

(on camera): How long before the food would run out?


MATTINGLY: What about diesel fuel for the electricity?

WALLS: Forty-two days.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Today, the bunker is a tourist attraction. I took the tour and found the doors opened.

(on camera): And I noticed it only opened from one side.

WALLS: That's right.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Inside, it's a step back in time. Days of duck and cover and backyard fallout shelters.

Down here, I find remnants of sprawling dormitories, decontamination chambers, a cafeteria.

(on camera): This looks like the diner from happy days.

WALLS: It could be.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): There are also special meeting chambers for the House and Senate to go into session and a briefing room where leaders could address the American people in front of large murals of the Capitol and the White House.

(on camera): The idea was to present the most reassuring image possible that the U.S. government not only survived but was firmly in charge. Now fortunately that never happened. But America did come very close one day in 1962.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT: Good evening, my fellow citizens.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): That was during the Cuban missile crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take cover immediately in your area fallout shelter.

MATTINGLY: But if the evacuation order had had been given, officials would have quickly discovered the bunker's secrecy was also its greatest weakness.

(on camera): It was such a secret that only the House and Senate were ever told about this place. And in case of a nuclear attack there was no guarantee that the rest of Congress would be brief in time to get here safely.

(voice-over): Former Senator George Mitchell didn't know about the bunker until he came Senate majority leader in 1989.

SEN. GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: You think about it, in normal evacuation plans, you not only tell everybody about it you require people to drill for it.

MATTINGLY: At 250 miles from Washington, D.C., there is no way to know how few would have made it to the bunker alive.

And it wasn't long before advancing technology rendered it obsolete. It was finally exposed in 1992 by "The Washington Post", an elaborate relic of a dangerous, bygone era.

David Mattingly, CNN, White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia.


BURNETT: Well, all right, the bunker may have been probably worthless, but tomorrow on "The Sixties", America and the Soviet Union on the verge of the nuclear war. It is a great new addition of "The Sixties", and it's at 9:00 tomorrow night.

All right. We're going to take a brief break. When we come back, are you in better shape than President Obama. So, here's the thing, all right? I ask you what kind of weights he is lifting. They don't look -- they don't look super high weight. But the guy is in great shape with the workout on tape.


BURNETT: President Obama caught on camera working out in a hotel gym in Warsaw, Poland. He is just like us. Oh, that's right, I don't actually go to the gym when I'm working.

Anyway, the videos show the president clearly getting into his workout, lifting weights. By the way, we're told it looks like he is doing a really intense cardio workout with those weights, and yes, some squats. He used the elliptical.

It's amazing other guests caught close enough to take these pictures, because while other U.S. politicians like Aaron Schock, Paul Ryan and, of course, Arnold have been snapped working out, it is very rare to get an up-close and personal look at the presidential fitness plan in such detail.

Which brings me to tonight's number, 10 as in minutes, the amount of time President Reagan said he spent warming up before he worked out. In 1983, article for "Parade" magazine, he described his presidential plan which included free weights, machines and leg lift, as long, as well as outdoor pursuits like horseback riding and chopping wood.

"AC360" starts now.