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Video Released of Prisoner Exchange Between Taliban and U.S.; Former Prisoner of Taliban Recovering in German Hospital; Mississippi GOP Senatorial Primary Still Undecided; Storms Across the States; New Video of Bowe Bergdahl Being Set Free; Intense Fighting in Eastern Ukraine; Celebrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square

Aired June 4, 2014 - 07:00   ET


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: And then suddenly, like a scene out of the movies, the Special Forces Blackhawk helicopter descends. Two Taliban militants immediately escort Bergdahl towards the chopper, waving a white flag. Three U.S. special operations commandos approach, shaking hands with the Taliban militants. They pat Bergdahl's back and immediately begin escorting the helicopter.

In Bergdahl's left hand, a plastic bag, the contents not yet known. The commandos wave back to the militants as they run towards the chopper. They pat Bergdahl down again, this time in a deliberate and thorough fashion, presumably a swipe for explosives right before loading him in. This face to face exchange lasting less than 10 seconds before they are off. A message later emerges, don't come back to Afghanistan.

Another portion of the edited video shows the homecoming of the Taliban prisoners in a separate location. A caravan of SUVs pulls over alongside a busy stretch of road. The five Guantanamo Bay detainees exit, hugging their supporters.

This video now detailing what it considers a highly controversial exchange, the Obama administration facing steep criticism for what some say is a negotiation with terrorists, an exchange for a U.S. soldier who some say is a possible deserter.


So who were the men who came to get Bowe Bergdahl on that hillside? The Pentagon will only say they are special operations forces. What does that mean? That means these guys were either SEAL Team Six, Delta Force, task force 160, one of the most elite units that is never publicly acknowledged, you never see them in action. You never see their faces. This is an extraordinary video. We are seeing them. We are seeing how they operate. One of the final shots on the video, you see a couple of the troops in the helicopter, doors open, their feet over the side. They were ready until the very last minute for anything to possibly go wrong. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Obviously every need for caution there, Barbara. You see them backing away still facing the hostile there's, the Taliban. And to be clear, we don't believe you can see their faces, the special ops guys, in this video, either, which is why we didn't further blur it. Barbara Starr, thank you very much.

Let's bring in Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto. Actually Barbara, stay with us. He's in Washington. And senior international correspondent Matthew Chance live at Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany. That's where Bowe Bergdahl is being treated right now.

So Matthew, let me start with you here. Obviously a big concern here is the health and welfare of the sergeant, but also politically the administration saying a big reason we had to do this right now and not notify according to the 30-day rule was because we had word that he was in very failing health. What do you think this video does to help or hurt that suggestion?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he certainly looks frail on this video. His head shaven, he looks pale. And one of the first questions on that video, according to the Taliban narration that's overplayed on it is the special forces guy who took handover from him, saying to him, what's the health condition of Bergdahl, and tell us the truth if he's ill. And the Taliban narrator indicated that there was nothing wrong with him and then they went off and took him on the helicopter and came here to this regional medical facility in Landstuhl in southern Germany where medical officials have been examining him saying that there are medical concerns they're looking at, but he's in a stable condition. He's not in a serious condition at all. He's got dietary and nutritional needs that have to be addressed as a result of his nearly five years in captivity with the Taliban in the Afghan-Pakistan area. So those are the main issues they're focusing on.

In addition to that there are concerns about his psychological position, analysis to help him reintegrate into society. But it doesn't seem this is a matter of life or death according to the world we're getting from the Landstuhl medical officials here in Germany.

CUOMO: Good to hear. Jim, there's every reason to believe that we have no word that the special ops guys were also videoing this, but it's no coincidence this comes from the Taliban even though they're carrying a white flag as they walk out towards the Americans. This video is filled with bravado. What does it mean to them?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It means that this is seen from their perspective as a victory. They released this prisoner, yes, but they got five of their own in return, very senator members of the Taliban, and they did it on their terms. They held him for five years. They stood up, you know, this ragtag army of Taliban stood up to the best of the U.S. military here, face to face with them, and now you're seeing the video there of their own prisoners being released. They got this in return.

And I think the Taliban is very savvy about its public profile. They release videos when they want to and they use them for recruiting purposes. They use them to talk up their successes. And I think that's what we're seeing here. They stood up to the U.S. They got what they wanted in exchange. They did it on their terms, and that's why they're releasing this right now. CUOMO: Barbara, the politicians may be saying we're ending the hostilities in Afghanistan, but nobody believes the fight is going to end any time soon. And for that reason this video will probably be very useful strategically for us. What kinds of things do you think will be analyzed? We know they're looking closely at it. We heard word from the government on that part. What do you think they're hoping to see?

STARR: Well, I think any time that U.S. forces can actually see how the Taliban operate close-up, that is useful to them. This was an intelligence gathering exercise on both sides, obviously, as Jim pointed out. You know, the Taliban wanted the propaganda, the U.S. obviously getting Bergdahl back on that helicopter as fast as possible and getting out of there.

But they have this choreography worked out. They had all decided exactly how it was going to go so that trouble would not, in fact, break out. But this gave the special operations forces a very close- up look at these people and how they operate, how they establish their perimeter on that hillside, how they were armed, probably nothing they didn't already know, but any time you can put your eyeballs on it and see it close-up, it's useful.

CUOMO: Jim, there's a lot of speculation obviously about the circumstances under which Bergdahl left the post, how that happened, if he was captured or whether he walked off and was subsequently captured. When you see how they treat him in this video, do you see anything as a sign of anything other than ordinary suspicion and the pat-down and everything else?

SCIUTTO: Listen, one thing, you notice a couple of things. He's obviously familiar with his captors. There's that moment there where they have a close-up of him where it looks like he might be cracking a smile of familiarity, and of course that means they would have been speaking in the local dialect, in Pashtun. After five years in captivity I'm sure he spoke it. There was even a question of how good his English is now after so many years of just speaking that language. So he has a familiarity. He knows them. He's speaking with them in their own language. He spent five years in close contact with them. That's one thing, you know.

Listen, you know, that -- is that a sign of disloyalty? No, not necessarily. You're a captive. Some of this is just about survival, right? Five years in close quarters. But clearly he knows them.

Then, of course, you're seeing him there with his eyes blinking. Was he crying? Was he wincing from the sun? Was dust being churned up by the helicopter or by wind? That's a question. It's an emotional moment for him regardless, after all that time, after all that time not knowing when he if he would be released and if he would survive.

CUOMO: Matthew, what do you think our best guess is as to how this video is going to impact the nature of Bowe Bergdahl's reintegration? The more information people are getting about how he is perceived, what's known about him, how do you think this plays into the efforts of getting him back? CHANCE: It's difficult to say, isn't it? Certainly that reintegration process is going to be a lengthy one. The medical officials here at Landstuhl are saying it's going to be slow and deliberate. And there's no predetermined timetable about how long it's going to take. It will very much be set by the pace of his healing and the pace of his recovery.

Aside from that, though, and talking to what Jim was just saying, this is going to be the first opportunity, remember, here at Landstuhl, because they'll not just be able to assess him psychologically but possibly start the process of finding out exactly what happened back in 2009 when he fell into Taliban hands, to get his side of the story as to what happened. There's been a U.S. investigation that determined that he apparently left his base deliberately of his own accord. What we don't know is why he did that and how he fell into Taliban hands. They might get some kind of indication from that in their conversations here at Landstuhl.

CUOMO: Right, that's the point, is that I'm sure the U.S. officials are looking at this as much to see what they can glean about the Taliban as they can about Bowe Bergdahl and his re-integration. There's going to be this balance of skepticism about him and just the plain hope of getting him back into mainstream society. Thanks to all of you for your take on this. We're going to be discussing the video throughout the day. I'm sure there's plenty there to unpack. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now to another big story back at home. Among the major primaries last night likely the most closely watched was in Mississippi. Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel has a slim lead over six-term incumbent Thad Cochran, but still this morning it is not over yet. That's just one of last night's big races that could decide the future of the political landscape in Washington. Let's get to Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash who is live from Jackson, Mississippi. So Dana, after six terms Republican Senator Thad Cochran could be heading for a runoff. What is going on?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There was a serious punch to the gut last night at Cochran headquarters where we were waiting and waiting and waiting to see if either of them would finally reach that 50 percent mark which would call this race and also avoid a runoff. It didn't happen. They are both at about 49 percent. Nobody has a 50 percent area. So they're probably going to have a runoff.

Now, why is that? Now, the key thing that Cochran supporters and aides were most disappointed about was turnout among the areas that really have supported Cochran for so long, primarily along the coast of Mississippi. And people there will understand that because they knew that is where Katrina hit. One of the things that Cochran has been campaigning hard on is to say, I know that you're angry at Washington, but Washington can help you. I helped you by bringing federal dollars here not coast, to help you with Katrina. That didn't seem to really help there, the anti-Washington wave was so strong.

One other interesting tidbit. The county that his Republican challenger Chris McDaniel is from, Jones County, that went overwhelmingly for McDaniel. This is actually a candidate that has a history of serious independence. During the Civil War, Jones County after the South had seceded, it seceded from the Confederacy. So that just kind of shows you all of the dynamics that Thad Cochran is up against here.

BOLDUAN: I'm thinking back, you're in Mississippi this morning. You were in Kentucky just last month covering Senator Mitch McConnell's race, what is different about this race here? If you could talk about being similar dynamics, Tea Party versus establishment, what's different here than in Kentucky because Mitch McConnell's seniority, that helped him?

BASH: Such a great question. Absolutely, and that's what Thad Cochran was hoping would help him, the fact that not only has he been in the Senate for 36 years. If Republicans take control he would be the chairman of the appropriations committee, which in laymen's terms means he's in charge of directing the federal dollars, which in a poor state like Mississippi, I talked to a lot of people who said that's a big deal. We like that.

But the difference were I think several things. Number one, Mitch McConnell in Kentucky was able to make his Republican challenger really not credible. And they were not able to do that as successfully here against Chris McDaniel, who is a state senator, who was able to really galvanize a lot of support. The other thing is just when it comes to outside money and outside forces, early on they thought that Thad Cochran was going to be the most likely to topple in the Republican establishment. You saw more money, more intensity coming in from all over the country. You name the Tea Party group, they were here to try to get rid of him. And I think that also played a serious role.

BOLDUAN: Money is often part of the game. That is for sure when it comes to these races. Dana, thank you so much. As light come up in Mississippi, that race is still not called. A runoff we could still see later this month. Thanks, Dana. Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, let's take a look at more of your headlines right now.

As the controversial decision to release Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl continues to follow him, President Obama is in Warsaw today where just hours ago he met with Ukraine's president-elect. The president also gave a speech as part of event to mark the 25th anniversary of Poland's first democratic elections. He will leave for Brussels today for a summit with the new G-7 group.

V.A. officials informing lawmakers that they have found 10 new cases of long treatment delays and secret waiting lists at facilities in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. CNN was first to report the existence of those delays.

Meanwhile, the White House reportedly has its sights set on Cleveland clinic's CEO Toby Cosgrove to become the next V.A. secretary. According to the ""Wall Street Journal," Dr. Cosgrove is a decorated Vietnam War vet and is said to be seriously considering the job. Breaking overnight, more severe weather sweeping through the Midwest, heavy, heavy rain, 85-mile-an-hour winds triggering flash flooding in some areas. There have also been reports of nearly a dozen tornadoes in several states. And baseball size hail damaged homes and cars in parts of Iowa and Nebraska. And sadly, it is not over yet. CNN's Indra Petersons is watching it all for us live in Blair, Nebraska, one of the areas that saw that hail. Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Michaela, you may be wondering what it looks like the day after baseball-sized hail. How about grapefruit-sized hail? We're hearing reports that they had 4.25 inch hail falling. Take a look at the welts here on these vehicles. You're talking about the back and front windshield completely wiped out. All up and downwards, about 4,300 cars on the lot and even around town, really completely blown out by all of this hail. And unfortunately, today is not the only day we're going to be talking about severe weather.

But let's talk about what's going on right now. You can look at the radar. Still rain and thunderstorms falling right around Iowa, pushing in through Illinois. We're talking about a severe weather threat today also from Ohio back in through Tennessee. And still, once again, right in tornado alley, all the way up and down through the plains, we'll be looking for that threat, not as high as what we saw yesterday but nonetheless, it will be out there.

Talking about the timing. Yes, we already know where it is right now, kind of right near Ohio. But again, overnight you're going to see it spread into the Ohio valley. Eventually overnight, evening, you can see it spread into the northeast. Starting to see some heavy rain, about two to four inches under the heavier thunderstorms.

Let's just hope, guys, we do not see more hail like this. Let me tell you because we went on our coffee run this morning, and it was pretty intense to see every single car up and down these streets, fully blown out, windshields completely blown out. I don't think they want to see another day like this.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Indra, thank you very much.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, we're continuing to take a look, a close look at this brand new video of the moment Bowe Bergdahl was handed over to Americans. The first look of the missing soldier seen in years.

CUOMO: Also, up close in that video, the moment those high-valued targets once held in Gitmo were set free. The analysis continues right after the break.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

We're continuing to follow the breaking news this morning. Powerful, really extraordinary new video released overnight by the Taliban of the moment Bowe Bergdahl was set free, handed over to the U.S. military. You can see Sergeant Bergdahl there looking perhaps dazed and helped into the helicopter that then takes him away. This is a rare look at this kind of special operation, really not seen before.

Joining us by phone, CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes to talk more about this. Tom, what is your first impressions of this video? What strikes you?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, what strikes me is he is able to walk from the truck to the helicopter pretty much under his own power. You know, from what we heard about the condition he was going to be in and trade had to happen so quickly because that there wasn't time because of his deteriorating health, it doesn't seem to be all that deteriorated. You know, he wasn't carried on a stretcher from one vehicle to the helicopter. He walked over. He doesn't look in great physical shape, but he doesn't look terrible, either.

BOLDUAN: And that is a big question. What you're getting to is one of the key questions in the reasoning that the administration said they needed to move so quickly because of, in part at least, because of his deteriorating health. And you don't think that you see -- he's in such bad -- such a bad state.

FUENTES: Well, I'm not a medical doctor, but I mean, we can watch with our own eyes that he's walking under his own power from one vehicle to the other. So I think that, you know, you tend to think that he's not -- he's obviously not on his death bed.

BOLDUAN: One thing we also see as we continue to look at this video -- we can also put up the Pentagon has released a statement saying in part that they're aware of the video allegedly released by Taliban. They say that they have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the video, but also say that they are reviewing it. What are they reviewing it for? What do you think they are trying to gather from this video?

FUENTES: Well, they might be trying to review it for, if they can -- you know, if they can recognize any of the Taliban members, although that would be hard to do unless you can tell by which scarf each person is wearing, who is who. They're carrying AK-47s.

What they are showing to us in the video doesn't seem to be anything that we haven't shown us before with members of the Taliban or that our troops don't encounter all the time they're in combat with them in Afghanistan. So I think they can review it for that. I don't know how you could stage this. You know, with the Taliban obtaining their own helicopter and a body double to film this or stage this. I mean, it has to seem to them that this is Bergdahl, and that's a U.S. helicopter, and they came and picked him up.

BOLDAUN: And also you see later in the video that was released -- again, this is released by the Taliban's media arm. You also see more video of the five Taliban detainees as they're being released.

The White House has said that it -- that it has received assurances that while they are released, they are going to be under a watchful eye. They are going to be monitored by Qatar and also by the -- by the U.S., you would assume. Do you believe that? Do you believe those assurances can be so sure?

FUENTES: Two things about that. The Bush White House received similar assurances about, you know, eight or ten years ago and released people who ended up back on the battlefield, ended up back in combat against us. So depending on which country it is, if they are not in some kind of physical detention in a prison, I don't know how you guarantee that they're just going to keep an eye on them.

And certainly, we have our own intelligence forces in the world, but, you know, I would have to think the CIA has better things to do than to try to monitor five guys to see what they're up to. You know, in the future, what they continue to do.

And then another comment I would have is that in the end -- at the end of the wars, when prisoners were released and combatants were turned back over to -- repatriated to their country, you didn't expect -- there was no future battlefield. There was no battlefield for them to return to wage combat with us.

But in this case, you know, we could be fighting with or without the number of troops that we're going to have in Afghanistan. The battle itself is going to go on probably for decades. And so, the idea that all five of these guys are suddenly going to become, you know, model citizens and not pose a danger to us in the future, I don't know how anybody guarantees that.

BOLDUAN: Well, and that is just one part of this story. I mean, really the controversy that is going to continue. You've got the detainee issue. And now you have this extraordinary video to see the moment when Bowe Bergdahl is released.

Tom Fuentes, thank you so much. We'll speak to you soon.

FUENTES: Thank you, Kate.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, was the Bowe Bergdahl swap a lousy deal? That's a question many are asking. John McCain the senator seems to think so. Is there reason to believe more will try to capture Americans and swap?


PEREIRA: Almost half past the hour here on your Wednesday.

Let's take a look at your headlines. Riveting new video released by the Taliban of the moment Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was set free. The Army sergeant looking dazed as he's handed over to U.S. personnel and then helped into a chopper.

Here at home, a comprehensive review of Bergdahl's capture has been launched by the U.S. Army. They're trying to determine whether the prisoner of war who was swapped for five Taliban detainees is actually a deserter.

Another rough night for the nation's heartland. Torrential rains and 85-mile-an-hour winds causing flash flooding. Nearly a dozen tornadoes have been reported in several states now. Parts of Iowa and Nebraska getting pummeled by damaging hail, some the size of baseballs.

Intense fighting this morning in eastern Ukraine where the border guard base on the outskirts of Luhansk has been taken over by pro- Russian separatists. The Ukrainian national guard says its troops at the base have been relocated now to a safe place. According to the national guard, three of its men were wounded while six of the attackers were killed.

Celebrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square as Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is officially confirmed as the winner of Egypt's presidential election. The former army chief took 96 percent of the vote. But critics are questioning legitimacy of the election following a relentless crackdown on the opposition. Al-Sisi led the military overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi last year. A swearing in ceremony is scheduled for this Sunday.

Those are your headlines.

CUOMO: All right, lot of politics on the table today, especially with this new video showing Bowe Bergdahl being handed over. So let's get to Inside Politics on NEW DAY with Mr. John King. John?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you both and to Michaela as well. I'll be back to you in just a few minutes. You're right, a lot of ground to cover inside politics this morning. With me to share their reporting and their insights, Nia Malika Henderson of the "Washington Post".