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THE SITUATION ROOM
New Details about Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's Disappearance; Hometown Cancels Bergdahl Celebration; Interview with Marco Rubio; Breaking Down the Taliban Video; Couple Missing in Afghanistan; New Evidence of Flight 370?; Obama Caught on Tape Working Out
Aired June 4, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, Jake, thank you.
Happening now, breaking news -- we have new prisoner swap details. And stunning images show armed Taliban fighters handing over Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl to U.S. troops. We're learning why the Obama administration may have acted urgently to free him.
Political blowback -- many lawmakers who at first cheered Bergdahl's release are now slamming the exchange for hard core Taliban figures. I'll ask Republican senator, possible 2016 hopeful, Marco Rubio, what he would have done.
And a couple missing in Afghanistan -- video now surfacing of an American woman and her husband who disappeared while traveling in Taliban territory.
And President Obama's workout -- a grimacing president all caught on camera, as he pumps iron in a Polish hotel gym.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's get right to the breaking news. New details about the investigation into Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's disappearance and those still secret videos that may have led U.S. officials to urgently seek his release.
All this coming as extraordinary new images show a cautious momentary truce between U.S. Special Ops troops and heavily armed Taliban, as he leaves five years of captivity, captivity under a white flag, and is whisked away in a helicopter.
But there's growing outrage and controversy over the exchange of five hard core Taliban figures for a single American soldier.
I'll speak with one of those critics, Republican senator, Marco Rubio.
Our correspondents are also standing by with the kind of coverage that only CNN can deliver.
Let's begin with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara, what's the latest?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you look at this extraordinary video, one of the questions that has been swirling all day, Bergdahl walked to the helicopter on his own.
Does that mean he is healthy?
In contrast to the administration's position, it tried -- it wanted to get him released because of his declining health. Officials say no, that this video you see today does not tell the whole story. They say there are still two unreleased, classified videos, proof of life videos that showed Bergdahl to be in declining health.
Additionally, there was classified intelligence in last several weeks that also underscored his health situation. That intelligence briefed to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
We don't know the details, but officials insist that what they were so worried about was his health and his safety, concerns that the Taliban were beginning to see him of less value to them because U.S. troops were getting out of Afghanistan.
The administration says it had no choice but to do what it could to get him out of Taliban hands -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I know you're learning more about the circumstances when he was captured back in June of 2009.
What are you learning -- Barbara?
STARR: Well, you know, the question has always been did he leave the base on his own?
I've talked to officials now familiar with the original fact-finding investigation. They do underscore that that found that he did leave the base of his own free will. There was no indication that Taliban got inside the wire, if you will. He walked out.
But here's what's so interesting, Wolf. Troops that were interviewed for this fact-finding investigation say that there were previous instances when Bergdahl left the base, previous occasions.
What does that then say about the security of the unit, if someone was able to get outside the concertina wire without being noticed?
That means there was enough vulnerability that Taliban could possibly get in. That is a significant issue.
They also say that one of his commanders says Bergdahl was a good soldier in the beginning, a good -- and several of them talked about him being a good soldier.
The troops, however, say that they believe that he simply walked away because he was so-called bored with the unit, that he didn't feel the unit was doing a lot.
So it all, again, the bottom line remains to be seen. They have to talk to Bergdahl. They have to get his side of the story -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I didn't know that, that apparently the initial report suggested he may have left that base on earlier occasions. I assume he may have left the base, but then on his own, he came back, is that what you're hearing -- Barbara?
STARR: Yes. I mean, apparently, by all accounts, he went, you know, basically snuck outside the wire with no one noticing, because nobody in the unit reported it. But if you can sneak outside the wire in a very small outpost with none of the other troops noticing, again, Wolf, what does that say about the vulnerability of the base?
And, you know, it remains to be seen all of these accounts that we seem to be -- that seem to be swirling in public. You know, there's been a lot of reports that Bergdahl left a note saying that he was leaving.
Well, the officials I've talked to who've seen the fact-finding investigation say in that report there is no mention of a note -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr reporting from the Pentagon with that new information. I know you're working your sources. You'll come back later.
When the news of Bowe Bergdahl's release was announced, the organizers of the annual Bring Back Bowe event in his hometown of Hailey, Idaho declared that the event would be renamed Bowe is Back. But now we're learning the celebration has been effectively canceled, with the town saying it can't handle the expected attendance.
At the same time, many politicians who at first applauded the release of an American captive have now quickly changed their tune.
Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is up on Capitol Hill.
He's been looking into this important part of the story.
What are you discovering -- Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the full Senate is invited to meetings scheduled to begin at the bottom of the hour. This is a rare closed door meeting on the swap that led to the release of Sergeant Bergdahl, a meeting to try to quiet the growing discontent over the swap and buffer the administration from what is effectively becoming a big political mine field.
JOHNS (voice-over): Tonight, Democrats are crying foul, saying some Republican critics of the president are now playing politics over the decision to free Sergeant Bergdahl, a decision that they once seemingly cheered.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Some of these senators are now denouncing the very same efforts to secure Sergeant Bergdahl's release. It's clear they're worried his release could be seen as a victory for President Obama.
JOHNS: Republicans today rejected that accusation.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: These are the hardest of the hard core. They will be returning to the fight and they will endanger lives of Americans. So any allegation that I have changed my opinion is an absolute lie.
JOHNS: Then there are those Republicans who appear to have erased their support for Bergdahl's release. Republican Congressman Lee Terry of Nebraska put out this statement Saturday applauding the release of the 28-year-old soldier. His office later took it down, telling reporters the congressman learned some, quote, "extremely troubling things about the case."
Republican Congressman Mark Amodei of Nevada Tweeted that, "The release of Bergdahl was best news I've heard in a long time." That Tweet was deleted 15 hours later.
And in Iowa, Republican Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, a veteran, Tweeted, "Thoughts and prayers to the Bergdahl family," that Tweet was reportedly deleted in 25 minutes.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
JOHNS: The administration is hoping this classified briefing scheduled to begin in just a few minutes will help answer some of the questions about why the president did not inform the Congress and also cut off some of the criticism -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Joe.
We'll stand by outside that briefing and speak to some of the members afterwards and get the latest.
Joe Johns reporting from Capitol Hill.
The heated debate on Capitol Hill obviously showing, at least at this point, no signs of stopping in the Mark Amodei ahead.
And joining us now, Senator Marco Rubio from Florida.
He's a key member of the Foreign Relations, as well as Intelligence Committees.
Senator Rubio, the majority leader, Harry Reid, in the Senate, he says a lot of the Republicans, not necessarily you, but a lot of Republicans are simply doing this criticism of the president and this swap for political reasons, because they don't want the president to be seen as getting a political victory.
To which you say?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I'm not sure what kind of political victory he is talking about. I think across this country, this issue has been largely criticized because it makes no sense. You have just traded an American service member in exchange for five extremely dangerous individuals who, by -- in all likelihood, will rejoin the fight against the United States sooner rather than later.
And he did so, by the way, in complete violation of the law, including his own members, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, for example, Dianne Feinstein, someone who is well respected around here for her seriousness on these issues, wasn't even consulted or notified, as the law required.
BLITZER: But an American soldier is on his way home after spending five years in captivity.
Aren't you happy about that?
RUBIO: We are, of course. I mean no one is lamenting the fact that an American will be reunited with his family in the United States.
But that's not what's being criticized. What's being criticized is the process by which it was done. And the process by which it was done has put in danger now countless American men and women in uniform across this -- across the globe. We've -- what the president has done here is sent a very clear message and incentive, that if you can get your hands on an American serviceman or woman, you can trade them for as many as five terrorists.
BLITZER: So what would you have done if the secretary of Defense says there's an opening, the government of Qatar now says they can bring this guy home, Sergeant Bergdahl, in exchange for these five Taliban detainees?
What would you have done if you had been president?
RUBIO: I would have done everything short of endanger the national security of the United States, which is what he has done. He has returned five dangerous terrorists to the battlefield. This American is going to go home to his family. These five members of the Taliban are going to go back to the battlefield, and including a couple of them that were very serious members of the Taliban, senior members of the Taliban, commanders within the Taliban, are going to return right back to the battlefield and proceed to continue to attack and plot to kill Americans.
BLITZER: So you would have rejected this deal.
Would you have come up with a counter-proposal to try to free Sergeant Bergdahl?
RUBIO: Again, I would have explored any option available to us that would have been within the national security of the United States.
By the way, it's not just me that would have rejected this. This deal was widely criticized when he first brought it before the members of Congress in both parties, primarily for the reasons that I have outlined here. And that is that you don't free five dangerous criminals, murderers, members of the Taliban, and return them to the battlefield, as they have done. BLITZER: What about this notion that he was gravely ill?
RUBIO: Well, they've provided no evidence of that. Of course, we're going to have a meeting here in a few minutes where I hope they'll provide evidence of that fact. And if that's the case, then that's something that may be involved in our future calculus.
But as of -- as of now, they've provided zero evidence of that being a fact.
And beyond that, I would say to you that that's not a justification that they have made beyond some pronouncements in the media. What they've largely said is that this was an effort to further reconciliation between the Taliban and the government in Afghanistan.
And, again, I just don't believe that that is legitimate, and, in fact, that that's what this will lead to.
What this will lead to is five member -- terrorist members of the Taliban returning to the battlefield to kill Americans.
BLITZER: Do you believe these five Taliban detainees who were detained at GITMO for the last 12 or 13 years actually had American blood on their hands?
RUBIO: Absolutely. Not only do I believe they did, I believe, unfortunately, they may again in the future. These are five of the most dangerous individuals we had as enemy combatants. And the fact that they're now going to be soon rejoining the fight against America, at least most of them will be, um, is something that we should all be very concerned about.
And what we should be even more concerned about is this has sent a very powerful message to enemies of America across the globe, from Iran to North Korea to, of course, all these non-state actors in North Africa and the Middle East that there's great value in capturing an American, because if you do, you can get some of your own prisoners released.
BLITZER: Did -- do you believe you know the details of his disappearance from that base, Sergeant Bergdahl?
RUBIO: They have not shared that fully with us. And I have not commented on it, because I think that's a matter for the criminal justice system within the military. There's a process for them to review that and, if, in fact, there are reasons to charge him in court-martial or what have you, I leave that up to them.
I'll tell you, I'm not here to criticize Sergeant Bergdahl. I think that we're all happy that he's back with his family.
What I criticize is the process the president has followed, because it has endangered Americans now and in the future.
BLITZER: I heard Senator Lindsey Graham say words -- and I'll paraphrase him. He says it's going to be impossible -- this is Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina -- for them to flow prisoners out of GITMO now without a huge backlash. Then he goes on to say this: "There will be people on our side," meaning the Republican side, "calling for his impeachment if he did that."
Are you with Senator Graham on that?
RUBIO: Well, I'm not, at this point, calling for impeachment. This president has two years left in his term. We hope they pass quickly, that he will -- that we can somehow have a majority here in the Senate so we can limit the amount of damage he's doing to our economy and to our national security.
I'm not sure that's the right approach. And to be honest with you, I'm not sure there's many people here that are focused on that right now.
BLITZER: I read the letter that you wrote Secretary Hagel. And you asked a whole bunch of questions. One of the questions you asked is, "Is the U.S. Government providing Qatar any additional money, monitoring technology or personnel support to track the released detainees?"
Do you have inside information you can share with us --
RUBIO: No. And we're --
BLITZER: -- on what promises may have been provided to Qatar in exchange for their working out this deal?
RUBIO: Well, the notification they made to Congress is still classified, so -- and I don't want to violate that. Suffice it to say that I am concerned about the ability or the willingness of the Qatari government to monitor these individuals even for the limited period of time that they are obligated to do so. And a -- and I -- that's why I continue to say that I fully anticipate that most, if not all, of these five men will soon return to the battlefield and -- and plot to kill Americans and our allies in that region and, potentially, around the world.
BLITZER: As far as you know, Senator, we know that in exchange for these five detainees, Bergdahl is now free.
But was there anything else in this deal?
Did the Qataris do anything to try to sweeten the pot, specifically provide money to the Taliban or the Haqqani Network?
RUBIO: Well, again, that's not anything we've been made aware of, and unfortunately, part of the notifica -- the notification that was provided to Congress is still classified at this point. But I just remain concerned about their willingness, and, quite frankly, their capability of monitoring these individuals. And if you understand anything about this region of the world, once these individuals are released there, it's going to be very difficult, even if they really wanted to, to monitor them and their communications.
BLITZER: Senator Rubio, thanks very much for coming in.
RUBIO: Thanks. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, a tense and very brief truce. We're going to break down that extraordinary video showing U.S. troops taking Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl away from his Taliban captors. So what can investigators learn from it?
And video surfacing of an American woman and her husband who vanished in the Taliban-controlled corner of Afghanistan. Are they being held hostage?
BLITZER: Tense moments under a white flag of truce, U.S. troops face to face with Taliban fighters, retrieving an American soldier held captive for five years in Afghanistan. It's all captured in a stunning Taliban video, complete with commentary. Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Walk us through, step by step, what we see.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. Well, this was a massive propaganda exercise for the Taliban here, sold by a media-savvy insurgency as a victory over the United States. And there are signs it is working to some extent. So many downloads today it crashed the Taliban website, they claim.
More broadly, this was the first prisoner exchange between the U.S. and the Taliban in the 13 years of the nation's longest war caught on camera. And in these images we get a rare view of both the Taliban and U.S. Special Forces in action.
SCIUTTO (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 point Bergdahl manages a brief awkward smile, evidence of happiness or nervousness. One captor then 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." And 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 Mujahidin fighters with me in the area. And we had armed Mujahidin on the peaks of the hills around the area. SCIUTTO: And he's carrying a white plastic bag, the 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 helo, Bergdahl is patted down once again, this time much more thoroughly, a precaution against a bomb or booby trap before the Black Hawk helicopter disappears into the sky.
SCIUTTO: So what did U.S. military officials see in those two proof- of-life videos they obtained, helping to spark this exchange? A U.S. official tells me there were several signs from the video released in December that led the U.S. government to be greatly concerned about Bergdahl's health, including the fact that he looked frail. And regardless of what we saw in that video today, which was the evidence was strong enough to accelerate efforts, Wolf, for his return home.
BLITZER: Jim, stand by for a moment. I want to dig a little bit deeper with body language expert Chris Ulrich, who's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Also, "The Washington Post" associate editor, David Ignatius. He's the author of the brand-new book, "The Director," which I recommend. It's a novel, a spy thriller. Also, the former U.S. Navy SEAL, Brandon Webb. He's joining us from New York.
Chris, let's talk a little bit about the video. You've had a chance to study it. It's a long video, 16, 17 minutes or so. The smile, what do you make of that? Because he does seem, as we're showing our viewers right now, to get a little smile going there.
CHRIS ULRICH, BODY LANGUAGE EXPERT: Yes, oftentimes, Wolf, sometimes it's not what it seems. We see that smile with him. We laugh for three reasons. We laugh because we're happy. We laugh because we're in a duping delight mode; we're evil and we're trying to get something over on somebody. And we laugh because we're anxious. Here's what we see is a much more anxious, nervous laugh, almost relieving stress. He's surrounded by Taliban. Helicopter -- or gunships are over him. There's a lot of stress around him. And we also see it in his blink rate.
BLITZER: David, you know a lot about this kind of stuff. You've written a lot of books on it. The interaction that he seems to have with his Taliban captors, what do you make of that? DAVID IGNATIUS, ASSOCIATED EDITOR, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, the thing we're most curious about is whether he in some sense felt part of his captives' -- captors' world, and whether there was a Stockholm syndrome kind of experience for him.
I don't mean to sound glib, but there's a way in this amazing video looks like a tease for an episode of "Homeland" in which this person who's been held captive for so long under brutal conditions comes home. And you just wonder looking at him, who is he? How has this experience changed him? What's he going to behave like in the future?
BLITZER: Jim, you've been speaking to experts, too. If you're looking at the body, it seems like the soldier and the respect that is shown, I don't know, by both sides, if you will, what do make of that?
SCIUTTO: It's interesting. I want to show you just a moment in the film here. And here is the point when they have the exchange. You first see him here. He gives a sign of respect, his left hand over his arm, something -- something, you know, traditional in Afghan society. They do it all the time, a sign of respect as they come in.
But you'll notice that the video continues. Then they shake hands. He uses his left hand here, and he uses his left hand here. This is, you can tell, this soldier, he's in a rush. He shook with one hand with his right hand, one with his left hand. He -- this soldier has something in his right hand here.
But what's interesting, is the Taliban made a big deal out of this in their commentary. They said, "Why do they shake with their left hand? They were in such a rush, they were nervous." It's part of their propaganda commentary. What's interesting about that, it is an insult in Afghan society. The Taliban knows it's an insult, so they say, "Hey, look at these guys. They were in such a rush, they were so nervous they didn't have time to shake our right hand."
It's just reminder that this is a propaganda moment for the Taliban. They're going to take advantaging of everything that happened during this very short, minute-long interaction to their advantage.
BLITZER: Brandon, you were a Navy SEAL What did you make of the frisking of the sergeant, once very quickly when he got out of that vehicle, and then just before he boarded the helicopter? Is that standard operating procedure? I assume they're looking for explosives.
BRANDON WEBB, FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL: Yes. They're taking precautions for any explosives. I think that was another reason why they took that plastic bag Bergdahl was holding and dumped it on the ground.
But another interesting point on the propaganda piece that no one has really mentioned up until now is they have a Pashtun saying that boys are for pleasure, women are for babies. And the way Bergdahl was presented, very clean-shaven and effeminate, I think is another insult, a purposeful insult to America in the hand-off.
BLITZER: What do you mean in? That they shaved him? Explain that. I'm not exactly following what you're suggesting.
WEBB: In the Afghan culture, in the Pashtun culture, to grow facial hair and hair in general is to be very manly. It's very effeminate to present Bergdahl as very clean-shaven, his head shaven. His face is shaven, as well. And this is a very effeminate look in that Pashtun society. And so to present him in this way is, I think, another insult and part of the propaganda during the hand-over.
BLITZER: Yes. But let me just follow up one more time, Brandon. It's possible -- just tell me what you think -- that they were cleaning him up, if you will, to make him look healthier, better, to show, "Yes, we had him for five years, but we really kept him in pretty good shape. So we're going to shave him. That's what the west likes." These Taliban guys might be more sophisticated?
WEBB: Yes, I don't think so. I mean, my experience in Afghanistan, you know, having that facial hair is a very, very big sign of manliness. And to shave Bergdahl and present him how they did, to me, in my experience, serving in Afghanistan, it's a direct, very clear message.
BLITZER: That's a good point. David, you spent a lot of time in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What do you make of that?
IGNATIUS: You know, I can't comment on the specific intent in shaving him in the way that they did. It is true, this is a war-like, virile culture.
My previous novel before "The Director" was about how wars end in this part of the world. And I'm struck by the way in which something that was originally intended as a confidence-building measure -- that's why this prisoner exchange was first devised, as a bridge to future negotiations to end the conflict -- instead has become a confidence- destroying moment. Whether that was the Taliban's intention or not, that's what the product is, and it's unfortunate.
BLITZER: What did you make of that, the point that Brandon was just making?
ULRICH: Well, looking at Sergeant Bergdahl's body language, he goes into an imploded posture, very subservient, even going back to your point about captives, not trying to aggravate those captives [SIC] in any way. We know when the body is in this kind of contracted position, through research at Harvard University, that our cortisol levels shoot up. That's congruent with what we see with him in his stress that we're seeing on his face, that increased blink rate that we're seeing.
BLITZER: Could we tell his health based on the video that we just see when he was sitting in the vehicle, that he walks across the field, boards that U.S. military helicopter? Could you get a sense, watching that frame by frame by frame, is the guy healthy, not so healthy?
ULRICH: Hard to dictate whether or not he's healthy, Wolf. We do see him in either a state of almost shock. His blink rate, the average blink rate of an individual is 15 to 25 times a minute, Wolf. What we see with him in that one clip where he's smiling, in eight second his blinks 18 times, Wolf. That's heightened stress.
So he is kind of almost like a rag doll, as they walk him out there. Probably not in the best of health, but probably it's hard to say if he's healthy or he's damaged.
BLITZER: What are you hearing about his health from your sources?
SCIUTTO: Well, this is what you'll hear frequently from officials today. Don't conclude too much from what you see from these 30 seconds, 60 seconds of video of him here, that they have a lot of evidence that made them confident that his health was compromised. They have two proof-of-life videos, one that came in December, another in the same, similar time frame. Plus other intelligence which made them very concerned that, for instance, his frailness in these videos based on comparing them to previous videos. And they have experts like you who look at these things to make those conclusions.
So they say whatever you can see in the video today, remember we have a lot more information leading up to this to back up our decision.
BLITZER: You know what? I -- we're just connecting right now with Matthew Chance, our senior international correspondent. He's at Landstuhl at the U.S. hospital, a military hospital there where Bergdahl is being treated.
What are they telling you, Matthew, about his -- you know, he arrived there, what, Sunday, he was picked up in that helicopter on Saturday. What are they -- officials there in Landstuhl saying about his health?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, since that arrival, we are seeing no sign of Sergeant Bergdahl, of course, but we have had a number of statements that had been released by the Landstuhl Regional Medical Facility, where he's being treated. They're saying he's in a stable condition. They're not going into any great detail about the medical issues he's confronting but are saying, for instance, part of his treatment is to address some dietary and nutritional issues that have emerged as a result of him being in captivity for nearly five years.
But the sense you get is there's nothing life threatening. It's not like there's an imminent threat to his life or he's in a very poor situation, describing his situation, as I say, as stable. No indication, though, as to when he might be going home. One of the areas they're going to be focusing on, Wolf, is the psychological damage, of course. He's been in captivity for so long that would inevitably have had a traumatic effect for him. That will be part of the reintegration process that they're focusing on here in Landstuhl -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. They're not saying when he's going to be flown to San Antonio to a U.S. military hospital there for treatment. In the meantime, he's in Germany.
Brandon Webb, you're a former Navy SEAL, that kind of mission, to send Special Operations Forces in a helicopter -- I assume other helicopters are hovering overhead, fighter jets are hovering overhead, you've got to be worried that this could be a trap and these guys' lives could be in danger. How do you mitigate that?
WEBB: Well, it's tough. You know, traditionally, Special Operations operate exclusively in the nighttime environment where you can leverage technology, the night vision and thermal imagery. So to do a daytime pickup like this is extremely risky. The AC-130 gunship will not fly as standard operating procedure in daylight condition. You have an overcast which makes it -- overcast which makes it extremely difficult to put a predator drone overhead to monitor the situation.
So daylight pick up like this is extremely risky. What's interesting, too, is our sources, in a story we wrote on sofrep.com said they had for three months the Joint Special Operations Command had eyes on Bergdahl. So it makes me question this whole sense of urgency around this exchange, when they had eyes on him for three months leading up to this.
BLITZER: I assume that they were thinking at least of sending in a mission to rescue him without this kind of exchange but I guess in the end they probably concluded that would be too risky, too dangerous, is that right, Brandon?
WEBB: Yes, potentially. It's still begs the question, you know, why guys weren't sent in, we practice hostage rescue missions like this all the time. But to me, it's a clear sign of an attempt at diplomacy with the Taliban. You know, the same organization in 2001, the U.S. sent over to stamp out, and now we're essentially -- it looks like we're, you know, having these diplomatic relations with the Taliban and it really makes you wonder what the U.S. has accomplished in Afghanistan over a decade of war.
BLITZER: That's a fair question, too.
David Ignatius, you think the Qataris, the government of Qatar, which arranged this whole deal, there's more there than meets the eye. You're suggesting that maybe this is part of a broader effort to got some sort of peaceful arrangement there?
IGNATIUS: It was originally conceived that way, Wolf. These discussions in secret go back to November 2010. This is not new. In February, 2011, Secretary of State Clinton said publicly that it was the desire of the U.S. to have a political diplomatic settlement of this conflict and the secret negotiations came out of that opening that she made. She sent her emissary Mark Grossman to meet secretly with the Taliban.
There have been extensive conversations with the idea of stabilizing the country when U.S. forces left. I don't think anybody imagined that it would backfire in the way but it clearly has in terms of American public opinion in the last several days.
BLITZER: David Ignatius is the author of the brand new book "The Director" which I recommend.
David, thanks so much for joining us.
Chris Ulrich, thanks to you. ULRICH: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, of course.
Brandon Webb in New York, thanks very much for joining us.
Coming up, a separate video just surfacing showing a couple that went missing in Afghanistan. This is an American woman and her husband being held captive. Are they being held captive by the Taliban?
Plus, was President Obama in any danger when he was secretly photographed working out at a gym in Warsaw, Poland? We have the dramatic video and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: There's video just surfacing in the wake of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's release suggesting an American woman and her husband are being held captive in Afghanistan right now.
Our foreign affairs correspondent Elise Labott is working this story. She's got details.
What are you learning?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Wolf, when you look at the celebrations of Bowe Bergdahl coming home, obviously the family of this American woman and Canadian man are disappointed that they weren't part of the deal and now they want to know what the U.S. government is going to do for them.
LABOTT (voice-over): The family of American Caitlan Coleman gave the videos to the Associated Press, hoping the publicity surrounding Bowe Bergdahl's release could bring their daughter home.
In the videos posted online by the "Telegraph" newspaper, a then-nine- month pregnant Coleman makes a direct plea to, quote, "My President Barack Obama," for help in freeing her and her Canadian husband from their Taliban captors. In his last contact with his family, Boyle said the couple were in an Internet cafe in a, quote, "unsafe part of Afghanistan."
JIM COLEMAN, FATHER OF CAITLAN COLEMAN: My name is Jim Coleman and this is my wife Lynn.
LABOTT: Two months after their disappearance, Caitlan's family appeared on YouTube for her safe return, concerned about her health and fearful for her unborn child.
COLEMAN: As parents and soon-to-be grandparents we appeal to whomever is caring for her to show compassion and allow Katie, Josh, and our unborn grandbaby to come home. LABOTT: Boyle's former wife Zaynab was the sister of Omar Khadr, a Guantanamo detainee who allegedly received training from al Qaeda. Their father, a senior al Qaeda leader, with connections to Osama bin Laden. Less than two weeks after Khadr was freed from Guantanamo and sent back to Canada, Boyle and Coleman went missing.
The videos offer the only clue as to what might have happened to the couple, but provide little proof they were indeed kidnapped, and no demands for ransom have been made. But after the U.S. and the Taliban traded five Guantanamo detainees for Bowe Bergdahl's release, Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter wrote President Obama asking why three other Americans held by Taliban-linked militants were not part of that deal.
LABOTT: And, Wolf, the State Department and the FBI have seen the video, the family gave it to them. They're not saying much about what they think happened. The Canadian government does tell me they do believe that this couple was kidnapped and everybody is working together and with Afghan authorities to try and get their release -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You'll keep us up to speed, Elise Labott. Thanks very much.
Up next, you're going to hear what some researchers say is actual sound of the missing Malaysian airliner crashing into the ocean. Is this what searchers need to find the plane? We'll update you on that.
Plus, President Obama's workout. A grimacing president all caught on camera as he pumps iron in a hotel gym.
BLITZER: Now nearly three months since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappear, there could be new audio evidence of the plane actually crashing into the ocean.
CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh reports.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sound intriguing scientists hunting for Flight 370 finally released after weeks of analysis.
Listen to that rumbling sound.
Underwater microphones off the coast of Australia captured it after the plane is believed to have crashed scientists at Curtin University in Australia enhanced the sound to make it audible. They say it could be the plane striking the water or imploding as it sank. But the chances are slim.
ALEX DUNCAN, CURTIN UNIVERSITY'S CENTER FOR MARINE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Because it's inconsistent with the other data which I consider to be more reliable than I have to say that I think it's unlikely.
MARSH: More probable, a natural event such as a small earthquake. The university's listening station and a separate United Nations device used to detect nuclear explosions, both picked up the mysterious sound about an hour after the plane likely went down. But that does not rule it out since sound travels slowly in water.
But there is still doubt. The signals appear to have originated somewhere in this zone, far from this arc where the plane made its final connection with an Inmarsat satellite. That still considered the best evidence.
MARTIN DOLAN, AUSTRALIAN TRANSPORT SAFETY BUREAU: We remain very confident as to all experts that the arc associated with the seventh ping is going to be close to where the aircraft will be found.
MARSH: Authorities have now isolated the 1600-mile section of the southern arc. The plane could be up to 23 miles west or 35 miles east. One quarter of this will soon be picked as a search area. Australians officially called for private contractors Wednesday. The deadline, they'll have 300 days to complete the search.
MARSH: And a British woman sailing from India to Thailand now says she may have seen Flight 370 the night it disappeared. She describes what she saw as an outline of a plane with orange lights and what appeared to be a trail of black smoke coming from behind it.
Now CNN has confirmed that she reported this to the Australian authorities heading up the search and we got a response from those authorities. They say they are reviewing this woman's claims at this point.
BLITZER: Rene Marsh, reporting, thanks very much.
Up next, President Obama caught on camera as he pumps iron in a hotel gym. And all the latest details on the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. New information, stunning new video, our special report, that will start right at the top of hour.
BLITZER: We're getting some compelling new video of something you don't often see. The president of the United States working out.
Our White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski is traveling with president in Europe right now. She's joining us from Brussels.
Tell us about this video -- Michelle.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it made its way on to a Polish tabloids Web site and this is not the kind of leak we expect to see during a presidential trip like this. So far there's no indication that the NSA or WikiLeaks had anything to do with it. But maybe we should call this gym-gate because it seemed pretty mysterious in the beginning. I mean, who would do such a thing?
The White House still will not comment on it. The hotel just told us that they are not to speak of it. But at this point it doesn't seem like it's anything sinister, just a Polish guy in the gym of a very nice hotel where the president was staying there in Warsaw.
Pretty stunning for people to see this video with obviously a very private moment for the president making its way now around the Internet set to a soundtrack, no less. And luckily it's nothing embarrassing. He's not shirtless, Vladimir Putin style or anything like that. You see the president let out a big yawn in the beginning of his 30-minute workout and then he goes right to the free weights, does some squats and lunges on the elliptical machine there.
I guess -- we heard one guy comments and say, yes, you know, I've been in hotel gyms before where the security cleared the place out because Celine Dion was showing up. But the Secret Service which is commenting on this says they don't do that. They insist that this is not a security breach because everybody who would have been coming into the hotel would have been cleared through security anyway.
And they say they don't clear out the gym. They let people take photographs. And one agent even said it was apparent that people were taking pictures of the president during this -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's good to see him working out. Good inspiration for all of us.
All right, thanks very much, Michelle Kosinski, traveling with the president.
Coming up, our special report. Stunning new video. New details of the prisoner swap that freed Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl and five hardcore Taliban figures.
And we're going live to Bergdahl's hometown where the controversy leads to the cancellation of a celebration.