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THE SITUATION ROOM
FBI, ATF Concerned Suspect's Home Bobby Trapped; Details Emerge of Bergdahl's Treatment in Captivity; Interview with Rep. Aaron Schock
Aired June 6, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Jake, thanks very much.
Happening now, a courthouse attack -- a gunman armed with explosives and a rifle launches an assault on a Georgia court building. How a deputy may have prevented a slaughter.
Bergdahl kept in a cage -- we're getting dramatic new details on physical and psychological abuse the Army sergeant endured during his years of captivity.
And Kim Jong Un's regime in North Korea says it's holding another yet another American, a tourist who reportedly left a bible in a hotel room.
What kind of fate can he expect?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
There is breaking news. A no-fly zone in effect. FBI, ATF, Georgia authorities all on the scene right now amid concerns the home of a suspect killed just a few hours ago in a shootout with police may be booby-trapped. Police say one deputy was shot in the leg when a man wearing a gas mask attempted to ram his car into a county courthouse armed with grenades and an assault rifle. Authorities now say If it weren't for that deputy, this could have been a major catastrophe.
CNN has team coverage of this breaking story.
We'll go live to our Nick Valencia and our guests on the ground in just a moment.
But let's begin with our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown.
She's been working her sources -- Pamela, what are you learning?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, still a very active scene there on the ground in Cummin, Georgia, as police try to figure out why the suspect, Dennis Mars -- Dennis Marx -- went to that courthouse this morning armed to cause a catastrophe, armed with explosives and weapons. And they say one deputy in particular prevented a major catastrophe. And they also say that Dennis Marx was a former TSA agent for at least a year.
BROWN (voice-over): The hail of gunfire began ringing out just before 10:00 a.m., sending passerby fleeing and leaving much of the Atlanta suburb of Cummin under lockdown.
Police say this man, Dennis Marx, arrived at the North Georgia courthouse wearing body armor and carrying an assault rifle, intent on launching a vicious assault.
After trying to run over a deputy, he began throwing pepper grenades and homemade spike strips designed to blow police tires and slow any response.
As deputies responded, Marx began firing through his windshield, eventually shooting a county sheriff's deputy who was trying to stop him.
After a minute-and-a-half shootout, police say deputies killed Marx. Police say Marx was armed for a full frontal assault and was carrying plastic ties in case he made it inside.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BROWN: And the deputy that was injured is still in the hospital. We're told that he was shot in the leg -- and, Wolf, police are still there on the scene, trying to figure out a motive in this case.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to get more information.
Stand by, Pamela.
Nick Valencia, our reporter, is on the ground in Forsyth, Georgia -- Nick, what's the latest from where you are?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, right now, we know that authorities, including the ATF and Georgia Bureau of Investigation, are at Dennis Marx's home. But they are being very cautious because they have not yet entered, because of what the suspect had on him during that shootout, Wolf -- body armor, flex cuffs, heavy ammunition, a water supply. Police believe that he had every intention of taking over the courthouse and taking hostages.
Getting back to Dennis Marx's home, we know that according to police, he has not lived there for at least 10 days. They believe that that home is booby-trapped with explosives, with the intent of killing responding officers.
So far, no motive has been uncovered. Police did say that Dennis Marx was familiar to them. They did know who he was, but they would not expand on how or why -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They don't have any political motive, any organizations, any kind of background this guy may have had?
Is there any information on that that we're getting?
VALENCIA: No. They wouldn't expand into the suspect. They went and highlighted the heroic actions of that deputy outside the courthouse, though, Wolf. They mentioned that they would not release his name, but he was a 25 year veteran. He had mostly served in court detention.
They say his actions saved lives today and stopped a major catastrophe. They also went on to highlight, Wolf, that they had been training for a scenario like this for at least the last year-and-a- half, an active shooter situation. They said that training was instrumental in saving lives today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nick Valencia on the scene for us.
Alan Neal is a witness to this harrowing incident. He was only steps away when it all went down.
He's joining us now live from the scene in Georgia.
So, Alan, walk us through what you actually saw.
ALAN NEAL, EYEWITNESS: I'm sorry, Wolf, what did you say?
BLITZER: I said walk us through, Alan, what you actually saw. You were there when this was going down.
NEAL: Yes. I was actually at an intersection at the front of the courthouse and could not see the object, so I wasn't sure what was going on. But I noticed that several people were staring over in that area and getting behind trees. And I saw -- I saw a bunch of deputies running up. And around that time, a police car pulled in front of me, so I realized I wasn't going anywhere.
And I heard a couple of pops and saw a little bit of red colored smoke coming up. And right after that, you started seeing all the deputies focusing in on something right in front of the courthouse and just firing lots of shots all at once.
BLITZER: When you heard those pops, did you immediately know that was gunfire?
NEAL: Considering the deputies that were coming up around and the police cars that were pulling -- pulling up really fast, I kind of started getting a picture of what was going on. I was really concerned about the people in the courthouse, not knowing if the problem was happening outside or inside.
BLITZER: So did you duck for cover?
Were you scared?
What did it feel like? NEAL: I was actually watching most of the time. You know, I
guess -- I looked over to the side and saw some other people taking cover and thought, you know, I should probably get down myself.
But it was, at that point, the sheriffs were all focused on some -- on whatever the subject was and didn't really feel a sense of danger.
BLITZER: The police say that the shooter in this particular case was wearing a gas mask.
Did you actually see him?
NEAL: I never saw the shooter. Where I was at, you could not see the car or the shooter. I could only tell that they were focused on that area.
BLITZER: Are you shaken up now?
Are you OK, Alan?
NEAL: You know, I was a little bit shaken up whenever I left, thinking that there could have been a stray bullet or something like that. But I was -- it definitely hit me a few minutes after.
BLITZER: I'm sure it did.
Alan Neal, thanks for that eyewitness account.
I want to play for our viewers some of the very dramatic scanner traffic, some of the audio.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shots fired (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots fired! Tear gas has been deployed.
Take cover (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's down. He's down.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: Joining us on the phone right now is Major Rick Doyle.
He's director of operations for the Forsythe County Sheriff's office.
Major Doyle, thanks very much for helping us.
First of all, the house where this shooter lived, I take it you're worried about it being booby-trapped explosives?
What are your findings so far?
RICK DOYLE, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, FORSYTH COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Yes, Wolf. That's correct. We're actually in the process, as we speak, of having deputies along with GBI agents and FBI agents entering that house. And it's going to be a long, painstaking process because we are already finding some indications that there are booby- traps. So, again, our safety of the deputies and the agents going into that house is of utmost importance.
So we do expect that to take several hours.
BLITZER: What are the indications that it could be booby- trapped?
DOYLE: Just from what the agents on scene have conveyed to me at this point is that it's going to be a slower process than they thought, because they are finding (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: What can you tell us about this shooter?
What do you know about this guy?
DOYLE: All I know is everything that's been reported so far. He's -- we are familiar with him in Forsyth County. We do have some history with him, so far, just felony drug convictions and minor what -- what we consider, you know, minor -- nothing that would indicate this type of action or recourse that -- that he had intended to do.
But it was clear that this individual had every intention of a very chaotic, what I would call massacre.
BLITZER: What was -- we've been reporting he's a former TSA employee.
Do you have any information on that?
DOYLE: No, I'm not familiar with that information.
BLITZER: All right. So we -- you can't confirm that part of the story.
When you say he -- did he have a motive, was there any note or letter or statement that you know of, why he would want to do something like this, ram right into the courthouse there?
DOYLE: Not that we have at this point. He did have an 8:30 court date this morning that he missed, I would assume intentionally, and did show up as reported at 9:57. He -- all of the gas devices that you see and smoke bombs that you see at the scene were all deployed by him, none of them by any of our deputies. So that scene that he created and those diversions that he was trying to create were a clear indication of what his intentions were.
BLITZER: What was the court date for?
What was he supposed to show up in court for? DOYLE: It was for sales of marijuana, felony drug possession.
BLITZER: Which is a felony in Georgia right now.
As far as a history of political activity, any organizations he may have belonged to, do you know anything along those lines?
DOYLE: We don't have anything confirmed at this time, but we are digging deep into his background and any of his associates or anybody who knows of this individual. And we have several teams that are tracking those leads down now.
BLITZER: Walk us through those 90 seconds when the incident took place between the time he shows up, he starts shooting, starts throwing these gas grenades and then the whole thing is over with when he is shot and killed by a law enforcement officer. Walk us through how that unfolded.
DOYLE: The way it unfolded, we have our normal security protocols in place. And our deputies have done an outstanding job following those protocols.
The deputy that was shot immediately saw this individual and knew something was awry as soon as he exited his vehicle and he threw what would be considered some spike strips across the street to prevent any responding deputies from getting to the scene quickly.
And that deputy, in a split second, reacted with a heroism and was able to distract the shooter. And by that time, he was able to call out on the radio that shots were being fired.
And in less than 35, 40 seconds, we had probably 30 deputies on scene. We have eight that are involved in the shooting, that have exchanged gunfire with the individual. But the situation, as you reported, was controlled in less than 90 seconds.
BLITZER: In 90 seconds.
What kind of damage, potentially, could this guy have done, given the explosives, the assault rifle, the grenades, the ammunition that he had?
DOYLE: Yes he had given that, along with several hundred rounds of ammunition, the fact that he had water and some zip ties and other things is a strong indication that he was looking to take over the courthouse.
BLITZER: And the courthouse, how secure is that courthouse?
I take it you've been bracing for this kind of activity.
DOYLE: Yes, it's a very secure courthouse. We, in fact, in the last several weeks, have been training for scenarios similar to this. And, in fact, two days ago, I was in a training with the individual, with the deputy who just went through this. And we do do active shooter scenarios. And we do very realistic training at the Forsyth County Sheriff's office. And this was what I would consider a textbook assault. And seeing the video and watching the scene unfold, there wasn't a deputy who did not respond the way they were trained to respond.
And there's no doubt in my mind it prevented definitely more deaths.
BLITZER: Yes. No doubt about that.
And, finally, on this booby-trapped house, the suspected booby- trapped house, you say this could go on for hours?
You have SWAT teams, you have explosive experts on the scene wanting to make sure that are no explosives there. But if there are, you have to be very careful, very precise.
Give us an update.
What do you think?
How long is this going to take?
DOYLE: I would say several hours before we actually could get in and clear the house, which would then allow our investigators to go in and start looking through all of the information in the house and processing that scene.
BLITZER: Major Rick Doyle of the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office.
Major, if it's OK with you, we'll stay in close touch.
You'll update us on that search, on that potentially booby- trapped home. The fear, the suspicion is it's full of explosives.
We'll hope for the best.
Major, thanks very much for joining us.
DOYLE: OK. Thank you, sir.
BLITZER: We'll stay on top of this story for our viewers.
But up next, an American soldier kept in a cage by his captors. We have stunning new information on the physical abuse suffered by Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
And I'll speak with a Republican critic who says he doesn't need to know more about Bergdahl's health.
An American tourist held by North Korea's ruthless regime, allegedly for leaving a bible in a hotel room.
And could another first lady someday become a United States senator?
There's already a little bit of buzz about Michelle Obama's future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Your outstanding work every day on behalf of our children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're getting dramatic new details of what Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl endured during his years as a prisoner of the Taliban and that risky helicopter mission which put together -- was put together on a very short notice.
So now, even as Bergdahl's condition improves, the controversy is still growing over the deal that freed him. One fierce critic, Republican Congressman Aaron Schock, is standing by, along with our panel of experts. But let's turn first to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, for the very latest -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Bowe Bergdahl is now likely to remain in the hospital in German, at least for a few more days, but the Army is finding out a lot more about what may have happened to him.
STARR (voice-over): Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was physically abused during his five years in captivity. After an escape attempt, he was held at some point in a very small enclosed place, described as a cage or box, a senior U.S. official tells CNN.
One indicator of an injury, a classified video of Bergdahl made by the Taliban last December included scenes where he's cradling his arm. Bergdahl is also suffering from psychological traumas, the official tells CNN.
Bergdahl's captivity conditions changed over time as the Taliban loosened or tightened security around him. They also moved him frequently to avoid detection by the U.S. The top U.S. military commander in Europe told Christiane Amanpour that Bergdahl is not yet being formally questioned.
GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE, NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: I would not say he's actually being debriefed yet. What we're concentrating on right now is his health. He has been in a very tough place for a long time.
STARR: With the Army opening a new review into what happened, the Pentagon is getting more cautious in its public statements.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We really have to get a chance to talk to Sergeant Bergdahl before we can, you know, start to prejudge or speculate about what the specifics of his captivity was like.
STARR: Since the Vietnam War POWs' return, the military has run a program to evaluate the mental and physical effects of captivity on military personnel and found generally good news.
JEFFREY MOORE, MITCHELL CENTER FOR POW STUDIES: They need to realize that there's life after being a POW, that most people bounce back, that bouncing back is largely a choice.
STARR: And that helicopter mission to go get Bergdahl, that was all done on one hour's notice, essentially. A U.S. military official tells me that, right up until the last minute, the U.S. commandos were talking to the Taliban, trying to get the exact instructions, the exact place where to land the helicopter to get Bergdahl. And yes, indeed, the U.S. troops had a backup plan if trouble was to break out -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They're not telling us what that backup plan is, are they, Barbara?
STARR: Well, to be blunt, a U.S. official tells me that they were fully prepared to engage in combat with the Taliban if they suddenly got an inkling that they were walking into an ambush, and there was plenty of backup fire power. Out of sight but very close by, if that were to happen.
BLITZER: Yes. No doubt about that. All right. Barbara, thanks very much.
One tough critic of the deal to free Sergeant Bergdahl says he doesn't need to know whether Bergdahl was in poor health or not. Joining us now, Republican Congressman Aaron Schock of Illinois.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. Explain why you don't think it's necessary to know more about his health?
REP. AARON SCHOCK (R), ILLINOIS: I think, first of all, the overriding concern that many members of Congress have and the American people in my district are outraged over is that we began a process of negotiating with terrorists.
First of all, the president and the administration broke the law. This is the national defense authorization law that he signed just last year that he agreed to with Congress, that there would be a 30- day period which he should notify Congress if and when they were thinking about releasing detainees from Gitmo.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has a very outspoken critic of this deal, had been briefed by the administration for the last two years about potential transfers of these detainees and had not been convinced nor had her Senate or her House colleagues on the intelligence committees. So the idea that the administration was thinking about
transferring these detainees for several years, they knew the answer they were going to get from Congress. They knew the outrage not only by Congress but ultimately the American people would be for swapping these folks.
With regards to Mr. -- Sergeant Bergdahl's health, I would simply say, we have a couple right now being held by the Taliban whose life is threatened, and we should take those threats very seriously, whether it's a man or woman in uniform or whether it's an average American citizen being held by the Taliban.
But regardless of the threat against one's life, we have a history of a country of people who have been beaten, who have been tortured and, yes, sometimes killed by their captors; and the American government has always said, "We're not going to get into negotiating with terrorists."
And so I guess the question that begs is, if we trade five of some of the worst detainees we had at Gitmo -- mind you, the Obama administration has released over 200 detainees in the 5 1/2 years they've been there -- if we're going to release these five for one man, what happens when they capture a group of tourists? What happens when they capture a U.S. congressman?
BLITZER: Let me interrupt.
SCHOCK: What will be the negotiating point?
BLITZER: Just to be precise, you don't really care if he was death -- on the verge of death during those five years of captivity, a United States Army soldier?
SCHOCK: Well, Wolf, I think it's pretty clear that he -- that he wasn't on the verge of death. Now, whether he was being beat, whether he was, you know, not as healthy, I don't know that. But what I'm suggesting to you is this.
BLITZER: I asked the question because you said you don't want to know more -- because you said you don't want to know more about his health, and that raised all sorts of questions.
SCHOCK: Because I think -- right. Because Wolf, the point I'm making is that the deal is a bad deal. You don't negotiate with terrorists.
And so what I'm suggesting to you is, if we're going to start releasing people from Gitmo in exchange for someone who's life being threatened, look out, this is a dangerous precedent; because now if I'm the Taliban or if I'm anyone else who wants the wage war and get detainees released from any of our prisons, I'm going to start taking members of our military and American citizens hostage, because now I know the American government will negotiate.
BLITZER: You know -- you know that...
SCHOCK: That's why his health, I believe, is not -- not the issue here.
BLITZER: You know that hundreds of these detainees were released by President Bush during the Bush administration from Gitmo. You didn't have a problem with that either?
SCHOCK: No. And Wolf, just as President Bush, so did President Obama, up until this point, follow the law up. The law says the president has the jurisdiction, in coordination with the secretary of defense, to release any detainee -- any detainee they want from Gitmo by notifying Congress.
They have to go through -- I believe it's four different proofs, if you will, of how the person will not be a threat to national security, how releasing them does not put any of our armed men or women in uniform in harm.
But these five were not released with those batch (ph), because they were deemed some of the most hardened of the Taliban in the upper echelon of leadership. And it's why up until this point the Obama would not release them, and it's why the Congress refused over the last two years and the leadership of Dianne Feinstein to sign off on any kind of swap of these five.
BLITZER: Here's the point that the White House made. Yesterday, the deputy national security adviser to the president was on this program. He said they only knew three days in advance where this would take place. They didn't know precisely until an hour before. And as you heard Barbara Starr say, they feared going in there, fearing it could be an ambush. They also feared that if word leaked...
SCHOCK: It's all irrelevant. It's all irrelevant, Wolf.
BLITZER: ... this sergeant could have been killed by the Taliban.
SCHOCK: It's all irrelevant.
BLITZER: They didn't want him killed.
SCHOCK: It's all irrelevant. You know, telling us that, gee, we didn't know when the swap was going to take, it's irrelevant. Why were we negotiating with terrorists? Since when do we open up the gates at Gitmo and start releasing people? This is -- this is a dangerous, dangerous precedent.
Not only did they break the law, which is indisputable, but they set a very dangerous precedent which, No. 1, let me remind you, these five terrorists are now back on the Arabian Peninsula. This war on Afghanistan was the one that the president came to office saying it was the -- it was the honorable fight to fight. It was the war worth fighting.
And now as we are drawing down 20,000 troops from Afghanistan, at the same time, we're sending five of their worst Taliban leaders back to the Arabian Peninsula. There's been some great media interviews of folks whose loved ones have been killed by these five terrorists. And now they're headed back into their neighborhoods, into their countries. And it sends a very, very wrong message at a time when we're drawing down our troops. And it sends a very, very dangerous message to any of our enemies around the world that, if and when they get a captor [SIC], we're willing to get into opening up the prison doors and letting people free. It's a dangerous precedent.
BLITZER: Representative Schock, thanks very much for joining us.
SCHOCK: Thank you, Wolf, for having me on.
BLITZER: Coming up, we're learning new details about Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's attempts to escape his captors.
Plus, presidents Obama and Putin, they meet face-to-face today. This is the first time since the Ukraine crisis put the world on edge.
And an American tourist being held by North Korea, allegedly for leaving a Bible in his hotel room.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: An American soldier kept in a cage, subjected to physical and psychological abuse. Let's dig a little bit deeper.
Joining us, CNN national security analyst, the former CIA officer, Bob Baer, Kimberly Dozier, a veteran war correspondent now with the "Daily Beast," and Reuel Marc Gerecht, the former CIA officer now with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
Let me get reaction to what we just heard from Congressman Schock.
Bob Baer, first to you. What do you make of this bottom line point, this was an awful deal. It shouldn't have been done. The U.S. was negotiating, he says, with terrorists. The U.S. doesn't negotiate with terrorists. And in effect he's saying that Bowe Bergdahl should have been left where he was rather than release these five Taliban detainees?
ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think you're going to get an argument from the military that we leave people behind. It's just -- it's sort of the creed of the military, whether, you know, he had psychological problems or whatever reason he walked away from post, you don't leave people behind. You do your best to get them back.
As for negotiating with terrorists, I was involved on the sidelines of the Iran-contra and the Reagan administration did negotiate with Iran on that. It was arms for hostages and specifically a colleague of mine had been taken in Beirut and beaten and would die of pneumonia and the Reagan administration under enormous pressure talked to the Iranians as they rightly did.
BLITZER: Well, Reuel, you know the story very well. Do you agree with the congressman's -- Congressman Schock that he in effect should have been left, this American soldier should have been left behind?
REUEL MARC GERECHT, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Definitely given the circumstances. I mean, I think this borders on the morally perverse, certainly strategically lame that you would trade an American soldier, regardless of his rank, regardless of his health, regardless of his performance for five top commanders of the Taliban who had an intimate association with al Qaeda at times of war.
There's no doubt these individuals are going to go back, they're going to resume the field and they will make the institution -- Taliban probably more lethal and then --
BLITZER: Why weren't these five tried during the course of their 12 years at Gitmo? Because if they were such horrible criminals, war criminals or whatever, none of them ever faced a military tribunal?
GERECHT: Well, I think that's a good question but it gets back to the very complicated legal status that they had and as Attorney General Holder once said that if we were to try some of the holdees at Guantanamo and they were found innocent, we would not release them.
BLITZER: Kimberly, you've been doing some excellent reporting and just to remind our viewers, you're a world class war correspondent and you yourself were got severely injured when you were covering the war in Iraq, right?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes.
BLITZER: So you understand the psychological pressures a guy like Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl might have been going through during his tour of duty in Afghanistan.
DOZIER: Well, think about it. He, yes, may have walked away from his post but the troops who have spoken to the officers have all said it was our duty to get him back then we figure out what caused him to do that original act.
In terms of his psychological state in captivity, I've heard from some former Afghan officials who were in touch with the Taliban. They say after he escaped the second time, they did take tough measures in terms of locking him down. They put him in a cage at one point but they also had to move him around frequently. So sometimes he was kept in a basement.
This was also standard for high-level prisoners held by the Haqqani network that was holding him. These were -- this was the conditions under which anyone who is captured by them was held.
BLITZER: So, Bob, what do you make of the argument that we just heard from Reuel. This was an awful deal, sets a terrible precedent and, in effect, this guy should have been left behind.
BAER: I could never agree to leaving anybody behind whatever motivation they left. I mean, he was not fighting on the other side. There are accusations that he wanted to join the Taliban and none of those have been substantiated. And, you know, I've served in the field and I'd hate for my government
to say, well, you know, Bob Baer, we didn't like him all that much. Let's leave him with the enemy. I just think that's unconscionable for anybody who serves in the field and war.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Reuel.
GERECHT: Yes. One, I think the agency might have left Bob behind. That's to Bob's credit. But I would just add, this isn't -- that's not the issue. The issue is we're still at war and I'm hard-pressed to find a parallel to this where you actually release what are the equivalent of five generals in the opposing army that is killing American soldiers, you release them in a time of war and let them go home for a sergeant.
BLITZER: So when the Israelis released 800 Palestinian prisoners for one captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit was held by Hamas in Gaza, for, what, four or five years, you think the Israelis made a mistake?
GERECHT: Yes, absolutely. I think it sounds very good at the synagogue on Saturday but it's a serious mistake. This isn't espionage. These things really do matter and it sets up a terrible precedent and it's lethal. I mean, you are going to make the Taliban a more lethal organization. If the war were over, if the Taliban had broken or changed their spots, that would be an entirely different situation.
BLITZER: Kimberly, go ahead.
DOZIER: And yet some special operations and intelligent officers I've spoken to have said, let them go back. We couldn't do anything to them in Gitmo, we didn't have the evidence we needed to take them to trial. Now let them commit another act of violence on the field of battle where we can reach them.
BLITZER: And finally, Bob, to you. What is it -- what do you say to the argument now that the U.S. has done this, released five Taliban detainees in exchange for one American soldier? They're going to double up on their efforts to get more American soldiers because they know they can get what they want if they make future trades?
BAER: I've heard that, Wolf, since October 2001 they have been trying to grab American soldiers. Our army is too good. They know what they're doing. They know how to protect this. They can try all they want but we know what we're doing and it's not going to make it any worse on the battlefield.
BLITZER: Bob Baer, Kimberly Dozier, Reuel Gerecht, guys, thanks very much.
When we come back, the first face-to-face meeting between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin since the escalating tensions over the Ukraine crisis. Is it a promising step in the right direction? And North Korea's government now says it has detained a third
American. Could there now be new implications since Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's controversial release?
Plus, Senator Michelle Obama? There's some political buzz out there about what could be next for the first lady.
BLITZER: Took a gathering of world leaders commemorating the Allied invasion that freed Europe for President Obama and the Russian President Vladimir Putin to finally may discuss the latest threat to peace and stability on the continent, that would be the crisis in Ukraine.
Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is joining us with the very latest -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know they've spoken on the phone a number of times since the start of the Ukraine crisis and those have always been tense exchanges with very little common ground, based on the competing weed-outs of those calls from the White House and the Kremlin. But they hadn't met face-to- face until today. It was an informal not a formal bilateral, but once again one that appeared serious in tone and with a firm message from President Obama.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): It was the first face-to-face meeting between Presidents Obama and Putin since the start of the Ukraine crisis. Coming at D-Day ceremonies commemorating a time when the U.S. and Russia were allies.
Speaking for 15 minutes at a lunch for heads of state, President Obama demanded that Russia recognize the new Ukrainian president and its support for pro-Russian militants and stop the flow of arms across the Russian border. Sounding less than accommodating himself, Mr. Putin put the burden on Kiev to stop its military operations against separatists.
PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (Through Translator): The operation must stop immediately. This is the only way to create conditions to start a real negotiation.
SCIUTTO: Until they got to talking, Obama and Putin were seated just six feet apart, though separated by two queens and the French president, and it seemed the weight of their disagreements. When the official television broadcast put the two leaders side-by-side, albeit in a split screen, the crowd cheered, though Mr. Putin looked slightly less than thrilled.
Still Mr. Putin's isolation appears to be relenting. Aside from his talk with Mr. Obama, the Russian leader also met with leaders of Britain, France, Germany, and the newly elected president of Ukraine. The message from all of them, however, National Security adviser Susan
Rice told CNN's Jim Acosta was a consistent warning to back down or face new, broader economic sanctions.
SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: What the president has done over the course of this week in meeting with our G-7 colleagues is to come together around a mutual understanding of what our shared posture will be and has been.
SCIUTTO: The administration is offering President Putin an opening but it's a finite one. Russia has in effect one month to call off pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine or face sectoral sanctions against its economy. Today's diplomatic outreach is, say administration officials, a test of whether Russia is serious, whether it is willing and able to end the violence.
And those are two questions there. Whether it wants to and whether it can. Because it's an open question as to whether it can control these militants now that they have been unleashed in eastern Ukraine.
BLITZER: And we've got more questions so don't go too far away.
Up next, after meeting with President Obama, what's Vladimir Putin's next move? Julia Ioffe knows how the Russian leader thinks so she's standing by. She'll join us live.
And could another first lady become a U.S. senator? There's some buzz out there about Michelle Obama's future.
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in Julia Ioffe, she's the senior editor at "The New Republic" magazine, she's just back from Ukraine. Jim Sciutto, chief national security correspondent is with us as well.
So what do you make of this little informal 15-minute chat on the sidelines as they say between the president of the United States and president of Russia?
JULIE IOFFE, SENIOR EDITOR, THE NEW REPUBLIC: Well, it's not unprecedented. This happened right after the Edward Snowden fiasco if you'll recall. Barack Obama called that a bilateral meeting that he was supposed to have with Vladimir Putin in Moscow, only to then talked to him on the sidelines of the G-20 in St. Petersburg. This was back in September I believe.
So this is not unprecedented. They're not talking really. They're not -- they're trying to avoid appearing together. Peter Baker in "The New York Times" called it two divorced parents at a child's graduation, but, you know, they do have -- they do need to communicate at least somewhat, especially since Putin is communicating with all these European leaders.
BLITZER: Jim, what was your reading? SCIUTTO: Well, I think, you know, it's a step between a complete snub
and a formal bilateral. So, and particularly when you have events like this where -- as you saw in our piece, they were six feet apart. You know, it's difficult to not run into each other.
It's the way they started their dialogue, for instance, with the Iranians, right, with the Iranian president at the U.N. General Assembly, a handshake at the margins, not a formal sit-down, and then that spawned other conversations down the road. So could be the start of something.
BLITZER: But, you know, if I'm Putin, I go to this -- you know, have the state -- the French President Hollande has a formal state dinner for him. He has a private one-on-one with David Cameron, the prime minister. He meets with Angela Merkel. He's meeting in these official meetings with all of these leaders and he has a little 15- minute sideline chat, if you will, with the president of the -- but he's still meeting with everybody.
IOFFE: Yes, I mean, and that's significant. I think the difference between his -- the length of his meeting with President Obama, I mean, let's be honest, what could they discuss in 15 minutes? On the other hand, there's -- they don't need much more than 15 minutes. Both sides pretty firmly set in their positions. Russia still wants Ukraine to federalize, to give a ton of autonomy to the east so that it can control the east of Ukraine to completely write off the idea of ever even thinking about joining NATO.
BLITZER: They probably didn't discuss much. Both of them could make a point, when you think about it, 15 minutes, it's really 7 1/2 because they have to have translators doing consecutive translation because Putin doesn't speak English, the president doesn't speak Russian.
SCIUTTO: Right. And when you look at this, though, in effect you're seeing Russia's exile ending pretty quickly, right? Because it was only a short time ago when Russia was kicked out of the G-8. Now the G-7. But it's only a couple of months later. They're at the D-Day event. They have meetings with all the significant players in the EU as well as a meeting with the president. You know, that wasn't a very long exile for Putin after the annexation of Crimea.
BLITZER: Are you getting a sense at all, Julia, that Putin is beginning to blink a little bit, maybe that he had overreached in Ukraine?
IOFFE: I don't think he is. I think he's stepping back and is giving the appearance of blinking, but really the violence, the chaos, the uncertainty in eastern Ukraine continues. The flow of soldiers, be they officially employed by Russia or just renegades and war junkies, is continuing over the border with Ukraine. That's what he wants and he wants to use this as leverage so that the EU and NATO don't accept Ukraine in there. So.
BLITZER: I'll leave you guys a little clip. Jimmy Kimmel having some fun last night on TV about these two leaders. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": Fitness experts have been criticizing the president's form? True. He's even taking it on the chin from foreign leaders.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tired of wimpy workouts that leave you scrawny like little twig that's crushed beneath paws of the great bear?
It's time to Putin-cize. The workout that will make you strong like iron railroad track, lifting tiny little weights makes you weak like woman.
Putin-cize lets you take off shirt to show (INAUDIBLE). No shame. Before, after. Before, after. Before, after. Get strong like rock. Not weak like Barack. Putin-cize now. Do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do it.
Very funny stuff. We don't have to discuss.
SCIUTTO: Enough said. Enough said.
BLITZER: It speaks for itself.
IOFFE: It speaks -- and I think it does represent the views of a lot of Russians.
BLITZER: Yes. Putin-cize.
SCIUTTO: Yes. There's some truth to that.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Coming up, North Korea says it's holding yet another American, a tourist who reportedly left a bible in a hotel room. What kind of fate can he expect from that ruthless regime?
And we're taking you inside the Veterans Affairs investigation with the CNN correspondent who first turned spotlight on the scandal.
BLITZER: Happening now, another crisis in North Korea. Kim Jong-Un jails another American citizen. Could this man's life be in danger because of his religious beliefs?
Kept in a cage. Horrifying new details emerging about Bowe Bergdahl's treatment while he was a prisoner.