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tv   Declassified  CNN  December 3, 2016 12:00am-1:01am PST

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♪ as a former fbi agent and chairman of the house intelligence committee, i had oversight of all 16 of our nation's intelligence agencies. my name is mike rogers. i had access to classified information gathered by our operatives. people who risked everything for the united states and our families. you don't know their faces or their names. you don't know the real stories from the people who lived the fear and the pressure, until now. the taliban regime was ruthless. there wasn't anything that they wouldn't do.
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>> any time you tried to speak to people about christianity, you were taking a tremendous risk. there were eight individuals arrested in afghanistan. >> they could be subject to the death penalty. >> they would drill us with questions for ten hours at a time. >> the mission was rescue eight hostages in the heart of taliban country and bring them home. ♪ ♪ ♪
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kabul's latest occupying force are islamic fundamentalists who call themselves the taliban. their aim to reshape morals and principles in their image of islam. >> afghanistan under the taliban was highly repressive society. the taliban was ruling over most of the country. >> the muslim taliban government controlled most of afghanistan and banned women from going to school or work. women had to be accompanied by a man to walk outside. and had to be covered in the veil from head to toe. >> the taliban exposed the afghan people to a horrific war. that continues to this day.
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>> you also had this group of international religious extremists under bin laden who refer to themselves as al qaeda, and they had sought and gained safe haven in the taliban-controlled parts of afghanistan. they were essentially being hosted by the taliban. >> it was the paramount safe haven for al qaeda. which was the most dangerous terrorist group on the planet at the time. >> the taliban is ruling according to their conception of islamic law. the most literal fundamentalist conception that you can possibly imagine. >> the taliban regime was ruthless. there wasn't anything that they wouldn't do. these men would shoot women in the back of the head. they were the men who would beat you on the street with whips. they were the ones who were
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committing all the crimes against humanity in the name of islam. the people were in dire, dire straits, and they were living in abject poverty. they were suffering under the greatest, most oppressive regime that we've seen in modern history. it makes me feel angry, but i don't want to live just to feel angry. i want to do something to change it. that's why i went to afghanistan. in march of 2001, i moved to afghanistan. to join a relief agency called shelter now international. their objective was developing small business enterprises for women and programs to teach job skills to street kids. >> there were a number of internationals in afghanistan
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who were doing humanitarian work there. who really wanted to serve the afghan people. over half of the population is female. of course, in islam, any contact with women with whom you are not related by blood outside of marriage is absolutely forbidden. and so just from a humanitarian standpoint, yeah, there was a very important role that female humanitarian workers would have in a place like afghanistan. >> my plan was to be there forever. i bought a one-way ticket. i wrote my will. i told my parents where to bury my body if i was killed. that motivation to make a difference in the world was a big factor in choosing afghanistan. i wanted to go to a place where the need was great. >> there were a lot of ngos that
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were active in afghanistan, including christian ngos. and in afghanistan, as elsewhere around the world, particularly in the muslim world, they are very careful only to do humanitarian activities, and not to get involved in proselytizing because it's a crime in the muslim world. >> shelter now is not set up as a christian organization but the people who worked for shelter now were all christians. >> so as they would establish relationships with these afghans, they would begin to tell them about jesus christ, et cetera, et cetera. >> did you go there with a mission of sharing the word of god, or did you go there to help people? >> it was both. we couldn't do one without the other. in an islamic culture, talking about religion or faith is usually the first conversation that comes up. so it was much more of a kind of natural flow of life and
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relationships. it wasn't like, let's go in and take out our bible and say, you know, you have to become a christian. on august 3rd of 2001, we were scheduled to visit an afghan home. it was the home of a family we had known for a long time. and they had requested to watch a movie about the life of jesus. >> how do people know about the film in the first place? >> when we would have a trusted relationship with an afghan who seemed to be interested in spiritual conversations, we would let them know, we have a movie about jesus. and we would ask them if they want to see it. >> it was a very stupid thing for them to do. no question about it. any time you tried to proselytize, tried to speak to
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people about christianity, you were taking a tremendous risk. >> it was about two hours. the film wrapped up. i packed up my stuff, and i came out about 30 minutes late. so when i got in the taxi, i asked them how much extra do i owe you? and he looked at me in the rear-view mirror with a look of utter terror in his eyes. and then a man dressed in civilian clothes got in the back seat with me. and at that point, i realized these men, they've come for me. >> there were eight individuals arrested in afghanistan. four of them were germans. two of them were australians. a man and a woman. and then the two american women. all eight individuals shelter now international. >> their intention was to make an example of christians working
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in afghanistan doing anything to undermine the islamic state. >> according to the taliban law, they could be subject to the death penalty. >> they might potentially have been beheaded. (vo) it's the holidays at verizon, and the best deals are on the best network. (both) yes! (vo) with no surprise overages, you can use your data worry free and even carry over the data you don't use. and right now get four lines and 20 gigs for only $40 per line. and, just for the holidays, get a samsung galaxy s7 edge for only $15 per month. no trade-in required. i love you in that, no, i love you in that. no, i love you in that! (vo) hurry, these offers end soon. get the best deals and the best network, only on verizon.
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the taliban is ruling according to their conception of islamic law.
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the most literal fundamentalist conception that you can possibly imagine. >> the taliban regime was ruthless. there wasn't anything that they wouldn't do. >> there were eight individuals arrested in afghanistan. >> all eight were in shelter now invitational. >> under islamic law, the crime for proselytizing was death. after we were arrested, they walked us into this compound, and they opened the door, there standing in front of us were about 35 to 40 afghan women. and that was the first time i broke down and cried. >> in 2001, i was the cia station chief in islamabad, pakistan. where i had responsibility for all intelligence gathering operations in both pakistan and afghanistan.
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>> in august of 2001, we first got word that these eight individuals, including two young americans, had been arrested by taliban security in kabul. the u.s. embassy procured the assistance of pakistani lawyer and he is dealing with the legal authorities inside afghanistan. this was not an intelligence matter for us at that point. so gathering information concerning these arrestees was not high in our priority list. in fact it was basically off the bottom. >> the cell was a concrete room with a concrete floor. the room was very dirty. chipped paint. i would write in my journal. i'd be sitting in the cold with a blanket. o lord jesus, i struggle so much with fear here. every moment of every day, i
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battle with the fear that either a taliban or an angry terrorist will kill me. >> the taliban actually had serious evidence against these people. in fact, they had broken taliban law. it seemed pretty clear they were guilty. >> this stuff is indicating they were indeed proselytizing in afghanistan. >> after we were arrested, it basically began three weeks of interrogations. they would bring in taliban officers. >> i was an employee of the minister of justice assigned to the investigation. i was both an interpreter and also part of the delegation that was asking questions. >> they would drill us with questions for ten hours at a
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time. >> it was, you know, all sorts of questions. it was about your job in afghanistan, how they came into the country and why they were trying to convert muslims into christianity. and why they were taking advantage of the poverty of the people. >> one day, they came in with whips, and they were going to whip us that day to get information. but there was an afghan talib officer who stepped in and intervened. >> why did you want to help them? >> because i was feeling that they shouldn't be in jail. if you see somebody in a situation that is not appropriate, i think you have to help. >> there were almost two classes of taliban. the leaders of the regime, who were the face of evil, and then there were those who were
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obliged to follow the regime. >> you were obliged to work with the taliban or face the consequences. they would even torture our relatives around there in our own province. >> last sunday their trial started in kabul. the charge, attempting to convert muslims to christianity. a guilty verdict could result in light punishment, deportation as heavy as the death penalty. >> we were actually brought to the supreme court on september 8th of 2001. and there were hundreds of journalists. and that was the first time we knew anybody out in the world really knew or really cared. >> it was a huge international from around the world. the taliban was trying to show the world some kind of legitimate trial. and they were preparing for that. >> if they brought us before the
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supreme court, and said, look, we have given your people a legitimate trial and we have brought evidence against them, and we have found them guilty, no one would be able to say anything about the punishment. fear just really took over. it was a very scary time. and then all of a sudden, everything changed. >> we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the world trade center. >> 9/11 changed all of this. >> i've directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. we will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them. >> we knew bin laden and al qaeda were behind it. and afghanistan was the paramount safe haven for bin laden and al qaeda.
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>> the united states of america makes the following demands on the taliban. deliver to the united states authorities all the leaders of al qaeda who hide in your land. >> when we looked at the taliban after 9/11 in afghanistan, we gave them choices. we said, you can join in the fight against al qaeda, or if you decide to stick with al qaeda and bin laden, we would consider you enemies and we're going to come with lethal force. >> at the same time we're demanding all these other things, he's not going to forget about these two americans. >> release all foreign nationals, including american citizens you have unjustly imprisoned. >> you're going to do all these other things and turn over these foreigners as well. >> either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. >> when we heard that speech, we were sitting in a meeting with some -- like top taliban, and they were laughing on it.
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>> the taliban rejected our overtures to turn over bin laden and to break away from al qaeda. taliban leadership had that opportunity, but they rejected it. >> and, therefore, these people went from being detainees to hostages. that's the way we were thinking about it now.
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a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the world trade center. >> 9/11 changed all of this. >> you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. >> these people went from being detainees to hostages. that's the way we were thinking about it now. >> did it bother you, you had to rescue people knowing they put themselves at risk? >> it doesn't matter. a member of our tribe. you may be stupid, but you're a member of our tribe. we've got to help you. >> on september 11th, my parents came to the prison. we had a 30-minute supervised visit. and they left the prison, went to the u.n. guest house and watched on the television as a second plane crashed into the world trade center.
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they were evacuated the next day on the very last flight out of the country and knew they had left their daughter in the lion's den. >> the hardest thing is that i'm not there with her. if i could get back to kabul, i would go. >> on the night of september 17th, the taliban came to our prison and took our entire shelter now team to another prison considered a high security prison that belonged to the intelligence department of the taliban. >> it was bad. it was worse than the first place. >> it was a concrete cell with a concrete floor, bars on the window. i had scorpions crawling in my bed covers. i had parasites. there was just a lot of ailments that came from the filth in the prison.
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and they moved us there in order to basically keep us as political prisoners. and we knew we don't negotiate with terrorists. we understood those protocols. and to be honest, we didn't have the expectation that anybody would come and get us. >> on my orders, the united states military has begun strikes against al qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the taliban regime in afghanistan. >> the war on terror started. it was october 7th when we heard the first bomb fall. and then the bombs just started falling repetitively. >> they knew there was a war on. they could hear the aircraft
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flying overhead. i think they had a sense that they were just small pawns caught up in a much larger undertaking. once that attack starts, the taliban must be saying to themselves, if we release these people, it's not going to do us any good. so now it was going to be a matter of either you try to bribe them out in some way or go in militarily and you get them out. jsoc is known as the joint special operations command which is an accumulation of the top special operations units. when 9/11 happened, guys wanted at it so badly, they were dreaming it before they even know what the dream was about. all they wanted to do was go right the wrong. and one of the first missions that came down was one that was referred to as angry talon,
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which was to get into afghanistan in the heart of the taliban country and rescue eight hostages and bring them home. >> after 9/11, i was the commander of cia forces responsible for the intelligence collection and covert action in afghanistan. even in the middle of the war, deploying teams, engaging in lethal force, beginning the first armed strikes, we never forgot about the hostages. in fact, they remained a priority. >> lord, i beg that you would spring open this door and let us go free. my heart hurts so much. i feel like i'm barely hanging on. >> she was a young, very emotional girl. she would cry and be scared. the feeling i had from the beginning with the detainees was trying to help them.
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and then there was also that purpose, if you can figure out a way to keep these people safe. and then eventually released without any harm. so i called the u.s. embassy and offered to help. >> we did get into contact with an individual who had a natural reason to go in and out of the prison. and so we get a satellite phone to him to communicate in realtime with his cia case officer back in pakistan, which we hoped ultimately might help us to support the military raid to free them. >> did you have a code name the embassy gave you? >> yes. >> what was it? >> it was baaz. >> there are many motivations that drive a foreign national to cooperate with the cia. there's money. there's ideology. perhaps compromise, ego,
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revenge, coercion even. the best sources, the best collaborators, however, are doing it because they're decent people and they want to do the right thing. and that transcends cultures. >> we're collecting information through afghan sources. we needed to know everything we possibly could know about the prison. when you start planning a hostage rescue operation, it is absolutely imperative that you get as many of the details as possible because the difference in life and death can be fractions of a second. there's no end to the detail they'll need if they're going to launch a successful raid. >> we knew when we got to that prison that we were going to have a lot of resistance on our hands. there were a ton of fortified taliban positions within and all around that prison. and so if they know that there is a staircase that leads from
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the ground floor up to the floor where the women are being held, he needs to know how many stairs there are, how high the risers are. the ability to stay flexible and know when you need to deviate left or right or pull back and flank. >> this source told us where they were being held, how they were being held, how many guards there were, where the guards were, where their weapons were, what their daily routines were like. our confidence in this one source grew as we learned more and more and basically confirmed his reporting. >> we worked very extensively on the map to rescue these eight people to kabul. >> when we rehearse a mission like this, you want to make it as realistic as possible. and so at that point, they built a mock-up of the prison and they started exercising to get these people out. the head of the jsoc liaison team came to me and he said, when we train, we never give ourselves this much information.
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he said, i think we can get them out.
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as the days went on, not knowing if we would survive eventually just took its toll. time stood still.
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every single hour felt like a day, and every day felt like a week. and every week felt like a month. there were days that it felt like we had been there literally for an eternity. i felt hopelessness. i had kind of pushed god away because i didn't understand why. i'm 24. i'm barely out of the gate, and now it's all over. >> we had been rehearsing for this approximately two weeks, every night. and starting to define a target date we were going to go do the hit. >> it was imminent that they were going to rescue the hostages. and then suddenly we got an unfortunate report from our source.
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>> they began to move us so that we wouldn't be trackable. >> they were no longer being held 24 hours a day at that same prison. so if we had set a particular date to go and launch this raid, there was at least a decent chance they wouldn't be there. once the hostages had been moved to a new prison and we could no longer predict where they were going to be at any given point in time, we had to stand down on the operation. it was no longer possible to launch a rescue mission. >> when i look at this, i'm still a little heartbroken that we didn't get to carry this out and do what we're chartered to do. it's a little bittersweet. it was devastating. i can't tell you how disappointed we were.
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and it was sort of like being on the cusp of being able to do something that you never thought you'd be able to do. and suddenly you're back at square one, starting all over again. but you have to figure it out. because the world isn't out there trying to help you. you have to seize the opportunities that fate presents you. i have to deal with the world as it is. not as i wish it were. >> a dramatic turn of events in the afghan capital kabul. the city behind me was a stronghold of the taliban. now those forces have completely abandoned it, leaving it open for the forces of the opposition northern alliance to move in and to take over. >> suddenly, the taliban lines north of kabul collapse. and the northern alliance comes rushing forward. and they rush into the city.
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the northern alliance was a collection of militias basically. tajiks, uzbeks and hazaras who were traditional enemies of the taliban. the taliban come fleeing to the south. complete chaos. >> when the taliban were leaving kabul, there were thousands of armed military. they had the rockets, military, pk and kalashnikovs. everything. you could feel in the air the volatility and the intensity and the chaos. we heard the sound of angry men running down the hallway. and these men started to bang on the door of our prison cell. these men were dressed for war. their heads were covered with turbans that were wrapped around their faces. all you could see were their
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eyes. it was very clear that these men would have no qualms with doing us harm. >> witnesses say when the taliban fled kabul they took with them americans heather mercer and dayna curry and six other western aid workers. >> it was a very chaotic no-mans land and the hostages, we think, were still at grave risk. >> they were completely lost to our sight. we had no idea at that point where they might be.
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the taliban command and control had fallen apart. they were fleeing south and to the east toward pakistan. and the hostages, we think, were still at grave risk. >> witnesses say when the taliban fled kabul, they took with them americans heather mercer and dayna curry and six other western aid workers. >> they were completely lost to our sight. we had no idea where they might be. >> we stopped in a village called ghazni. and the taliban put us into another prison.
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and we waited, and we prayed. and that was about all we could do. >> when the hostages had been removed from the prison in kabul, our intelligence source jumped in his car and started driving south with the fleeing taliban hoping that he could find them. >> what made you decide to follow the hostages? >> for me it was a humanitarian and moral duty to save them. >> in ghazni, there was fighting going on out in the street. we could hear the u.s. jets flying in and bombing the strategic taliban strongholds. after about 15 minutes silence, we heard this entourage of
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angry, violent men come and start breaking down the door of the prison below. this was the moment that i thought, we're dead. i was hiding under this table just praying, god, please, please don't let them see me. right at that moment, these men came into our cell, and they started yelling, you're free, you're free. the taliban have left, and you're free. and i can't explain that moment where you're accepting that this is your fate and being offered freedom in exchange. we were so surprised. and as soon as the city calmed down and the fighting stopped, these northern alliance supporters escorted us out of the building. and we started walking through the streets.
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and as we were going through the old city, hundreds and hundreds of afghans started to fall in behind us. the northern alliance supporters start yelling to the crowds, these were the prisoners in kabul, and we've set them free. and they're dancing in the streets, shooting their guns in celebration. the whole city was celebrating freedom. and it was in that moment, all my struggling, all my wrangling with god. he wanted us to be set free with the people that we had gone to serve. it was like, god, you're so good. the northern alliance took us to the red cross. and so for the moment, dayna and i felt safe. but the taliban are still out there.
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we were extremely vulnerable, and so we still needed to figure out how we were going to get out of afghanistan. >> one of my officers said, the hostages are in ghazni. in the local ghazni office of the international committee of the red cross, the icrc. one of my case handlers, who is hand ling the source, he gets on the satellite phone with his source. and the officer says, where are you? and he says, i'm sitting by the road on the ring road south of kabul. they stole my car. >> the taliban took our car at gunpoint. >> were you scared? >> absolutely was scared. >> i don't care how you get there, hitchhike if you have to, but get to the red cross office in ghazni. so he shoulders his bag and starts hitchhiking and manages to catch a ride heading south.
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within a matter of hours, he's in ghazni at the red cross office. >> i remember an afghan man came to the door and said, pretend like you're going to the back of the building. so we headed towards the back. and out of the kitchen came an afghan man dressed in civilian clothes. >> they were very, very happy when they saw me again. they were both like, so much happiness, they were crying. >> we were shocked to see him. and he wasn't wearing his taliban clothes. he didn't have his turban. he was very clean cut. he'd shaved his beard. and he comes to me, and he grabs my hand and then he grabs my wrist with his other hand. and he says, are you okay, my sister? we're fine. we're all fine. he gave us a satellite phone, and he said, this is the phone number you need to call.
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so no sooner did i start calling the number, and i turned around, and he was gone. and i never saw him again. we called the number, and on the other end was the chief officer from the u.s. embassy in islamabad, pakistan, and he said, tonight, we're coming with helicopters to get you. >> we know that the best extraction point for the hostages is this airfield close to ghazni. so we said, you need the get out to this airfield. >> so we started grabbing a few things, and started heading out towards where the helicopters
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with coming. >> jsoc has to go a long way to get there. they launch the rescue helicopters and send them flying north towards ghazni. >> we walked for about 20 minutes, and the satellite phone went dead. >> all communication is lost, and we're not going to get it back. so we have no idea what's happening. >> it was really just a wing and a prayer at that point.
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we walked for about 20 minutes, and the satellite phone went dead. >> all communication is lost, and we're not going to get it back. >> and so we just sat there and we waited. >> the helicopters are now moving in and they can spot the airfield, and the rescue helicopters are trying to look for some glimmer of light out here in this sea of darkness. >> we have to light a fire. that's the only option we have. so my german friend brought a handbag with her, and so i grabbed her handbag and i started to look for matches, and there was a box of matches in the bottom of her purse.
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and we took those matches out. we started taking off our head scarves, lighting them on fire and waving the head scarves in the sky like flags. like burning flags. and the helicopters came around one more time, and they saw the fire. and we knew that they had seen us because this massive chinook helicopter swoops over our head, and all of a sudden, from across the field out of the shadows, comes this row of g.i. joes, and we hear their voices. yelling from hundreds of feet away. are you the detainees? are you the prisoners? and we're, like, yes! and he says, ma'am.
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you're going to be just fine. >> there had been complete tension. we had the expectation we're about to save them. suddenly it looked as though everything was lost, and now suddenly, they were safely in the helicopter. it was complete relief. >> once he hit pakistan, we were transferred to a c-130 that took us to islamabad. and it was the back of the c-130 opened, standing in the middle of the runway was my father. >> were you happy when you found out that the hostages had been rescued? >> absolutely. very, very happy. but he sacrificed so much because of these issues. it's spread out all over the world.
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my dad was assassinated just after that year. the taliban did it. >> do you regret it? >> no, i don't regret helping these eight people to save their life. it was my choice to help them. >> in my speech in front of the united states congress, i said to the taliban that one of the objectives was to release the humanitarian aid workers that are being detained against their will. we have achieved that objective. >> we are so excited to be back, and we know we're here because of the prayers of people all over the country, all over the world. >> it was an honor.
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it was an honor and a privilege to serve my country, and it was a collective effort. not just by the cia and afghanistan and pakistan, but of course, with our military brothers in arms. there was a very brief and intense sense of joy. >> did you meet the hostages? >> i never did. once they were rescued, i was on to the next thing. >> freedom is blank? >> freedom is life. i don't think you can really live without being free.
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the phone call that china calls a little trick. donald trump speaks with taiwan's president, breaking decades of diplomatic protocol. the somber return. brazil preparing to receive the remains of victims of the colombia plane crash. two major votes loom over europe. italy and austria prepare for ballots that could shift the political order. live from cnn world headquarters in atlanta, welcome. to our viewers here in the united states and around the world, i'm george howell. "cnn newsroom" starts right now.


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