Guests: Beth Holloway Twitty, Wally Zeins, William Gallegos, Rocky Sickman, Hamid Mir, Jackie Spinner
RITA COSBY, HOST: Good evening, everybody. Tonight, Osama bin Laden comes out of hiding with an aggressive new threat against the United States.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): The delay in the occurrence of similar operations in America is not because of the inability to penetrate your security measures because the operations are already being planned and you will see it in the heart of your land when the planning is finished.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COSBY: It is bin Laden‘s first public statement in more than a year.
And even though he is making threats, he is also suggesting a truce.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BIN LADEN (through translator): We have no reservation against responding by offering a long-term truce under just conditions that we will fulfill. We are a nation that Allah forbade to lie and deceive, so that both sides will enjoy security and stability and to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, which were devastated by war.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COSBY: And it‘s the first time that we have heard from any al Qaeda leader since the U.S. air strike directed at bin Laden‘s deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, which took place in Pakistan last week.
Joining us now are MSNBC terrorism analysts Even Kohlmann and also Roger Cressey. And on the phone with us right now is voice analyst George Michael, who analyzed the first bin Laden tape released after 9/11 for the U.S. government.
Even, how seriously should we take this threat from Osama bin Laden?
EVEN KOHLMANN, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think we have to take it seriously. Anytime that bin Laden issues a threat to strike the homeland of the United States, I think 9/11 demonstrates why you can‘t take that for granted.
That being said, look, there have been plenty of other messages like this before. Not all of them result in attacks. That being said, it is a disturbing pattern here. In April of 2004, bin Laden offered a truce to Europe. And at the same time, he was preparing a massive terrorist strike to take place in London. And I hope that we‘re not being offered that same truce right now while bin Laden is preparing a massive terrorist attack to take place right here in the United States.
COSBY: Absolutely. Roger, what do you make of the timing of the release of this tape? Is there anything to read into it?
ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, there‘s two possibilities, one of which is this tape, once it was recorded in December, then made its way to Al Jazeera through a series of couriers that took several weeks to arrive. Or the other possibility is al Qaeda decided to issue it shortly after the attempt on Zawahiri failed, as a way to rally the faithful and to remind everyone that bin Laden is alive and to serve as a point of inspiration and a rally symbol. So both of those are possibilities right now. We simply just don‘t know.
COSBY: George, what do you make, listening to this tape, analyzing it
anything we can read into bin Laden‘s voice or dialect?
GEORGE MICHAEL, VOICE ANALYST: Well, Rita, the voice of bin Laden is confirmed that it is bin Laden. He‘s a little bit tired, a little bit older and more mature.
But I would like to agree with my colleagues here. There is a tendency in this tape for Osama bin Laden to try to reestablish his reputation and his stature. If you—we know now that the tape was given to Al Jazeera in December. It‘s very close to the bombing in Amman, Jordan, which killed a lot of—in a wedding, which was really a turning point for bin Laden. Next day, there was demonstrations in Amman, Jordan, against bin Laden and al Qaeda. So I think...
COSBY: George, what about the dialect, too? Because I thought you said something interesting just before the show...
COSBY: ... that there‘s something to read into the way—the phrasing of the words.
MICHAEL: I don‘t think that he wrote the whole thing by himself. I think there is a lot of—this is not his traditional dialect. I think that there is a lot of Egyptian terminology that‘s being used. So I don‘t know if he really wrote this, all of it, or it was edited by someone who speaks Egyptian.
COSBY: Interesting. And of course, al Zawahiri is Egyptian.
MICHAEL: That‘s true.
COSBY: Let me play a little chunk of the tape, a little more for everybody, and I‘ll get all of you to react.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BIN LADEN (through translator): What prompted me to address you is the repeated mistakes of your President Bush in his comments about the polls that indicated that the vast majority wish to withdraw forces from Iraq. But he rejected this wish and said that this will send the wrong message to the enemies and it‘s better to fight them on their land, rather than facing them here on our land.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And then why do we know that this tape was probably done in December and released now?
KOHLMANN: Well, there are actually a number of references to various events that have taken place between November and December of 2005. One such event was a reference to a British newspaper article, a tabloid article about a discussion between Tony Blair and George Bush supposedly over bombing Al Jazeera headquarters in Baghdad, in Iraq. So yes, I mean, there‘s plenty of information here, I mean, not to mention the fact the references to the 77 bombing this past summer that would indicate that this is a recent recording. It‘s not something that‘s been rehashed.
Perhaps bin Laden didn‘t write the speech. Let‘s remember that Ayman al Zawahiri is not only his personal physician but is also a major ideological influence. So I mean, it‘s very possible that the speech was written or co-written by Zawahiri, but it was very important that bin Laden read this speech himself to show that he is still alive, to show that he‘s still in charge of al Qaeda and that, at least theoretically, he‘s still capable of orchestrating terrorist attacks against the United States.
COSBY: Let me play another chunk where Osama bin Laden talks about Iraq specifically, guys.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BIN LADEN (through translator): I‘d like to say that the war in Iraq is fierce and the operations in Afghanistan are on a constant rise to our benefit, and the numbers in the Pentagon indicate the rising numbers of casualties—both dead and wounded—in addition to material losses.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COSBY: You know, Roger, he‘s making these references to Iraq, to Afghanistan, transporting this tape through Al Jazeera. How come we can‘t get this guy?
CRESSEY: Well, he‘s practicing excellent tradecraft in the sense he has a sympathetic population that‘s hiding him, and he‘s probably paying them good money to keep him hidden. He‘s in a part of the Pakistan frontier that‘s extremely difficult to get to. And he‘s using a series of cutouts, multiple couriers, people if, you know, the intelligence community can identify one, unless they can follow the trail back through multiple additional people, you‘re not going to identify the location of where he‘s at.
So we need to be lucky. We need to have good timing. And we need to have some good intelligence. All of those have to come together to create a situation where we can ultimately identify his location and destroy it.
COSBY: George, real briefly, why is this an audiotape and not a videotape from bin Laden?
MICHAEL: Rita, I have no explanation to that. But what I noticed is this is a very secular tape. This is the least—of all the tapes that bin Laden gave out, this is the—probably the tape that has the least references to the Quran and the Hadith and the Sharia. And I think...
COSBY: And how do you read that, George?
MICHAEL: I read it that he‘s trying to really talk to the American people in a language they can understand.
COSBY: Very interesting. Guys, thank you very much, all of you.
Some of the best in the business.
MICHAEL: Thank you.
COSBY: Well, bin Laden himself has not given any interview to anyone since November 2001. The last journalist to speak to bin Laden is Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, who joins me now live on the phone from Pakistan. Hamid, what do you make of this tape?
HAMID MIR, LAST REPORTER TO INTERVIEW BIN LADEN: Yes. I think that if Osama bin Laden has decided to speak after one year, we should not underestimate him if he‘s saying that he is organizing more attacks in the United States. And on the other side, he is offering truce to the American people. So I think that we should not underestimate him. He has confirmed everything which Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri said in his last tape a few weeks back, in which he said that Osama bin Laden is alive and he‘s still leading al Qaeda.
And I think the timing is very important. And the significance is that some of the people, some of the so-called al Qaeda experts, were claiming that bin Laden is dead, and I think that is the only reason that he has issued that tape, just to contradict the reports that, I‘m not dead.
COSBY: Hamid, do you think we should be concerned about a strike, too? Because, you know, he still certainly vents his vengeance against the United States.
MIR: When I was at the spot (ph) in the Pakistani tribal areas where the Americans targeted a village just a few days back, in the Bajor (INAUDIBLE), I was there just to investigate that was Ayman al Zawahiri present there or not. So even on the second day of the attack, I met some al Qaeda militants there. They were openly moving there. There was no security people there. And I spoke to them. And one of them told me that, You will hear Sheikh bin Laden very soon, and you will also hear news about a big attack in the United States.
And before that one, when I was in Afghanistan in October last year to cover the election, I met some al Qaeda people in the Kurun (ph) province, which is in the east and which is next to the border of Pakistan. And those were the Arab al Qaeda fighters, and they said that, We have sent our fighters who were in Mexico inside United States of America, and they‘re just waiting for a signal, and you will see another attack, much bigger than 9/11. So I think that we should not underestimate Osama bin Laden‘s recent threat.
COSBY: You know, it‘s very scary to hear this, Hamid. And I know, you know, you‘ve interviewed him probably more than any other journalist. Where do you think Osama bin Laden is? Do you think he‘s still on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, that very remote region where I was not too long ago?
MIR: Yes. I have visited that area in the last four or five months and investigated a lot in Pakistani tribal areas and even in Afghanistan. And in these days, the situation in the Pakistani tribal areas is much worse than the eastern part of Afghanistan and the southern part of Afghanistan where Taliban have started suicide attacks.
So I still believe that Osama bin Laden is hiding in the difficult terrain of the eastern Afghanistan and some parts of the Pakistani tribal areas. And I must say that we must admit that these people are moving freely in that area. And the reason is that the number of the Pakistani troops and the U.S. troops in that area is very limited.
COSBY: Hamid Mir, thank you very much for your perspective. We appreciate it.
And coming up: Hopes and prayers for American journalist Jill Carroll, held hostage in Iraq. Her captors say a deadline is approaching in just a few hours. They claim they will kill her if their demands are not met. Her fellow journalist and friend is going to join me live.
Plus, I myself underwent hostage training. It was a frightening experience. Take a look at what‘s ahead tonight.
Still ahead: Surviving a hostage situation. It is every bit as scary as it looks. I‘ll take you inside a hostage training school to show you what I experienced firsthand.
Plus, 25 years after the Iranian hostage crisis, two survivors tell me how they lasted more than a year in captivity.
And a new lead in the Natalee Holloway case as her family takes a new tactic, looking for answers. Beth Holloway Twitty is going to join us live.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY BETH CARROLL, MOTHER OF ABDUCTED JOURNALIST: Jill‘s father, sister and I ask and encourage the persons holding our daughter to work with Jill to find a way to contact us with the honorable intent of discussing her release.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And that was Jill Carroll‘s mother today, appealing for her daughter‘s release, who is being held hostage right now in Iraq. The American journalist has just hours left until the deadline set by her captors expires.
Joining us now is Jackie Spinner, a personal friend to Jill Carroll and foreign correspondent for “The Washington Post” who spent over a year herself reporting in Iraq. She tells about her experiences in her new book, “Tell Them I Didn‘t Cry: A Young Journalist‘s Story of Survival in Iraq.”
Jackie, you know, with the deadline approaching, how are her friends, how are her family members holding up?
JACKIE SPINNER, “WASHINGTON POST”: Well, I think all of us are trying desperately to hold onto hope that this will be resolved and Jill will be freed. But as someone who‘s spent a considerable amount of time in the country, I can only imagine what my own mother and sister and brother would be going through, you know, watching this and then just waiting for this timeline that just keeps ticking.
COSBY: You bet. And of course, all our prayers are with her, especially, and her family. You know, Iraqi officials are claiming that six out of the eight female prisoners being held in Iraq will soon be released. That was, of course, one of the demands by the hostage takers. Do you think that might help, even just hearing that news might help in getting her released?
SPINNER: Well, I don‘t know because, you know, the U.S. government is not confirming that right now. And we know that those reports are out there. There‘s no confirmation that it‘s actually going to happen. The last reports I‘ve seen are that those detainees would be released on Sunday. As we know, the deadline is tomorrow.
I guess we can hope, but at the same time, we really don‘t want the U.S. government to be negotiating, and all of us who are there understand that. We don‘t want demands to be placed and to be met because it just makes it worse for all of the other journalists who are in Iraq.
COSBY: You know, her mom went on TV, and of course, made an appeal. And one of the things that I‘ve heard a lot about Jill is that this is someone who really cared about the Iraqi people, helping to improve their lives. If the captors or anybody, dealing with them is listening tonight, what would you like to say about this just great journalist and great person?
SPINNER: Well, I would remind them where she was going when she was actually kidnapped. She was going to interview a top Sunni politician. I mean, this is a woman who wanted to hear everybody‘s voice. You know, she was really interested in understanding how the Sunnis feel in this new government that‘s being formed. And I would just implore them not to silence her. If they silence her, they‘re not silencing an enemy, as her mother pointed out, they‘re silencing somebody who is willing to take their message to the world.
COSBY: And real quick, I know you had some of your own harrowing ordeals when you were there. You were almost kidnapped yourself. Despite that, would you go back to Iraq, and why?
SPINNER: I would go back.
COSBY: Would you?
SPINNER: If you asked me to go tomorrow, I would leave on the first plane, with apologies to my family for making them worry again, because you know, the thing is—and Jill and I talked about this a lot—Iraq is such a compelling story. I mean, you look at the resolve of the people in the midst of all this violence. They still get up in the morning and go about their daily lives. And you know, our policy there and what we‘re doing there, regardless of what side you‘re on, it matters. And as a journalist, there‘s just no more important story in the world.
COSBY: Absolutely. Hats off to you, Jackie Spinner. Of course, again, we‘re praying today for Jill. Thank you very much for being with us, Jackie.
SPINNER: Thank you.
COSBY: And Jill Carroll is only one of dozens of hostages currently being held by insurgents right now in Iraq. In fact, it‘s believed that as many as 50 people are now being held against their will by terrorists and other criminals. Since the war began, as many as 200 foreigners, including a number of Americans, have been kidnapped in Iraq, and 54 of those have been killed by their captors, including reporters, aid workers and also contractors.
So is there anything that you can do to prepare yourself for being taken hostage, should that horrible occurrence arise? Well, I recently went to National Hostage Survival Training Center in Spokane, Washington, and I learned some things about prevention and simply staying alive.
RANDY SPIVEY, PRES., NATIONAL HOSTAGE SURVIVAL TRAINING CENTER: And the reality is that if you‘re an American and you travel outside the United States today, you are at risk. Hostage taking is like hurricanes. You have category 1, you have category 5. Being abducted in Iraq is a category 5 hurricane.
ROGER ALDRICH, DIR., NATIONAL HOSTAGE SURVIVAL TRAINING CENTER: It‘s not intuitively obvious, quite often, how to act in that situation. And you‘re under such stress, your idiosyncrasies tend to come out.
COSBY (voice-over): In this nondescript office building in Spokane, Washington, I found the National Hostage Survival Training Center, directed by two men who manage the Department of Defense training on avoiding abduction. They have trained thousands to avoid hostage situations and provide tactics for survival in captivity.
SPIVEY: Now, we call hostage taking a weapon of mass impact. You can take one person and leverage them against a corporation, a government, and we‘ve seen them do that in many cases, unlike a bombing, which can be terrible in loss of life, but it‘s over quickly.
COSBY: The center‘s clients range from government to businesses to relief agencies. I took the course with Teresa Sporleder and her teenage daughter, Lara. Teresa was concerned for Lara‘s travel safety.
TERESA SPORLEDER, HOSTAGE SURVIVAL CLASS MEMBER: With what‘s happening in places like Aruba and Mexico and some of the other places that young girls travel, I can‘t imagine not having my daughter take this class just to be aware.
SPIVEY: So we‘re going to give you the tools to be able to recognize it before it happens.
COSBY: Only minutes into the class, I realized this was not going to be just another day in the office.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down! Down! Down! Hands on your head!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down! Down! Down! Hands on your head!
COSBY: Suddenly, three masked men posing as Mexican terrorists burst into the room and began yelling orders at us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your identification out right now! Slowly!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hurry up! Hurry up!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American here! American!
COSBY: This shocking moment was the first step at what they called stress inoculation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you an American? Are you an American?
COSBY: It also provides a wealth of teaching material.
(on camera): It was terrifying. I mean, I felt the gun on my shoulder. And even though I knew we were role playing, it really caught me off guard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you American?
SPIVEY: It‘s confusing because what‘s happening? As soon as they came through the door, what were they saying? What were they doing?
TERESA SPORLEDER: Everybody‘s talking at once.
SPIVEY: And your objective here is to get through this most dangerous point, which is the first few minutes of the initial capture. We say it‘s a good idea to not lie if directly confronted, but when they‘re just running around, trying to take control, you don‘t want to highlight yourself.
COSBY: I didn‘t right away.
SPIVEY: You didn‘t right away. What did you do?
COSBY: And then he said, Look, you are an American. You are an American. That‘s when (INAUDIBLE)
COSBY: Very slightly.
SPIVEY: I like what you did as far as just gently raising your hand. OK, so you‘re trying to blend in. You‘re not trying to increase the tensions of this very volatile situation. You want to be a calming influence. How do you think you did?
SPIVEY: You survived.
COSBY (voice-over): Our second exercise was surveillance detection because before someone becomes a victim of an abduction, they‘re usually being watched. Our instructor, Steve Kleinman, has been a Department of Defense intelligence officer for 21 years in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
STEVE KLEINMAN, TRAINER: Surveillance is reactionary. What we‘re trying to do is do things that make them react, make them come out and make it easier for us to find them.
COSBY: We began walking through the streets of Spokane and into some stores, wondering who was watching us and from where.
(on camera): This is a tough place, though, because look how many levels there are in this particular building. I mean, they could be anywhere, right?
KLEINMAN: As you said, that‘s a perfect place to be surveilled, and a lot of people walk right through there and never even think to look up. So you get an A-plus already.
TERESA SPORLEDER: If I have seen one person in separate places, or it‘s been separated by a certain amount of time, and I want to know if I‘m be surveilled, then I would come into a store, look around, and if I see that person come in, then I would suspect that that person is actually surveilling me?
KLEINMAN: Well, it certainly increases the probability of accuracy in that detection. And that‘s—that‘s all—you‘re trying to set up more barriers that they have to overcome to get close to you.
COSBY: Are there, though, some hostage takers who don‘t care if there‘s 300 people around?
KLEINMAN: Very rarely, for the reason that most of them, again, other than some sort of suicide scenario, they want to be able to take you hostage and get back safely. They do not want to get caught.
COSBY: I thought I saw somebody up there looking. And I thought I saw a guy over here by the magazines when I walked in. This guy on a cell phone seems like sort of the least likely target.
KLEINMAN: Which one? Oh. Yes, he‘s kind of—he‘d be—that would be very poor technique because he‘s sitting there staring right at us and making himself pretty obvious.
COSBY (voice-over): Back on the streets, our group became more suspicious but still uncertain whose eyes were on us.
(on camera): This is obviously a good opportunity to see what‘s behind us.
KLEINMAN: Right. Reflective surfaces. And this is an excellent one because it‘s kind of tinted. But it gives you a chance to look all the way down the street where we came. And people aren‘t—surveillants aren‘t expecting it, surprisingly. Again, we‘re talking in a terrorist or a criminal setting, they‘re not skilled at this.
COSBY: I just saw a white van go by.
KLEINMAN: All right. Well, see, there you go.
COSBY: And a similar person, I think.
KLEINMAN: Oh! Interesting. Interesting.
COSBY: You can‘t help but be paranoid. You feel like everybody‘s looking at you.
KLEINMAN: Right. But remember, you know, that principle, you balance that paranoia with prudence. So you see any places where somebody might be looking at you?
COSBY: This would be right here an ideal spot.
KLEINMAN: Right. Exactly. Especially because it kind of has a tinted glass.
COSBY (voice-over): Unbeknownst to us at the time, somebody was watching us from up there, one of the center‘s spies. Steve Kleinman remembers the time he pinpointed someone surveilling him on the job, and it saved his life.
KLEINMAN: There was an unusual pair of shoes that I‘d seen. And it was a strange color and it didn‘t fit with the pants. So I looked down and I almost did a doubletake because I know that person—that was the one.
COSBY: What could have happened if you didn‘t spot that person?
KLEINMAN: I could have been the guest of a foreign government for an extended period of time.
COSBY: What part of the world?
KLEINMAN: In Asia.
COSBY (voice-over): So who could be Surveilling us? Him? Her?
Them? We went back to the classroom to see if our instincts were correct.
(on camera): There was a gentleman, probably in his late 30s, maybe 40, probably late 30s, and he had a green hat on, a green baseball cap. But I saw him repeatedly. I saw him maybe four or five times.
COSBY: I will bet you a million bucks that the guy in the green hat was following us.
KLEINMAN: All right.
TERESA SPORLEDER: In the skywalk, there was somebody, but I couldn‘t identify him.
COSBY: I saw two vehicles that kept coming by. One was a red pick-up truck, and I also saw a gentleman in a white vehicle.
LARA SPORLEDER: I saw a lady in Starbucks. She had blond hair, and she was sitting, doing a paper, but she made eye contact with me a couple of times.
COSBY (voice-over): Now came the moment of truth, the reveal of the undercover surveillance people who were trailing us. And, oh, how wrong I was!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was up in the upper level where those walkover, walkways are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in a silver Honda Accord, and I was taking video shots of you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I stood on the book store, on the second floor, watching you when you came out the door here from this building. And I followed you down the street and around and all the way back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was out in front of the mall, the main mall, and I walked right past you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in Starbucks the whole time. I saw you guys come in. I saw you order your coffee. I saw you standing, mingle a little bit.
COSBY (voice-over): This was the blond woman that Lara spotted.
(on camera): So who was the guy in the green hat? He seemed to be following us.
KLEINMAN: Well, I don‘t know. That‘d be interesting.
COSBY: (INAUDIBLE) the show?
What could we have done differently to have noticed all of you?
SPIVEY: If you can pick them out, you can deter them from picking you. And the other reason, even if you don‘t see them, you‘ve realized, They‘re watching me, and so I‘m going to carry myself in a way where they want to target somebody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: What an incredible experience. And when we come back, more of the lessons learned from hostage survival school, what the hostage takers really want. Plus, see what happened to me when mock terrorists held me at gunpoint. How would you react?
Plus, it‘s one day shy of the 25-year anniversary of the end of the Iranian hostage crisis. Tonight, two men who survived 444 days in captivity are going to join me live. Hear how they made it through their harrowing ordeal.
COSBY: And tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of the release of the last Americans held hostage in Iran. The hostage situation tormented Americans for 444 days after Iranian militants raided the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
Sixty-eight people were seized on November 4, 1979. Some were released. But 52 were held until January 20, 1981.
Today, as you can see, the former U.S. hostages gathered in Washington, D.C., to mark the anniversary of the end of their horrible ordeal. Two of these former 52 hostages, Rocky Sickmann and also William Gallegos, join me now. And also joining me is former NYPD hostage negotiator Wally Zeins.
Let me start with you, Rocky. You know, it‘s been 25 years. But do you still have nightmares? I mean, it must just stay with you for the rest of your life, what you went through?
ROCKY SICKMANN, FORMER HOSTAGE IN IRAN: It really does, Rita, and probably not so much nightmares. But there are things, just like as you were showing clips of fellow comrades that are being taken and have been taken—and you see those masked individuals with rifles—I remember it as it was like yesterday.
If you‘ve been through a trauma like a car accident, you never forget that car accident. Being held hostage for 444 days, you don‘t forget the things that they put you through, the mock-firing squads, the Russian roulette, being tied to a chair for 30 days not allowed to speak, being locked in a room for 400 days. Those are traumatic experiences that you just can‘t zap from your brain.
COSBY: I cannot even imagine. It was frightening enough, and mine was just a mock exercise.
You know, William, let‘s go back to that faithful day, November 4, 1979. What went through your mind when the students raided the embassy? Did you have any idea that you and those others would be taken hostage?
WILLIAM GALLEGOS, FORMER HOSTAGE IN IRAN: No, I didn‘t at that time. I thought we‘d be able to fight them off. It didn‘t seem to work out that way.
COSBY: You know, when you look back, is there something different you could have done? I know you were given orders, “Don‘t shoot.” Do you think it would have been worse, had you shot?
GALLEGOS: I think it would have been worse had we shot that day. I think, if we had done that and the marines started shooting the people that are coming over the fences or in through the doors, we possibly would have all been killed at that time.
COSBY: You know, Rocky, at one point, they take you and the others into a room, and they stripped you. Tell us, what did they say, what did they do at that point?
SICKMANN: Yes, at the very beginning, Rita, you know, everybody was interrogated. And they put us into rooms and brought political prisoners in, because what they wanted from us is to have us state derogatory statements against our government for what they wanted was the Shah to return and how bad our government was.
So they brought political prisoners in. They, you know, told us what the Shahs had supposedly done to them. And then, weeks later, after they had shown us one specific film, where it was shot from the rooftop, individuals in the courtyard, stripped nude, told to turn, and they were shot in the back of the head.
Well, February 1980, we were in our room. And we had created—
(INAUDIBLE) I think, had made Uno cards out of paper. And we‘re sitting there playing Uno at 2:00 in the morning, because you have to create your own living condition within that room.
And all of a sudden, at 2:00 in the morning, the door burst open. In the room come two individuals masked with rifles drawn. And they pull us out of the room and against the wall, down the basement in the embassy, where other fellow hostages.
Right away, you‘re thinking the United States government‘s coming to rescue us. They know about it, and they‘re getting ready to shoot us, because they told us, “If anybody comes to try to rescue you, as the hostages, we will shoot you.”
And all of a sudden, as you sit there against the wall, hands against the wall, I mean, my body was releasing fluids everywhere. I mean, you‘re scared. I mean, anybody that tells you that they weren‘t scared, I‘d have to question what the heck was going on in their mind.
But you‘re sitting there thinking of your past. I mean, your mind plays all kinds of games when you‘re taken from, you know, your life. And all of a sudden, they grab me and threw me into a room. And three individuals come in. And they locked and loaded and said, “Undress.”
And right away, your mind goes back to those movies that they had shown you about these political prisoners. And all of a sudden, here I am, buck naked, and they said, “Turn around.” And after they told me to turn around, I thought there‘s the movie, three bullets to the back of the head. And then it never obviously happened.
But again, when you‘re held hostage in a foreign country and you have no control, you have no idea what‘s going on, it‘s—it was a very traumatic situation that you just don‘t ever forget.
COSBY: And, in fact, we‘re looking at video of the two of you, of Rocky and William back then. This is amazing pictures.
And you know, William, you were the only hostage that was allowed to do a television interview with NBC. I want to play a little clip of that and then I‘m going to ask you a question. But let‘s—this is William back then, allowed to do and encouraged by the hostage-takers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GALLEGOS: Nobody‘s been mistreated. All of us can see each other. Everybody‘s OK. You know, we‘re getting enough food to eat. The cleanliness is really great, you know? They come and clean up and clean clothes, everything we need, everything, toothbrushes, combs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: You know, William, how did that come about? Did they force you to say the things? What kind of preparation went into that?
GALLEGOS: Actually, it was in a situation where we didn‘t want someone else to make a statement at that time. And they told us exactly what they wanted us to say. And at that time, I had gotten a message through to my superiors as to where we were and what was happening.
COSBY: What goes through your mind, real quick, when you see that tape, William?
GALLEGOS: I remember that vividly.
COSBY: Sure. Well, thank you very much. Both of you, stay with us, gentlemen, if you could, because we promised you more from inside the hostage survival school. After the break, we‘re going to show you that.
Plus, why is it so hard for U.S. forces to launch a rescue mission to free kidnapped Americans? We‘re going to talk about that.
And later, developments in the Natalee Holloway investigation. Her family is watching closely as a tip from the prime suspect‘s friend has investigators working again. Could this be the big break? Beth Holloway Twitty is going to join us live.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some 30 minutes ago, the planes bearing our prisoners left Iranian airspace and are now free of Iran.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And that was President Ronald Reagan announcing the release of the hostages who were held by Iranian militants for 14 long months. Let me bring back my esteemed panel of guests, two of those Iranian hostages, Rocky Sickmann and William Gallegos. And we also have former NYPD hostage negotiator Wally Zeins.
Wally, why is it so hard to rescue hostages, particularly overseas, in situations like Iran or now in Iraq?
WALLY ZEINS, FORMER NYPD HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: Well, first of all, there are two very important factors, intelligence and communications. You must have that before you can do anything. And also we‘re dealing in a foreign country. We have to know the nomenclature, the demographics, the topography of the land. And that‘s hard. And there‘s also that language barrier.
COSBY: And it‘s intricate, too. You know, when you talk about you don‘t know the lay of the land, you don‘t know what you‘re dealing with, Wally. I mean, there‘s so many factors, especially, you know, when you talk about what happened in Iran in ‘79, right?
COSBY: You know, let me—Rocky, you were there in ‘79. It‘s astounding. You kept that journal, and you were able to sneak it out. It‘s incredible. I read the story that you taped it on your leg.
On April 26, 1980, Rocky, you wrote in your journal—and I think this quote is so powerful—“They blindfolded us and they took us down back of the embassy. We rode in the van for nine hours, blindfolded, handcuffed, and not being able to talk to anyone.” And then they moved you around quite a bit after they aborted the raid.
How terrified were you when they loaded you in that van the first time, Rocky?
SICKMANN: I have a very vivid memory of that, Rita. That evening, you could tell something was happening at the American embassy that day. You could hear things. You could never see them, but you could hear people running around. Cars were driving up and down.
And all of a sudden, about 10:00, I think it was, that night, they came into the room and said, “You must go to the restroom.” Well, Rita, you couldn‘t leave the room unless you knocked on the door and put a piece of paper underneath the door. And then they blindfolded you and took you to the restroom.
Well, you know, they all of a sudden blindfolded us, took us to the restroom, came back, and all of our things were, like, in bags. And they said, “Gather your stuff. We must leave.”
And all of a sudden, they blindfolded us, handcuffed us, and then took us down the back of the embassy, put us in the back of the vehicle. Jerry (INAUDIBLE) was handcuffed, I believe, to my right. I was handcuffed to him. Billy was to my left, handcuffed to him. Billy was handcuffed to the suburban.
They took a picture of us. And all of a sudden, they threw a blanket over top of us. And, again, here you are. It‘s like April. I‘ve been there for sometime. And you‘re sitting there thinking, “You know what? This isn‘t good.”
And sure enough, they drove us that night. We had no idea what had happened. Drove us to another destination. And, I mean, Rita, if you had to go to the bathroom that night, there was no stopping at the pit stop, you know, and be able to go up and go to the clean bathroom. You had to go on yourself.
I mean, that‘s the disgrace that, for 444 days, this country that did this to us, it‘s like someone had raped me of 444 days of freedom and they‘ve never been accountable. It was a difficult time. We remained at the spot that they took us to the next morning. They then kept us in this safe house.
We want outside that afternoon. They put us back into the vehicle that night, and they drove us south of this location, supposedly to Shiraz.
COSBY: Incredible. You know, Rocky, it is incredible when I hear the stories of what you and William went through. Thank you so much for sharing this. And, Wally Zeins, also, thank you. I‘d love to have all of you back on again.
SICKMANN: Thank you, Rita.
COSBY: So good to see you all here and safe and sound.
Well, one thing that I learned at the hostage school is that, while there are high-profile abductions, like what‘s taking place in Iraq, express kidnappings, being taken for your money, are much more common elsewhere around the world, like in Mexico. Chances are an abductor wants your money or your company‘s money. In Iraq, an abductor more likely wants to make a political statement, like what happened in Iran.
No matter what the scenario, if you‘re an American, the odds are you are much more of a target. Watch what happened when I myself was kidnapped at gunpoint by foreign terrorists. Even though it was a mock exercise in a class, it was still a frightening dose of reality.
RANDY SPIVEY, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL HOSTAGE SURVIVAL TRAINING CENTER:
Hostage taking globally has doubled in the last four years. There are certainly areas where it‘s more prevalent than others. Latin America, Mexico—and most people double-take on Mexico being a high-risk country, but it‘s very high-risk, when it comes to kidnapping right now. It‘s growing significantly in China.
COSBY (voice-over): So what do you do when you‘re at the wrong place at the wrong time and you are taken hostage? My frightening moment arrived. Two men portraying well-armed Mexican terrorists threw a hood over my head and forced me into an interrogation room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get that hood off her head. Get the hood off her head! Get it off right now!
COSBY: That‘s where I was grilled and screamed at. And, even though we were role-playing, it was still terrifying. One masked terrorist seemed somewhat controlled and even willing to listen to my pleas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can get the message out, yes?
COSBY (on-screen): I could get the message out. I think that could help.
(voice-over): The other was frantic, seeming to pull the trigger at any moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
COSBY (on-screen): Absolutely. If you want me to, I would.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) were shot by one of your guards, one of your border guards.
COSBY (on-screen): ... my guards.
(voice-over): Discovering I was a journalist piqued their interest, but I needed to prove that, in the U.S., the media is not government-controlled. I tried to distance myself from their hatred towards the U.S. government.
(on-screen): In America, the media is totally neutral. We have no connection to the government. Whatever anger you have to the government is separate in America.
(voice-over): Next, they brought up ransom money. You‘re taught in the class, no matter what your means, be agreeable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much money do you think you could raise for us?
COSBY (on-screen): Many millions of dollars.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many millions?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They would pay millions, millions?
COSBY: I will do whatever will help you. I can tell the story of your brother. I can help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My brother is still a dead man.
COSBY: Nothing can replace that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) nothing, nothing!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you understand me? Nothing.
COSBY: There‘s people I love, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who did you lose? Who did you lose?
COSBY: I lost my mother a few years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was she shot in the back at the border?
COSBY: No, but I know someone who was. And I know how painful that is.
(voice-over): Finally, my ordeal ended. So how did I do under the pressure of such a volatile situation?
(on-screen): Oh, it‘s very intense. When he said to me that he lost his brother‘s life, I knew that he had a personal connection.
COSBY: And when he talked about the poverty of the Mexicans, feeling that they were outcast, I thought I needed to somehow connect with that.
SPIVEY: What was driving them?
COSBY: It sounded like he was angry at the U.S. government for shooting his brother in the back, and he wanted somebody to pay. But I also think, when he realized that I was a journalist and someone who could do more than just be shot but could provide a message, they realized there was something much more to this hostage.
SPIVEY: So you showed them that there was value to keeping you alive. And I thought you did that quite well, by showing them that, “Hey, I can get your message out.” So how did you interface with the individual that was out of control?
COSBY: First, I said things will be OK, but I also thought right away I needed to show sympathy for his brother. He was clearly mad at the U.S. government. And I wanted to distance myself from what he was angry at.
SPIVEY: That‘s pretty critical in this scenario, because if he is angry at the U.S. government and somehow he can tie you to that, you become a real target.
COSBY: I felt distasteful when they asked me about money, but I felt, at that point, I just wanted to agree with whatever they were saying, because that other one was so out of control that I was afraid, if I didn‘t agree, he would shoot me.
SPIVEY: Right. It‘s a matter of priorities.
COSBY: At that point, it was survival.
SPIVEY: Exactly. The fact that you came in there and were very proactive in trying to be a calming influence was very positive.
COSBY: Because I was just so panicked, too, that I wanted them to not shoot me, I wanted to give them different reasons to hold off killing me.
(voice-over): Randy Spivey sums up the keys to survival in three easy terms.
SPIVEY: Calm, connect and capitalize. You want to be calm. You do you that by following directions. The second issue is you want to connect. You want to make them see you as a person. Be empathetic in your listening, that you care about their situation, and show that in your communication.
And finally, you want to capitalize. You want to be looking for a way to end the hostage situation, whether that be encouraging negotiations. Sometimes you might consider escape. The majority of hostages survive, over 80 percent. And of that 80 percent, over 85 percent are negotiated out.
COSBY: Well, I learned a lot. And of course, our prayers are with anyone who may be in that situation in real life tonight.
And, of course, we have some other stories going on. Natalee Holloway‘s mother is watching every move in Aruba as police are investigating the new lead: a tip from one of Joran Van Der Sloot‘s friends. Natalee‘s mother‘s going to join me live, coming up.
COSBY: Tonight, a new development in the Natalee Holloway case. The attorney for the missing teen‘s family has a new demand for Aruban authorities. Meanwhile, could a potential new lead in this case be the breakthrough that Natalee‘s family has been waiting for?
LIVE & DIRECT tonight is Natalee‘s mom, Beth Holloway Twitty. Beth, I want to play real quick—this is what Jossy Mansur, of “El Diario” newspaper, told us yesterday about the new lead pointing to the sand dunes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSSY MANSUR, EDITOR, “DIARIO”: The police did talk to quite a range of Joran‘s friends in the last few weeks. And one of them apparently turned out to be of interest to them. They questioned him further. He gave them some kind of an inkling, some kind of a clue that they believe in, that the girl was buried or is buried somewhere in the dunes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: Beth, what do you know? What have you been told about how credible this new search is? Jossy and your attorney last night seemed to be putting some stock in it.
BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, MOTHER OF NATALEE HOLLOWAY: Well, Rita, really nothing more than—that what we have just heard from Mr. Mansur. And, you know, I certainly hope this is a credible witness, although I‘ve become very skeptical of any actions that they‘re taking, just because usually we‘ve been misled all along. But, you know, I‘m just hoping that this really—there really was a witness that came forward. And if it was a friend of Joran‘s, is seems kind of farfetched to me that that would happen at this late date, but...
COSBY: Yes, we can always hope for the best. You know, Beth, you and I have talked about some of Joran‘s friends when I was down there in Aruba. They were sort of rounding them all up. We heard that they‘re talking to them again. Do you believe some of them know more than they‘re saying?
TWITTY: Oh, absolutely, I do, Rita. There‘s at least three or four of them that—they know exactly what happened that night. And it just amazes me that they have been to—hanging on to this secret this long. I know that at least—like I said, at least three or four of those boys know exactly what happened.
COSBY: You know, your attorney, John Q. Kelly, has asked—there was a letter that we just got asking that he be in court during a hearing for Paulus Van Der Sloot, Joran‘s dad. Why does your attorney—why does he think it‘s critical to be there?
TWITTY: Well, you know, they‘re very secretive in the criminal proceedings, but surely they‘re not going to be so secretive in a civil proceeding as this. And I think it is important that he be there. And I don‘t see why they would have to have this under the lock and key like they do the criminal proceedings.
I think he has every right to be there. I think he has more so of a right to be in that courtroom than Paulus Van Der Sloot does, to be filing this motion. It‘s just reprehensible that Aruba would even hear Paulus Van Der Sloot in this case.
COSBY: A lot of people are pretty stunned, Beth. You know, real quick, there‘s also a search—we talked about what‘s going on in the sand dunes. There‘s a search in the water. We know that EquuSearch is back out there looking into the fisherman‘s hut.
Are you optimistic and, at least, are you happy to see that they‘re going back out there?
TWITTY: Oh, well, I mean, I am. And I really feel that this has been something that has needed to be addressed a long time. I mean, the FBI and I spoke about this early in—end of August or first of September, that there was a concern that this fishing trap or crab trap, as they call it, was missing, was reportedly missing, along with a knife.
And, you know, Tim Miller was just never able to conduct the search. He was never able to finish it because of the depth of the water. And I feel that he and Mr. Whitaker have laid the foundation, and they‘re ready to come in, and hopefully they can either rule this in or out, Rita.
COSBY: We‘re going to be keeping an eye on it. Beth, thanks so much.
It‘s always good to have you on. We appreciate it.
And, everybody, we‘re going to be right back.
COSBY: And, everybody, we‘re live in Miami on Monday, as we investigate the George Smith cruise mystery. Be sure to watch that.
And that does it for us on LIVE & DIRECT. I‘m Rita Cosby.
“SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” with Joe starts right now—Joe?
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: Hey, thanks so much, Rita.
And right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, Osama speaks. The tyrant talks
to America, threatening to launch another 9/11 and offering
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