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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Secretary Kerry Arrives In Region For High Stakes Talks With Al-Maliki; Top Shia Cleric Call For "Effective Government" Supported By All Iraqis; New Details Emerge On Bowe Bergdahl's Recovery at Brooke Army Medical Center; Soaked Midwest Facing Record Floods, Mudslides; Representative Paul Ryan To IRS Commissioner: "Nobody Believes You"; Source: Central Park Five Agree To $40 Million Settlement In Civil Suit
Aired June 20, 2014 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST HOST: Good evening. John Berman here sitting in for Anderson. He'll be reporting from Baghdad tonight where they are bracing tonight for battle and about to get some American help.
Back home it's about saving homes. People in the Midwest getting more rain in hours than they usually see in weeks and watching their waterfront property take a dive.
Also tonight, we were told they were the faces of the future. We were told to be terrified of wolf packs and wilding and young super predators like these five teenagers supposedly were. Now 25 years after the rape of a jogger in New York Central Park, these five wrongly convicted of it are finally getting the justice they have been waiting so long for and possibly tens of millions of dollars, too.
We begin, though, with late developments out of Iraq and two numbers that got our attention, a million and three. A million is how many Iraqi men, women and children forced out of their homes by this war. One million people now on the move or on the run.
Three refers to three recruits on a new propaganda video from the ISIS-Sunni militants, young men who are not from the region but the United Kingdom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a message to the brothers who stayed behind. You need to ask yourselves what prevents you from coming to the land, what prevents you from turning around? What prevents you from obtaining the pleasure of your lord.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Now two of the three are reportedly brothers from Wales, a big call was asking Iraqis of all faiths to unite against the threat. They will be getting help shortly from American military advisors who we have learned will initially be drawn from troops stationed at the U.S. Embassy. President Obama though telling "NEW DAY's" Kate Bolduan that the only true solution to this crisis will be a political one. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Part of the task now is to see whether Iraqi leaders are prepared to rise above sectarian motivations, come together, compromise. If they can't, there is not going to be a military solution to this problem. There is no amount of American firepower that is going to be able to hold the country together and I made that very clear to Mr. Maliki and other leadership inside of Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: No amount of American firepower that will be able to hold this country together. That was President Obama just a short time ago. There is a lot to talk about tonight. We'll start with Nic Robertson who join us tonight live from Baghdad. Nic, what's the latest?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest really has to be the statement that we heard during Friday press from a spokesman representing the top sheer clergy in the country, Ayatollah Sistani. He said that the politicians in the country now needed to quickly form a new government that could appeal to all Iraq, as in give all Iraqis a good future and he said it should be a government that doesn't repeat the mistakes of the past.
That was a very veiled threat, if you will, warning to Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. It is time for him to step down. Mistakes of the past. Essentially this clergy getting into politics, which he doesn't do often. He has very big appeal here, millions of people listen to him today and he's telling the prime minister, time to step down. That's new -- John.
BERMAN: It is new. President Obama has done everything short of saying Maliki should go but this statement from Grand Ayatollah Sistani carries much more weight inside that country. Let's talk about this other side, this ISIS recruitment video. Remarkable to look at. What can you tell us about that?
ROBERTSON: Yes, they are really amping up their propaganda and trying to create a buzz, a million or all eyes on the ISIS is one of the hashtags that they are going by. They want to get a billion hits on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, wherever they can. They are trying to use the time in the headlines here as they had the past couple weeks like they never really had before.
Trying to spring board off that with a recruitment campaign, getting English speakers, French speakers to really appeal to a western and international, all ears because they want to recruit more young people. Remember, these young Jihadists come from Europe and other places are often some of their sort of shock troops, if you will, young guys that go out, do suicide bombings and really sort of create and blaze the trail. They want more people like that -- John.
BERMAN: It's a worldwide propaganda and recruitment effort all tied into one. Nic, what about the situation on the ground today? It seems like things were quieter, even though there were patches of violence.
ROBERTSON: Yes, the violence has spread more across the country. If you go to the north on the border with Syria, more violence there today. We heard a little about yesterday. Today more violence. Tel Afar, that important town that ISIS took control of recently, now the army says that they are in control of the military there, but ISIS in control of the city. Baiji, the fighting of the oil refinery, not finished.
The Army says they have control there. ISIS in control of the town. Another town where there is fighting. Two Kurdish towns you have little flash points across the country. Not this broad advance, but fighting continuing. It means ISIS still has the fire in their belly if they want. Their aim is still Baghdad -- John.
BERMAN: ISIS still fighting, of course, but interesting, the Iraqi military desperate to tell the world what they think their successes are in fighting ISIS around the country. Nic Robertson for us in Baghdad, thank you so much for being with us.
In addition right to being a raw human tragedy, this is a military and political puzzle that seems to sprout new dimensioning by the hour. I want to explore them by two people inside the maze. Anne Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning at the State Department, chief strategists. She currently runs the New American Foundation.
Also joining us, Phillip Mudd, who held counterterrorism leadership positions at the FBI and the CIA. Phil, obviously both sides of the conflict are engaged in the recruitment game. They want more forces. There is this highly produced video out from is reaching out to Jihads using Arabic and English. What do you make of this?
PHIL MUDD, FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL, CIA AND FBI: I think the recruitment game inside Iraq is more important for insurgent to get populations from villages they control. As long as they are fighting with the Iraqi military against the government, in some ways its an advantage for us because they are focused on external recruits is limited. They are focused on taking places like Baghdad.
That said, over time the more time they have, the more important these recruitment videos will become because historically places like Iraq have been magnets for kids in New York and London. So over time, I would be worried about those recruitment videos.
BERMAN: At a minimum, shows they are organized. Secretary John Kerry set to arrive in this region. Administration is crystal clear Nuri Al-Maliki not particularly welcome anymore as the leader of that country. He's either going to change or get out of the way. Any sign that Maliki is getting this message?
ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, PRESIDENT, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Not so far. In fact, he's doing exactly what he's been doing all along. I mean, look, we pushed him really hard on power sharing, on constructing a broader government when we left. What we know now that we didn't know then how he is to the Iranians. A lot of our leverage, if we have any on Maliki, actually comes from Teheran rather than directly in Baghdad and I think the Obama administration has been right to try to reach out to Iran as difficult as that may be.
BERMAN: So Phil, the first of the American troops could arrive as early as this weekend shifting from the embassy to presumably the front lines or at least areas where Iraqi troops are serving, these advisors will go to advice. How do you do that?
MUDD: I think you're talking about two basic elements to what these advisors might do. The first is weapons and tactics to retake this refinery that we've seen fought over the past couple days. You can get great aerial imagery of that and do some gaming about what these advisors would recommend in terms of tactics against extremists.
The second piece is subtler, but I think more interesting. Should the president order precise strikes going against a group that doesn't have tanks, doesn't have airplanes. You got to have reality on the ground where they are. What houses they are in. Where the women and children are for example versus where the extremists are. It takes a while to build target packages. They are getting realtime imagery and intelligence to understand exactly where the precise locations are to strike in the event the president passes an order along.
BERMAN: Ann Marie, you argued for a couple of years that the U.S. needs to be more involve in Syria fighting against president Assad and his forces. How responsible do you think the lack of action in that conflict is for what is currently going on in Iraq?
SLAUGHTER: I think enormously responsible. When the Syrian civil war first broke out, it took a solid year before you started seeing the growth first and then ISIS as groups because what happened got no support. Administration is in a difficult position, to use force against is in Iraq, it would be right now. It would be on behalf of the government we don't like. It is not doing the right things. The same is exactly true in Syria.
If you use force against ISIS in Syria, which I would be prepared to see us do. The Syrian people will read that as you're willing to attack the violent extremists who are threatening you, but you're not willing to stop the killing from Bashar Al-Assad himself but you are willing to attack is because they might pose a threat to you. I don't think that's a position we can be in.
BERMAN: Anne Marie Slaughter, Phillip Mudd, thanks so much for being with us.
MUDD: Thank you.
SLAUGHTER: Thank you.
BERMAN: You've heard it said this week that the deeper ISIS gets into Shiite territory and the closer they get to Baghdad, the tougher opposition they will face. Over the capitol, men have been showing up at military recruiting stations. Anderson spoke with some of them.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Crowded together in a tent on a Baghdad military base, Iraq's newest volunteers wait for names to be called. A week after Iraqis were asked to defend the country, thousands of men are still volunteering every day.
(on camera): Some volunteers have been in the military or militia before, some recently returned from fighting in Syria in support of Bashar Al-Assad, but many volunteers are young and have no experience fighting at all.
(voice-over): It's hot, the wait is long, but spirits here are high. Many see this as both a patriotic act and a religious duty. What's happening is sabotage this 23-year-old says. Those terrorists must be driven out and by God's will they will be.
(on camera): Why did you want to volunteer?
(voice-over): I volunteered to preserve the people says 25-year-old Saif as a response to their request by Ayatollah Sistani. We're here to serve the people and get rid of ISIS. These young men have no military experience and it's not clear exactly how they will be used in the fight against is.
(on camera): How much training will they have.
GENERAL FADHIL ABDUL SAHIB: Depending on the tactical situation. Maybe three days, maybe a month.
COOPER (voice-over): Soldiers come and call out names. The men are sent for processing. Their eyesight is checked, a cursory exam, then they are sent home to await their sent. By God's will we will wait. Whether or not these volunteers will actually see battle, their sheer numbers bolstered the confidence by Iraqis, badly shaken by military losses here the past week.
BERMAN: Fascinating to see Anderson with an inside look at the recruitment effort there. A quick reminder, make sure you set your DVR to watch AC360 whenever you would like.
And next after five years in captivity, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's progress in a remarkable program. He's relearning down to the tiniest details we take for granted how to live. We'll take you inside.
Later, think this is just another bureaucratic? Just another boring congressional hearing, you won't, when you see what came next and why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sitting here listening to this testimony. I just, I don't believe it. That's your problem. Nobody believes you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Ever since Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl first stepped into that Special Forces chopper and out of Taliban captivity, he's been at the center of controversy how he fell into enemy hands. This is not about that. Instead, tonight, we're focusing on the steps he's been taking ever since the chopper landed, the reintegration process he's undergoing in Brook Army Medical Center in Texas.
We're learning a lot about it and how Sergeant Bergdahl is doing tonight. Our Martin Savidge has the details and joins us right now. Martin, you have remarkable details who is going on inside there.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Sergeant Bergdahl, I guess you can say spent the last week in San Antonio getting into what we don't like to get into at all, a routine. The program according to the military is just that, trying to get you back into the normal things of life. He gets up, eats, goes to bed at normal times.
He's staying in a typical hospital room on a floor with other patients and even though will are hundreds of medical staff ready to take care of him. He actually only interacts with less than a dozen people every day. It should be pointed out, his room is noted by the difference that there is security outside.
The Army says it's not too keep him in, but to keep other people potentially out, who could do some harm or somehow shock him in a way they do not want and lastly, he does a lot of storytelling, his own, recounting everything that happened to him over the five years and you can imagine that takes a long time to recount every event as best he can. He does that to his psychologist, the military psychologist, his medical team and army debriefers. A very small intimate group.
BERMAN: Martin, you were telling this is a system they have in place there, but really only a small hand full of people have gone through this process before and they were released from a week to ten days into it. Has the army given an indication when Sergeant Bergdahl might leave?
SAVIDGE: No, they haven't. He's the seventh to go through this new program that they have at U.S. Army south in San Antonio. So it's not like they have had hundreds of people go through but the experience they rest upon is based upon the experiences of POWs that go back to World War II. But he is the first young soldier to go through this program and definitely as we pointed out, how he got released, the controversial surrounding him, there is a lot to it. So it is very likely instead of seven to ten days like other captives, he could be much longer, possibly months.
BERMAN: Martin, stick around for a minute. I want to bring in military psychologist and retired Navy commander, Joseph Troiani. Dr. Troiani, the word Martin keeps using is routine, routine. And I understand that coupled with Sergeant Bergdahl being allowed to make his own decisions, those are two of the most crucial things, why?
JOSEPH TROIANI, U.S. NAVY COMMANDER (RETIRED): Well, it's very important to understand this young man under went five years of very difficult, if not harsh captivity under less than desirable circumstances, and that's not including what we don't know regarding if there was any torture, what kind of isolation and deprivation did he experience, as well as what periods of time did he fear in fact for his life.
So that's a long road to come back from, and as you mentioned, the military has a lot of experience. We return 951 POWs at the end of the Vietnam War. The difference with him, he was isolated. He was not with a group of fellow POWs and he was probably more than what I would refer to as a hostage situation versus a prisoner of war.
BERMAN: And we also understand from Martin that he's telling his story, recounting it again and again about the five years that he was a prisoner there. How does that help with the healing process?
TROIANI: Well, it's really important when somebody has gone through a traumatic experience to be able to tell what is their story. You notice, they are talking about him not going through a debriefing but rather, allowing him to tell his story as we wants to talk about it as he is able to recollect it.
This is all part of the sorting it out, the reintegration because remember, the first few weeks, he went through quite a psychological as well as physiological shock and getting re-acclimated, getting through the decompression period and then getting used to the normality, the kind of normality he might have experienced prior to being held captive.
BERMAN: Martin, telling this story is part of the healing process, but this story ultimately will be part of an investigation, as well, but I imagine that telling will be separate than part of this story.
SAVIDGE: It was a question I asked to military officials, when is there a point where you'll turn to Sergeant Bergdahl and said everything we have done up to point so to help you. From now on everything is possibly investigating you for abandoning your post. The folks at San Antonio will tell you the investigation has nothing to do with reintegration. He would go through that first and then access to him as far as possible military prosecution would come afterwards.
BERMAN: Dr. Troiani, Martin in his reporting tells us he's still, Sergeant Bergdahl still has not met with his parents. We're not really sure when that might happen. Is this to be expected?
TROIANI: This is not unusual. He's probably wanting to get re- orientated and probably wants to be in good shape, that is both physically, emotionally, so psychologically so when he meets with his parents, he feels like he's returning home or coming home. Now, of course, they will keep this quiet and who is to say he's not already met with his parents.
BERMAN: All right, Dr. Troiani and Martin Savidge, thank you so much for being with us. Really appreciate it.
TROIANI: Thank you.
BERMAN: There is sad breaking news to report tonight, word that three American troops have been killed in Afghanistan. They died in an IED attack. No word on what service branch they were serving in. The military dog was also killed in this blast.
Just ahead, in the Midwest, a desperate race to pile up sandbags as the waters rise. The latest on the severe flooding across the region.
Plus, Congressman Paul Ryan got angry at a House hearing on whether the IRS targeted groups seeking tax exempt status. We'll tell you who is on the receiving end of this array.
BERMAN: As we said at the top of the program, a wide spread swath of flooding, terrifying mudslides, the same storm system that brought devastating tornados to Nebraska this week. Here is Ana Cabrera.
ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Minneapolis, this entire bluff came crashing down along the banks of the Mississippi River creating a massive hole below the University of Minnesota Medical Center Thursday. It collapsed tail fell on a road way that runs along the river. Employees in the building that sits on the bluff were evacuated but officials say hospital buildings where patients are remain safe. Days of pounding rain have saturated much of the upper Midwest, leaving hundreds of homes flooded.
GOVERNOR MARK DAYTON (D), MINNESOTA: It's everywhere, and that's the part that makes it complicated a bit to total all the damage everywhere, but it's all part of one storm system.
CABRERA: Across the region, people living in flood prone areas are working around the clock building walls of sandbags to protect their homes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we can do is what we can do. Are you nervous?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. So I don't know. We just have to --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it floods, it floods.
CABRERA: The big concern now, rivers that are expected to crest several feet above flood stage in the coming days and many areas, neighbors are helping each other prepare.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're really close. It's like another block party except maybe a little less fun.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I've seen it, the resilience of the people of Minnesota and what you see every time you go to these things is Minnesotans helping other Minnesotans.
CABRERA: And in a bit of irony, Governor Mark Dayton visited parts of Southern Minnesota Friday. He had originally planned to visit due to drought conditions on farms. He's declared 35 counties disaster areas due to the flooding.
CABRERA: And you're looking live now at that hillside that collapsed under the weight of the rain and the saturation that hospital building there on the outside. It looks like it's in a bad position but it is stable. It was built actually on a bed of rock and shale. So all of the employees in that building have been moved out as a precaution, but those folks and patients at the hospital are all safe.
Now unfortunately, though, the flooding threat is not over yet. There is more rain in the forecast and the rivers are still rising and so, people are still worried, John, that it's possible more rain is going to lead to more flooding, more mudslides and a dangerous and perhaps more damaging situation.
BERMAN: I can understand why they are worried. Those are stunning pictures behind you. Ana Cabrera, thanks from us.
Another kind of storm hit Washington today as the head of the IRS testified before the House Ways and Means Committee. The IRS is begin investigated for targeting the Tea Party and other for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. Today's hearing centered on information that was lost when a former agency official's hard drive crashed.
Republican committee members did not buy the IRS commissioner's explanation about that to put it mildly. Dana Bash has the story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regular order, Mr. Levin.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIED CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the annals of white hot moments on Capitol Hill, this IRS hearing ranks high.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: This is a pattern of abuse, a pattern of behavior that is not giving us any confidence that says agencies is being impartial. I don't believe you. This is incredible.
JOHN KOSKINEN, IRS COMMISSIONER: I have a long career, that's the first time anybody said that you do not believe me.
RYAN: I don't believe you.
BASH: Former Republican VP candidate, Paul Ryan, is usually more policy wonk than attack dog but not here.
RYAN: You asked taxpayers to hang on to seven years of their personal tax information in case they are ever audited and you can't keep six months' worth of employee e-mails.
BASH: Republicans pushed John Koskinen on new IRS claims that two years of e-mails from IRS official, Lois Lerner, vanished because her hard drive crashed, e-mails from the same time frame the IRS targeted Tea Party and other groups.
KOSKINEN: The hard drive after was determined that it was dysfunctional and with experts no emails could be retrieved was recycled and destroyed in the normal process --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it was physically destroyed?
KOSKINEN: That's my understanding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it melted down?
KOSKINEN: I have no idea what the recycler does with it. This was three years ago.
BASH: They IRS commissioner repeatedly said Lerner herself worked with IT, even an IRS criminal forensics lab to restore the e-mails but they couldn't. Beyond the question who happened to learner's missing e-mails, is whether the IRS purposely kept Congress in the dark. Fuelling GOP accusations of cover up, which Koskinen flatly denied.
KOSKINEN: There is no attempt to keep it a secret. My position has been that when we provide information, we should provide it completely, if we prod you incomplete information sometimes people leap to the wrong conclusion.
BASH: It was testy right out of the gate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I didn't hear in that was an apology to this committee.
KOSKINEN: I don't think an apology is owed.
BASH: The IRS commissioner tried to give as good as he got from Republicans with backup from Democrats.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could the witness answer the question?
BASH: They mocked Republicans for obsessing over conspiracy theories.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about area 51 in New Mexico where those space aliens allegedly came. Have you ever had responsibility for that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever had custody of the president's birth certificate?
BERMAN: Dana Bash joins us now. I remember when the IRS scandal was young. There was bipartisan outrage. Democrats upset at the IRS, too. Today that didn't seem to be the case.
BASH: Not at all. You're absolutely right at the beginning, everybody from Democrats to Republicans couldn't believe that the IRS would target Tea Party groups or other groups. It is so partisan now and the way that Democrats defended the IRS in that hearing was actually stunning. But they have decided that this is a witch hunt and it is all about Republicans trying to get out the conservative base for the election, which is only four and a half months away because this really does rally them up. The challenge in that for Democrats is that the IRS isn't exactly a popular agency with any part of the electorate.
BERMAN: It was in shrinking violent either when he was giving the testimony.
BERMAN: Quite a contentious day. Dana Bash, thanks so much.
BASH: Thanks, John.
BERMAN: Up next, wrongly convicted of a horrific crime when teenagers, more than two decades later the Central Park five are a big step closer to closing the door on their ordeal.
Plus a new revelation in the VA health care scandal about the bonuses top people were checking while vets were waiting for care, some even died.
BERMAN: Crime and punishment tonight, a source telling CNN that a $40 million settlement has been reached in a lawsuit over the wrongful conviction of five men more than two decades ago. It is impossible to overstate what a big deal this case was at the time. Teenagers, the youngest just 14 held up as the face of urban lawlessness, charged and convicted of raping and beating a jogger in New York Central Park.
The police said the teens had been on a crime spree in the park terrorizing random people. Wilding they called it. Except it just wasn't true. Here is Susan Candiotti.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a story that not only gripped New York City, but inflamed racial tensions around the country. Five black and Latino teens accused of a horrific crime, savagely raping and beating a white woman who is jogging through Central Park in 1989.
After what appeared to be confessions, it seemed like an airtight case. The jury didn't buy a claim the confessions were coerced and although there is no DNA match from any of the teens and the victim has no memory of the attack, each of them is found guilty. At the time, the teens are called animals, savagers. Donald Trump puts out a full-paged ad asking to bring back the death penalty.
YUSEF SALAAM, WRONGLY CONVICTED OF CENTRAL PARK RAPE: If they had their way, we would hang from these trees in Central Park. CANDIOTTI: Yusef Salaam is one of the so-called Central Park Five. I talked with him two years ago, then 38 years old. Here he is at 15 on the left after he was arrested.
SALAAM: It's an indelible scar that is nightmarish, you know, and that nightmare is reoccurring.
CANDIOTTI: That nightmare included about seven years in prison for four of the boys, 13 years for another. Before a major break in the case in 2002.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The victim has been set aside in their entirety.
CANDIOTTI: All five convictions are thrown out. Overturned after a stunning confession from a serial rapist whose DNA was found at the scene. While the teens were in jail, the real rapist didn't stop.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He commits at least five more rapes that we know of after the Central Park jogger.
SALAAM: After being exonerated, it's like someone running free through the grass and just throwing their hands up yelling ah-ha. It's such a -- the feeling is over joy and happiness.
CANDIOTTI: Suing for damages has taken years. More than a decade, but the city has always maintained it acted in good faith.
SALAAM: Just as there was a speedy method, speedy trial, speedy means to convict us, there should be as equally a speedy method, a speedy way to compensate us.
CANDIOTTI: Salaam once told me for him, it's always been a criminal system of injustice and with a settlement, he says he wants to believe justice works. Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York.
BERMAN: Twenty five years that's how long the five men have waited for justice. Sarah Burns wrote about the ordeal in her book, "The Central Park Five, The Untold Story Behind One of New York's Most Infamous Crimes." She later teamed up with her, Ken Burns and her husband to produce a documentary based on the book. I spoke with her earlier.
BERMAN: So Sarah, this is a $40 million settlement, big. Were you surprised by this or was this going to happen sooner or later?
SARAH BURNS, CO-DIRECTOR AND AUTHOR, "THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE": Well, you know, I think it was going to happen, but it took the De Blasio administration for it to happen. I think a year ago, this would have been a shock.
BERMAN: And that's because the Bloomberg administration says that the police, the authorities acted with cause, so what changed was the change in administration?
BURNS: I think so. Absolutely. I mean, I think there was a sense of De Blasio said on the campaign trail that this was a miscarriage of justice and need to be righted.
BERMAN: So I grew up in Boston. This was a national story. We heard about this story up there. We knew what was going on. To be here in the city during that time, bring us back, you know, make us remember, what a circus this turmoil and anger this caused.
BURNS: Yes, it was, I think New York City in 1989 is different place than it is today and the fear of crime was at an all-time high in some ways, and so people reacted to this crime with really strong emotions. I think understandably. And so what you get is this really sensational media response, and people wanted I think to feel safer and know the perpetrator or perpetrators were behind bars, and so this really just snowballed quickly and everyone thought they knew what happened.
BERMAN: You just brought up journalism, the way this story was reported. It's a big part of the bigger picture here. I want to take a listen to a little bit of what you reported.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I look back at the jogger case and wish I had been more skeptical as a journalist. You know, a lot of people didn't do their jobs. Reporters, place, prosecutors, defense lawyers. This was a proxy war being fought, and these young men were the proxies for all kinds of other agendas, and the truth and the reality in justice were not part of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Of course, "The New York Times" journalist. All journalist have regrets. We're not perfect. We all make mistakes. Why do you think this case wasn't looked at with more scrutiny or skepticism from the beginning?
BURNS: Yes, I think there was really a failure on so many levels in this case on the part of the police, but certainly on the part of journalists, as well. I think what Jim is getting at is the fact that really everyone dropped the ball. I mean, I think people looked at this and the police came out with their story of what had happened and no one really asked those questions that they are supposed to ask.
BERMAN: You could hear the regret in that reporter's voice so many years later. You spoke to the five men involved in this for the book for the documentary. Looking back now on this whole episode, it's, what, you know, 20 -- a long time, 25 years later, are they angry at all?
BURNS: You know, considering what they have been through, I was struck -- from the first time I met them that they don't seem angry. I think they obviously are. They must be. They found some ways to manage that, and I think they have all and I think they would say they realized that being angry is self-destructive, too. So they have found ways and I think that they in talking about it.
And talking with us and sharing their story with me and us for the film, I think they found being able to talk about it and I think they hope that by sharing their story they can try to help other people and they love talking to kids more than anything else.
BERMAN: You know, it's such an important story, you know, not just for people that grew up in New York by journalist and everybody. Sarah Burns, thank you for being with us.
BURNS: Thank you.
BERMAN: Coming up, as the White House announces a plan to deal with a surge of unaccompanied, undocumented kids coming into the United States from Central America, one woman that made the trip 20 years ago and hasn't seen her parents since until now.
The deadly wait times at veterans hospitals, hundreds of VA managers got glowing performance reviews and bonuses. What a top VA official said about it today when 360 continues.
BERMAN: The Obama administration announce a plan to stop is the surge of undocumented children in the United States, often unaccompanied. It includes almost $100 million in aid to Central American governments to help the children going back. Today Vice President Biden headed to Guatemala for a meeting with regional leaders to address this problem.
U.S. authorities estimate as many as 80,000 children from Central America will cross the United States this year without parents. Now, each represents a story, a family history. For one New York woman, it's been years since she left Honduras to come here. She hasn't seen her parent's faces for nearly two decades until now with the help of CNN's Rosa Flores, it's our "American Journey."
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This neighborhood in Honduras is not only home to both poverty and violence, but to families, as well. And to this mother, who would give anything to see her daughter again. Natalia Lopez Manuela says she has always supported her children, even when one of them wanted to take on the dangerous and uncertain voyage to the United States in search of opportunity.
Nearly 20 years ago, Natalia kissed her daughter, Leslie, goodbye. The 25-year-old left on foot never to return to Honduras. This mom says she's now trapped in the very situation her daughter left behind. Over the years, she has only spoken to her daughter by phone, never seeing her face-to-face.
(on camera): I met this family while filing special reports for CNN in Honduras and when I learned about the agony they were facing due to separation, I thought there is something we can do here, and I started looking for her daughter, Leslie.
(voice-over): And found her living in New York. Sharing her mother's grief. Leslie says she used to cry alone, thinking about her family thousands of miles away. She was undocumented and couldn't visit. We took a DVD of my interview with her parents and showed it to Leslie. She was finally able to see her parents for the first time in almost two decades. She couldn't believe her eyes. Her mom showing the many years on her face.
(on camera): When you left they were --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Big difference.
FLORES (voice-over): As does the home she grew up in, a shell of what she remembers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Home sick.
FLORES: And also shocked at the poverty and violence plaguing her old neighborhood. What didn't surprise her, her father talking to CNN. He's never been timid she says, and while this unconventional reunion brought her some joy, nothing replaces seeing family in person. Her dream now, aside from becoming a U.S. citizen is to visit her family in Honduras one day.
BERMAN: Rosa Flores with me here tonight. Rosa, her story is just incredible. Does she plan on trying to get to Honduras to see her family again?
FLORES: I should give some context here because Leslie tells me that she arrived to the United States with only the clothes she was wearing on her back and remained undocumented for years and finally got a work permit. Right now, technically, she could actually go visit Honduras but tells me, Rosa, I am too afraid to go. She's afraid while she's gone, something changes in the United States, and then she can't come back in. And then the other thing she's very afraid of is the violence in Honduras.
BERMAN: Rosa Flores, a lovely report here. It's a complicated situation for so many families. A lot of family stories and histories. Thank you so much.
Just ahead, the remarkable rescue of a cave explorer trapped under ground for 12 days.
BERMAN: Let's get the latest, Susan Hendricks has the 360 bulletin.
SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, a top VA official confirms that 78 percent of senior managers got bonuses last year because of glowing performance reviews. They came shortly before CNN started reporting on excessive, sometimes deadly wait times at VA hospitals. Got to see this incredible rescue in the Bavarian alps where a 52- year-old cave explorer was trapped more than 3,000 feet underground for 12 days after being injured by falling rocks. He was strapped to a stretcher and navigated to safety through winding tunnels, waterfalls and vertical climbs.
Speaking of amazing, check out this video from Clear Water, Florida. A traffic camera catches this motorcycle accident. He literally walks away. A CNN affiliate Bay News 9 says 22-year-old who hit the car flipped several times -- there it goes, you see him stand up and walk away. He said he knew this was coming, so he just hit the breaks and ejected.
BERMAN: Lucky man. All right Susan ...
HENDRICKS: Very lucky.
BERMAN: ... thank you so much.
That does it for us. The CNN original series, "The Sixties" starts now.