tv Locked Up Abroad MSNBC February 21, 2016 7:00pm-8:01pm PST
the sky's the limit. you know, everything is in front of you. being behind bars, that's where you're stuck. >> we were in among some pretty extreme guys. we needed to get the hell out of there. >> they were like robots programmed to kill. >> i was the enemy. there was nothing but the trigger pull. you will not hear another sound. >> his life was in my hands. >> you're an american spy. >> i'm faced with something that goes beyond the bullet. at that moment, there were no two people that could have been closer. >> it was 100% sure that he
would be killed. >> all i was doing was willing myself to go into the black to escape the pain, tell my son i didn't cry. >> i'm a canadian journalist. ex-soldier. been a war correspondent for 20 years. had been covering iraq extensively before, during and after the american intervention. always working embedded. >> i was a correspondent of a turkish newspaper. when we first met it was the meeting of two journalists but then, you know, we became friends because i went to iraq many times and he was also coming. >> how much longer do we have? >> about two hours. >> we were heading back in to
cover the deteriorating situation in northern iraq. the story we wanted to get was the one happening all over iraq and not being told. that was the human suffering. if people want to make a decision about the war, they need the whole truth. >> in 2004, iraq was a dangerous place to go because for example you go to a market and buy fruit and five minutes later you get the news that that market was bombed. >> kidnappings have been on the rise, there's no question. i did understand the dangers. at this moment i felt particularly in the north with the contacts that i had i would be safe. i was an execs -- ex-soldier. i loved the military this was this dual adventure/sowing of wild oats. the plan was to go to the american military base and meet up with a contact that i met with on a previous trip. very conspiratorially he said
"can you keep a secret." and we assured him we could and he said -- we're about to hit tal far. you we're about to clear it up. you don't want to be near there for the next 24 to 48 hours. i'm not going to lie to you, i'm not going to lie to anybody. there is an adrenaline rush when you hear that. >> as a journalist i told them that it's big news, i have to be there. >> so we left. assured him we would go nowhere near it and tried to find a way to get there. as we were driving into mosul i remembered that it was going to be my son's birthday the following day. >> it's kirk's birthday tomorrow. >> scott often talked about his son kirk, who is beautiful. so i knew that he is a loving father. >> he has his mom's eyes. >> dad's nose. >> yeah. stubborn. >> there's a down side to being a father with a family and still covering wars. it was necessary to go back in
and report firsthand on what was going on because there was no other foreign correspondents covering the north at that time. in this remote corner of northwestern iraq, turkish is quite widely spoken, as is kurdish and arabic. i had contacts and i covered the ground in talafar and we had knew the area, knew the players, but we still had enough daylight to get to talafar. but we had difficulty finding a taxi driver to take us there. >> whenever they heard the word talafar they were making the movement, no, no, no. >> mujahideen. >> we could hear that word mujahideen, mujahideen, mujahideen. the mujahideen is a generic term which americans think of as insurgent or taliban or al qaeda or whatever, but they see themselves as fighters for islam
defending their country. that should have set off alarm bells. >> but finally we found a taxi driver. >> $30. he just said okay, give me the money, yeah, i'll do something crazy and take you to talafar. >> my plan was to get inside the city, hook up with my contacts and from there, i mean, being safe about it, observe what was about to happen. most people would think it was insane to go straight into it. but in my experience being at the vortex you are in the eye of the storm and it's been safe. all the way in we saw cars coming out down the highway, full of people with furniture, bedding, cars packed. we arrived and there was a police checkpoint outside of town. >> while i was walking i was
feeling again safe because he was a policeman paid by the americans. i said "excuse me, we would like to go to the heart of talafar. >> he seemed to recognize the name right away, dr. yasher. >> but instead of directing the way, he just made a hand movement so some guys with masks and kalashnikovs. >> maybe i was willfully deceiving myself, but i believed them to be a special forces unit of the police in iraq. >> do you know dr. yashir? >> yes, sir. >> when i look back on the whole thing, that was probably the one critical moment where we could have made a decision at that point, we still were not in the trap fully. we could have still taken a taxi back, back to mosul.
it was basically no one on the streets except for small groups of armed men. basically mujahideen. and our guys were beeping the horn and waving to these guys who instinctively waved back. that struck me as odd that mujahideen fighters would be waving to the police. we pulled up to a building, we all got out of the vehicle, they were being very friendly, assisting us, taking our bags, helping us through -- around the corner to this gate. and it was like going through a portal. this was not dr. yashir's house. this was a mujahideen fighting position. >> everything changed. >> it was suddenly very obvious
that the mujahideen controlled the town. the lanky guy that welcomed us into his car turned out to be the emir, which means the leader. he was going to come back and deal with us at some point down the road. and she whispered to me -- they think we're spies. >> in which case, i'm reassuring her -- >> when they talk to dr. yash ir and look at our documents, we'll straighten this out. >> we were not that very much afraid. i was believing they would learn we are journalists. >> i wasn't worried what the mujahideen were going to do to me. we knew the americans were going to attack. and this would be a likely target. unlike my original plan, we're on the front line. we needed to get our identities established as quick as we could and get out of there. suddenly there was a lot of commotion inside, people
yelling, it was before they came into the courtyard. >> they just pushed him to the end of the courtyard. they were like robots programmed to kill. and then the unmistakable cocking of a kalashnikov. click click. and i just froze. at that moment there is nothing but the trigger pull. you'll not hear another sound. time stands still and at the same time it races. my brain goes into an overdrive. it's arguing with itself, it's trying to find out which emotion, saying goodbye to your family, wondering where did we go wrong and you know there's, like, no time. >> so i just told them, i have to make them understand that scott is a human, with love, with a heart. so i suddenly remembered kirk and i just yelled out "stop, he has a son!" and they just stopped at that moment.
>> had she not yelled they would have shot me. to come back from that, be pulled back from the abyss and to be told to sit back down, the relief is fighting with the emotion of still trying to come to grips with what the hell just happened. then the emir came back and made his decision to take zeynep away. >> scott, they're going to kill you, scott! >> i was convinced that they were taking me away so that they could kill scott without me making a fuss. >> it was an outrage that this was happening and it was such a sense of helplessness. anyway, about three minutes later there was a sudden -- one single gunshot was fired. and one guy actually -- he went like this and i thought they killed zeynep. it's like i was hit with a bat in the gut. i mean, it just floored me.
and obviously my turn was coming next. i don't think you can find a more fearful combination than what was happening, i now didn't understand what was being said, my friend has just been shot, i'm afraid i'm about to die any moment. the panic that i could feel welling up inside me, it took every bit of my training and experience to force that thing down because if it gets out, you're useless. and then i heard zeynep's voice. so i suddenly realized she had not been killed. >> scott, are you okay? >> i'm fine. i was worried. >> it was a massive amount of relief. >> so there's this weird euphoria that she's alive. but at the same moment, i was experiencing these tremendous sense of vulnerability because i was being stripped down, so it
really was like a blender of emotions. she had gained their trust as a muslim woman. me? i was the enemy. >> at this point, his life was in my hands and it's only me. who can save him there? >> but knowing what impact abu ghraib had on the iraqi society, no man wants to be stripped down at gunpoint by a hostile enemy. and every male is going to be a liar if they don't tell you they're not afraid in that situation of being raped or worse. [car driving] ♪ [engine revving] ♪ ♪ [car engine] [car speeding away]
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that was a huge relief. then they told me i was to go in to be interrogated. zeynep was there, panic in her eyes. >> why did you come to iraq? >> they would say, we know you're a spy. tell us who you are working for. and all i could tell them, of course, was the truth. >> you are not a journalist! you are an american. >> we can easily get around this. i can prove my identity. >> look at the internet. >> stop lying! >> i'm not lying. >> it was getting late. early hours of the morning and the generator sputtered to life and the lights started coming on. they scrambled to put on their ski masks to hide their identity, they didn't get them lined up properly. had them skewed and they both were looking funny. it broke the tension because it was so absurd. it was a monty python moment. even the emir laughed and basically dismissed us and said "you sleep now. if we check your story and you're telling the truth you will be allowed to live. if not we will kill you."
the next morning came very quickly. i was kicked awake. there was a feeling of tension in the air. i don't think you get a more tense situation. you've got soldiers waiting and they know americans are about to attack. we weren't sure where we were. they took us into another compound and at that point our blindfolds were removed. >> the emir told us okay, i'm going to internet center. if you are really journalists, there's nothing to worry about. >> where i was going to be locked up was in this hot box room. it was a dusty old storage area,
just solid door. it wasn't long after that the young boy came back and offered -- high -- he let me out, and he offered me a cigarette. i don't normally smoke but in that situation you take it. there was something there, a bit of a bond. in the heat of the day that afternoon i became really aware of the drones. the drones are unmanned aerial vehicles that they use for observation. they can put a hellfire missile into a bread basket target. it's that accurate. when you become aware of it, you know a battle is about to come, we're into the second day and everybody knows 24 to 48 hours and it was during that time that the emir turned. >> there was a big smile on his face and he said that, "yes, you know what i like your stories. okay, you're a journalist,
there's nothing to be afraid. but the americans are coming to talafar today so i cannot set you free now. it's all risky on the road. so tomorrow the first thing i'll do, take you out of talafar and release you in mosul." >> he says he checks the internet and he believes we are journalists. we are leaving tomorrow for mosul. >> but in the meantime we're being detained inside the middle of what's going to become a battlefield. >> i don't like the idea of being here tonight. >> you couldn't get more on the front lines. i did not want to be there when that attack took place. i don't think they put me back in the hot box because of any hostility. it was simply they wanted to sleep themselves and the easiest way to do that was lock me up again. to go back into that room was like going into a sauna.
and all of a sudden this is it. the opening curtain is going up. the choppers were coming right over our compound and blasting stuff. >> i said to the teenage boy to take scott out of the room because that house could be bombed at any time and he would not be able to escape. >> these guys, the mujahideen, they thought they were hidden by the darkness, which means they had no idea about the night vision capability of the american air force. every single move they made was suicidal. >> the difference for me was i was not afraid of my captors but i was afraid of the american soldiers. >> you'd constantly hear the strong screams of allahu akbar. i'm thinking these guys are trying to get their spirits up.
these guys are getting their ass kicked, they're getting pounded. >> they are cheering the creation of their martyrs. >> then i realized we were among some pretty extreme guys. one of them got up and let this guy in and he was carrying an rpg. from where i was i could see stacks from floor to ceiling was ammunition. rockets. i realized then, oh, my god, even one errant round and we were gone. the fighter went back outside and got up on the rooftop and fired a rocket up and before he could load the second one the burst came right over our compound. you could feel the heat from the tracer. it vaporized him. >> i was 100% sure that i would be killed any time in that night.
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>> and since the time that i was kidnapped, i slept in a very peaceful way. >> then there's the what now? no one knew what was going on. >> hey -- >> so zeynep convinced the young boy, she said, look, the battle is over, surely we're free to go. so he leaves. >> i've asked him to check to see if we can go. >> he wasn't gone more than 20 minutes and he came back. >> there was a really strange expression on his face. >> he's saying the emir is dead. >> he just told me emir is a martyr now. >> the emir had been killed by one of these rockets in the
beginning of the attack. our hearts just fell. this was the one guy who we were putting all our hopes on and now he's dead. we understood what that meant. someone else is coming to get us and they were taking over but they did not know our identity. and these guys were angry. obviously they'd been fighting the night before. they drove like mad. you could sense that they knew now they were in danger as well. it wasn't just the drones because the helicopters were coming the night before and now it's broad daylight. i'm waiting for the americans to put a hellfire missile into the vehicle. plus this whole thing of who is taking us now. so there's the fear that whether it's by the americans or by them it's going to be a short ride.
and where we got out i knew it was some kind of farm complex because we had to stagger down a bit of a field. when you're flailing and being moved around, completely helpless. and then we got into what turned out to be more or less like a bunker. it was below ground. >> i'm from canada. >> american? >> no. >> they came in and asked questions. same questions, who are you, why are you here, you're spies, et cetera, et cetera. >> now the americans started to use the fast air, the jets were coming in. you'd hear the whoosh basically straight overhead. in the farm complex it had to be 30, 40 fighters.
this is about as legitimate a target as you're going to find. you're sitting waiting for what could be and should be the end of your life. >> i was hearing some arabic and some turkish so i missed some parts. they were in a hurry, they didn't know what to do with us. somebody said, we are running out of time. let's simply kill them. so i said "scott, they're going to shoot us." >> that was a heart-dropping moment, i mean, for us. just keeping that panic down was so much. >> i was so much terrified. i was believing that i only have minutes. >> she began to cry. >> don't cry. >> he told me no, no, no, don't cry. you are still the same person that i know. >> don't let them do this to you. >> he told me physically they can touch us, but they cannot
change our souls. >> nothing can change that. >> and it was at that moment that i witnessed how mentally scott was strong. >> then came the word they were going to kill me. but not zeynep. she said "scott, they're going to shoot you." for me if i was to be executed, i'm telling zeynep, "tell my son i didn't cry. tell him they didn't break me." if that's the last connection to your son, the last example, that's important. courage is the one virtue without which all the rest are meaningless. my father taught me that and i've taught that to him. >> i want to see it. don't let them blindfold me! >> i didn't want the blindfold. i got more afraid if i couldn't see. so not only did i get the blindfold, i also got a gag. then they put a sandbag on my head as well. i'm about to be executed. there's no reason to doubt these
people and i'm forcing down the panic. and at that moment, one of their guys started to punch me. blk -- [ speaking foreign language ] >> but i wasn't there. my mind has gone somewhere else outside of the here and now back into the few things i could hold on to, my family. suddenly, he was told to stop. someone very close to me said "i've just saved your life." and then he went on to say he had a brother in toronto. of all the things i thought he might do, that was not in the realm of the possible, that act of humanity. he saw me as a human being and did what he could.
just very strange. and then he went on to say "don't say anything. if my men hear you speak english, they'll rip you apart." >> i was really terrified that they were going to separate us and kill him and set me free. >> she was shouting my name, she wanted to be reassured that i was there. >> then i felt his hand touching my hands. so i relaxed. at least we were together. >> how that convoy got out of there given the aerial reconnaissance i have no idea. >> and after half an hour it
became hotter and hotter inside the car. i could not breathe. >> when they allowed me to take the blindfold off, that was the first time that i was aware that we were well into the desert. we were fleeing from the battle zone. it seemed we could relax slightly. >> we stopped. >> en masse all of them prayed towards mecca. like a giant sort of church picnic outing. >> there's a leader there.
>> two other cars joined the group. and there was some discussion. our cars were full of munitions and they took the munitions out and piled them into the other two and then so basically turned them into wheeled torpedos. >> they were not afraid of dying at all. that was the first time that i felt in my heart that they were from another world, which is totally stranger to me, and for me, there was no way to reach to that world.
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up his campaign in nevada, speaking to a crowd in henderson. cruz came in third in the south carolina primary, working now to top donald trump and marco rubio. ahead of tuesday's gop caucus. meanwhile, bill clinton rallying with supporters in oklahoma city. hillary clinton is not on the campaign trail today after claiming victory over bernie sanders last night in nevada. now back to our regular programming. >> we began talking with this guy on the front seat of the car. he told me that emir was his brother. >> i know about his promise to free you. >> he told me that there is nothing to fear. >> all of a sudden there's a bit of light. knowing that this individual whose name was mubashir knew about the promise, that gave us hope.
somebody knew our identity. >> we had somewhere close to syrian border in the desert. >> it was a house under construction but pretty much off on its own. and mubashir left. we didn't know where he was going. he obviously had to find what to do with us. he couldn't do it from the house. and it wasn't long after that that another car drove out. four gunmen got out. >> i was so much afraid, again i was with a group that i didn't know. >> the leader of this group, when he saw me i knew there was hatred in his eyes.
he saw me as an american and then translated that into the symbol of the occupation. he began to sort of shout directions at our guards from talafar quickly took their cue from him and separated zeynep immediately. >> i was sure that he had killed many people before and he did it with a big happiness. >> he's digging a grave. >> they took us at gunpoint out of the building and he showed us where there was a freshly dug grave. and he told us, at sunset, i'm going to behead you. i will use this blade. >> i don't think there was a greater fear of anybody that was working as a journalist in iraq at that time, that of being caught by the insurgency and beheaded.
>> it's then 100% sure that we would be killed. you are in the desert, you can run nowhere. and you have no hope. >> i felt a tremendous sense of guilt. because i was going to -- it was going to be a devastating blow to my family and anger associated with the fact that i created this huge hole. i did not want them to videotape it. i did not want that to be my son's final image of his father, someone pleading for his life and still being killed. i wanted to go on my own terms. >> in most of the hardest times that we were not even allowed to talk to each other, secretly he was giving me some small smiles. so that's really helped me to be strong. >> at that moment in time there
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[car engine] ♪ >> get up. >> we were told to get up. we were taking our final walk to a gruesome death. >> time to die. >> then as we started to go out we saw headlights bobbing over the broken ground. the car drove up and mubashir got out. there was shouts, mubashir demanding to know what's going on and then he exerted authority over this individual and very quickly it became apparent that the beheading was off. it was a tremendous sense of disbelief and then we started to realize that we dodged literally that bullet.
that night, mubashir himself sat with us. >> tomorrow we go to mosul. >> he's just taking us to the new emir. so he's just going to confirm the decision of the previous emir. >> and then, god willing, you are free. >> we got into mosul. then whatever plan they had seemed to go awry. >> the emir doesn't want to see you. >> the emir was angry that we'd been brought to his domain. it was obvious that mubashir was quite shook up. we were taken to a succession of different houses. finally we were told to get out
of the car. and we were taken in through that house to a room in the back. >> mubashir came back but he was looking like he was ashamed that he was abandoning us. >> i have to leave. and he just said in arabic "i leave your fate in god's merciful hands." >> that isn't the words you want to hear coming from the only guy that can possibly save you. >> i understood that we were in the hands of another group and those guys were really, really dangerous guys and even my
captor was in danger so he just have to abandon us. it's finished again. >> we felt up until this point that things had been pretty tough. we'd been through quite a bit. we didn't realize that we were only at the beginning. >> listening to scott was unbearable for me. it's like psychological torture. they beat the bottoms of my feet with like a whip, like a reed, because all your nerve endings are in your feet. >> american pig! >> he began questioning me. who are you working for? why did you go to talafar? and i was saying "i'm a journalist."
again, i believe this is how i'm going to die, they're going to beat me to death. in being beaten to death, the survival instinct isn't to survive. it's to seek an end to the pain. all i was doing is willing myself to go into the black. to escape the pain. i hate to say it, i wasn't thinking about my family, it was about crossing over and the quicker the better. >> i was brought to the other room and then i felt a burning sensation all around my body and i realized that actually they are beating me. >> i could hear zeynep protesting and the same questioner came back and he said to me "if you confess, we will stop the pain for zeynep." knowing that her torture was
aimed at provoking a confession from me my heart just sank. but there was nothing i could do. >> i really don't know how much time later. i noticed scott's shoes and i thought that they killed him. because i knew that he always used to keep the shoes in a neat way. and it was a deep, deep pain. this just proves that i couldn't save his life and some man came inside and told me "get up, we saved your life." i didn't wake up. i was in another world.
they took me another house and i realized that that house was owned by my torturer's mother. they just told me that scott was alive. it was a massive relief. i realized that nothing is over unless it's over. >> they came in and said that zeynep will be free but i am to die. it was a tremendous weight off my shoulders when they said zeynep was being released. at least one of us was going to survive. on the flip side of that, now i'm facing this alone.
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>> they chained my feet. and had me splayed out. and they had another set of handcuffs. i was chained up like king kong. one of them said he knew i was a spy. >> we're going to behead you. in the next 24 hours. >> there was no fight left in me at this point. >> i had an option, just simply returning back to turkey, but as soon as i learned that he was alive, i had to stay there because there were things that i could do to save his life. i went to internet center. i print out his resume. -- i print out his stories. i talked with religious leaders.
i talked to politicians. i asked them to do whatever they can to reach our captors and convince them that he's a journalist, not a spy. >> i realized kirk was going to grow up and i wasn't going to see that. that's where i admit, the one and only time that the tears flowed. i caught myself because it's one of those things, if it starts, there's no way you are going to control it. >> there was a small pillow. i did my best to make sure when he came back, he would have no evidence that i had been weak. the leader came in and i was waiting for him to say we had an
-- we're beginning the execution, et cetera. instead he said, we're going to play a game. >> it's called life or knife. >> the rules were, he was going to ask me questions. each answer i gave would determine if i lived until the next question. >> name. >> scott taylor. >> what are you doing? >> i write articles. >> this game had gone on at least a half hour. >> had you been to israel? >> liar. >> you're an american spy. >> i'm a canadian journalist. >> stop. >> suddenly he said, that's it. stop. you're free. take him out. >> then he said, you're going to be free to go. in my mind, i believed they were taking me out someplace where the execution would be easier to clean up. then they told me to get out, get out of the car. he tucked the equivalent of six
u.s. dollars into my pocket. i could not bring myself to believe i was actually, as they said, being set free. you're thinking at any minute this could be a quick and dirty execution. was it a random taxi or was it somebody that they had prearranged to be there? and then i smelled a familiar aroma. wafting from the driver. i realized the smell was beer and he was roaring drunk. that's when i knew that an islamic extremist in the employ of al qaeda, wasn't going to be drunk on the job.
that smell of his burp was the smell of freedom to me. at least i could begin to believe again. the light of hope came on again. it wells up inside you. as if something like the pilot light in your body, in your spirit has been shut down. and suddenly it relights. and for the first time, i could actually start to think, oh, my god, what in the hell just transpired? >> i was told that he would be free and he would come where i was. i was so impatient. i couldn't be sure until the time that i saw him.
that was a moment i was 100% sure with all my heart that there will be no trouble again. >> we had just gone through a plane crash that lasted five days. it wasn't a singular event, it was a series of ongoing events that lasted for five days and she had been, i mean, stellar in terms of saving my life numerous times. if it wasn't for zeynep, i would be dead by now. >> he always was giving me the strength to carry on. so we were like a good team together. and we were like feeling the blank part of each other to survive. >> you can't go through something like that and not create a bond. i can't foresee that bond ever shifting.
msnbc takes you behind the walls of america's most notorious prisons into a world of chaos and danger. now, the scenes you've never seen, "lockup: raw." >> i get mad sometimes, man. i get angry. >> the emotional toll here is like water torture. every day it's like a drip, drip, drip. >> always somebody bugging out, always somebody causing trouble in the cell house. >> i'm not a man till i can tell you that. >> [ bleep ]