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July 2nd, 2008
08:52 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Hostages Rescued

U.S. contractors (left to right) Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell had been held hostage in Colombia for more than 5 years

U.S. contractors (left to right) Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell had been held hostage in Colombia for more than 5 years


Maureen Miller
360° Writer

Right now, three Americans are heading back to the U.S. after being rescued from the jungles of Colombia.  It's safe to say this is a day Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell will never forget.  The U.S. military contractors were held by FARC rebels for more than 5 years. Tonight, they're free men.  12 other hostages are also out of captivity, including Ingrid Betancourt.  She was kidnapped while running for Colombian president more than four years ago. The military operation to rescue all of them is something you'd see in a movie. (paging James Bond 007!!) It was a bold hoax that proved to work. Tonight on 360° we'll show you how it all went down and bring you stories of survival. Imagine being held hostage for years and years, away from your family. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this incredible story.

Just a coincidence -

GOP presidential candidate John McCain was in Colombia today to talk free trade.  But what's making headlines is his campaign shake-up.  A different senior adviser is taking over day-to-day operations. The new campaign manger helped get Bush 43 elected. Why the change? Is the McCain camp worried it can't compete against Obama? We'll have the raw politics.

And, the manhunt for the fugitive Wall Street swindler is over. Remember Samuel Israel? He's the one who cops say faked his suicide instead of showing up at a federal prison to do time for investment-adviser fraud and other charges.  Wait till you hear how Israel was put back in handcuffs. It's just another wild twist to this bizarre case.

All that and more tonight on 360°. Join us at 10pm ET.


Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Kat Diaz

    I am so proud of the Colombian government and President Uribe. He has been faced with lots of tough decisions and has proven to be a man of character and great wisdom. Many of his critics have been crticial of his dealings with the hostages but he is the ONLY president that has taken a stand and not allowed FARC to make a fool of the Colombian government. My heart goes out to the remaining hostages and their families. ANDERSON COOPER LET'S NOT FORGET ABOUT THE REMAIING HOSTAGES. THEY NEED NEWS COVERAGE AND BETANCOURT STATED HOW CRUCIAL THE MEDIA HAS BEEN IN KEEPING THEIR SPIRTS ALIVE NOT ONLY IN COLOMBIA BUT IN THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY. WE ONLY COVER NEWS IN THE MIDDLE EAST LET'S NOT IGNORE SOUTH AMERICA. GOD BLESS COLOMBIA!!!!

    July 3, 2008 at 1:47 am |
  2. marie

    I feel elated today for the hostages that were given their freedom and life back.
    One comment that I would like to make is that the families of over 700 people are still suffering. These FARC criminals extort hundreds and thousands of dollars from these families and leave many of them in financial crisis. They rob the kidnapee and their families from practically everything ...then sometimes do not release the kidnapee after payment has been made and leave them for dead.

    July 3, 2008 at 1:44 am |
  3. Ali Arenas

    this a good day for Colombia, and US as well. i am originally from Colombia,.now i a m living in the united states.,. the main reason that made me move to this country was the violence. I lived in Bogotá, so i did not see the actual guerrillas on the street, but still u feel the tension n terror every time you see the news, n how affects the economy every time Farc commit a terrorist act against civilians and kidnapping innocent people.
    this was an extraordinary military operation, thanks to cooperation between US and Colombian forces,, .hopefully , we can see more of this effective operations in the future and help liberate hundreds of other hostages that remains in the jungle.
    thank you U.S., Thank you Mr. Uribe. this day will be remember as celebration of freedom around the world, and a demonstration that united we can combat against terrorism
    Thank you again to everyone involve in this operation: military officials, news reporters, and all families for their brave,love and support.
    God bless America and Colombia Tonight.

    July 3, 2008 at 1:41 am |
  4. Brooklyn

    the timing is strange...
    McCain being in the area..
    the pending trade deal with Columbia which has footprints to both Political parties..
    from Mark Penn to President Bush..

    “Curiouser and curiouser!

    July 3, 2008 at 1:36 am |
  5. Liza Galea

    Today will go down as a great moment in history not only for the hostages and the families that they will re-uninte with but for the people of the world to unite and create an awareness into the communist movements and militia groups that continue to hold hundreds of individuals hostage. The international community needs to continue to unite and maintian their efforts to fight terror.

    July 3, 2008 at 1:32 am |
  6. Richard Mattox

    Again CNN makes news as event happens.I am glad for the release of all those in capture.but where was the reporting of these people held captive?I have watched CNN and never hear of those held.....now it non stop coverage.Why is there no non-stop coverage of the president who lied and falsified reports to go to war?Why??/Its an outrage that people who present the news jusrt read from paragraph to paragraph.The constitution of this land has been abused.......were is the outrage ...where?

    July 3, 2008 at 1:25 am |
  7. Felipe

    The brave army of the Colombian government has slowly taken down the FARC guerrillas and this is just the beginning of the demise of these criminals/terrorists. It is a huge day for Colombia and a new beginning for these hostages. May God please be with the remaining 700 kidnapped Mothers, Fathers, daughters, sons.

    Uribe has finally showed the world what he and his government made of!

    July 3, 2008 at 1:24 am |
  8. Cathy Markwell

    First, thank God they are on US soil again. Second, why is CNN the ONLY television station covering this incredible story of success and triumph. Instead of so much pain and anguish, these three men are again on US soil after over 5 years! This is news I want to be made aware of, is this too much to ask??? Can US citizens survive withouth 20 or 30 minutes of stand up comedy??? I think it would be tough but we could probably hold up without those 20 or 30 of the routine. Are you kidding, where is ABC and NBC and CBS and dozens of cable stations! I kept checking and CNN was the only one. FOX at least did a quick headline. Where the heck are are the rest of you!!!!! Yes, I am hopeful that you 'other stations' can pry yourselves away from endless streams of viagra commercials to show up tomorrow at the press conference...I am at least hopeful of that, however, you should have been there beside CNN. I was thrilled and on the edge of my seat with goosebumps watching CNN's LIVE story on this. Shame on all the rest of US tv. CNN and Anderson Cooper please pass this sentiment along.
    Good work, no GREAT work CNN and Anderson Cooper. Thank you.

    July 3, 2008 at 1:10 am |
  9. Shellie Addison

    Anderson,

    I am watching your coverage this evening of the freed Americans. I thought i would explode with joy watching the plane land and see our guys come home. Thank You for the continuing coverage of this great story. I remember when they first were taken and thought honestly that they would not return. My wish is for the rest to come home too! Why, with all of our military weapons, etc, can we not get the rest home? They are but a few 10,000, we are many more. Thanks Anderson, we'll be watching!

    July 3, 2008 at 1:06 am |
  10. Herb Bassett

    I grew up with released Farc captive Thomas Howes, graduated school with him in 1971. We are good friends and spent time together during breaks from his tours in S. America. Here in Chatham, Mass, the word quickly spread of his release. The entire town has quietly kept virgil with him during the entire time of his captivity. Our class has exchanged any info we could find and tried to keep hope alive. Few of my class mates and friends of Tom will sleep tonight! He was never out of our thoughts and prayers! Glad to have him back!

    July 3, 2008 at 12:55 am |
  11. terrence Moore

    I think it is totally wrong that the American hostages have not been able to speak to their families as we speak – 9:46 Mountain Standard Time when they have been out of captivity for many hours – especially when the French and Columbian captives have been holding press conferences. Your program indicates that debriefing may take a week! These are "independent" contractors! Is this just another policitical US "hostgage situation" – using these people who have suffered so much to promote US politics? I watch this and wonder if George Gonzales is being held back from going to see his son is being held back from seeing his son when we all get to see it on CCN? Wouldn't happen to us!

    July 3, 2008 at 12:54 am |
  12. David J

    First of all, I'd like to congratulate the Colombian government and military for this courageous victory. It is clear that things over there are getting much better as people that I know have visited Bogota and admited to loved it.
    Also, I'd like to know why everytime something good happens, most people in our country assume that the U.S. had something to do? Someone in this blog assumed that the U.S military had some involvement taking away credit from the Colombian president and military. This was a 100% colombian operation. Media should be more objective and inform how other countries are doing great things for our world, not just our country is the only one, othe nations are capable of doing great things.
    God bless the good people of the whole world, not just America.
    David J

    July 3, 2008 at 12:06 am |
  13. Claudia

    My brother fight against the FARC for 20 years. Today is a great day for Colombians. We are tired of those terrorist who have been destroying our country for 44 years. I'm very happy for the 15 hostages and their families, but we have to still praying for the hostages who still captive not just in Colombia but in many other countries around the world.
    Thanks Anderson for your coverage.

    July 2, 2008 at 11:53 pm |
  14. Veronica

    First of all, let us rejoice in happiness for our fellow Americans and their families. Free at last!

    Secondly, lets not forget about the 700+ who remain captives of the FARC in Colombia. Keep up the prayers and negotiations!

    Last, I would NOT give McCain credit for any of this. I truly belive it was a coincedence. What I believe is that not too long ago, perhaps a week or two, President Hugo Chavez issued a statement to the FARC where he asked an immediate release of Ingrid Betancourt and the rest of the hostages without any negotiations; including the 3 Americans. This statement came after a computer was retrieved while one of the top FARC officials was gunned down. Now I will leave it to you to put two and two together.

    July 2, 2008 at 11:40 pm |
  15. john galt

    Did McCain's luck made it happen? or did McCain had a hand in this???

    Well if it was Obama,Clinton or Kerry they would have probably taken credit for their release

    July 2, 2008 at 11:38 pm |
  16. Jefferson

    some hostages are lucky others are not its a sad thought but thank god that they are alive

    July 2, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  17. Maria

    While I know the U.S. government is contantly supporting the Colombian government I want to make sure that everyone understands that the Operation that resulted in the liberation of the 15 FARC hostages was 100% Colombian. Why does the U.S. media continue to say that the operation would not have been possible without the U.S.? Please dont insult the Colombian intelligence we are more than capable to carry out a successful military operation, after all, this operation not only liberated 15 people but it was done without any use of force or casualties, it was an impecable military operation by the Colombian Military. I am very proud of the Colombian Military and welcome back Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell, I wish only the best to them and ask they as well as all Americans not blame Colombia for this awful nightmare and understand that the FARC is a terrorist organization that does not represent the Colombian people in any way.

    July 2, 2008 at 10:57 pm |
  18. Sebastián

    Congratulations to the COlombian military forces, Ministry of Defense, and President Alvaro Uribe. Colombia is going to be the country to be looked at. Soon the narcoterrorists of FARC are going to be completely out, even their biggest political supporter, Hugo Chávez and his aide Rafael Correa of Ecuador realized they can't fight a democratically elected government. the armed fight is completely unacceptable and flawed at this time.

    July 2, 2008 at 10:50 pm |
  19. Susan - North Haven,CT

    Wow. KUDOS to the Columbian government, the Columbian military and especially to our own Intelligence personnel. This mission was BEYOND BRILLIANT!

    Today is an historical one and a stellar example of what can be accomplished when countries work together to reach a common goal. Fabulous – simply fabulous!

    God Bless all those who were rescued today. And welcome home to Marc, Thomas and Keith. I can only imagine the emotions, but it all makes me smile 🙂

    July 2, 2008 at 10:09 pm |
  20. Michelle Ferenz, Bentleyville, PA

    In regard to the McCain campaign shake-up, I must say that for all of the coverage I've seen about it today, it seems to have gone unnoticed that it is yet another piece of proof that McCain is willingly becomming more like the current "President" eventhough it is widely believed to be bad for his campaign....

    So, where are all of the Obama surrogates? Why aren't they out in full force, pointing this out as glaring proof that a McCain presidency will just be a McSame presidency?

    July 2, 2008 at 10:05 pm |
  21. Michelle Fonthill Ont,Canada

    Why did they keep them captive for so long what were they hoping to gain ? I can't imagine what kind of toture they endured at thier hands.
    Their families must be so relieved to finally have them back. I can;'t wait to hear the rescue mission story.I am a newcomer on this blog tonight so I'd like to say Hi to Anderson and Erica I hope you have a great show .Thanks Michelle D.

    July 2, 2008 at 10:02 pm |
  22. Cindy Bailey

    PS. To my last comment:

    Thank Goodness you are free! God Bless You!!

    July 2, 2008 at 9:48 pm |
  23. Cindy Bailey

    I cannot help but wonder why the release happened while McCain was in Columbia? Couldn't the rescue happened anytime sooner? It smells of political pandering and they didn't care that Americans and their families were involved...I just question if they could have been rescued earlier if not for a "sound bite"??

    July 2, 2008 at 9:46 pm |
  24. Cindy

    It is amazing how they rescued these hostages! I mean for the Colombian government to be able to trick the FARC into believing that they were part of their gang and that they were moving the hostages to another place is something that you'd see in a movie. Not something that you'd expect to happen in real life!

    I am extremely glad that it all went off as planned and no one was hurt. These hostages really have a heck of a story to tell!

    I am happy for them and their families and wish them all well!

    Cidy..Ga.

    July 2, 2008 at 9:08 pm |