July 3rd, 2008
06:55 AM ET

Morning Buzz: FREE at last!!!

Morning folks....

What a night!!! A dramatic rescue where armed forces disguised as rebels rescued former Colombia presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, AND THREE  three U.S. defense contractors - Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves and Thomas Howes, plus  11 other hostages held by leftist insurgents, in a daring operation....How did it go down? Well, Colombian forces apparently infiltrated the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC as most refer to them, and duped them into grouping Betancourt and the other hostages in a remote jungle location about 200 miles southeast of Bogota and putting them aboard a helicopter, supposedly for a meeting with new FARC commander Alfonso Cano. But the trip was a carefully orchestrated ruse, and as the helicopter took off with the hostages and two FARC guards from a jungle clearing about 45 miles southeast of the town of San Jose del Guaviare, commandos subdued the rebels without firing a shot. The helicopter in fact belonged to the Colombian army, and the crew was a special services unit. The 46-year-old Betancourt, who was held for more than six years, called the rescue operation impeccable..."God carried out this miracle," she said. "This is a miracle because I know that all of you suffered with my family, my children, with me. This is a moment of pride for all of Colombia for such a perfect operation." The  Americans - Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves and Thomas Howes - arrived on U.S. soil just after midnight....

Drew Griffin will be live from San Antonio, Texas where the Americans are being treated and evaluated...Harris Whitbeck will be LIVE from Colombia with more details on the dramatic rescue operation and Randi Kaye and John Zarrella give us the latest reactions from the former hostage's families....and yes, I did say "former" hostages...

Also tonight...we will check in on the burning timbers in California...Facing a stubborn fire, California officials ordered the evacuation of Big Sur on Wednesday as flames flared on nearby mountaintops and moved steadily toward this coastal retreat. Firefighters have been attacking a fire near Big Sur for 11 days and had been helped in recent days by fog, moist conditions and lighter winds. Seventeen homes have been lost here — more than half the total destroyed statewide from the first major wildfires of the season — but many residents had been allowed to remain as the fire stayed to the east and south.But overnight Tuesday the fire unexpectedly intensified, prompting mandatory evacuations of residents on both sides of Highway 1.....

And Gary Tuchman will bring us the the story we promised Wednesday night - Investment banker, science patron, self-made billionaire, philanthropist and former math teacher Jeffrey Epstein can add a new title to his résumé – convicted sex offender. The Manhattan moneyman appeared in a Florida courthouse yesterday where he pleaded guilty to soliciting an underage prostitute…..Yet another example of a rich and powerful man falling from grace…. What drives them down this path and ultimately into the ground…Dr Drew Pinsky joins us to discuss....

AND while the events south of the border were unfolding, fugitive hedge fund operator Samuel Israel turned himself him....so we will catch you up on that story, too...

It is still early, so who knows what the news will bring later today...so stay tuned....

Filed under: The Buzz
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Kaye, Pensacola & Chattanooga

    I cried this morning when I saw Ingrid Betancourt with her 2 children. I cannot fathom being away from my son and daughter for almost 6 years! It was a very touching moment, and I cannot wait to see the former hostages from America with their families tonight.
    Thanks Andy for all that you do to keep us up to date on what's going on in the world!

    July 3, 2008 at 4:02 pm |
  2. Ruby Coria, LA. CA.

    Anderson, I got in late last night and I saw the great news.. you guy did a good job reporting.. but I too hope that this isn't lost in the news because like u said there is many more & not just in Colombia.. I'm glad you came home safe from your mini-vacation over there.
    see you tonight* Happy 4th. to you all.. to freedom*

    July 3, 2008 at 3:32 pm |
  3. Martina Ilstad

    Hey Anderson
    Oh what a happy day.They are free.Dreams come tru.
    Storrys can be ended peaceful and happy.Now we must not forget the other hostages.May thy come home soon.


    July 3, 2008 at 1:56 pm |
  4. Suzan

    Good morning Mr. Cooper,
    Thank you for the awesome news last night about the Hostages coming home, this shows that FREEDOM does exist! I can't wait to hear more about the families. Thanks for the great news that you and your crews put on every night for us to watch!
    God Bless and have a happy 4th.

    July 3, 2008 at 1:35 pm |
  5. Denise

    You know what.. it's lovely to get some good news for a change! This is such a heart warming story. The world is a little better off today. Bravo to all involved including your good selves CNN for the great coverage. Have a great day everyone.

    July 3, 2008 at 1:28 pm |
  6. deborah, OH

    Forgot to mention the reporting of the hostages return late last night. It was very emotional for me to see it happen. Good job, Anderson & team 360! Was really glad I got to share in it.

    July 3, 2008 at 12:28 pm |
  7. Michelle Fonthill Ont,Canada

    Hello Anderson and Staff

    It's truly a miracle that theses hostages were released and brought back safl;ey to thier families . The orhastrated ruse that the Cloumbian forces used to rescue them was something out of a movie plot .Ther Fourth of July will be a great blessing to all of them.
    Thanks for all the great reporting last night and extensive coverage in this incredible story.

    July 3, 2008 at 10:25 am |
  8. deborah, OH

    Hi Anderson & all,
    Well it's IS GOOD to have the hostages in Texas now!! It was a HAPPY amazing story on last night's blog, especially with all the Columbians teling their personal stories. It was a special blog last night.
    This also gives Independence Day extra meaning this year!
    A SAFE & happy 4th to all of you.

    July 3, 2008 at 10:16 am |
  9. Annie Kate

    What a slick operation and so well executed – good news on getting the hostages freed and even better that no one was hurt or killed in doing it. I imagine the families are still pinching themselves to see if its true!

    Good news is addicting – I hope we have more of it.

    Annie Kate

    July 3, 2008 at 10:12 am |
  10. Alba- New York, NY

    Good morning to all!
    As a Colombian I have cried tears of joy since yesterday afternoon, however I couldn't bring myself to celebrate completely due to the fact that my friend Alf Onshuus -who was taken by these terrorist group in January- was still held captive.
    This morning I woke up to a message.... From Alf.... He was set free yesterday on the Pacific coast of Colombia...
    It is hard to explain to people what I am feeling right now. It is an overwhelming feeling of joy!
    Thank you President Uribe, thank you Colombian Army, thank you all for your prayers and support!

    July 3, 2008 at 10:05 am |
  11. Susan

    It goes without saying that the Columbian government should be commended for their proactive stand and for taking the actions that lead to the release of 15 hostages being held FARC.

    Ingrid Benancourt, Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and eleven other hotages are now free to reunite with their families and friends.

    For the three Americans I bet that this is an Independence Day that they will never forget. They become free on the date of 7/2 which makes it even more significant.

    I would like to share my Independence Day with all of the 15 hostages that were released. It was a real feel story for me as I watched AC360 last night.


    July 3, 2008 at 9:45 am |
  12. Wm Scott

    It is good the hostages are going home. Their ordeal was hard and tortuous. However remember it was America's insistence and insane drug war that fueled the FARC. All the deaths and destruction was caused by the collateral damage in this civil war. All this could have been prevented by taking the money out of drugs by instituting "harm reduction" years ago. Harm reduction is a much more saner and cheaper approach to drug use. However America's insane "all or nothing" mindset created this monster here in the States and the civil war in Columbia.
    They (FARC) started out as a movement for the poor in the 60's. Though it may have been communist in their ideals, it was the drug war with it promise of great amounts of money that fueled and gave them the power to be reckoned with. Again an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
    With all the power and knowledge in our Gov't, our law and policy makers should have known better.
    Connect the dots. Responsibility is shared. Who gave the dealers the incentive? Again harm reduction would have prevented all this damage and harm. I don't understand why conservative Law and policy makers are willing to point the blame but never willing to take responsibility and/or share the blame.
    We all make mistakes. Thats fine. However when we make the same mistakes and decisions over and over again, knowing better it become criminally negligent. It is kind of like this: "If the hammer doesn't work get a bigger hammer". Maybe our Gov't should have used a "scew driver" instead. Meaning we should haved used a "different tool" for these problems. Harm reduction.
    Wm Scott
    Tampa, FL

    July 3, 2008 at 9:35 am |
  13. Dorte N.Denmark

    Good news,about the hostages being rescued.I am happy for them and their families.
    And thanks for the great reporting
    Take care

    July 3, 2008 at 9:32 am |
  14. Oscar

    I for one am very greatful these american will be able to come home after 5 years. But one thing that not only sadden me but puzzle me is this is the very first time I ever heard of hostages being held for 5 years in Coloumbia. I read newspapers, watch the news national and local but yet I didnt know there was any hostage until they where resuced.

    And my question what took the US government so long to go get these americans ? 5 years and this whole time we just waiting on Coloumbia. Not trying to say Coloumbia wasnt trying or anything but the fact no american soilders was ever since is truely sad. People look down at Carter for the way he handle the hostages with Iran. But at least he try to do something. From my understanding Bush didnt do anything. Guess he was to busy in Iraq to care.

    July 3, 2008 at 9:26 am |
  15. Sandra Robertson Wadley, Ga

    Good morning Anderson:

    I hope todays news will bring more miracles. It is truly a blessing to see the former American hostages freed and home safely from Colombia. Thanks for the great reporting last night.

    July 3, 2008 at 9:00 am |
  16. Kristen- Philadelphia, PA

    Good Morning yall…Wow, its amazing this story about the hostages being rescued. I am truly happy for them and their families. I will be waiting to hear from Harris to find out all the details in their rescue. One remarkable story, I am sure this Independence Day will truly be special for them.

    Happy 4th everyone, be safe tomorrow 🙂

    July 3, 2008 at 8:41 am |
  17. Cindy

    It was like something out of a movie how the Colombian military were able to rescue the hostages. I am really amazed that they were able to pull it off seeing that the hostages weren't even all together so they had to talk FARC into moving them to one spot so that they could then get them and supposedly take them somewhere else.

    I am just glad that it all worked out as planned, that no one was hurt and that now all of the hostages are safe and sound. Hopefully they will get to see their families soon! And I really can't wait to hear from them to see what they have to say.

    My well wishes go out to them all.


    July 3, 2008 at 8:17 am |
  18. Gail Ellis Duncan

    Felt real good to read some good news!!! Free at last....WOW! Comes to show, never give up hope. Though many are struggling as the world is changing, hope is still alive and faith will see us through! As far as rich and powerful falling from grace.......like I said, the world is changing.

    July 3, 2008 at 7:42 am |