by Marc Gonsalves, Tom Howes, Keith Stansell with Gary Brozek
GLENN: You know, let me tell you about the dark side of the drug industry by introducing you to three guys. We have Marc, Tom and Keith ready to go? Hey, guys.
HOWES: Hey, good morning, this is Tom Howes, how are you, Glenn?
GLENN: Good morning. Is Keith here?
STANSELL: I'm here, Glenn. I'd like you to know one thing. In the six months I've only purchased two books and one of them was An Inconvenient Book. I love it, good job. I guess I'm a dissenter.
GLENN: Thank you. A guy who's been held over five years in the jungle and he comes out and he reads that. And Marc, are you there?
CALLER: Yes, sir, I'm here. It's nice to hear from you.
GLENN: First of all, welcome back, guys. You know, I can't believe in reading the story, in reading the new book Out of Captivity and seeing what happened how frightening what is happening down south really truly is. And FARC is operating in Mexico as well. They have incursions up into Mexico. This is the kind of stuff, America -- and I want you to listen to these three guys. This is the kind of stuff that we're dealing with at the border and South America, this is the kind of stuff that if Mexico spirals out of control, you're going to see this just south of our border, and it will affect the average person.
Tell me the story. I guess, who can just tell me the story real quick about, you know, the day you guys took off? It was February 13th, 2003.
HOWES: This is Tom Howes. We were basically heading out on a recon flight to check out some drug activity coordinates.
GLENN: In Colombia?
HOWES: Yeah, we took off out of Bogota, we were heading to a refuel site that we never made it to. There were five of us on board. We're in a single engine turboprop aircraft. On the final leg we had started the final dissent, we took off the oxygen mask and the engine gave up the ghost, wound down to a stop and we're in rugged, rugged terrain, mountainous terrain with no clearings at all that I could see. And I was trying to calculate, see if we could make it over the ridge and to our refuel point but that was hopeless. And then the pilot, he picked out a little postage stamp clearing on the side of a mountain with a cliff on the far end and we decided to head for that. Tried to do a restart; couldn't get the engine going again. We landed on that little strip and the pilot --
HOWES: Yeah, Tommy Janus did an excellent job bringing us in there, superb job. I got knocked out on landing, bloody mess. Keith broke a few ribs, pretty well shaken up, but we all got out alive due to Tommy's flying skills. But we landed almost on top of a group of Colombian rebels, a leftist guerilla group, the FARC. And we were taken captive almost immediately. Tommy Janus, the pilot, the other pilot and the one Colombian that was on board, a Sergeant Cruz were separated. We believe that tremendous tied to make a run for it and were shot to death. That basically kicked off almost five and a half years of captivity with this group just in the most basic living conditions and running from the Colombian military whenever they got close. So we had multimonth starvation death marches mixed in.
GLENN: You guys, the three of you, when you were captured at the plane, Keith, you had internal injuries. And then Marc, you guys all went on for -- you marched for a month drinking muddy rainwater and having no food at all?
GONSALVES: We had nothing but the clothes we were wearing. We were strip searched. We were lucky enough to get our clothes back. Everything else was taken away. And for 24 days it was a hell march. I mean, we were just in shock, first of all, thinking we were being marched to our deaths. You know, I was sure that we were going to be interrogated, tortured and killed. And it was just nightmarish conditions. It's something that I would not wish on even my worst enemy. It was horrible to see how we were surrounded by just this group of youth but ignorant youth, young kids who were pointing the rifles of their automatic weapons at us and it was something that really is something you only see in a movie. It was just so surreal.
GLENN: And speaking of movies, they don't -- they are so ignorant. I mean, usually leftist guerillas are. But they were so ignorant about America and reality that when you got to one of the camps, they watch American movies and one of their favorite movies was the Matrix and they really thought that Americans could bend themselves and slow downtime and dodge bullets, right?
STANSELL: They actually asked how we did that. One of the guards came up and said, how do you do that? With a kind of training do your special forces go through to do that? So it's a level of ignorance that you have to live with to experience, Glenn. I mean, it's not really possible to understand it unless you're immersed in it and it's quite shocking.
GLENN: Keith, because I watched the -- by the way, if you don't know this story, you'll remember this story from, what was it, a year ago now when there was a bogus, you know, Red Cross kind of moment where they flew this military -- or this Red Cross kind of like chopper down and took these guys out. And before anybody on the ground figured it out, they figured out that it was a rescue and that's how you guys got out. And I want to get into the controversy surrounding that because it's been driving me crazy. But when you guys first made the videotapes -- now this is over five years ago. When you were first making the videotapes the, you know, proof that you were alive tapes, Keith, I don't think I've ever heard any dad ever -- I mean, it was amazing to watch. You told your kids to be brave and that if you don't come home, it's okay. What was that like?
STANSELL: It was tough. You know, we were essentially in a box, we could surprise kind of ambushed here, the news of Marc's mom, the deaths of our coworkers that came looking for us a month afterwards and, you know, at that point, Glenn, I think what you need to do is get out the most important thing and I don't want to speak for Marc and Tom. I think it's fairly easy to say that for the three of us, our kids, our families, that was the most important thing. So if I could do anything at that point, I wanted to reach out to my children and let them know how I felt and give them at least one last piece of guidance as if I was never going to speak to them again. That's all I thought about doing.
HOWES: The second proof of life we did, was it last year -- or just year before last, Keith and Marc didn't want to speak. They didn't want to build any propaganda for the FARC, but I did speak on that one and just because it was very important to get a message out to my family because the family looms up huge in situations like that. I kept this going basically.
VOICE: But that was -- we were literally in a situation where we never knew for sure if we were going to live to see them again and that's something that was constantly looming over our heads.
GLENN: You guys were kept in -- you were kept in cages for a while.
VOICE: Depends. We were kept in cages, we were kept in an open, you know, corral that's fenced off, we were chained to trees. I mean, I look at my neck every morning. I have scars from chains around my neck. Every day I get up and I look at that and I remember what happened to me in the jungle. But there were never good conditions.
GLENN: Have you guys, have you guys -- I mean, what is it like to be gone, to have gone through this for five years, come back, see the shape that your country is in today? I mean, when you guys left, we were still I think gearing up for the Iraqi war. You've missed all of this. Has the whirlwind stopped yet for you?
VOICE: This is like coming out of a time machine and for me it hasn't. The whirlwind, I haven't caught up yet. There's been so many advances technologically, so many changes politically. It's --
GLENN: What are the biggest changes?
STANSELL: The economy.
VOICE: That's true.
STANSELL: You know, Glenn, this is Keith.
VOICE: How about the price of gas.
STANSELL: Huge thing for us, we called what we lived in the Planet of the Apes. If you watched the movie, there's a lot of parody in that. The huge change that's happened for me since I've come back to the country is what are we doing as Americans today. It looks like everybody's looking for the government to save them instead of us saving ourselves and it's incredible. There's an unbelievable sense of entitlement that I never saw in our culture before. It's kind of scary to me.
GGLENN: Amazing. Okay, hang on just a second. We're going to continue our conversation. The name of the book is Out of Captivity. The story of surviving almost five years with leftist rebels in the jungle. And you are not going to believe. The escape, it almost was blown, the cover was almost blown, and they almost didn't get out because they were like, "Wait a minute, hang on just a second." But also the controversy afterwards will make blood shoot right directly out of your eyes. That's coming up in just a second.
GLENN: The three of them survived almost five years in captivity. You've heard about the plane crash. You heard a little bit about what their life was like, you know, there on the ground. We've just begun to scratch the surface on what is it like to be alone and not knowing whether you're going to live or die, with a goes through your head. The reuniting with their family also coming up.
Plus, the rescue that almost fell apart at the last minute, and I have to tell you there is one person that was held hostage as well, but they, all three of them hated, said just a despicable person. I'm going to have them tell the story. You'll never guess where this person is from. You'll never guess. Guess what country, somebody who is held a hostage that's all snotty and wants to play by different rules. Yes, France. We'll give you that story coming up in just a second.
GLENN: The name of the book is Out of Captivity: The Story of Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle as FARC Hostages. Three Americans were on a drug surveillance mission in Colombia's cocaine-producing southern jungle when their plane, a single engine Cessna, crashed. It was February 13th, 2003. They crashed in territory controlled by FARC, this leftist organization. The American pilot and the Colombian military intelligence officer and the other pilot if I'm not mistaken were shot when they were on the ground. They were led out of the jungle by that's FARC gunmen. The remaining hostages believed that they were trying to make a break for it. They were shot and killed. The three surviving Americans who are with us now were forced to march with the guerillas deeper and deeper into the jungle. After this three Americans' exact location was lost by U.S. intelligence, we couldn't find them. When the Colombian journalists came out to contact the hostages, they recorded a tape that proved that they were alive and well and they were ready to be traded for imprisoned members of the FARC being held by Colombian, the Colombian government. They were there for almost five years when there was a miraculous moment that was almost blown by the guys because they didn't know they were being rescued, and one of them went, wait a minute, something's not right here. We're going to get to that here in a second.
I just, I want to come back to you guys and I guess, Keith, what is it like? I mean, you seem to be -- you're military trained, right?
STANSELL: Yes, sir, I'm a former Marine.
GLENN: And Tom and Marc, do you guys have military backgrounds?
HOWES: This is Tom. I've worked with the military, but I've never been in the military. I just want to make one correction. I was the other pilot on the aircraft.
GLENN: Oh, I'm sorry, Tom.
HOWES: No, no. No problem.
GLENN: And Marc, were you military trained?
GONSALVES: Yes, I was in the Air Force.
GLENN: Okay. So you all are -- you know, have some idea going in that things could get nasty. At what point, what kept you going on? What kept you not just going crazy in the jungle? Or did you guys have moments where each of you broke down and went crazy?
HOWES: I think it varied between us. I was the older guy. This is Tom Howes again. And boy, there are moments when I was ready to just take a bullet in the head. You know, I was getting a little older there. I crashed when I was a week -- I was 49 when we crashed and 54 coming out and it was just a hard slog. It was very difficult times. You know, start out a march with, you know, your knee damage, Achilles tendon, knots in the tendons. And you have a multimonth march where you are just beat into the ground every day. It's tough. But I think for the three of us, the overriding factors that kept us going was a thought of our family, getting back to our families and being there for our families again one day.
GLENN: Did God play a role for any of you guys? Are any of you guys religious?
GONSALVES: I am. This is Marc. And for me God was everything. I'm a Christian. And throughout that whole experience I learned a lot about Colombian culture, learned a lot about the FARC, about President Uribe of Colombia. And everything I knew and everything I heard on the radio was information that told me that logically the odds of us getting out of there and surviving living to see freedom again was very small. It seemed as if we would never come out. But faith told me otherwise, you know. On the surface there was doubt but within the, deep inside there was a faith that put me at ease sometimes because I knew that for some how, some way we would get out of there. I just didn't know when. I had no idea it would go on for five and a half years.
And there's something else I want to correct because you mentioned a certain hostage that we were with from France.
GLENN: The French lady.
STANSELL: Right. And you stated that all three of us hated her, but I want to correct you on that right now. I don't hate her at all. I'm the one that befriended her, as it says in the book. And I have a great deal of respect for her. You know, Keith in these past interviews has come out attacking her, and I totally disagree with that. I don't care if she's from France, Canada or Somalia. I think she is a strong woman. I think that she did a good job surviving. Did we have issues with her? Yes.
GLENN: Okay, what were the issues? What were the issues? Let me go to the -- let me go to the freedom fry man, Keith. You probably missed the whole freedom fry thing.
STANSELL: I would set it up like this, you know. When we first got into a group, it was called Camp Uribe where we were mixed with the politicians. We were just three Americans coming in there. We don't participate in the class system that exists with this group. We were not going to be kicked around and we were not going to be any more or any less than anybody else. We viewed ourselves as equal to anybody else just as Americans do. So there was a ranking within the prisoners immediately of who was going to be who amongst the politicians and we didn't participate in that. And, you know, I would say one of the things like Marc said, you know, we all have our own opinions on things. And the things I've said about Betancourt are particularly one thing: I've not lied about any one thing. And when you're painted as a martyr, okay, but three days before I'm rescued you are standing over me as the FARC search me and you are cooperating with the FARC to help them search another prisoner because you want something that may cause you damage on the outside, you want to know what? That's enough, Glenn. That's a point to me where, hey, you've crossed the line; I don't want anything to do with you. So I see something painted when you come out of captivity but I'd also like to tell the other side the truth and as you can see if you read the book about those things, those are things that pained me a great deal as Americans, as an American. It really hurts to see that happen. It's something that Marc has been much bigger than me and he's able to forgive it. You know, I respect him for that. We all have our opinions.
GLENN: It's the Jesus bracelet. You should put one on, Keith.
STANSELL: I'll tell you this right now, you know. It's -- at that point what the bracelet said is what would Keith do and what Keith would do is he will not accept that behavior from anybody.
STANSELL: That's just it, whether it was her or anybody else. The helicopter arrives and you guys think you are going to meet one of the big drug lord guys, right?
STANSELL: We didn't know.
GLENN: But a big helicopter guy lands, people come out and they're wearing Che shirts but they are wearing the big Red Cross. Of course, you hate France. You won't play nicely with others. You actually come out and say, "Wait a minute, this guy isn't from Australia; his accent is fake; is that right?
STANSELL: There's been a lot said. There were no crosses on the helicopters. They were painted with the red and white colors but there were no crosses. You know, Tom has got thousands of hours as a pilot. I myself have thousands and the first thing I yelled at Tom, Tom, there's no crosses on those birds. So when they sat down, one of the Colombian soldiers came up to Marc and I because we were over far to the left. And I looked at his credentials, I said to Marc, hey, man, there's something wrong here. And I grabbed the credentials and I said, these are not legitimate; who are you. And he got nervous and they wanted to put handcuffs on us and Marc was not going to be cuffed under any -- you know, he was just not going to be cuffed and put on the airplane. So he started to calm us down and we were basically asking why should we submit to this. And he finally broke down to the two of us to the side. He said, "Hey, I'm going to get you out of here. Do you want to go home. Do you want to see your families again." It was the longest lines. I don't remember the exact words but that's what it was, Glenn. And we said, hey, put the cuffs on. We're out of here.
GLENN: Marc, you didn't want the handcuffs to be put on for what reason? You just, you were done?
GONSALVES: Yeah, I was through with it. I mean, five and a half years at that point and now here we are, we see civilians, you know, for the first time and these are the people that are handcuffing us. They are putting tie wraps on us. And I said, there's no way I'm going to get in that machine with my hands and feet tied. I didn't want any part of it. I wasn't the only one. There was a couple of the hostages that resisted that. But like Keith is saying, this guy that came over to us, I just want -- he just had a movie star look to him. I mean, he had bleach blonde hair, 5:00 shadows wearing these Ray-Ban glasses, had like a bandana wristband around his wrist, earrings. He comes up to us and the thing is he's speaking English to us. He lifts up those sunglasses and he goes, "Do you want to go home? Trust me." And I think he was trying to send us a little message there. And at that point I cooperated. I let him tie me up and I got in that helicopter.
GLENN: When did they tell you when you were off the ground, how far up were you when they told you?
VOICE: I tell you as soon as that helicopter lifted off, I don't even think the door was shut, it was just chaos that broke out on that helicopter. I could see across from me just a fight broke out and the commander of the FARC who was on the helicopter had his pistol in his hand and it was almost like there was a thick fog. I couldn't see clearly because there was so much activity and chaos. I saw Keith involved in it and I just was worried about Keith. I was afraid Keith was going to get shot in this. And I thought it was a fight over the tie wraps. I thought one of the hostages tried to break out. And all of a sudden I start hearing these people shout, "We're army, we're army." And for me when I heard that, I thought they were -- I thought they were crazy. I thought that it was impossible for the Colombian army to be on that.
GLENN: Pull this off.
VOICE: That helicopter. But then I tell you what, when I looked over at that helicopter that had that pistol in his hand and I saw all these guys that were posing as Che Guevara fans, they were just beating on him and zapping him with a stun gun and taking him out, then I realized I guess they really are army.
GLENN: I guess that's the only time I've ever been rooting for somebody with a Che shirt. All right, we're going to take a break because I want to come back and just touch base on the controversy surrounding the rescue and get their thoughts on that. More in just a second.
GLENN: 888-727-BECK, 888-727-BECK. We have the authors of the book Out of Captivity: The Story of Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle As Farc Hostages. The three hostages themselves are with us. And guys, I want to ask you a couple of things. When you guys first got out, you had the helicopter land, and it's amazing because I saw you on 20/20 over the weekend and I looked at that helicopter and just it being red and white, I just, I thought I had seen a cross on it, which is amazing. They were wearing red crosses on their, you know, on their bodies, were they not?
VOICE: Right. I think that there was maybe one or two, two of those people that had like a faded Red Cross vest.
VOICE: The majority of them were not wearing that.
GLENN: Now, you -- but they were wearing Che shirts as well. I don't know if you guys know this, but right after you were rescued, there were people that were saying, well, that's against the Geneva Convention, et cetera, et cetera, and they were slamming those people who risked their lives to save yours.
VOICE: Well, Glenn, did those people have Che T-shirts on?
VOICE: Glenn, in some cases I think it's better to apologize afterwards I think.
GLENN: Yeah, I'm with you on that.
VOICE: And I'd like to shift the subject just for a quick second. Those two guys that were taken down, there was the front commander, Sesad (ph), and there was Enrique Goves (ph) is that I like to call the concentration camp commander that I had a special relationship with, a hateful one. And the Supreme Court in Colombia just came out with a ruling that those two wouldn't be extradited to the United States for charges in relation to kidnapping the three of us. We're kind of disappointed with that and we thought we would like to mention it to you because it doesn't send out a good signal for people that look to kidnap Americans around the world.
GLENN: Why are they not going to be extradited?
VOICE: The Supreme Court Colombian, Colombian Supreme Court decision.
VOICE: Their reasoning is because the crimes that are committed were committed on Colombian soil and, of course, that's just a ridiculous reason. There's another guerilla who was extradited from Colombia to the U.S. and he's been convicted and he was extradited and convicted for charges related to our abduction. So --
GLENN: Can I ask you guys a question then? I don't know if you can answer this but, you know, a lot has been happening on the border. Jeez, 30 seconds. You know what, we'll have to spend this on TV. A lot has been happening on the border that doesn't make sense. Do you believe that we are clean on this side?
VOICE: No, no.
STANSELL: Absolutely not, Glenn. It's a two side -- this is Keith. There's two sides to this. You know, you were speaking earlier about the Mexican border. Well, the hundreds of millions of dollars that are made and finance this narco-terrorist drug trafficking rings now, we're creating a second one in Mexico.
STANSELL: I know we think about the Mideast but we better look down south. We see this every day.
GLENN: No, that's why I had you on. This stuff is coming our direction. It already is in Mexico but it's going to be much, much worse, coming soon if we don't pay attention to it. Okay, guys, we'll talk to you on television. Thank you so much.
VOICE: Thank you, Glenn.
GLENN: Welcome home. Name of the book is Out of Captivity.