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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

"Casanova Colonel" Used Internet as Weapon of Mass Destruction

Aired June 11, 2003 - 20:48   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Now for the story of a U.S. Army colonel who allegedly was a marrying kind of man. Actually, he was more like a marriage proposing kind of man. Actually, if you believe the stories of an embarrassingly large number of women, he was a Casanova and a fraud.
Here's Martin Savidge with a high-tech cautionary tale.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ask anyone in the military what the biggest high-tech advance in recent years has been, and the answer is usually the same: e-mail, instantly connecting loved ones to those serving far away.

But reportedly in the hands of U.S. Army Colonel Kassam Saleh, the World Wide Web was a weapon of mass destruction, breaking the hearts and dreams of dozens of women back home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From what I understand, some have even bought wedding dresses.

SAVIDGE: While serving in Afghanistan, Colonel Saleh daily faced danger and challenge, heading the army's reconstruction and humanitarian efforts. But now that he's home at Ft. Bragg, Saleh may be facing even greater peril from the women who he allegedly wooed and in some cases proposed to over the Internet, after finding them at dating Web sites.

To those who say they received them, his letters were pure poetry.

ROBIN SOLOD, WOOED BY 'COLONEL CASANOVA': He was the most intoxicating man I had ever met.

SAVIDGE: Robin even gave CNN a copy of an e-mail from a person named Cas that says -- quote -- "I dream of a day where I will take a walk to a place that brings my heart peace and joy, because at the end of my journey my lover, my friend, my life waits for me" -- unquote.

Some of the magic wore off when a number of his alleged love interests compared e-mails and found them identical. Only the names had been changed. And some women say Saleh did more than just write. Several say he even came a-courting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The lies and the exaggerations and the -- I mean, everything was fictitious with this man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I showed up there at Ft. Bragg with, you know, yellow roses, I had ribbons over my house for the past year, and he's been flying around screwing all these women across the United States. I feel raped.

SAVIDGE: But Robin Solod says a story on the Internet last March announced he was getting married. And that was news to several of his supposed fiances.

SOLOD: It said Kathy Richardson (ph) in Twin Cities was waiting for her boyfriend to come home from Afghanistan.

SAVIDGE: The army says Colonel Saleh, who has been in the service for 29 years, doesn't want to talk to the media. But an investigation has been launched, and the army has already interviewed him.

CNN has made several attempts to contact the colonel. So far, he hasn't responded.

Some of the women want him court-martialed, a fitting punishment they say for a man they claim was an officer, but no gentleman.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Unbelievable story.

So if you're reading your e-mail tonight and you open one that says -- quote -- "you are my world, my life, my love and you my universe" -- before you hit the reply key, think of my next guest.

Robin Solod says she received that e-mail from the alleged Colonel Casanova. Robin....

SOLOD: Hi.

COOPER ...joins me now. Thanks for being with us.

SOLOD: Nice to meet you. Yes, thank you so much.

COOPER: What was it about this man's e-mails, his letters, that so captivated and convinced you?

SOLOD: Right. Well, they were intoxicating, full of love, passion, romance, promises. He was a brilliant writer. He wrote like Yeats. It just -- absolutely incredible.

COOPER: And he said he wanted to marry you.

SOLOD: Absolutely, yes.

COOPER: He proposed to you. And you said yes.

SOLOD: Absolutely, yes.

COOPER: Even though you had never met him.

SOLOD: Right. Yes.

I think that with the onset of the Internet, things have changed about dating. But obviously in retrospect, it was just a total mistake.

COOPER: When did you start to realize something's not right?

SOLOD: I sent him a very expensive package for Christmas. He never thanked me for it. He said, "Don't bother to do that again, " but he didn't even say thank you. That was the only red flag I ever had.

COOPER: Now where was he at the time that he was e-mailing you?

SOLOD: Writing? Supposedly, he was in Kabul for this whole time. He was in Afghanistan out of the Bagram air base. And apparently, he wasn't always there. He was at Ft. Bragg, telling me that he was at Bagram Air Base.

COOPER: And there are, I mean, dozens of women who have been...

SOLOD: Right. Absolutely. Over 50 women that we know of at this juncture.

COOPER: And have you been in communication with them? What is the commonality? Do all they say the same thing? Do they -- did he write the same exact things?

SOLOD: The letters were carbon copies, Anderson. They were all the same letters. Love stories, love poems. He called from the satellite phone almost every night.

COPPER: He call from a satellite telephone?

SOLOD: All the time, absolutely. In Kabul. He would call during the night when he was on a convey saying, Oh, baby, baby, I love you, I love you. Then, vehicle coming, vehicle coming, oh baby, I love you. Yes, he was a brilliant writer. He was very cunning. Very manipulative.

COOPER: Are you -- obviously you're hurt. Are you angry? Are you -- what emotion is it?

SOLOD: I'm angry at numerous -- I'm angry at his deception, his betrayal. I'm actually -- I can't talk for any other women, I can only talk for my own pain, because I own my pain, and I let the other women talk for themselves.

COOPER: But I mean, this is real pain.

SOLOD: This is horrible.

COOPER: This is a man -- you were in love with him.

SOLOD: I was madly -- I see his pictures. It's very painful for me. Very painful. And I know that the last e-mail we had, when I confronted him, he just said, " Move on with your life and let me be the warrior monk that I am."

COOPER: Wait a minute. He said what?

SOLOD: "Move on with your life, let me be the warrior monk that I am." That was -- that was it. I mean, I knew right then and there, this is one sick puppy. Oh, yes, absolutely. One sick puppy.

COOPER: Now you contacted the army?

SOLOD: I did.

COOPER: You've been in communication with them.

SOLOD: Yes, I spoke to the inspector general.

COOPER: What have you said to them? What do you want the army to do?

SOLOD: I want them to Court-martial him. He sent me highly classified documents. He sent me a picture of a motorcycle that was strapped with a bomb that the Taliban or al Qaeda had placed near his vehicle.

COOPER: So he says. I mean...

SOLOD: Yes. But it was. It was. Yes, absolutely.

COOPER: But you want -- you believe -- do you have confidence that the army will do a thorough investigation?

SOLOD: No, it's the boys' club. The army -- the military -- the U.S. military is sexist. And the rest of the women, they didn't want any part of this -- with the press. They said, "Well, let the army take care of it." The military? I mean, that's a joke.

COOPER: Did you -- I mean, when you told your friends you were involved with this person over the Internet, that he proposed to you, you had agreed, did they caution you at all?

SOLOD: My shrink. My own therapist said, "Robin," you know, "big red flag, the man wants to move in with you and marry you after a few weeks?" Yes, I just -- here's something about having a man, this bad boy -- women love bad boys, Anderson. He was the quintessential bad boy.

COOPER: Has this soured -- I mean, has this turned you off of Internet dating?

SOLOD: No, I'm dating someone from J-Date. Yes. No, no -- who I met on J-Date. No, not at all. I'm very, very cautious. If a man says you're wonderful, you're beautiful, I want to be with you forever, it's bogus. It doesn't mean anything. It doesn't mean anything until I get to know him.

COOPER: You're -- if you could say something to him, if you were speaking to Colonel Saleh, what would you say to him?

SOLOD: I'd say -- I have a number of a wonderful shrink and get some Prozac.

COOPER: Very much a New York answer.

SOLOD: I'm a New Yorker.

COOPER: All right. Robin Solod, good luck to you.

SOLOD: Thank you so much.

COOPER: Thank you very much. It was really nice to meet you.

SOLOD: Yes. Thank you.

COOPER: All right.

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