Classified Briefing on Bergdahl Trade Doesn’t Answer Questions for Critics

Administration officials showed senators video of Bergdahl to support claims that his health was failing.

A sign showing support for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl hangs outside Zaney's coffee shop where Bergdahl worked as a teenager on June 2, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms and Elahe Izadi
Add to Briefcase
Sarah Mimms and Elahe Izadi
June 4, 2014, 3:28 p.m.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion gave sen­at­ors a clas­si­fied brief­ing Wed­nes­day night on just what think­ing went in­to the pris­on­er trade to re­cov­er Sgt. Bowe Ber­g­dahl from Afgh­anistan. But that won’t end ques­tions from Con­gress.

“This gen­tle­man needs to be looked in­to, quite ex­tens­ively,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., fol­low­ing the brief­ing, re­fer­ring to ques­tions about wheth­er Ber­g­dahl deser­ted the mil­it­ary.

Dur­ing the clas­si­fied brief­ing, sen­at­ors were shown a roughly minute-and-a-half-long “proof of life” video of Ber­g­dahl, which the Taliban had provided, in which the sol­dier “didn’t look good,” said Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

A few sen­at­ors, in­clud­ing Manchin, ar­gued that the video could just as eas­ily have shown Ber­g­dahl un­der the in­flu­ence of drugs giv­en to him by his captors. Moreover, Manchin ar­gued, the video was giv­en to the ad­min­is­tra­tion in Decem­ber and wasn’t re­flect­ive of Ber­g­dahl’s state at the time of the trade. “His health was not a crit­ic­al factor,” a vis­ibly frus­trated Manchin told re­port­ers.

Sev­er­al Demo­crats who had already been sup­port­ive of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­cision emerged from the meet­ing with more con­fid­ence. Both Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Whip Dick Durbin and Sen. Mark Be­gich said they were sat­is­fied with the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­sponse, though Be­gich ad­ded that he still had some ques­tions.

“I think it was a very hard de­cision…. I might’ve come to the same con­clu­sion,” Durbin said.

When asked wheth­er he had con­fid­ence that the five Taliban mem­bers re­leased won’t kill any­more Amer­ic­ans, Durbin re­spon­ded: “How can you say that? How can I say that any­body in­ter­view­ing me is not go­ing to kill an Amer­ic­an? I will just tell you that when it comes down to it, they have been mem­bers of the Taliban, they were our en­emies, and that’s why they were de­tained. We have taken some steps to try to mon­it­or their con­duct through Qatar for at least one year, and that’s where we are. Thats why I don’t think this was an easy call. There’s the oth­er side of this equa­tion.”

But while of­fi­cials laid out de­tails on the terms of the pris­on­er ex­change and the con­di­tions of their re­lease, that did little to sway law­makers, mostly Re­pub­lic­ans, who had already been crit­ic­al of the deal.

“My con­cern from the be­gin­ning about this, I’ve not been re­as­sured, is the five high-risk Taliban de­tain­ees will not get back and reen­gage in the fight against us and our al­lies,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. “And I was not sat­is­fied from the brief­ing that I re­ceived today that the con­di­tions that they’ve agreed upon are suf­fi­cient to en­sure that they won’t reen­gage back in the fight against us and threaten either Amer­ic­ans or our al­lies in some way.”

Re­pub­lic­an Sen. John Mc­Cain of Ari­zona said he at­ten­ded the meet­ing largely be­cause ques­tions would have been asked had he not ap­peared. These clas­si­fied brief­ings, he said, are nev­er pro­duct­ive. “Nev­er have I been to one that is,” he said.

An­oth­er ques­tion that came up dur­ing the brief­ing: wheth­er Ber­g­dahl was, in­deed, a desert­er. That’s one that Kirk says the ad­min­is­tra­tion ducked.

What We're Following See More »
BUT IS HE A YES VOTE?
Cornyn Attempting to Get McCain Back for Health Vote
1 hours ago
THE LATEST
“TIME HAD RUN OUT” FOR ILL BABY
Charlie Gard’s Parents End Legal Fight
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A lawyer representing Chris Gard and Connie Yates told the High Court 'time had run out' for the baby. Mr. Gard said it meant his 'sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy' will not reach his first birthday on 4 August. 'To let our beautiful little Charlie go' is 'the hardest thing we'll ever have to do,' his mother said. Charlie's parents said they made the decision because a US doctor had told them it was now too late to give Charlie nucleoside therapy.

Source:
AGENCY SOUGHT TO DELAY IMPLEMENTATION
11 States Sue EPA Over Chemical Rule
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Eleven states have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its June decision to delay implementation of a chemical safety rule" until 2019. "The state attorneys general, led by New York’s Eric Schneiderman (D), argue the rule is important for 'protecting our workers, first-responders and communities from chemical accidents' and should be allowed to take affect as planned by the Obama administration’s EPA.

Source:
ULTIMATUM ON ACA
Trump: You’re With Us Or Against Us
2 hours ago
THE LATEST
$1.6 BILLION SET ASIDE FOR WALL
House Freedom Caucus Chair: Shutdown Over Wall Funding Unlikely
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) on Monday said that funding for President Trump's controversial border wall is unlikely to cause a government shutdown. 'The odds of a government shutdown are very minimal when it comes to that,' the conservative lawmaker said at an event in Washington, D.C. 'I do think the funding of the border wall will happen,' he added. Appropriators have set aside $1.6 billion to fund new wall and fencing sections on parts of the U.S.-Mexico border covering a few dozen miles."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login