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Tags: Bowe Bergdahl

Justice Is Blind . . . and Sometimes Deaf and Mute



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The scoreboard at the end of the week:

U.S. Marine Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi: Still jailed in Mexico.

Bowe Bergdahl: Back on active duty, now out in public.

The Taliban Five: At large.

Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas: Detained for several hours and then released with notice to appear before an immigration judge.

Obama critic Dinesh D’Souza: Awaiting sentencing for a guilty plea to a criminal count of making illegal contributions in the names of others.

Attempted presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr: Still dividing time between a mental hospital and 17 days a month visiting his mother’s hometown of Williamsburg, Va.

Tags: Department of Justice , Bowe Bergdahl

Two Bergdahl Movies In the Works, And They Both Might Be Good



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I don’t subscribe to the belief that Hollywood chooses its war movie subjects strictly for the purpose of demoralizing America and making us look bad. Although you wouldn’t always know from the results, movies are put together largely with the aim of  maximizing dramatic tension. Ethically complex stories will always be dramatically promising for the same reason Hamlet couldn’t make up his mind.

But some things do make you go hmm. There have been fifteen Congressional Medals of Honor awarded in this new century, and yet the soldier who will apparently be featured in two different Hollywood films is Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Variety reports:

Kathryn Bigelow and writer-producer Mark Boal are planning a movie based on recently released U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The project would be produced through Boal’s recently launched Page 1 production company, backed by Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures.

Separately, Fox Searchlight has acquired movie rights to “America’s Last Prisoner Of War,” written by the late Michael Hastings, with Todd Field (“In The Bedroom”) attached to direct and produce. Hastings’ story was published in 2012 by Rolling Stone while Bergdahl was still a prisoner of the Taliban.

Either or both of these movies could be good. Bigelow has demonstrated over many years her talent for extracting drama from hard men in government service, irrespective of setting (as in the beloved cop/surfer classic Point Break) or even nationality (in the underrated Soviet submarine thriller K-19: The Widowmaker). Todd Field made the critically acclaimed In the Bedroom and the excellent shamesploitation picture Little Children, which featured not only a showstopping comeback performance by seventies icon Jackie Earle Haley but some spectacularly good Will Lyman narration. It’s also notable that the late Michael Hastings’ Rolling Stone article on Bergdahl, though it was written two years ago and with no certainty that Bergdahl would ever be released, seems to have held up in just about all of its particulars — which happens less often with news pieces than you might think.

Still, you have to wonder. For the last few weeks there’s been a raging debate over whether Bergdahl was worth the five Taliban prisoners released in exchange for him. Do we now have to argue about whether he’s worth the inevitable millions in film production tax credits the taxpayers of New Mexico will end up paying to make the Land of Enchantment look like Afghanistan?

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl , Afghanistan , Hollywood , Movies

Hagel: ‘I Don’t Know’ if We’ve Swapped with the Taliban Before



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​Secretary of defense Chuck Hagel isn’t sure if the exchange with the Taliban for American Bowe Bergdahl is the first time the United States has done a swap with the militant group. Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, Hagel couldn’t say whether this was the first such trade.

“Have we made other trades with the Taliban?” chairman Buck McKeon (R., Calif.) asked Hagel, following Hagel’s clarification that the Bergdahl trade was not for a hostage, but for a prisoner of war.

“With the Taliban? I don’t know, I don’t think so,” he responded, looking to others.

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl

Hagel: Actually, the President Made the Final Call on Bergdahl — Not Me



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Chuck Hagel contradicted the administration’s story about the process regarding the Bowe Bergdahl exchange just minutes into his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

Earlier this week, in a classified briefing with the House, administration officials reportedly said the secretary of defense made the final decision for the swap. On Wednesday, Hagel told a different story.

“I would never sign or make any agreement, agree to any decision, that I did not feel was in the best interest of this country,” he said. “Nor would the president, who made the final decision with the full support of his national-security team.”

Hagel also conceded that the administration could have done “a better job” of informing Congress of the process.

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl

Poll: Vets Oppose Bergdahl Deal Four to One



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Most Americans oppose President Obama’s handling of the exchange of five Taliban prisoners for captive Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl and don’t have a strong opinion of Bergdahl himself.

Forty-three percent of Americans say it was wrong for Obama to make the deal, while 34 percent supported it, according to a USA Today/Pew Research Center poll.

Only 30 percent of respondents have a positive opinion of Bergdahl, whose departure from his post in 2009 and capture by the Taliban is being investigated by the Pentagon.

The 128 veterans who participated in the poll are significantly more upset with Bergdahl than the other respondents: Only 6 percent of the veteran respondents say they sympathized with him, and 33 percent say they were angry. Sixty-eight percent of veterans say Obama made the wrong decision, while 16 percent support the deal.

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl

Did Six Soldiers Really Die Looking for Bergdahl? Not Quite



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The allegation that Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s disappearance and alleged desertion led to the deaths of at least six soldiers has intensified the public reaction to news that the U.S. exchanged five Taliban leaders for Bergdahl. But a closer examination of the story calls into question claims that a number of soldiers died in the process of looking for the missing infantryman.

In a CNN story entitled “How did 6 die after Bergdahl’s disappearance?” Jake Tapper writes,

Interviews with soldiers familiar with the specific missions in which the six died suggest the charge [that the search for Bergdahl resulted in six deaths] is complicated — but not without merit given how much the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment became focused on “PR” — personnel recovery — after Bergdahl vanished from his guard post on June 30, 2009.

Tapper goes on to detail the circumstances of each of the deaths in the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment — Bergdahl’s unit — that occurred between August 18 and September 6, 2009. All six deaths happened after the initial search, called DUSTWIN (Duty States: Whereabouts Unknown), had concluded. An unnamed U.S. official told CNN that the Army and the Pentagon could find no evidence that anyone was killed while searching for Bergdahl.

Nevertheless, there is reason to believe that pressure to search for Bergdahl as an auxiliary objective to other missions played some role in these deaths. For example, the first deaths, on August 18, were those of Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen, 29, of San Antonio, Texas, and Pfc. Morris Walker, 23, of Fayetteville, N.C. They died from an IED blast while on a reconnaissance mission in Paktika Province, preparing for the August 20 elections. An unnamed officer quoted in the story said he believes the numerous air-assault missions aiding the search for Bergdahl contributed to the poor security situation in that province.

The claim that Bergdahl’s desertion did lead to American deaths, if indirectly, is further supported by a June 6 piece for the Daily Beast by former Army captain Nathan Bradley Bethea. Bethea, who served in Bergdahl’s battalion in Afghanistan when he went missing, elaborated the points made in that piece during a later interview with Anderson Cooper. He told Cooper:

When the report came up that there was an American soldier missing and he was likely captured, we . . . stopped everything that was happening in Paktika Province – and, to be honest with you, the whole of Regional Command East, Paktika Paktya, Ghazni and Khowst provinces – every American soldier got a change of mission and people starting getting sent out on these large-scale [operations] called “cordon and search” operations in which any village, any location where they had received information of a possible, you know, safe-house, or area where guys involved might be hiding, or where Bergdahl would be being held, they would go and surround the village and search every house, and this went on for days and then weeks.

Bethea’s piece also suggests that there could be more than six related deaths, since that figure accounts only for the fatalities in Bergdahl’s own unit:

One of my close friends was the company executive officer for the unit at Zerok. He is a mild-mannered and generous guy, not the kind of person prone to fits of pique or rage. But, in his opinion, the attack would not have happened had his company received its normal complement of intelligence aircraft: drones, planes, and the like. Instead, every intelligence aircraft available in theater had received new instructions: find Bergdahl. My friend blames Bergdahl for his soldiers’ deaths.

The preponderance of evidence seems to suggest that soldiers did indeed die due to Bergdahl’s disappearance, but exactly how many and who they were might be unknowable.

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl

White House Invited Bergdahl’s Parents into Top-Level Video Conferences



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The Obama administration allowed Bergdahl’s parents to join in a series of secure video conferences throughout the effort to retrieve their son, granting them a level of insider access that has been questioned by some former government officials. These video conferences included White House and State Department officials, senior commanders, and intelligence officials.

“There was a great effort to keep Mr. and Mrs. Bergdahl updated on developments,”Air Force Colonel Timothy Marsano, Idaho’s National Guard spokesman ​who has served as Bergdahl family’s spokesman, told the Washington Times. He explained that Mr. and Mrs. Bergdahl took part in as many as 20 video conferences throughout the five years of Bergdahl’s captivity. 

Former C.I.A. analyst Larry Johnson, who was involved with the response to the Lebanon hostage crisis of the 1980s, believes that the Obama administration was wrong in granting the parents such access. He told the Washington Times that he had never heard of allowing families into top-level discussions regarding the efforts to free their relatives. “The Bergdahls shouldn’t have been part of that for no other reason than on the off chance they may inadvertently divulge some tactic,” he said. 

“I mean, it’s one thing for government officials to interview the family, get insights from the family about what’s going on,” Johnson said. “But to put them in the middle of what is essentially a classified secure video conference is ridiculous.”

Marsano said he did not know of any instances in which the Bergdahls leaked out sensitive information.  

Read the Washington Times article here

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl

McCarthy: Obama ‘Has Stepped Over’ Standard for Impeachment ‘Many Times’



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Get your hands on Andrew McCarthy’s new book, Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl

Feinstein Shreds Obama Claims About Bergdahl Deal



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Senator Dianne Feinstein sharply contradicted Obama administration claims about the details of the deal in which five Taliban detainees were exchanged for captured Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Feinstein, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, joins a chorus of Republicans, veterans, families of deceased soldiers, and other critics of both the deal for Bergdahl’s release and the administration’s failure to give advance notice to Congress before releasing detainees from Guantanamo Bay, as required by a 2013 law.

In an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation, Feinstein noted that after the release of the five Taliban officials to Qatar, it will be difficult at best to ensure that they don’t pose a continuing threat to American interests.

“There is no house arrest,” Feinstein said. “They have the country, which is very small, to be about in. Secretary [of State John] Kerry made a very strong statement this morning, saying, ‘Oh, we have ways, and we will see that they do not defect, move, speak, whatever.’ And we’ll see.”

“You’re not as comfortable about that as he is,” host Bob Schieffer asked.

“Well it’s hard to be comfortable when you haven’t been briefed on the intricacies of carrying out this agreement,” Feinstein said.

The senator also said administration officials are not telling the truth when they claim senators are never briefed about “an ongoing operation.”

“That isn’t necessarily true,” Feinstein shot back. “We have been briefed — the chairman and the ranking member — Senator [Saxby] Chambliss and I have been briefed on operations under way. We understand the security of that; we have never violated that. But at least you have some knowledge, and you can make some comment. That’s never been the case with this particular situation. So it hits us as a real surprise.”

 

Tags: Dianne Feinstein , Bowe Bergdahl , Sunday Shows June 8 2014

Juan Williams Compares Bergdahl to Prodigal Son



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Fox News commentator Juan Williams Sunday said Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is a “child” who reminds him of the New Testament prodigal son.

“You can’t get lost in the fog for the key, very clear principle: The clear principle is we don’t leave soldiers behind,” Williams said on Fox News Sunday. “I’m reminded this Sunday morning of the story of the prodigal son. That you don’t make judgments as you have the opportunity to bring the child back. America should be loving this child at this moment.”

Williams conceded that Bergdahl may have been “troubled” and have “lost the sense of America’s mission.” But he said the soldier, who abandoned his post in Afghanistan before being captured and held by the Taliban, had “suffered” and was “caged.”

The prodigal son is a wastrel described in a parable told by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke 15:11-32. He is warmly welcomed home by his father after devouring his living with harlots. The story specifically addresses the question of generosity toward the undeserving, as the father justifies his decision to hold a feast for the bad son’s return while leaving his dutiful and obedient son uncelebrated. In stark contrast to President Obama, who fêted Bergdahl at a White House Rose Garden ceremony with his parents, the father in the story was giving of his own fortune to members of his own family.

Williams, however, berated the president’s critics for criticizing the way American statecraft and public policy have been deployed on behalf of a soldier with a questionable service record.

“Yet people want to argue about his father’s beard,” Williams said. “They want to say he shouldn’t have a parade. Let the military decide. The military’s best positioned. Not all of us sitting here on this panel, and not all the political people on the Republican side, who have flipflopped in the most craven way.”

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl , Sunday Shows June 8 2014

Former Platoon Mate: ‘Every Single Mission’ Was About Finding Bergdahl



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A former medic in Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s platoon fired back Sunday at Obama administration claims that he and other Afghanistan veterans are exaggerating the seriousness of Bergdahl’s disappearance from his post in 2009.  

“Every single mission that we did was focused on finding Bergdahl,” Joshua Cornelison told Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace. “Maybe not every single mission was kicking down a door because we had intel that Bergdahl was there. But we were finding people. We were either finding locals who had said they had information about where Bowe Bergdahl was, or maybe we were just going trying to talk with locals to see if they had information about Bergdahl. But every single mission after Bowe Bergdahl left was tilted toward finding Bowe Bergdahl, every single one.”

Cornelison, who was among the troops required to sign a non-disclosure agreement about the events following Bergdahl’s decision to abandon an operating base in Paktika province, was appearing with Ken Luccioni and Cheryl Brandes, the stepfather and mother of Pfc. Matthew Martinek. Martinek was killed in action during theater-wide efforts to locate Bergdahl, who ended up in Taliban custody and was released last month in exchange for five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo. Obama administration officials have accused soldiers from Bergdahl’s unit of blaming him for the deaths of at least six U.S. service members in the aftermath of his unexplained disappearance.

“I don’t know what certain people want to hear,” Cornelison said. “I was there. Everybody else that we’ve been talking with — there have been six of us primarily — we were there. This isn’t some story we’re making up. We were there for the night Bergdahl left, we were there for the morning when we realized he wasn’t there. We were there for the following 90 days of absolute agony that Bergdahl put us through. This isn’t second- or third-hand reports or accounts. We were there running missions every single day to try and find Bowe Bergdahl.

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl , Afghanistan , Sunday Shows June 8 2014

Mukasey: Obama Broke An Unconstitutional Law



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Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Sunday President Obama broke a congressional-notification law when he released five Taliban detainees in exchange for captured Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

But Mukasey, the third and final head of President George W. Bush’s Justice Department, said the law itself is an unconstitutional restraint on the president’s authority as head of the armed forces under the U.S. Constitution.

“When the president signed the Defense Authorization Act last year,” host Chris Wallace asked Mukasey on Fox News Sunday, “it contained a provision that the administration must notify Congress not later than 30 days before the transfer or release of a prisoner from Guantanamo. Question: Did the president break the law, or was that requirement an unconstitutional infringement on his executive powers?”

“Yes to both,”  Mukasey replied. “He broke the law, but I believe that the law itself is unconstitutional. Article II makes him the commander in chief of the armed forces. These people were in the custody of the armed forces. It gives him plenary authority to conduct foreign affairs.  And to the extent that that statute purports to restrict his Article II power, I think it’s unconstitutional, and he said so at the time that he signed it.”  

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl , Michael Mukasey , Afghanistan , Sunday Shows June 8 2014

House Intel Chairman: Gitmo Release Was ‘Not the Only Option’ to Get Bergdahl Back



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House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers (R., Mich.) said this morning that the deal reached for the release of Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, which involved releasing five senior Taliban leaders, wasn’t the only way to get him home.

“There were other options on the table — many still classified — that never even rose to the level of discussion,” Rogers told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. The problem, the congressman suggested, was that the Obama administration made its decision unilaterally and didn’t consult Congress, which could have suggested other options, consulted the intelligence and military communities, and more.

“This was what so angered those of us who’ve followed it for years — this was not the only option,” Rogers said. “The administration has this theory that you’re either with them or you’re for thermonuclear war, and there’s nothing in between. That’s just wrong.”

When critics of the deal have suggested that releasing five senior Taliban members was too high a price to pay for Bergdahl, the Obama administration has maintained that the U.S. military’s commitment to rescue all of its members held in captivity meant that the deal was unavoidable. Rogers made it clear that he disagrees.

Tags: Sunday Shows June 8 2014 , Bowe Bergdahl

Kerry: Qataris ‘Aren’t the Only Ones Keeping an Eye On’ the Freed Taliban Leaders



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Secretary of state John Kerry expressed confidence this morning that the five senior Taliban leaders released from Guantanamo Bay last weekend in exchange for an American prisoner will be secure in Qatar, where they’ll be held for a year.

Critics of the deal have raised questions about the ability and willingness of the Qatari government to monitor and restrict the movement and activities of the Taliban leaders. Kerry assured CNN, however, that the Qtaries “aren’t the only ones keeping an eye on” the Afghans.

“We have confidence in those requirements” set by the Qatari government, Kerry said, “and if they’re violated, we have the ability to do things.” The Qatari government will prevent the freed militants from leaving the country for a year, but reportedly has been letting them travel around the country.

Tags: Sunday Shows June 8 2014 , Bowe Bergdahl

Donna Brazile: Soldiers Alleging Bergdahl Deserted Are a ‘PR Campaign by Republicans’



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Democratic strategist and former Gore-campaign manager Donna Brazile said this morning that veterans accusing recently returned Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl of desertion are part of a “PR campaign by Republicans.”

After fellow panelist Ana Navarro noted that members of Bergdahl’s unit had consistently expressed concerns about the circumstances of his capture, Brazile said it was an effort to “muddy the waters” surrounding the prisoner deal.

Quickly criticized for the comment by her fellow panelists on CNN, she said that she’d never impugn the testimony of a veteran, but stood by her comments.

“That’s all they do . . . all they do is focus their vitriol, their rage, against this president,” Brazile said. “If the president this morning had scrambled eggs and bacon, they’d say that’s an unhealthy breakfast. If the president had cereal and fruit, they’d say that’s an unhealthy breakfast.”

In the early days after Bergdahl was released, a former Bush administration official, Richard Grenell, reportedly was involved to some extent in helping soldiers who’d served with the sergeant connect with the media.

Tags: Sunday Shows June 8 2014 , Bowe Bergdahl

McCain: Keep the Gitmo Detainees Forever



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CNN’s Candy Crowley asked John McCain this morning whether trading top Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was better than having to release the detainees when U.S. combat operations end in Afghanistan. McCain thinks that’s a false choice: Men like the the five commanders released, he believes, should be tried if possible, but just held indefinitely otherwise.

When pressed as to what authority or what assurances he’d trust to keep the five detainees from returning to terrorism, McCain simply said, “well, first of all, I wouldn’t have released them.”

“We’re not sending everybody home — even if we close Guantanamo, we’re going to send them to facilities in the United States of America,” McCain said.

Ideally, he explained, all of the Gitmo detainees would be tried, but McCain was adamant that especially the five released this past week were determined to be so dangerous that release was impossible.

Tags: Sunday Shows June 8 2014 , Bowe Bergdahl

Hillary Clinton Uses Bergdahl Deal to Promote Her Book



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Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton refused to criticize President Obama’s decision to exchange five Taliban leaders for U.S. Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a deal she reportedly opposed before leaving his administration, saying that reports that Bergdahl deserted don’t negate the need to bring him back to the United States. In fact, she used the opportunity to plug her new book.

“I think this was a very hard choice, which is why I think my book is aptly named,” Clinton told ABC during an interview about Hard Choices, her latest book. “If you look at what the factors were going into the decision, of course there are competing interests and values. And one of our values is we bring everybody home off the battlefield the best we can. It doesn’t matter how they ended up in a prisoner of war situation.”

Former defense secretary Leon Panetta, for his part, did reveal recently that he had opposed the deal while serving alongside Clinton on the Obama team. “I said, ‘Wait, I have an obligation under the law,’” Panetta recalled Wednesday, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “If I send prisoners from Guantanamo, they have to guarantee they don’t go back to the battlefield. I had serious concerns.”​

The fanfare surrounding the exchange — Obama held an event in the Rose Garden with Bergdahl’s parents — angered some of the soldiers who served in Bergdahl’s unit, which they say he deserted. 

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl , Hillary Clinton

McCarthy: Obama’s Return of Five Taliban Leaders Is a ‘Massive Dereliction of Duty’



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Report: Released Taliban Commander Says He’ll Continue to Fight Against America



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Noorullah Noori, one of the five Taliban leaders released from Guantanamo Bay in the Bergdahl swap, has promised to resume the fight against America in Afghanistan, a relative and fellow Taliban member said.

A Taliban commander told NBC News ​that, after arriving in Qatar,  Noori ”kept insisting he would go to Afghanistan and fight American forces there.” 

The freed prisoners are to remain under control of the government of Qatar for one year, with strict bans on militant activities and a one-year ban on traveling outside the country. The U.S. has provided written assurances that if the five live peacefully, no country will arrest them during this year.

Noori’s relative told NBC of the happiness when hearing of Noori’s release. “We though we may not see them again as once you land in the hands of Americans, it’s difficult to come out alive,” the relative said. “But it was a miracle that Allah Almighty gave us Bergdahl and we got back out heroes.”

Read the NBC article here.

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl

State Department Admits There Was No Specific Threat Requiring Them to Hide Bergdahl Swap from Congress



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A State Department spokeswoman admitted to reporters that President Obama’s team had no specific information suggesting that Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s life would be in danger if news of the recent prisoner swap went public before the exchange took place, even though the Obama team has cited the danger to Bergdahl as a reason for declining to give Congress the legally required advance notice.

“There were real concerns that if this were made public first, his physical security could be in danger more by either the Taliban walking away or about an individual Taliban member who perhaps was guarding him – again, I’m speaking generally, not in reference to any specific piece of information – but someone guarding him that possibly wouldn’t agree and could take harmful action against him,” spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Thursday.

Harf’s public statement seems to contradict the claim made by an anonymous administration official “that we had both specific and general indications that Sgt. Bergdahl ’s recovery — and potentially his life — could be jeopardized if the detainee exchange proceedings were disclosed or derailed,” as reported in the Associated Press. She also reiterated the administration’s explanation that a proof-of-life video suggested that Bergdahl’s health was declining.

Harf said that it’s “absolutely accurate” for a reporter to say “that there was a threat against [Bergdahl's] physical security,” but the only specific basis for that danger she noted is the general problem of his being in Taliban captivity. “I mean, you’re being held by – captive by the Taliban; I think that should go without saying,” she said.

Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.) told reporters that he would have “raised holy hell” about releasing the Taliban leaders if Obama had notified Congress in advance, as a congressional statute requires. “Absolutely,” he said. “I did last time and I would again.”

Chambliss wasn’t the only one to oppose releasing the Taliban Five. Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also opposed the exchange when it was floated during his tenure. “If I send prisoners from Guantanamo, they have to guarantee they don’t go back to the battlefield,” Panetta said Wednesday. ”I had serious concerns.”

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl

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