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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Will Bowe Bergdahl Draw A Pass?

“Any fool can tell the truth, but it requires a man of some sense to know how to lie well.” — Samuel Butler

I just watched a portion of President Obama’s press conference in Poland. When queried about his action of releasing five top Taliban commanders from Gitmo in exchange for an American soldier of suspicious character is answer was lame at best. He responded that since George Washington the United States has had a policy of leaving no man on the battlefield. The problem with his response is that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was not on the battlefield — he deserted his post and his unit and willing walked into the hands of the Taliban where he remained for five years doing what is to be determined.

According to a report by James Rosen of Fox News:

“A senior official confirms to Fox News that the conduct of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl -- both in his final stretch of active duty in Afghanistan and then, too, during his time when he lived among the Taliban -- has been thoroughly investigated by the U.S. intelligence community and is the subject of "a major classified file."

In conveying as much, the Defense Department source confirmed to Fox News that many within the intelligence community harbor serious outstanding concerns not only that Bergdahl may have been a deserter but that he may have been an active collaborator with the enemy.

The Pentagon official added pointedly that no relevant congressional committee has sought access to the classified file, but that if such a request were made, key committee chairs would, under previous precedent, likely be granted access to it. Separately, the Pentagon confirmed Monday that it is looking into claims Americans died during the search for Bergdahl.

The administration announced over the weekend that Bergdahl's release had been secured, in exchange for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. President Obama was joined by the soldier's parents in making a public statement on the release Saturday evening from the Rose Garden.

Sources told Fox News that many officials in the Executive Branch are "quite baffled" by the White House's decision to allow the president to stand alongside Bergdahl's father this past weekend, given the father's history of controversial statements, emails and online posts.

Asked Monday about reports that Bergdahl's father was communicating on Twitter with a man described as a Taliban spokesman, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to comment on those reports but defended the administration's handling of the release.

"The fact is they are the parents of Sergeant Bergdahl. Their son was held in captivity for five years," he said. "And it was absolutely the right thing to do, for the commander in chief, for this administration to take action to secure his release, the last prisoner of war from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars."

Asked whether Obama stands by National Security Adviser Susan Rice's claim Sunday that Bergdahl served with "distinction," Carney said the president "stands by actions that he took as commander in chief" to secure his release.

Another administration official, whose duties are focused on counterterrorism, told Fox News when asked about the status of any investigations into Bergdahl's initial disappearance and his conduct over the last five years: "Everybody's looking at this. He's not going to get a free pass" in the interrogations that Bergdahl will face during his repatriation process. "He's going to have a lot of questions to answer -- a lot. Is he a hero? No." (This is in direct contradiction to professional liar Susan Rice’s comments on the Sunday talk shows.)

Although this source had not seen the classified file described by the Pentagon source, the counterterrorism official agreed that given the high priority attached to the Bergdahl case over the last five years, the need for clarity about Bergdahl's actions before and during his time with the Taliban "would have been a high priority for intelligence tasking."

Asked if the process of repatriation would include questioning of Bergdahl geared towards determining whether he engaged in any forms of collaboration with the enemy, the counterterrorism official replied: "Of course. ... It's there. This is extremely untidy."

As this story continues to unfold more of the facts are emerging about Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban and Obama’s action in making the trade of five hardened Taliban commanders from Gitmo.

Two American soldiers who served in a platoon alongside Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly Monday night they believe Bergdahl deliberately walked off base, with one saying he does not want to see his former comrade “hailed as a hero.”

Gerald Sutton and Cody Full were serving in Afghanistan with Bergdahl when he vanished and was subsequently captured by the Taliban. The White House announced Saturday that Bergdahl was released after five years in captivity. The U.S. traded five Taliban Guantanamo prisoners to secure Bergdahl’s freedom.

Full told Kelly on “The Kelly File” that there is no doubt in his mind that Bergdahl deserted.

Full said there were “telltale signs” that Bergdahl deserted before he was captured, including that he mailed his possessions home, expressed disillusionment with the war in emails to his family and talking extensively about the surrounding terrain.

“(Bergdahl was) talking extensively to the Afghan national police in a way that was not about hearts and minds, there was an agenda there when he spoke to them,” he said.

Sutton told Kelly that he also believes Bergdahl’s disappearance was “premeditated.”

“His true motives and everything, I really don’t know he never spoke about them,” Sutton said.

Full said he does not think Bergdahl served the U.S. with honor, saying he violated his oath to his country and put his fellow soldiers at risk “when he deserted us.”

“I just don’t want to see him hailed as a hero, and I just want him face the consequences of his own actions and possibly face a court martial for desertion,” Sutton added.

The story surrounding the return of Bowe Bergdahl to U.S. custody is still developing but the more we learn the more it seems like Bergdahl willfully deserted his post and comrades and sought some type of refuge among the Haqqani Network in Afghanistan. All the major media are leading with the story line of Bergdahl as a potential deserter rather than a freed prisoner (CNN || WaPo || CBS || The Hill || Time || etc., etc.) Adding to the suspicion that the desertion story is the truth is an administration official saying that releasing Bergdahl would bring political benefits:

Sending the hapless Susan Rice out to ritually lie to the Sunday Morning show audiences, a la Benghazi, is also a “tell.” When this is coupled with the devastating series of Twitter messages (you have to read them) from Bergdahl’s former bunkmate at the OP from which he disappeared (the “disappeared while on patrol” story never made any sense to me and now has been made, as a former administration used to say, inoperative) there is at least enough doubt that Bergdahl should be required to answer the questions under oath. According to the Army Bergdahl is refusing to speak English while being treated in Germany.

Just as with the Benghazi attack, Barack Obama’s national-security adviser went out on a Sunday to discuss a burgeoning controversy, and perhaps without a full set of the facts in front of her. When questioned by George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, Rice tried to parry the question about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s initial disappearance, which some of his fellow soldiers believed to be an act of desertion that cost more American lives. Rice insisted that Bergdahl had served with “honor and distinction,” a claim that will be tested in the coming days and weeks. Rice stated:

“Certainly anybody who’s been held in those conditions, in captivity for five years, has paid an extraordinary price. But that is really not the point. The point is that he’s back. He is going to be safely reunited with his family. He served the United States with honor and distinction. And we’ll have the opportunity eventually to learn what has transpired in the past years, but what’s most important now is his health and well-being, that he have the opportunity to recover in peace and security and be reunited with his family. Which is why this is such a joyous day.”

The Daily Beast’s Christopher Dickey later wrote:

Rice also claimed in this segment that ”Sergeant Bergdahl wasn’t simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield.” That depends on a very broad definition of battlefield. Fellow soldiers from his unit claim Bergdahl deserted and was captured well away from any military action, and they’re far from joyous over the deal that freed him. One of them, Nathan Bradley Bethea, wrote a damning piece today for The Daily Beast expressing outrage over the swap of Bergdahl for five high-value Taliban targets:

“Whether Bergdahl…just walked away from his base or was lagging behind on a patrol at the time of his capture remains an open and fiercely debated question.” Not to me and the members of my unit. Make no mistake: Bergdahl did not “lag behind on a patrol,” as was cited in news reports at the time. There was no patrol that night. Bergdahl was relieved from guard duty, and instead of going to sleep, he fled the outpost on foot. He deserted. I’ve talked to members of Bergdahl’s platoon—including the last Americans to see him before his capture. I’ve reviewed the relevant documents. That’s what happened.

Our deployment was hectic and intense in the initial months, but no one could have predicted that a soldier would simply wander off. Looking back on those first 12 weeks, our slice of the war in the vicinity of Sharana resembles a perfectly still snow-globe—a diorama in miniature of all the dust-coated outposts, treeless brown mountains and adobe castles in Paktika province—and between June 25 and June 30, all the forces of nature conspired to turn it over and shake it. On June 25, we suffered our battalion’s first fatality, a platoon leader named First Lieutenant Brian Bradshaw. Five days later, Bergdahl walked away. …

On July 4, 2009, a human wave of insurgents attacked the joint U.S./Afghan outpost at Zerok. It was in east Paktika province, the domain of our sister infantry battalion (3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry). Two Americans died and many more received wounds. Hundreds of insurgents attacked and were only repelled by teams of Apache helicopters. Zerok was very close to the Pakistan border, which put it into the same category as outposts now infamous—places like COP Keating or Wanat, places where insurgents could mass on the Pakistani side and then try to overwhelm the outnumbered defenders.

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. I know that he is not alone, and that this was not the only instance of it. His soldiers’ names were Private First Class Aaron Fairbairn and Private First Class Justin Casillas.

Though the 2009 Afghan presidential election slowed the search for Bergdahl, it did not stop it. Our battalion suffered six fatalities in a three-week period. On August 18, an IED killed Private First Class Morris Walker and Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen during a reconnaissance mission. On August 26, while conducting a search for a Taliban shadow sub-governor supposedly affiliated with Bergdahl’s captors, Staff Sergeant Kurt Curtiss was shot in the face and killed. On September 4, during a patrol to a village near the area in which Bergdahl vanished, an insurgent ambush killed Second Lieutenant Darryn Andrews and gravely wounded Private First Class Matthew Martinek, who died of his wounds a week later. On September 5, while conducting a foot movement toward a village also thought affiliated with Bergdahl’s captors, Staff Sergeant Michael Murphrey stepped on an improvised land mine. He died the next day.

It is important to name all these names. For the veterans of the units that lost these men, Bergdahl’s capture and the subsequent hunt for him will forever tie to their memories, and to a time in their lives that will define them as people. He has finally returned. Those men will never have the opportunity.”

Parents of fallen soldier Second Lieutenant Darryn Andrews state; “Our son died looking for Bergdahl and the military lied to us about it.” If the accusation is true, it wouldn’t be the first time higher-ups tweaked the narrative about how an American soldier died to make it less problematic for the military as was the case of the death Pat Tillman and the subsequent cover-up.

At the time, Andrews’ family states they were told that his men were huntingarticle-0-1E65C8CA00000578-258_634x473 a Taliban commander and that the truck at the front of their group ended in a hole after being hit by an Improvised Explosive Device. As the men got out to try and move the truck, a Taliban fighter with a rocket propelled grenade emerged and fired at them. Lt Andrews was the only one to see it and tackled three of his men to prevent them being hit. He took a direct hit and died.

Speaking to MailOnline from his home in Cameron, Texas, Mr. Andrews said: ‘When my son was killed there was no mention of searching for this guy (Bergdahl) but once all this has come out we got several emails and calls from soldiers who were with him in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon said Monday it is reviewing claims that U.S. soldiers were killed in the course of the years-long search for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released over the weekend by his Taliban captors.

The sense of celebration surrounding the announcement Saturday of Bergdahl's release quickly has given way to controversy — including questions surrounding his initial disappearance from his eastern Afghanistan post five years ago and the lengths to which U.S. forces went to find him.

The names and faces of six soldiers, who died allegedly during the search for Bergdahl, began to emerge within hours of the soldier's release.

Asked about the claims, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said it's "impossible" to confirm right now whether anybody's death was directly linked to the hunt for Bergdahl. But the Pentagon will look further into the circumstances of the deaths being associated with the search, he said.

For five years, soldiers have been forced to stay silent about the disappearance and search for Bergdahl," wrote Bethea in his Daily Beast article, who said he participated in the searches. "Now we can tell our story."

But Bergdahl's conduct, and his writings before his capture, have also raised questions.

According to a 2012 Rolling Stone article, he sent an email to his parents shortly before his capture saying: "I am ashamed to be an American. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools."

There are also reports that Bergdahl's father was communicating on Twitter with a man described as a Taliban spokesman.

Sue Martin, who described herself as the Bergdahl family spokesperson, did not respond directly to questions about the criticism of Bowe Bergdahl's conduct.

She said despite the controversy surrounding the prisoner swap and the latest allegations, his town of Hailey, Idaho, stands united behind him.

Though some accounts say Bergdahl fell behind on a patrol or wandered off drunk, the accounts by Bethea and others say Bergdahl left his outpost, OP Mest, in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan under the cover of night.

They also give essentially the same account that Bergdahl left behind his rifle, helmet and body armor, taking only his compass and perhaps a knife and water.

"The place was an Afghan graveyard," wrote one person who identified himself in an online forum as Jeff Howard and suggested he also was part of the unit. "Bergdahl had been acting a little strange, telling people he wanted to 'walk the earth' . We lost good men trying to find him."

Warren acknowledged the Defense Department has conducted "preliminary" investigations into Bergdahl's disappearance but said the agency has never confirmed whether he is a deserter.

"We've never publicly said anything primarily because we haven't had a chance to speak to Sgt. Bergdahl himself," he said.

Howard lists the same six soldiers and, like others, suggested even more were either indirectly wounded or injured because vital resources — including drones and air support — were diverted to the Bergdahl search and troops became easy targets for the Taliban because members knew about their well-known recovery missions.

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said Monday that he doesn’t believe there’s much debate over whether the White House broke the law by releasing five high-ranking Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay without congressional notification — noting that not even the White House is seriously arguing that it is not violating federal law.

Turley spoke with CNN anchor Carol Costello on Monday about the weekend prisoner swap, which saw Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl released from Taliban custody in exchange for five top-ranking Taliban officials held at Gitmo. Republicans in Congress have already accused the White House of ignoring a law requiring a 30-day notification before any prisoners are transferred from the high-security Caribbean prison, and have promised to hold hearings on the issue.

“Did the White House violate federal law?” Costello asked Turley.

“They did,” the professor replied matter-of-factly. “I don’t think that the White House is seriously arguing that they’re not violating federal law. And to make matters worse, this is a long series of violations of federal law that the president’s been accused of. This is going to add to that pile. I don’t think there’s much debate that they’re in violation of the law.”

Turley explained that President Obama “is essentially arguing the very same principle as George Bush, that when it comes to Gitmo, he has almost absolute power, that it’s his prerogative, his inherent authority, to be able to make these decisions as he sees fit.”

“Well, does it matter?” Costello asked. “Because the administration says that the Department of Defense consulted with the Justice Department, and that was enough. Does that matter?”

“Well, unfortunately the Justice Department has been involved in many of these controversies, and they tend to support federal power,” Turley replied. “The federal law seems quite clear.”

“And the fact that you have negotiations that have gone on for years really undermines the argument that this was a matter where time was of the essence,” he added, attacking the White House line that Bergdahl’s health was at stake. “Clearly you have committees with classified proceedings, people who have been cleared for this information that could have been consulted. And this really is the reason they enacted the law.”

The more damning the accusations against Bergdahl, the less the prisoner swap adds up

A senior official confirms to Fox News that the conduct of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — both in his final stretch of active duty in Afghanistan and then, too, during his time when he lived among the Taliban — has been thoroughly investigated by the U.S. intelligence community and is the subject of “a major classified file.”

In conveying as much, the Defense Department source confirmed to Fox News that many within the intelligence community harbor serious outstanding concerns not only that Bergdahl may have been a deserter but that he may have been an active collaborator with the enemy. Sources told Fox News that many officials in the Executive Branch are “quite baffled” by the White House’s decision to allow the president to stand alongside Bergdahl’s father this past weekend, given the father’s history of controversial statements, emails and online posts.

But if all that’s true why was Bergdahl promoted in absentia to sergeant in 2011? Why would he be in line for another promotion, to staff sergeant, this month? And why would the White House let itself get within a thousand miles of the Bergdahl family with suspicions like these ready to bubble over?

It’s one thing to do a deal to get an American back; it’s another to give away the terrorist farm as part of it; and it’s another still to give away the farm for a guy whom your own investigators think may be a Taliban sympathizer. Remember, the ostensible point of the prisoner exchange is to set a precedent so that Obama can release other detainees at Gitmo later this year and finally close the prison.

The last thing you’d want to do in that case is trade five especially dangerous detainees for someone whose loyalty to the U.S. is in serious question even within the administration’s own ranks. It’s a political tornado in the making; if Bergdahl does end up being proved a deserter or worse, Democrats will run screaming from future Gitmo prisoner releases. Just doesn’t make sense. Maybe the White House has reason to believe that Bergdahl’s getting a bum rap and really was taken against his will — but in that case, why isn’t Carney or anyone else pushing back hard with that information? What’s going on here?

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