Inconsistencies from both sides in Bergdahl release
June 4th, 2014
09:23 AM ET
4 months ago

Inconsistencies from both sides in Bergdahl release

Warsaw, Poland (CNN) - The partisan feud erupting between the White House and Republican critics over the release of former POW Bowe Bergdahl has revealed inconsistencies on both sides of the debate.

Late Tuesday, Democratic supporters of President Barack Obama’s decision to trade five Guantanamo detainees for Bergdahl’s freedom began circulating quotes from several GOP lawmakers who initially supported efforts to free the Army sergeant but who later criticized the swap.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, was among the first high-profile critics to question whether the exchange of five Taliban commanders for Bergdahl came at too high a price. "This decision to bring Sgt. Bergdahl home, and we applaud that he's home - it's ill-founded, it's a mistake and it's putting lives of American servicemen and women at risk​," McCain told reporters in Washington Tuesday.

But last February, in an interview on CNN, McCain appeared more willing to back a prisoner swap. "Obviously I'd have to know the details, but I would support ways of bringing him home and if (an) exchange was one of them, I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider,” McCain said at the time.

McCain disputes that his position has evolved.

"Any allegation that I have changed my opinion is an absolute lie," McCain told reporters Wednesday.

"I said I would always, and have always approved of prisoner exchanges if I knew the details. And I never said I would approve any under any circumstances. This is clearly a terrible idea. These are the hardest of the hardcore, they will be returning to the fight, and they will endanger the lives of Americans," added the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.

In a Memorial Day op-ed, New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte called on the Obama administration to make Bergdahl's release an urgent priority.

"I renew my call on the Defense Department to redouble its efforts to find Sergeant Bergdahl and return him safely to his family," Ayotte wrote in the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Days later, after Bergdahl's release, Ayotte criticized the deal that secured his freedom.

"The administration’s decision to release these five terrorist detainees endangers U.S. national security interests,” Ayotte said, according to the Union Leader.

Liz Johnson, press secretary for Ayotte, said there is nothing inconsistent about her stance.

"Senator Ayotte has led efforts in Congress to prevent the release of high risk detainees from Guantanamo, and she never would have supported trading five dangerous terrorists who are likely to reengage in terrorist activities against Americans and our allies," Johnson said.

A Democratic source also pointed to comments on the Bergdahl case made last year by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma.

"The mission to bring our missing soldiers home is one that will never end. It’s important that we make every effort to bring this captured soldier home to his family," Inhofe said in a statement in June, 2013.

But after the administration announced that the five Taliban detainees had been traded for Bergdahl's release, Inhofe said the White House had put U.S. soldiers at risk.

"Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans," Inhofe said in a statement over the weekend.

The Obama administration has had its own challenges presenting a consistent narrative about the deal that freed Bergdahl, including the decision to circumvent U.S. law requiring the administration to notify Congress about the detainee release from Guantanamo.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a frequent defender of Obama administration foreign policy, said she was disappointed the White House did not comply with the law.

"The concerns were bipartisan, and I strongly believe that we should have been consulted, that the law should have been followed and I very much regret that that was not the case," she told reporters Tuesday.

Feinstein's comments later drew an apology from Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken. But the apology appeared to be contradicted only hours later by a statement released by a senior administration official defending the White House decision against notification.

"We have been very clear about the reasons we did not notify the Congress 30 days in advance," the official wrote in a prepared statement. Administration officials said earlier in the day that notifications to lawmakers could have endangered the mission to free Bergdahl.

There were also inconsistencies over when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was notified by administration officials about the prisoner exchange.

Reid told reporters he had been told about the swap Friday. But a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, later said Reid was briefed about the mission on Saturday.

CNN's Paul Courson contributed to this story


Filed under: Afghanistan • Dianne Feinstein • Jim Inhofe • John McCain • Kelly Ayotte • President Obama
soundoff (306 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    "LESSON: If the Republicans are in charge of running this country, they will leave you behind in the event that you get captured in one of their wars."

    Well, to be fair, they won't do that if they can claim all the credit for it and use it to make themselves look like heroes. On the other hand, if the POTUS is a Dem, then they're very sorry that you're either going to have to die a captive or come home to hate.

    June 4, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  2. thunderbolt

    I'm starting to wonder( actually for some time), if Obama is planning to run for office somewhere in the far east when he is done, whether by impeachment, or if he serves out his term here in the U.S. I can see him now, with that big crooked smile telling them, I never was a citizen of the U.S., then the teleprompter goes out,...................

    June 4, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ smith:

    @Sniffit- I have no idea what you are talking about. Not once did I ever say we should not have brought Bergdahl home. Once again your making assumptions and putting words in peoples mouths.

    smith
    More evidence is coming out that Berdahl was a deserter who was disgruntled with his role in the military. Leaving no one behind applies to people who serve with duty and honor not a selfish deserter.

    June 3, 2014 08:03 am at 8:03 am
    --------------

    You've revised your opinion since yesterday, smith.

    June 4, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  4. thunderbolt

    If you like your religion.....you can keep your religion.............

    June 4, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    So we negotiated with terrorists. Which means that they believe if they capture more soldiers in the future we will negotiate with them again. We arent dealing with a government in which an exchange of POWs happened. This is a terrorist organization bent on destroying our country and killing Americans. This sets an ugly precedent that puts more lives at risk. What is there not to understand about that?

    June 4, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  6. Marcus (from...?)

    tom l – Since when the fact that 'A' may or may not be a deserter should matter when it comes to bring him back home?
    As for the public outcry, or the opinion of Bergdahl's platoon members about him, they have the same effect on the matter (or at least used to): ZERO.
    The USA deals with the faults of its military personel, and don't give away that prerrogacy by no mean or way, especially without due process!

    June 4, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  7. sly

    "We arent dealing with a government in which an exchange of POWs happened."
    ======
    I think this 'anonymous' is Sarah Palin, who still thinks South Africa is an island.

    For the record ... if you read an atlas, you will find that indeed, Quatar, IS a government. It's actually a nation. Heck, even part of the United Nations.

    Last election – the 10 least educated states voted for Romney, while 9 of the 10 highest educated states voted for President Obama. You illustrate this fact quite well.

    June 4, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  8. Ol' Yeller

    " Yet no one really knows- and reports say his health is fine.......So, what happened??"

    Can we all guess where these 'reports' that say his health is fine are originating?

    Oooohhhh!!! Oooooh... Pick me...
    Pick me....

    June 4, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  9. rs

    Anonymous

    So we negotiated with terrorists. Which means that they believe if they capture more soldiers in the future we will negotiate with them again. We arent dealing with a government in which an exchange of POWs happened. This is a terrorist organization bent on destroying our country and killing Americans. This sets an ugly precedent that puts more lives at risk. What is there not to understand about that?
    ____________________________
    And what they want to do to us is different how than what we want to do to them, exactly? The way to end a conflict is to negotiate. We got some one we wanted, they got someone they wanted. This opens the door to working out, face-to-face America's longest war.

    June 4, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  10. dannyCali

    That's why we not going to vote for Republican anymore..........Democratic President of the United Stated 2016.......!!!!

    June 4, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  11. Indy63

    IMO, he wasn't a POW, he was a hostage. POW are held by governments, he was held by a splinter group that ransomed his release. The administrations position that you exchange POWs at the end of a war simply doesn't apply here.

    June 4, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  12. smith

    Lynda/Minnesota

    @ smith:

    @Sniffit- I have no idea what you are talking about. Not once did I ever say we should not have brought Bergdahl home. Once again your making assumptions and putting words in peoples mouths.

    smith
    More evidence is coming out that Berdahl was a deserter who was disgruntled with his role in the military. Leaving no one behind applies to people who serve with duty and honor not a selfish deserter.

    June 3, 2014 08:03 am at 8:03 am
    ----–

    You've revised your opinion since yesterday, smith

    @Lynda-Its a phrase commonly used by the military that refers to POW"s,MIA's,and KIA's not soliders that go AWOL. So, I never said Bergdahl should not have been brought back home but I don't think the phrase "Leave no man behind" applies to Bergdahl. Also, as soon as Bergdahl laid down his weapons he became a non-combatant so he was not a POW.

    June 4, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  13. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    thunderbolt says:
    June 4, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm
    I’m starting to wonder( actually for some time), if Obama is planning to run for office somewhere in the far east when he is done, whether by impeachment, or if he serves out his term here in the U.S. I can see him now, with that big crooked smile telling them, I never was a citizen of the U.S., then the teleprompter goes out,……………….

    Another Fox whack job....

    June 4, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  14. Charlie

    If a white Republican President had done this exact exchange, the Republicans who are condemning it now would be praising it as a great accomplishment. Those that are criticizing this exchange are doing it because they feel the President who facilitated it is the wrong party, but more importantly the wrong color. We don't need a Civil War because we are already two countries. One is in the 21st century, and the other is somewhere back in the 1950's. We just need to figure out how to divide up the country without killing each other.

    June 4, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  15. TJeff1776

    This war is coming to a close and then we turn ALL prisoners loose. Why not trade a few now for "anything" in return.
    Some of these conservatives need a little imagination; but then, most lack leadership skills. Obamacare is an excellent example of their backwardness.

    June 4, 2014 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  16. You Got It

    Worst decision by Obama yet – and true to form: he wants to do it, thinks it's best, so he just does it, screw the law.

    Worst Pen & Paper Emperor, ever.

    Trading 5 high level Taliban commanders for one Army deserter – two of these commanders are wanted by the UN for killing thousands of Shiite's. THOUSANDS of people. And we give them away, FIVE of them, for one deserter, who converted to Islam. And now the Defense Dept is considering a Courts Martial – his conduct was that bad – walking off post in a combat zone.
    So we traded 5 senior commanders for a guy who we're going to throw in jail? Why?
    Because Obama said so. He also said if you like your Dr., you can keep ........oh, sorry.

    June 4, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  17. Carl

    CNN is so blatantly biased! Over 2/3 of the article from the beginning trying to make it seem like the right is changing their opinions after the fact and then....let's throw in "The concerns were bipartisan....". How can you call your company a news network and "report" on news that is biased, misleading, with outright attempts to sway public opinion instead of providing equal and fair critical thinking to both sides and letting your readers decide for themselves? Can't have that can we?

    June 4, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "The GOP and alot Dems just don't like the deal that secured the release of Bergdahl. This deal has been on the table for some time now and the Senate intel. committee was against it(which includes Feinstein and other dems).

    As I said before, that's fine. Their disagreement is political and that's that. What's not ok...fabricating things, sending out strategists to interview and drum up publicity about claims of desertion, attacking the father for "looking like a muslim", scrubbing Twitter, Facebook and other social media of your previous commentary that applauded Bergdahl's return, pretending that Qatar isn't going to be monitoring the released Gitmo prisoners, claiming that the concerns about Bergdahl's health are lies despite clear evidence to the contrary, etc. Where this went off the rails was the GOP/Teatrolls literally trying to get ahead of the story and trump up the desertion accusations in order to undermine the "good news" of a POW being returned home and thereby take away any "win" that Obama could claim. They're also now admitting that they recognize POTUS has power to act on emergencies without notice, because they're stating to focus so much on getting out talking points that pretend the concerns about Bergdahl's health weren't supportable or genuine, despite the evidence.

    And you know what's especially not right? Oliver North OF ALL PEOPLE jumping on Faux News to hypocritically wax high and mighty about his assumptions that there was some sort of pay-off and blah blah blah GOP talking points. I mean, talk about some real Twilight Zone stuff...wow...just wow.

    June 4, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "@Sniffit- I have no idea what you are talking about. Not once did I ever say we should not have brought Bergdahl home. Once again your making assumptions and putting words in peoples mouths.

    smith
    More evidence is coming out that Berdahl was a deserter who was disgruntled with his role in the military. Leaving no one behind applies to people who serve with duty and honor not a selfish deserter.

    June 3, 2014 08:03 am at 8:03 am
    ----–

    You've revised your opinion since yesterday, smith."
    ===

    Wow...nice catch Ms. Lynda :-)

    As to "leave no one behind" and when and to whom it "applies": I'm gonna stick with the Joint Chiefs, who have quite clearly said it applies to all soldiers NO MATTER WHAT.

    June 4, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  20. Josh

    There was absolutely nothing inconsistent about what the Republicans said. They said that we should try to get our prisoner back if it is possible. They did not say we should trade 5 of the most senior Taliban Members we have for him and then double back. This (from all appearances) was a terrible deal. 1 (seemingly) deserter for 5 hardened terrorists? In what world does that make sense? This is just CNN trying to divert and point the finger elsewhere because they even know Obama made a huge mistake here, and all the Obama/Democrat Fanboys are biting it hook, line, and sinker.

    June 4, 2014 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    smith
    More evidence is coming out that Berdahl was a deserter who was disgruntled with his role in the military. Leaving no one behind applies to people who serve with duty and honor not a selfish deserter.
    ---------------------------------
    One would think that the idea would be to bring a deserter home to justice. Not anymore.

    June 4, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  22. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Another Fox whack job...."

    Yeah. They're hopping all over themselves today. I'm actually starting to laugh at the comments.

    June 4, 2014 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    Anonymous

    So we negotiated with terrorists. Which means that they believe if they capture more soldiers in the future we will negotiate with them again. We arent dealing with a government in which an exchange of POWs happened. This is a terrorist organization bent on destroying our country and killing Americans.
    -------------------------
    You're conflating the Taliban with Al-Qaeda. They are two separate organizations. Is the government of Iran labeled as a terrorist organization? No, and neither is the Taliban, who are the now deposed former rulers of Afghanistan.

    June 4, 2014 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  24. smith

    @Marcus- Bergdahl is not a cilvilian. Once his NCOIC(who Bergdahl called and said he was going AWOL) and fellow soliders reported he went AWOL, that's it. There is no due process. AWOL cases most of the time are handled by the command and there is no trial.

    June 4, 2014 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  25. CryBabies

    Libs....I saw a picture of Santa Claus the other day. I SWEAR he had a long white beard. I believe it was long. Perhaps all my liberal friends on this site could convince me that it was only 2 day growth. If so, then I'm convinced that your spin on Bergdahl is hammer-to nailhead. I thought the freeze in the North Country was over.....sounds like the ice isn't fully "out".

    June 4, 2014 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13