Inconsistencies from both sides in Bergdahl release
June 4th, 2014
09:23 AM ET
7 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. tom l

    "As the 'gang' knows, I am self proclaimed libertarian and therefore smarter than everyone else on here."
    ====

    Once again, a completely infantile statement stemming directly from hardcore partisans who can't take another person's point of view. Are you that blind to make a statement like that with the most condescending person in the world, Rudy, and the young man who uses more 25 cent words than anyone I have ever interacted with, the Great Sniffit?

    June 4, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. GnatB

    Article for the sake of an article? I love how many of the inconsistencies... aren't.

    Being briefed on Saturday doesn't mean he wasn't told about it Friday. It just means he got the full info on Saturday.
    Being in favor of trying to get this sergeant home, doesn't mean they're in favor of giving up 5 high level terrorists for him.
    Just because the White House apologized for not notifying congress doesn't mean they didn't have a good reason for doing so.

    June 4, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "The man would probably still be there in 2016 trying to get a consensus from Congress.

    1. He'd have died before that. Even the WSJ is reporting that there was actual evidence to support the idea that his health was failing. Yes, the GOP/Teatrolls, especially on Faux, are trying to pretend that the health issues were a lie and are constantly comparing them to the talk about a video with regards to Benghazi, but they're wrong on this one and it's going to backfire.

    2. Commander in Chief does not need Congress' permission or approval to swap prisoners and bring POWs home. He is Commander in Chief. The notice provision the GOP/Teatrolls are trying to rely on was nothing more than legislated courtesy. Moreover, if indeed there was any reasonable belief that this was an emergency and there was a need to act to avert imminent problems, then applying that 30 day notice provision would be unconstitutional.

    June 4, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  4. paul reynolds

    WHERE was any Outrage when RepubliCons released and Freed ACTUAL Al Quaeda Terrorist Leaders who Masterminded 911 against Ameicans.!??
    google: bush truly not concerned about bin laden
    But only months prior on the morning of September 12, 2001
    * Dubya "VOWED" to Americans that Republicons would "Hunt and Capture 911 Mastermind OBL Dead or Alive"..!!?

    June 4, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  5. paul reynolds

    Supplying TERRORISTS Concerns RepubliCons NOW.!??
    – FACT – The Boko Haram Attacks plus the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi Attackers used GOP Guns obtained when over 200,000 Military Assault Weapons were "Lost" by the Republicons and Bush Administration in IRAQ!
    Experts confirm that GOP delivery awarded and supplied Al Quaeda with Weapons and Firepower for decades!
    google: assault weapons lost in iraq

    June 4, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Tom l

    2 simple questions that just require simple answers and I certainly don't think I'm smarter than anyone, I'm just not the hardcore partisans that you are (even though you think I am) because I hold positions on both sides and don't blindly follow one side like you do. I can criticize bush and Obama; it's quite easy.

    So as soon as you can tell. Me why Hillary told the father of the fallen seal several days after the attack that we were goin to arrest the maker of the video and why Obama talked about the video 2 weeks later at the UN then we'll be good. Until then, I will continue to ask very reasonable questions that if you took your blinders off you would realize are quite troubling.
    ----------------------------
    I am not aware of any member of your "gang" who thinks that you believe that you're smartest person around here. I think you have fallen victim again to some sarcasm.

    Your questions have already been answered, tom, on several occasions. Obama's remarks at the U.N. were not specifically about Benghazi, and only subscribing to partisan demagoguery would make you think otherwise. He was speaking in broader terms about the protests throughout the Muslim world against the U.S. He wanted the protestors to understand that the U.S. government was not behind the video, nor associated with it in any fashion.

    June 4, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  7. paul reynolds

    - BREAKING – The Boko Haram Attacks plus the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi Attackers used GOP Guns obtained when over 200,000 Military Assault Weapons were "Lost" by the Republicons and Bush Administration in IRAQ!
    Experts confirm that GOP delivery awarded and supplied Al Quaeda with Weapons for decades!
    google: assault weapons lost in iraq

    June 4, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  8. CryBabies

    Sniffit...For one that demands facts, you sure throw out a lot of speculation in your 12;15 post. Heres a "speculation on my part....he was a deserter. We would not have left him behind.....he chose his actions. Oh, and by the way, don't forget that me and mine are racists. And this "speculation" is purely and solely put out there because we hate President Obama because of his skin color. You people are ........? Get a real life.....Counselor?

    June 4, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  9. Mr. Dank Stuff

    Excuse me Mr. McCain but didn't President Richard Nixon trade a bunch of Vietcong Guerillas for your release from the Hanoi Hilton in 1973? I remember that day, do you?

    June 4, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  10. Gregg

    I believe that while many of them may not have been averse to a prisoner exchange, trading 5 generals for one sergeant is not a good trade. This will now endanger other service people because they now will now think they can snatch any soldier and trade for many of their high level people

    June 4, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  11. smith

    I keep hearing the word trial. If Bergdahl's command hits him with AWOL he would more than likely face a board made up of his command not a trial. I believe this is what is going to happend and I agree with it. Hit with him going AWOL and D of D and give him a bad conduct discharge, reduction in rank to E-1, and strip him of all awards and benefits. To those who think Bergdahl may be innocent, 100% of his command have said he walked off his post and FOB. Bergdahl also called his NCOIC after he left his post and said he was going AWOL.

    June 4, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  12. J Anthony

    Do any of you remember tthe Patriot Act? That post-9/11 legislation granting the president the power to make certain decisions in times of war without going through Congress? Considering the "war on terror" is an infinite one, why are any of you surprised? W used this expanded authority more times than can be counted. Obama does likewise. If you hypocrites had any brains you'd be questioning just how long we're supposed to sacrifice endless lives and resources to this endless warfare. The most important thing is that we keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of hateful terrorist fanatics. So far we've done that. There is no other good reason to have troops in the middle-east, and the troops themselves are starting to question the ongoing quagmire, we should listen to them. They know better than any of us what's going on over there, and the fact that many of them are tired of being lied into war and being treated as "traitors" when they speak out or against these wars says more about our ignorance than it does anything else.

    June 4, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  13. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    corpsman says:
    June 4, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm
    “Oh come on corpsman HE didn’t get OBL, Seal Team 6 did by their own accord. No orders they just remembered some intel from when Lil Bush was in office and decided on their own to go and get him. ”

    How many US Presidents pull the trigger themselves? Name one.

    Corpsman.... It's hard to portray sarcasm in a comment. I was completely agreeing with you just spouting some of the vitriol from the Obama haters. Btw, thanks for your service!😊

    June 4, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  14. Dean

    Obama's just so damn smart that minor details, like informing Congress of his actions, just slip his mind.

    June 4, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  15. paul reynolds

    Did President Obama use a SIGNING Statment to legally bypass Congress after promising to Not do that when Dubya had 558 Signing Statements – Yes!
    Did Dubya Vow to "Never Set a Timeline for Withdrawl" and then Did – Yes!!
    Intelligent Humans Change their Mind when conditions Change or new Data is found. It's called Adaptation!!

    June 4, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  16. Bill from GA

    When the law requiring 30 days notice before releasing 'prisoners' from Gitmo was signed, Obama added a signing statement saying that he could override the notification requirement, which was an unconstitutional infringement on his powers as commander in chief. Bush regularly issued signing statements; no problem to repubs.

    Also consider that the roughly 140 'prisoners' remaining at Gitmo are there without any semblance of a trial or due process. So much for 'the law'. Or our Constitution.

    June 4, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  17. meh who knows...

    I would really like to believe that our Government would not be stupid enough to let these 5 detainees go without having some method of tracking their movements (possibly even using them to catch bigger fish)...My money is on the fact that something like this has been done... The fact is no one knows other than those with top-secret clearance yada yada, so kind of tough for anyone here to really question or criticize this move... No one has any hard evidence to prove this guy was a deserter, its being investigated... both Republicans and Democrats are dirty with the type of manipulation of these types of laws, I guess my point here is no one knows enough to say one way or the other whether this was a good or bad decision, but again I am not one of those conspiracy theory nut jobs that thinks our Government would act against the best interests of our nation.

    June 4, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  18. Tony

    Tom I, people have answered your questions. You just have not listened.

    1. It was not wrong for Clinton to say that we would go after the people who had made the video. At the time, the intelligence community, including the CIA, thought that the video caused the attack.
    2. Obama was speaking at the United Nations. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. They were, and still are, outraged by the video. Obama was addressing people of the world, not just those who were concerned about the Benghazi attack.

    June 4, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  19. gorgegirl

    Like one Admiral said: "when we have a sailor overboard, we don't ask if he was pushed, jumped or just fell. we turn the ship around and do everything possible to rescue him/her."
    It would do the political pundit well to remember that the sailor shouldn't be tried in the media either. Right now, it appears to me that the republicans want to determine in the media if he was "pushed, jumped or fell" BEFORE he is rescued.
    This seems to be a problem when only 1% of our population serves in the military. Maybe it Is time to bring back the draft.

    June 4, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  20. Bill from GA

    As to Obama releasing dangerous terrorists, how many dangerous terrorists did W-cheney CREATE with their needless and illegal INVASION of Iraq?

    And W-cheney also created a Safe Haven for terrorists in Iraq by illegally removing Saddam Hussein.

    Righties had no problem with THAT.

    June 4, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  21. carlos

    paul reynolds do just make stuff up? How do u know what guns the terrorist used? Were u there. Did u perform an autopsy on the dead soldiers yourself? How come no one else has reported this? Are u this outraged about Fast and Furious and the death of thousands of Mexicans by guns supplied to the Cartel by this Admin.
    The fact that u r defending this when Obama did not consult with intelligence or even notified the intelligence Committee in Congress shows just what a hypocrite u r. Obama did this to distract fr VA scandal. He did not consult with others to know that this soldier was AWOL was never designated a POW. Therefore, he is not a POW as stated by Pentagon. So explain the circumstances of how it was right for Obama to free this AWOL soldier but leaves one to rot in a Mexican Jail?

    June 4, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    "Sniffit...For one that demands facts, you sure throw out a lot of speculation in your 12;15 post."

    There's no speculation. It's been proven that Republican operatives went out and interviewed these people.

    "Heres a "speculation on my part....he was a deserter. We would not have left him behind.....he chose his actions."

    Yawn.

    "Oh, and by the way, don't forget that me and mine are racists."

    Knowing is half the battle.

    "And this "speculation" is purely and solely put out there because we hate President Obama because of his skin color."

    Oh good...you admit it...now the healing can begin.

    June 4, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  23. carlos

    This guys was never designated a POW by state dept or the Pentagon. He is NOT a POW. He deserted his post and 6 soldiers died looking for him. He is no hero and this was a political stunt that backfired. Every one of his fellow soldiers with whom he served all say he walked off his post. How anyone could defend what this President did is beyond the pale. Obama frees someone not worthy of freeing and leaves another to rot in a Mexican jail. This is the most pathetic POTUS ever.

    June 4, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  24. sly

    "Between 2007 and 2009, President George W. Bush released 520 detainees from the facility at Guantanamo Bay – at least that’s how many are officially recorded. One of those detainees was Abu Sufian bin Qumu, who is a suspect in the Benghazi embassy attack."
    =====
    Republicans – the anti-American party. Didn't the GOP in Congress shut down government? Their goal is to destroy America – wouldn't be surprised if many in the GOP are secretly working with Al Queda. Birds of the same feather.

    Thank you President Obama! It's OUR country now. America, Love it or Leave it.

    June 4, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  25. Bill from GA

    I heard it from Joe Biden that we implanted GPS tracker devices in the 5 released.
    Soon as they get back to Pakistan and and meet with their high-level buddies, 'ol Joe's gonna blow em all up with Hellfire missiles. :)

    June 4, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
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