Inconsistencies from both sides in Bergdahl release
June 4th, 2014
09:23 AM ET
6 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. Anonymous

    batman
    Form what I have heard from his comrades on cable news, Bergdahl, by their accounts is a deserter. He should be tried, convicted and suffer the penalty under military law period!
    -------------------
    Doesn't the right wing media realize that they are witness tampering? The putting all of the relevant witnesses on television for interviews before military investigators can speak to them?

    June 4, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  2. tom l

    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.
    ======
    1. It was several days after the attack so you are incorrect with your statement. They knew full well, in fact that day, that the video had nothing to do with it. This was several days later and she still made that reference. There is no disputing that. So, knowing that, why would she say that when she knew it to be false.
    2. Not once did he mention in the speech that the Benghazi attacks were a coordinated attack and by referencing the video several times one would infer that the video was the reason for the Benghazi attacks.

    I can understand that #2 is subject to interpretation and in my humble opinion it seemed to me by reading and listening to the speech that since he gave no reason for the Benghazi attacks, yet talked a lot about the video, that he was blaming the video for said attack and not that it was a coordinated attack. As far as Hillary at the funeral, there is no way around it. It was several days later and it was a known fact that it was not a video...certainly to Hillary Clinton it was known.

    June 4, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "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."

    And all of that has nothing to do with whether he should have been rescued. Let the procedures and due process take place, but as the Joint Chiefs have quite clearly already stated in response to the imbecilic questions being raised, he is "innocent until proven guilty" and that determination gets made AFTER we get him home.

    June 4, 2014 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  4. TSB8C

    Obama broke the law – again. He violated the legal requirement that the Executive Branch give Congress 30 days' notice on any negotiated release of a Gitmo prisoner. Obama claims his executive prerogative superseded the requirement and his "signing statement" at the time this requirement was made part of the 2014 Defense Authorization Act is his bypass authority. However, recall recall that Obama asserted in his first presidential campaign, "I will obey the Constitution of United States. We're not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end run around Congress." And a year ago, his spokesman Jay Carney proclaimed, "We have long said we would not make any decisions about the transfer of any detainees without consulting with Congress and without doing so in accordance with U.S. law." Even Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, "It's very disappointing that there was not a level of trust to tell us. I think our views were clearly transmitted both to the president and Secretary Clinton so it comes with some surprise and dismay that the transfers went ahead with no consultation, totally not following the law."

    June 4, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  5. tom l

    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?
    =======

    Totally agree with that. The Iraq invasion created many more terrorists and this is why I was opposed to it. As far as Obama releasing POW (or whatever the gang wants to refer to them as), he certainly had the responsibility to work with Congress and ask for their input. This is not a dictatorship and his actions on this matter certainly do assert that he made this decision by himself without the advice and consent of congress. Members of both parties have complained about this and the White House apologized for actions therefore noting that they did something wrong.

    And I don't care if he was a deserter or not, that's irrelevant. We certainly should have done everything to get him but it appears that we certainly gave away a lot. And I happened to watch O'Reilly last night to see what he was saying (parish the thought!) the parents of one of the marines who died looking for Bergdahl said that their son would rather be killed than risk further deaths by releasing the particular individuals that were released.

    June 4, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    Hey, CNN, how about a full rundown instead of this false equivalence crap? GOPers/Teatrolls all over the country have been scrubbing their Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts to get rid of their past statements criticizing Obama for not bringing him home or rejoicing that he was coming home, etc. Or hey, how about this from GateWayPundit (one of the biggest conservative bubble blogs in the country):

    10/13/13: "Horrible. Obama to Leave US POW to Rot in Afghanistan After Withdrawal."

    6/3/14: "Figures. Obama Administration Promoted Bergdahl to Sergeant After He Reportedly Joined Taliban."

    It all comes down to them rationalizing some way to throw feces at Obama NO MATTER WHAT HE DOES. They're nothing more than a troop of screeching macaques.

    June 4, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "Obama broke the law – again. He violated the legal requirement that the Executive Branch give Congress 30 days' notice on any negotiated release of a Gitmo prisoner."

    Blah blah blah....AGAIN: if there was a legitimate emergency and need to act swiftly, that 30 day requirement would unconstitutionally infringe on his power as POTUS/CiC. Yes, we know...that's terribly inconvenient for your narrative, but guess what? Faux News and the GOP/Teatroll leadership already recognize that fact, and they've admitted to it by starting to focus attention on trying to claim that Bergdahl's health and life were not critical. Too bad for them that there's evidence it was.

    June 4, 2014 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  8. paul reynolds

    Stocks under Obama: DOW ends at 2nd New all-time HIGH
    See this headline anywhere on Fakes News 2 Fridays ago?
    Folks, THIS is why RepubliCons are in FULL PANIC MODE and trying anything to STOP the Recovery and Economy with FAKE "Scandals"!

    June 4, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  9. Bill from GA

    meh who knows... – " having some method of tracking their movements ... no one knows "

    Hey, Joe never told me to keep it quiet! Honest!!

    June 4, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "And I happened to watch O'Reilly last night to see what he was saying (parish the thought!) the parents of one of the marines who died looking for Bergdahl said that their son would rather be killed than risk further deaths by releasing the particular individuals that were released.

    Was that before or after Bill-O joined the rest of Faux News in denigrating the father for "looking like a muslim"?

    June 4, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Bergdahl may be innocent, 100% of his command have said he walked off his post and FOB."

    Yeah. Publicly ridiculing a fellow soldier they apparently didn't like from the get-go makes one proud of what has become of our military men and their need for well .... publicly ridiculing a fellow soldier. Indeed. I'm finding their public dialog disgusting. Add that they are being "primed" by a republican strategist and I further find them as contemptible as they seem to find Berghdal.

    June 4, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  12. Jamit12

    This article is pure nonsense. There is no inconsistency in the Republican position. Wanting to have a US hostage brought home (to be prosecuted for desertion, if nothing else) is not "inconsistent" with their subsequent criticism of the Administration's criminal action to negotiate with terrorists, without notice to Congress, and the cravenly political decision to swap these 5 hardened, top level, Muslim extremists for this anti-American traitor. They didn't say "Bring him home at any cost, Barak", I say we give him back to his soul mates.

    June 4, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    To add to the list of "Oops, Looks Like They Got the Memo Late"

    Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) on Twitter: "Best news I've heard in a long time! #standwithbowe" SUBSEQUENTLY SCRUBBED

    Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) in a statement and Facebook post: "A grateful nation welcomes the news of the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl...I have the pleasure of regularly speaking with our nation's active duty military and veterans and I know that there is nothing more solemn than the pledge to never leave one of their own behind on the field of battle." Also called Bergdahl a "national hero." SUBSEQUENTLY SCRUBBED

    Joni Ernst (R-candidate in Iowa) on Twitter: Sent her "thoughts and prayers" to Bergdahl's family. SUBSEQUENTLY SCRUBBED

    These people are disgusting.

    June 4, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. paul reynolds

    Fact – President Obama used a SIGNING STATEMENT which allowed Him to legally bypass the 30 day Congressional requirement.
    Thank you to Bush/Cheney for tirelessly expanding Presidential Powers and Dubya using 558 Signing Statements – Obama leveraged that!!

    June 4, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  15. tom l

    "And I happened to watch O'Reilly last night to see what he was saying (parish the thought!) the parents of one of the marines who died looking for Bergdahl said that their son would rather be killed than risk further deaths by releasing the particular individuals that were released.

    Was that before or after Bill-O joined the rest of Faux News in denigrating the father for "looking like a muslim"?
    =====

    It was after if that matters but I know your tactic is to muddy the waters and not talk about what's important and rather to portray the other side in the way you want them portrayed. How is that relevant to what the parents said when asked about the prisoner swap and they replied that their son would not approve of it at the risk of putting other soldiers in danger which is diametrically the opposite of your earlier rant about how nobody would join the army if they felt they would be "left behind".

    June 4, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  16. narutogrey

    The Republicans (and Democrats) have been pushing for the release of these Taliban members in order to close Guantanamo Bay. These were detainees that were going to be released anyways in the next 3 years. Now that there is uproar over the "negotiation with terrorists", they are now flipping over and calling the release a bad idea. Many Republicans and Democrats have been calling for bringing back Bergdahl, and have discussed trading over 100 detainees to get him back. In the end, we only traded 5. It seems like a pretty good deal to me.

    June 4, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    Tony

    Tom I, people have answered your questions. You just have not listened.
    ----------------
    Ahhhhhh, but no one has answered it today, though.

    June 4, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  18. just asking

    paul reynolds
    Fact – President Obama used a SIGNING STATEMENT which allowed Him to legally bypass the 30 day Congressional requirement.
    ---

    can you please point us all to the part of the constitution that describes signing statements and grants the president the ability to excuse himself from abiding by the laws he signs into law for the rest of us? his administration is on video tape many times saying they would abide by the law. but of course we all know they lie about eveything and fools like you believe them.

    June 4, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  19. sly

    Awesome job President Obama – you are the best!

    – Killed Osama Bin Laden, our #1 enemy!
    – Destoyed Khadafy
    – Forced the elimination of the worlds largest supply of chemical weapons
    – NO foreign terrorist attacks in our nation
    – NO new wars!

    And now – you rescue one of our fallen soldiers, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

    I can't think of a better foreign policy President in a long long time.

    June 4, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  20. yeahright

    Was that before or after Bill-O joined the rest of Faux News in denigrating the father for "looking like a muslim"?
    _________________

    Yes they did do that. How lame. As John Stewart illustrated, put a camo outfit and a bandanna on him and
    he'd fit right in with the right wing heroes on Duck Dynasty. He'd probably even get an invite to next years State
    of the Union.

    June 4, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "This is not a dictatorship and his actions on this matter certainly do assert that he made this decision by himself without the advice and consent of congress."

    You can delete the word "consent" from that line there, champ. Not required. Not in any way, shape or form. The 30 days notice was nothing more than legislated courtesy.

    "Members of both parties have complained about this and the White House apologized for actions therefore noting that they did something wrong."

    Congresscritters do tend to get bent out of shape when they feel their importance has not been given a chance to be spotlighted, eh? As for the apology, sure, they generally indicate an acknowledgment of doing something wrong, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the something wrong is what YOU want to characterize it as.

    June 4, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  22. David

    Hellooooo??? Is anyone thinking about the show Homeland? Keep this boy away from explosives.

    June 4, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  23. The Duke

    I haven't seen anything that doesn't indicate that Bergdahl should face a court martial

    June 4, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  24. Lynda/Minnesota

    "These people are disgusting."

    Indeed they are. This entire war chapter in our history is disgusting. Two wars ( disasters from the get-go ) dragging on for no apparent reason and the media is just NOW questioning why some of our own couldn't handle the stres,s and the media, thus deciding that joining the bandwagon of branding them "traitors" to the war, to America, to it's government, and to its inability to protect those unable to handle the stress while under military command is to be heralded as a just and humane cause.

    This guy was lost long before he took his walk into the middle of Afghanistan.

    June 4, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  25. Tony

    Tom I, for your first point, it has been two years since Benghazi, and Republicans are still investigating a Benghazi coverup. Republicans know full well that they have no evidence of a coverup, yet they push on, insisting that they have not gotten all the facts. If Republicans cannot find evidence of a coverup for two years, you can't blame the Obama Administration for not finishing its Benghazi investigation in a few days.

    For your second point, the rest of the world is not as concerned about the Benghazi attack as you would like. People of the world don't necessarily care if the attack was coordinated. Many do care about the video. Because there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, this is understandable. As for what Obama thought about the attack, this was what he said in a 60 Minutes interview on September 12, 2012:

    "As I said, we’re still investigating exactly what happened. I don’t want to jump the gun on this. But you’re right that this is not a situation that was exactly the same as what happened in Egypt. And my suspicion is, is that there are folks involved in this, who were looking to target Americans from the start."

    Look at that last sentence. Do you still think that Obama wanted people to believe that the Benghazi attack arose out of a spontaneous demonstration?

    June 4, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
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