June 8th, 2014
04:37 PM ET
6 months ago

U.S. official: Sgt. Bergdahl wants to be called private first class

(CNN) - U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was promoted while held prisoner by the Taliban, said he wants to be recognized by his old rank, according to a senior U.S. official.

"In his mind, he's a Pfc," the official told CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr on Sunday.

Now in the beginning of the lengthy road to reintegration after his exchange for five Taliban commanders previously held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, Bergdahl is letting those around him know he still feels like a Pfc, regardless of his in-absentia promotion. The U.S. official could not confirm to CNN whether Bergdahl has resumed wearing his uniform but added that doing so is part of the standard reintegration process.

The Pentagon issued a brief statement Sunday, declining to comment on Bergdahl's recovery process beyond saying the Defense Department continues to evaluate Bergdahl, provide him with medical and reintegration care and remains intent on conducting a comprehensive review of the circumstances surrounding his disappearance.

"Our focus remains on providing him with the care he needs," Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

The few details emerging around the soldier's recovery after his five years in captivity are a prelude to what's shaping up to be a week defined by confrontation over President Barack Obama and his administration's move to exchange Bergdahl for five Taliban hardliners previously determined too high a risk to release.

The White House executed the deal without consulting or notifying Congress, something various critics of the high-stakes exchange have since labeled an illegal action that violates the National Defense Authorization Act. The Oval Office has defended its decision, citing Bergdahl's rapidly declining health and concerns he could be killed should news of the negotiations leak.

The senior U.S. official cited a proof of life video reportedly shown to senators in a classified intelligence briefing on Thursday as evidence of Bergdahl's worsening condition. The official said the determination, based on that December video, that Bergdahl's health was failing represented the best assessment of the intelligence community at the time. The source also brushed aside any assertion that politics played a role in the White House has sought to characterize Bergdahl's condition.

Senators who attended the briefing left with mixed opinions, with some saying Bergdahl looked sick while others speculated he was drugged in the video in question.

On the potential threat to Bergdahl's life, the official claimed the timeline for the swap accelerated once the agreement was made, hastened by fears that "other Taliban elements might kill him." Senior national security officials were briefed on these developments between the time the Obama administration struck a deal with the Taliban and Bergdahl's handover to American forces at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

All these claims are bound to be put under intense scrutiny this week, with multiple congressional briefings on the docket for defense officials.

Though it's still unclear if they will be shown the December proof of life video shown to senators last week, all House members will receive a closed-door briefing from White House, Pentagon and State Department officials at 5 p.m. Monday. On Tuesday, administration officials will hold another session with the upper chamber, briefing members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the details of the video and their justifications for bypassing congressional input.

The real fireworks, however, are expected to come on Wednesday when Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is scheduled to testify before the House Armed Services Committee.


Filed under: Bowe Bergdahl
soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. mona19595

    Don't rush to judgement on this man, REMEMBER he is a PFC what ever the reason behind the promotion and trade of prisoner's was determined by the White House. They plucked him out of all the prisoner's now we will wait to hear why.......This man has been in prison for 5 years and I am certain the Taliban did not provide him with updates. I think the gov't is using him as a pawn and in the mean time they have ruined his life. No matter what happened before he was kidnapped. Remember this is all new to the press so they will put any spin they want on it.....

    June 8, 2014 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  2. x44

    The Republicans are hoping with time the media will forget this story. However make no mistake, America's service members that did serve with honor and distinction will not forget how the Republicans tried to demonize a POW.

    June 8, 2014 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  3. davidfarrar

    Pfc Bergdahl doesn't want to be called "Sargent" because he knows what he did. He knows he put his brothers in arm in harms way, just as Obama has now put a price on the head of every American still in Afghan, simply to fulfill a campaign promise.

    The Afghan president fumes at the prisoner deal made behind his back. The Afghan president is angry at being kept in the dark over a deal to free five Taliban leaders in exchange for a captured U.S. soldier, and accuses Washington of failing to back a peace plan for the war-torn country.

    At least Pfc Bergdahl knows where his responsibilities lies, even if Obama doesn't.

    ex animo
    davidfarrar

    June 8, 2014 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  4. Ken

    This issue will take the limelight off the VA mess!

    June 8, 2014 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  5. cbp

    Nio one has the answers to what happened to the PFC. People are very quick to judge which is very unfortunate. Sen. Feinstein had a lot to say once again and she is willing to jump on the bandwagon of those who have the upper hand in the polls. Do you fear the 5 m3n in Qatar or those who have guns and use them on innocent people. How many people have to die before we do something about guns.

    This Congress is proving to us that they are perfectly willing to receive a salary even though they do nothing to earn it. It is a continual struggle between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch. I would hate to think of what would happen if we were truly in danger.

    June 8, 2014 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  6. mikeVa

    The GOP needs snapchat. One week they scream about bringing veterans home and the next they want to lynch them. I am surprised that the GOP didn't swiftboat Jessica Lynch. All they do is live in a political bubble. I doubt that people will want to volunteer for service when you a crazy train political faction that wants to lynch your kid.

    June 8, 2014 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  7. Blah

    Why are people still having a hard time understanding. We got an American soldier back! Its not up to me or you to decide if he's guilty its for a military court to decide.

    June 8, 2014 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  8. ED1

    Might want to be addressed as deserter first then by his prison number.

    June 8, 2014 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  9. Josh

    On the news today, they mentioned that this wouldn't be the first time for Bergdahl. Apparently he "walked away" before, the previous time in California. Yea, not the front lines of combat, but still.

    June 8, 2014 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  10. ChrisM

    Blah blah blah...enough with the GOP propaganda campaign. The reality is the Taliban detainees had to be released in 2015 anyway. We get an American back out of it, so it's a good trade.

    This issue isn't about Bergdahl. It's about the House GOP (the American Taliban) trying to deny Obama any win, big or small. If it means smearing a private's reputation, such is the cost of collateral damage.

    June 8, 2014 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  11. SW

    tangledthorns, many in the GOP were demanding for years that we bring Bergdahl home, not that he's home they are calling him a deserter. It wasn't just Democrats lionizing him. The only difference is now the GOP see a way to use this young man to their political advantage and they've been frantically deleting their tweets and FB posts about supporting Bergdahl and demanding that the White House use any means necessary to bring him home.

    SR, he was promoted because when a soldier is captured, at those time he would normally be up for promotion they assume he would have met the requirements for promotion. Bergdahl has been held for 5 years and during that time had he served his normal duties by now he would be a sergeant, so he is provisionally considered to hold that rank. In the event that he is tried and found to have been AWOL or to have deserted, some or all of his promotions may be revoked.

    June 8, 2014 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  12. Liz

    Never forget how our soldiers were treated under the democrats, these are not Pres.Harry Truman, democrats. Remember in November and forever. When an accused deserter gets a Rose Garden reception, and the soldiers who died looking for him get nothing. If it were not for his fellow soldiers and the families of the fallen, we would never have heard the truth. Now they are being called liars by some.

    June 8, 2014 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  13. usaman

    good because you don't deserve it deserter...

    June 8, 2014 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  14. Liz

    Who gave the promotion, when, and why?

    June 8, 2014 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  15. Kevin H

    Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the former UdSSR some 54 years ago. Powers served with distinction. The point being that full disclosure about the details didn't come out until many, many years later. The reason is because before politics come the national security interests of the nation. We're coming on on the 61st anniversary of the McCarthy Hearings. Joseph McCarthy for one entire summer held the country spellbound with his inquisition. McCarthy insured that despite the pleadings of a gay, very private Joseph Welch, he outlived his own alcoholism and other demons. Until this day some in Hollywood were impacted whose work did not survive because of McCarthy. They were blackballed. Bergdahl, whatever his failings, could have sold out his country. He could have given the Taliban anything they wanted in exchange for his release. In 50 years some of the evil bobbleheads here who have already hung him out today will be proven wrong. And this incident will be seen for the complexity that it represents. Shame on you people. You're the same crowd that would have spoken disapprovingly of Kennedy in 1962 and would have shown McCarthy support in 1953 – when he was clearly a monster. I disparage his name and that of Roy Cohn because they deserve it – both of them – into the dustbin of history.

    June 8, 2014 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  16. Deserters don't deserve rank.

    He's smart enough to know that the truth will come out and he won't even be PFC. He'll be DESERTER-stripped of rank and privilege, and forever known as the deserter who cost others their lives.

    June 8, 2014 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  17. DigitAl

    I'm pretty sure the government ain't that stupid. Think about it don't you think they at least put some sort tracking device on the 5 they handover?

    June 8, 2014 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  18. PFCBergdahl

    So far Bergdahl has declined his promotion and refused to speak to his parents by phone. Sounds like someone whose proud of his service and definitely didn't abandon his post.

    June 8, 2014 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  19. dwhitedwhite

    If I recall correctly, in the military, if you're being held captive you are promoted in absence at the time you would normally be if you were serving not under captivity. It's a way of honoring them for the service, and helps the families as well.

    June 8, 2014 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  20. nonyabidnes2

    PFC= Proud Friggin civilian, should he not be found a deserter.

    June 8, 2014 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  21. David Veal

    Honestly, let's say all five of the guys let go run return to terrorism and are celebrated by terrorists anreven, yikes, they do harm. This is nothing compared to the actions of the Bush administration and of congress itself buying flakey intelligence and putting us into Iraq. Nothing near it.Two wrongs do not make a right, however president Obama can get in line behind Bush if we are about to take our leaders to court.

    June 8, 2014 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  22. Kyle323

    So from a proof of life video in December suddenly Obama determines he is too sick to wait until the weekend ends to inform Congress /committees of the swap deal in June?? Riiiiiiight.

    Also interesting that Bergdahl doesn't want his promotion... Hmmmm, maybe some guilt over being a deserter??

    June 8, 2014 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  23. Marcus (from...?)

    tangledthorns – The Obama WH is hoping with time the media will forget this story. However make no mistake, America's service members that did serve with honor and distinction will not forget how the Democrats tried to lionize a deserter.

    You mean the chicken Hawks that day in day out know more about the situation because they watched about it in Fox News?

    Real servicemen will wait for the outcome of the court martial, chicken Hawks like have already decided the verdict.

    June 8, 2014 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  24. timothy f cronin

    the man is innocent until proven guilty.period full stop. iwould allow him to have his say and if you have credible witnesses bring them forward and leave the judicial system work.

    June 8, 2014 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  25. mm

    Why would there be fireworks when Hagel testifies CNN?

    June 8, 2014 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
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