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

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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. Keith

    I am really trying to view this objectively ... but is it naïveté or arrogance that occurred with the decision to make this swap. (1) How can this NOT put other Americans at risk (if I'm a terrorist I now have a better chance of getting something for capturing an American)? (2) How could they not have known about the circumstances of the soldier's capture? (3) If they did why would they make such a spectacle of the release by having his parents come to the WH. If they still wanted to proceed it at the very least should have been done more quietly so that the family would not be put into what is now going to be a media "circus."
    I am extremely concerned that this may have been a "ploy" to take media attention away from the very serious issues at the VA Medical Centers. This should not be a "partisan" issue. This is just either flat wrong or at best poorly handled!

    June 4, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  2. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Lynda/Minnesota says:
    June 4, 2014 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm
    “Is that a clear example what is usually called ‘projection’ or what?”

    We’ve seen some fancy footwork from the right today. I’m calling it for what it is: FOX Trot Extraordinaire.

    Inconsistencies indeed.

    FOX Trot Extraordinaire!!! I love it!!!😀😀😀

    June 4, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  3. Admi J Gen

    Who cares. This kid will be messed up for the rest of his life, punishment enough. Also, If some Soldiers lost their life trying to find Bergdhal, guess what, that was what they were told to do– go out on mission and execute their objective, duty, etc. if you die, then that's part of what these folks volunteered for; Soldiers die in mindless ways all the time. Here's the deal with Bergdhal, he is 100 percent right about the military, especially the US Army. He is also likely a deserter who went AWOL, why?; Becuase he was a stupid, naieve, and entitled 22 year old, whom the Army should have warned, long before he deployed, that going to "War" isn't about helping people, join the Peace Corps, son. Look, we let 2LT Calley walk, after the far worse Mỹ Lai Massacre in Vietnam. Fast forward, when you allow broken people to stay on deployment in a combat zone, you get Bradley Manning. When you allow convicted criminals to join the military, you get Robert Bales. When you allow the Army to pretend it's a super PC organization with a primary mission of humanitarian aide that doesn't kill people, you get the freaks and geeks like Bergdhal. The bigger question is the utter cluelessness and ineptitude reflected here in the US politicos and military leaders who are supposed to be running the show. When a reporter/ journalist for a Rock and Roll Magazine, Rolling Stone, knew more about the controversial nature of Bergdhal, 3 years ago, more than the freaking President, things aren't good. Everyone needs to take a look in the mirror, including the sad sacks from Bergdhal's Platoon, et al. who, the majority of, are all or probably have been busted out out the military for misconduct themselves and now are trying to falsely collect PTSD disability checks from the VA, and WAKE UP... "War is a Raket," and the only winners are the ones who don't go, which includes most of Congress and the CEOs of Defense Contracting Companies. For the amount of trouble Bergdhal is going to face, and for the trauma, he has already faced, he will never, ever be anything than straight broken. Is he a hero, NO. Should he be treated with respect, and be given a chance to move on YES. Will that happen, no, no until he's dead...

    June 4, 2014 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  4. Marcus (from...?)

    carlos – are you from the intelligence community? Nope, no one there would so dumb to oust himself in a ticker... so stop pretending you know what the intelligence community thinks about it. If tomorrow a CIA source comes out and says 'We are not happy with this swap' then I'll believe in him or her.
    Pretenders are not trusthworthy.

    June 4, 2014 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  5. Marcus (from...?)

    smith – Sniffit said the same thing, at most the deaths of the guys that went out there find and rescue him could, in some circumstances, be added as aggravation in his case (SUPPOSING that the desertion accusation ends up in a court). But that is a matter that is being resolved now, with him back, and not while he was a POW.
    That is how the procedures go as they always did, with the AMERICAN (military in this case) JUSTICE dealing with the matter, and not some other people's doing it for the USA.

    June 4, 2014 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  6. Mike

    The release of an American POW is a partisan issue? What crime has this man committed? What crimes have the enemy combatants committed for that matter. Everyone is being prosecuted and persecuted in trial by released report to the media. No rights, no trail, no jury. It is scary president. Republicans are like little Hitlers.

    June 5, 2014 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
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