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. Sniffit

    "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 dunno who this Santa Claus guy is, but he sure sounds like he "looks like a muslim." Oh, and BTW, there's no spin here. We've consistently been citing facts that make you look really really stupid. Enjoy.

    June 4, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  2. Hank Knouse

    Again, to be on the record as opposing everything that the Dems are doing (primarily Obama), the right ring pukes are spinning out lies (what if this guy were a deserter? or what if he doesn't like ice cream for that matter) and spinning and spinning. Just be thankful that a US serviceman was released from captivity. Maybe we should have offered to swap several million of right wing politicians for him. That would have been a win-win for us.

    June 4, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  3. smith

    @Rudy-I never said we shouldn't bring him home. Try reading my comment. I know Lynda, Sniffit, and yourself are having trouble with concept of the phrase, "Leave no one behind" which apllies to service members that serve with duty and honor not someone who went AWOL. I see Bergdahl more like a hostage for now.

    June 4, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  4. rs


    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....".
    CNN is biased for pointing out the GOP is full of self-serving, flip-flopping hypocrites? How is it CNN's fault the GOP is so shallow?

    June 4, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  5. Marcus (from...?)

    @ 'Barry Szafran – In response to "Tru" stating that he has done nothing different than any other, I can't recall any sitting POTUS ever negotiating with terrorists or swapping them for a member of the US Armed Forces.'

    Ronald Reagan wasn't a sitting POTUS during the (secret) negotiations with Iran (who represented/financed the terrorist organizations that had US citizens in their power)?
    And let's not forget how Vietnam (after the war and until early 90's) was seen by the international community! To the point that China bombarded its border with Vietnam on a daily basis without any other country (save the USSR) saying you can't do that! And yet the USA talked with them to have POW released, or it didn't happened?

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

    Lynda/Minnesota says:
    June 4, 2014 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm
    “Another Fox whack job….”

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

    Me too!!!😄😄😄

    June 4, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  7. smith

    @Sniffit- Name another time the phrase, "Leave no one behind" was used for a solider who went AWOL. Ready! Go!

    June 4, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  8. wonfish

    This is a terrorist organization that kills whomever they want anyway - and as many as they want. So to say that because we negotiated with them they will capture more US soldiers to bargain with is a silly argument. As a matter of fact, maybe now they will try to kill less and capture more!

    June 4, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  9. rs


    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.
    In YOUR opinion, perhaps. The negotiating body was the Qatari government (who acted as intermediary). The crafted the deal, and will sit on these 5 for 1 year-, i.e. until we're done with Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Qataris will also help broker the truce between the Taliban and the Afghan gov't. Something that will properly end this little Bush-league CF once and for all.

    June 4, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  10. Marcus (from...?)

    @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.

    AFTER the guy comes back (usually bty his own will), that's what happens.
    No doubt.
    The problem was that there were those guys, those armed guys alway keeping an eye on him and saying 'You can't go back until our guys are back too'.
    Besides, there were already THOUSANDS of defections/desertions related to the war in Afghanistan, but only in this one there is the strong possibility (or fact, can't say if legally speaking it's a fact) that US soldiers died while looking for him or trying to set him free of his captivity.
    Can his immediate command handle with this issue too?
    Details, details, the devil is in the details...

    June 4, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC


    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".
    Been watching reruns of "Duck Dynasty" again?

    June 4, 2014 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  12. poopyonastick

    What happened to the VA scandal? Gone from the front page so quickly for some reason...

    June 4, 2014 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |

    Inconsistencies. From the current POTUS/admin? Naw, you must be crazy.

    June 4, 2014 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  14. Denise

    What does Boss Hogg, The Chicken Hawk Czar, think?

    June 4, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  15. Tony D

    Obama did this to get the VA scandal off the front pages. He could have cared less about this guy. Obama's motto is leave no photo op behind.

    June 4, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "@Sniffit- Name another time the phrase, "Leave no one behind" was used for a solider who went AWOL. Ready! Go!"

    LOL. I don't need to. The Joint Chiefs have quite clearly and specifically said it applies to Bergdahl. If you'd like to disprove them, then please, feel free to do so by citing a situation in which we made the explicit decision to abandon a POW solely based on other people accusing him of desertion or going AWOL.

    June 4, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  17. rafael000

    So of you Liberals will jump from a bridge for Potus, this is incredible, your country is being dismantle before your eyes and all you do is to close your eyes.

    June 4, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  18. Denise

    I'm waiting for the Gym Scandal. The GOP clowns have covered most of the alphabet now in their bogus scandals and investigations.

    June 4, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  19. smith

    @Marcus-It would be a very tough case to win holding Bergdahl resposible for the soliders who died looking for him. I see this being handled by his command in a AWOL case. Although, if something else comes out this things could change.

    June 4, 2014 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  20. Pete Leary

    King Hussein Obama at it again. He should be sent to Gitmo to replace the murderers he set free! Easily the most incompetent President in my lifetime and I've seen a few of them. This administration is corrupt and no one associated with lying Obama ever tells the truth.

    June 4, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  21. Sheila

    How about the Marine in Mexico? Said nothing!

    June 4, 2014 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  22. Marcus (from...?)

    'rafael000 – So of you Liberals will jump from a bridge for Potus, this is incredible, your country is being dismantle before your eyes and all you do is to close your eyes.'

    Is that a clear example what is usually called 'projection' or what?

    June 4, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "Obama did this to get the VA scandal off the front pages."

    LOL. Riiiiiight...because of course, the best strategy for handling something your opponents have tried to turninto a scandal and blame you for it is to do something that your opponents will 100% predictably try to turn into another scandal and blame you for it? Look, we all know you guys sit and watch Faux and listen to Limbaugh and Beck and Hannity and Ingraham, et al, while drooling down the front of your shirts...and all we know you get all your knee-jerk talking points from them on a regular basis and the run around trying to find situations in which to use them....but the least you could do is try to use them in situations where they make at least a little bit of sense.

    June 4, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  24. smith

    @Sniffit-I'll help you out, it has never happend. What you seem not to understand is I don't have a problem with bringing Bergdahl home or making some sort of deal to bring him home. I have an issue with Bergdahl's conduct and the labels being used to describe Bergdahl. Btw, Wassef Ali Housson went AWOL and turned up in Lebannon years later and is currently at large. No efforts were made to locate him back then and currently now, I would say thats abandon solider.

    June 4, 2014 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  25. carlos

    Oh lets not forget that former CIA Leon Panetta and James Clapper are on the record stating that these 5 Gitmo detainees are the worse and should never be returned. Oh but that's just another FOX whack job Obama apologists? Tell me when u r not a whack job for your blind allegiance to Obama even when he is wrong?
    VA scandal no longer a problem now right?

    June 4, 2014 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
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