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.

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker'][twitter-follow screen_name='JimAcostaCNN']

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. AzDem

    Hi Folks..we are can speculate on the deal however we don't know what the government has planned.

    June 4, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  2. Peace

    On Saturday I tuned on Fox News Radio. It was throughout good news of Bergdahl being rescued. I could hear from their voices how happy they were and very proud that he has been rescued safely. All the sudden that changed on Sunday morning. I suspect it was after they watched Sussane Rice being interviewed by Candy Crowley on CNN. What has the country become?

    June 4, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    Tell that to the jihadists. Unless we are extremely dilignet trying to dtop terrorism, there wilbe another 9/11. A the liberals love , its the new norm. Embrace it.

    Well, I guess I did. This is a public forum .... yes? Now go back under your bed. I've no time for "there will be another 9/11" talking point scare tactic keeping me awake night after night in breathless anxiety of what might happen.

    June 4, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  4. rs

    The GOP has dipped into the River Stupid-again.
    First, they demanded action to get this guy returned. Then, they tried to politicize it once they found a reason to assail the guy. Now, their media outlets from Drudge, to Rush to FOX are beating up this POW's family for "looking Muslim". And the ultimate- the GOP is raising funds off this, saying the President is selling out America.

    1. This was a POW exchange. They've been done at the end of every war.
    2. For people like the GOP who claim they cry themselves to sleep that terrorists get killed by drones ("no due process"), they sure have rushed to judgment on Mr. Bergdahl. What should America have done? Left him with the Taliban? If he's guilty of something, then we'll put him on trial, and see what can be proved.
    3. What happened to all that concern about veterans and their issues? Just more smoke? Is Mr. Bergdahl not a veteran?
    4. Has the GOP forgotten? Reagan bargained with the Iranians. Shoot, he sold them American made missiles out of Israeli weapons caches to fund nun-killers in Nicaragua. Never mind the weaponry that he sold to Iraq. Meanwhile has the GOP figured out that to make peace in Afghanistan- and for the U.S. to leave effectively THIS year, the Afghan government MUST make accord with the Taliban? Hence, one of the reasons this accord to exchange POWs. No, not likely. The GOP isn't filled with deep thinkers.

    The GOP- The real reason America's stock has fallen around the world. We have reactive idiots as opposition politicizing every single world event- with no apparent end other than fundraising driving them.

    June 4, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  5. Katina

    Lizzie, People are unhappy because of the under-handed, sneaky deal that was struck BY NEGOTIATING WITH TERRORISTS. "Sgt." (he wasn't a SGT when he was captured by the Taliban) Bergdahl's own platoon has publicly stated that he deserted his post and wasn't captured in the traditional sense of the word – he basically gave himself up. There are emails from him to his parents indicating he was planning to do so. Additionally, most – if not ALL – other captured US soldiers were tortured and killed nearly immediately upon capture. He wasn't. Wonder why ... Bergdahl's fellow soldiers also indicate that attacks on their posts escalated in frequency within days of his departure. Not immediately after he left, mind you, but a few days/weeks after. 6-8 soldiers died in the search for Bergdahl. Their blood is potentially on his hands.

    This man is not a hero. He is a disgrace to the uniform. Right or wrong, when you VOLUNTEER for the military, you know the risk of going to war. This idiot volunteered in a time of war – and then thought he could get out of deployment? Seriously? While none of us know the real facts about this situation – the anecdotal evidence is not in Bergdahl's favor.

    Finally, our country has a long-standing policy of not negotiating with terrorists. We just negotiated with terrorists. And we released 5 terrorists to a country who "promises" to watch them, but a country that has had inconsistencies in their security policies in the past. We exchanged 5 terrorists for 1 traitor. Doesn't really seem like a great deal to me.

    So, yes, while it's great that Bergdahl will come home, he should NOT be coming home to a hero's welcome. He should be coming home to a military tribunal or a court-martial – or at the very least, an investigation into his actions and this situation. As of yesterday, the army has stated it will be "looking into" the matter. In the mean time, he was released to US custody and PROMOTED to the rank of Sgt ... a guy who wouldn't have stuck with his military career long enough to earn that rank even if he was a "good" soldier.

    So, the rat is quite smelly here.

    June 4, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  6. Bjournson

    Presenting this situation as a "partisan feud" is an attempt to turn what could be a rare opportunity for a thoughtful, complicated debate into a narrative of political hackery. There are complex and interesting issues to discuss and explore here. What does it mean to negotiate with an enemy during a war when that enemy is a terrorist agency? How much is too much to sacrifice for a suspected deserter? What is the executive branch's obligation to follow the law in this case? What should we do with the Guantanamo prisoners who are never tried after the war ends?

    This article purposefully ignores those questions and says "Here is another manufactured controversy, politics as usual, etc." It is disappointing to see this story portrayed this way.

    June 4, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  7. rs


    This article clearly states the GOP consistency. None said unconditional release of 5 top detainees. Several said RESCUE, which is NOT negotiating with terrorists but RESCUE via a military initiative. McCain said "one of them". Then again, he is a former POW. While we MAY, n the past, have negotiated with countries, here we negotiated with terrorists. Myself as a veteran, walking off a post in a combat zone is not going for a walk. It is desertion. There is no acceptable reason for his actions and the loss of American lives looking for him was horrible. The celebration of this is absurd, and the spin such as this is typical.
    Points taken. However, you still ignore the obvious. We end our war in Afghanistan this year. Having failed to try and convict the POWs in Gitmo of anything, they HAVE TO BE released. Congress refused to allow these guys to be tried in our court system- and at the same time wouldn't close Gitmo. We cannot keep these men, terrorists or otherwise locked up indefinitely- especially after the war ends. It would be unconstitutional, and a violation of the Geneva Accords.

    June 4, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  8. Fred Flinstone

    "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​,"

    Uh, no. Invading other countries for trumped up reasons puts American servicemen and women at risk.

    June 4, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  9. rs


    "Did not comply with the law", "circumvent US law". If I do not comply with the law or circumvent the law by robbing a bank, I go to jail. This administration is doing this kind of crap all too often. Either ignoring the laws and doing whatever they want, or creating their own laws by edict.
    When Mr. Obama signed the law passed by Congress regarding notification, he added a signing statement -exactly the same as Mr. Bush did, to justify his ability to ignore aspects of laws he didn't like. Your party's precedence at play!

    June 4, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  10. Bill from GA

    Al Qaeda kills 3000 Americans on 9/11. W-cheney kill another 4000 plus Americans avenging that act, making the world a more dangerous place for all with their ineptness.

    We're now worried about a 5 to 1 prisoner swap??

    June 4, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota

    "When you get elected POTUS you can make that call and worry about the back bites."

    Hey there. Long time no see. How's your new promotion job training coming along? We've missed you ... !

    June 4, 2014 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  12. Thomas

    Benghazi is what is Important , we need not think about real issues !

    Darrell Issa / Rick Perry 2016

    Brining the truth to lite ?

    June 4, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  13. Shadow

    This guy is a Traitor by the way. He threw down his weapons, grabbed a few things and left camp. Six soldiers were killed trying to find this guy. It's a bad deal all the way around. No way this guy is worth five super-terrorist.

    June 4, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  14. Anthony

    If we convict Bergdahl without a trial, we might as well have used a drone on him. Now, people, are you in favor of targeting an American with a drone? What do you say, Senator Rand?

    June 4, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  15. sonny crapman

    Why did the military make all of the people in this guys unti sign nondisclousre agreements about the circumstances of his desertion? By all indications, it was clear he deserted and it was well planned. Then you get the pathological liar for the Obama adminstration Susan Rice out there sayin ghe served with honor and distinction. A total huge spit in the face of all that DID serve with honor and distinction.

    Had the Obama administration consulted Congress and told them they were going to release to TOP FIVE most dangerous Taliban from Gitmo for a known deserter, they knew NOBODY would go along with it. THAT is why they didn't notify Congress. Their lies and continued lies are so obvious.

    June 4, 2014 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  16. nobody

    He was a private when he deserted, yet has been promoted twice. We are calling him a POW, why? We have no evidence to suggest he was ever treated as, or considered a prisoner by the Taliban. Was another deal made, or promise of some sort kept, which is the real reason for the release of the five terrorists, and this "prisoner swap" just an excuse to justify that release? Did Bergdahl want to return? Did the Taliban have any desire to keep him?

    June 4, 2014 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  17. Mark

    More Congresscritters dancing on the head of a pin.

    June 4, 2014 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Why did they pick Bergdahl for this type of exchange, I wonder?
    Is Bergdahl in possession of information that would be useful to us?
    Just ruminating out loud.
    Lynda from Minnesota wrote:
    "On another note: 4,000 men died searching for non existent WMDs in Iraq"
    How very true my friend. Duly noted.

    June 4, 2014 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  19. Chance Novak

    BTW the Army used to execute soldiers for desertion. Washington executed dozens during the Valley Forge era, so.....

    June 4, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  20. Bill from GA

    John – " 6 soldiers died seaching for this deserter. "

    if that bothers you so much, complain about the commander who sent them out after Bergdahl.

    If a 5 to 1 prisoner swap by Obama is dumb, why isn't the right complaining about a commander who gets SIX killed looking for that guy? Oh, i know: no political gain against the dems in that. We don't second-guess our military commanders, only the Prez.

    (And I AM NOT really suggesting that we question or complain about the decision to look for Bergdahl; just making a point about the hypocrisy.)

    June 4, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  21. 30 Day notice

    The real issue is that Obama did not give Congress a 30 day notice for the swap. This was something that he signed into law. Republican and Democrats have complained about this.

    June 4, 2014 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  22. factcheck64

    Dammed if you do, dammed if you don't. This is the position that Obama is in now. While I don't accepts the swap, I think Obama as the President did not have much of a choice. Would I offer high profile people in exchange for a army deserter, NO. Maybe Obama should have done a more thorough review of how the kidnap happened and then agreed for the swap. This would have resulted in some lower rung detainees being released instead of the big wigs!!

    June 4, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  23. JDU

    The war is over? Does the Taliban / Al Queda know this? We weren't at war with Afghanistan....this is not a war / situation like in the past with handing over true POW's, this war is ongoing.

    June 4, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  24. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    "When you get elected POTUS you can make that call and worry about the back bites."

    Hey there. Long time no see. How's your new promotion job training coming along? We've missed you ... !
    Today has been my first opportunity to "tune in" .
    There is so much to learn but it is wonderful because the old gray matter is getting a really good work out!
    I miss you guys as well.
    Hope they post this one; it is my 2nd attempt at "touching base" with the old gang.

    June 4, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  25. rs

    So, yes, while it's great that Bergdahl will come home, he should NOT be coming home to a hero's welcome.
    And he won't, the Right-wing media- primarily FOX News- has seen to it that he has no hope of a fair trial in America by trying him (and his family), and convicting them as deserters, criminals, and for "looking Muslim". The Right simply has no conscience or morality anymore.

    June 4, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13