June 8th, 2014
04:37 PM ET
9 years 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.

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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. ldean50

    Now we are learning why his fellow soldiers are calling him a deserter, etc. Turns out they had been abusing him just like Private Danny Chen (who ended up committed suicide due to harassment). They thought Bengdahl was dead – now they are afraid he is going to talk... so what do they do? accuse him of desertion and try to destroy his reputation so no one will believe him when he starts talking.

    June 8, 2014 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  2. CRAzytown

    There is more lies, speculation and cooked up stories to this guy than any story in the past 8 years. Republicans trying to make up stories to smear the Democrats... Democrats trying to make up stories to smear Republicans. The public knows zip about this man or his true backstory.

    Can you imagine what this country would be like if either side spent half as much time actually working to solve this country's problems?

    June 8, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  3. DS

    Strange he hasn't talked to his parents yet.

    June 8, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  4. Gold586

    The field commander must sign the promotion which helps his case since the field commander is also the person who must determine if he is listed as a deserter! So, if promoted he can not be a deserter! Why turn down the extra benefits? The only thing he has to say is: I woke up and was restrained and beaten bye muslim terrorist and I tried to escape and failed... He has no recall of how he was captured! He is a free man in the usa with benefits and a new life..

    June 8, 2014 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  5. reconmarine

    Smart boy. He'll be busted back to Private E-1 anyway when he goes to prison.

    June 8, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  6. Nick

    It is hilarious watching the same republicans and tea partiers who were calling Obama a traitor for NOT saving Bergdahl, now calling him a traitor for saving Bergdahl. Obama just can't do anything right, and the manufactured outrage is NEVER about what they say it's about. It's simply because they hate him; simple as that. The five Taliban prisoners were due to be released by the end of the year anyway, and that is common knowledge. Why are the teapublicans ignoring that? Even if Bergdahl did desert, it is STANDARD PROCEDURE to rescue our POWs whenever possible, and take corrective action once we have them home. Since when is 'leaving Americans to die in Taliban capitvity' one of the military's standard punishments? Huh, republicans? You are the traitors, for constantly manufacturing dissent and outrage over meaningless 'controversies', all because you have been throwing a 6 year long temper tantrum that *gasp* a black man and a democrat won the white house, and *gasp* he dared to push a progressive/inclusive agenda.

    June 8, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  7. Crampon

    That was after he deserted, so no promotion warranted.

    June 8, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  8. tony

    atleast bush had more credit than obama. this guy keeps lie after lie and his stupid followers keep defende him. he sworn to be our president ti defennse our nation which he has never done, he only defense the illegal and terrorists and mexicans to get points. ask him if he has ever order his staff to look into the marine who is in mx jail cuz he made mistake take wrong turn

    June 8, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  9. David

    These all seem like quite a stretch. His platoon-mates seem to want to blame Bowe for everything. I'm sure he's glad they have his back.

    June 8, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  10. Splinter48708

    I got a different rank for this guy: Dishonorably Discharged Traitor to the United States (Assuming the story about his deserting his post is true).

    June 8, 2014 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  11. max


    you don't know what actually happened. all you do is speculate. I do believe in USA, you innocent until you proven guilty. Yes I agree with president, we should leave any serviceman behind. And yes we should investigate what happened.

    June 8, 2014 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  12. Razgovory

    Sad how conservatives pretty much destroyed this guy's reputation in their endless quest to attack Obama. When he was a prisinor he was hero, he merely had the misforture of being brought back by a Democrat. Excellent example

    “Todd and I are praying for Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, his family, and all of his fellow soldiers who are putting their lives on the line to defend our freedom and protect democracy abroad,” Governor Palin said. “The capture of Private Bergdahl and the bombings in Jakarta prove that we have not defeated terrorism, and that radical extremists will stop at nothing to attack Westerners and our ideals.” Palin back in 2009

    "No, Mr. President, a soldier expressing horrid anti-American beliefs – even boldly putting them in writing and unabashedly firing off his messages while in uniform, just three days before he left his unit on foot – is not “honorable service.” Unless that is your standard." – Palin this year.

    June 8, 2014 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  13. Marcus (from...?)

    Me and the typos!
    'Real servicemen and women will wait for the outcome of the court martial, Chicken Hawks like you have already decided the verdict before the trial.'

    Sorry about that, I was in ahurry at the moemnt I hit 'post'

    June 8, 2014 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  14. max

    opps I mean we shouldn't leave no service man behind

    June 8, 2014 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  15. Michael D.

    He doesn't want rank he knows he never earned. He is a deserter. But, and a big but here, he did not do so in the evil, bad soldier turns to the enemy and hates America, way. Bowe was raised differently than 99% of us. And he did what he did in Afghanistan based on the way he was raised. He was still wrong. Men died because of his mistakes. But thats not what he wanted at all. I hope this makes sense.

    June 8, 2014 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  16. Robert N. constant

    With the encouragement of John McCain and a number of prominent Republicans, the President, acting as Commander in Chief exercised his duty to leave no POW behind. Then the Republican Party bosses thought they saw an opportunity to politicize the move and score a cheap political shot at the President. McCain and a number of Republican Chickenhawks who never wore the uniform or wore it in peace time behind the lines have jumped on the attack.
    In a completely cowardly way the Republican Party is trying an American POW in the media. The mass media are joining in this feeding frenzy leveling charges against an American who volunteered to fight for his country in wartime.
    This POW is being denied due process not being able to see or respond to his detractors. CNN is participating in this Kangaroo Court in which all of the accusations are being presented and amplified by the Republican Party in the hopes of energizing their base against the President. There is no decency in this.
    The Constitution of the United States guarantees due process to all Americans . PFC Bergdahl is entitled to his day in court, and he will have it. At that time any charges against him can be brought in a fair and impartial hearing. In the meantime it is a stain on the Republican Party that they would stoop so low as to have their operatives level charges against a fellow American who volunteered to fight for his country in wartime.without his being able to defend himself or tell his story. People doing this are the dregs of humanity . The time has come for all Americans who cherish decency and fairness to bid the Republican Party good bye.

    June 8, 2014 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  17. Pablo

    Did anyone remember this story broke when the Congressional Budget Office reported that it had NO way to tell if the Affordable Care Act was reducing health costs? It also broke when the illegals minors started crossing the border and the Federal government started releasing illegal immigrant from detention?

    June 8, 2014 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  18. Robert N. constant

    Republicans are trying an American POW in the media without his having a chance to defend himself. How low can you go!

    June 8, 2014 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  19. mickinmd

    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.

    I hope I can forget how you lied about Democrats -who from Diane Feinstein on down are not happy with the decision – "tried to lionize a deserter."

    How would you feel if someone said you "spit on the name of an American prisoner of war." See? Being a liar doesn't make you popular, does it.

    June 8, 2014 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  20. David

    I'm pretty sure that when you renounce your citizenship, you don't get ANY rank...

    June 8, 2014 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  21. Cindy

    Was John Mcain harrassed by soldiers when he came home from captivity after giving the enemy more than just his name,rank and serial number? Just asking...Was he called a traitor?

    June 8, 2014 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  22. Guardian of Truth

    If you yourself didn't step up to serve your country as a member of the military, which opinionators such as yourselves just might not have, leave the conjecture alone an allow our legal processes to decide what took place and what should then occur.

    June 8, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  23. Cindy

    I am getting so tired of the Republican double standards!

    June 8, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    I think feinstein was secretly briefed and told to remain silent . the fear if republicans were forewarned they would object and assuredly killed the deal. lies amongst elected members of congress are a common place. obama has only exacerbated the norm. his term has been a waste and disgrace to the country.

    June 8, 2014 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  25. Sam I. Am

    @ SR

    Generally, it is not the fault of a POW that they are being held captive, therefore when one is eligible for promotion, it is assumed one would be promoted (Since you aren't there to take a test, meet a board, etc.) This is a standard concession for the pain of captivity.

    Of course, Bergdahl's case appears different, but until an investigation is complete, promotion is standard procedure. Now, if he doesn't want it... that may be telling as to what actually transpired and resulted in his captivity, and how he views it.

    June 8, 2014 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
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