June 18th, 2014
08:02 PM ET
7 years ago

Bergdahl deal scrutinized at congressional hearing

(CNN) - Emotions ran high Wednesday at a hearing on Capitol Hill to examine the circumstances surrounding Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's capture by the Taliban in 2009 and the deal that led to his release in late May.

Bergdahl was captured after he walked off his base in Afghanistan's Paktika province, and several of his former platoon-mates have since accused Bergdahl of desertion and endangering the lives of his comrades.

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Spc. Cody Full, who was Bergdahl's roommate before their deployment and served closely with him at the base, said at the hearing that he has no doubt Bergdahl deserted and that the desertion was pre-meditated.

"Knowing that someone you needed to trust deserted you in war and did so on his own free will is the ultimate betrayal," Full told members of two subcommittees of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mike Waltz, who commanded an Army Special Forces unit in eastern Afghanistan when Bergdahl was captured, told subcommittee members that all military resources in that part of the country were redirected to search for Bergdahl and that the Taliban capitalized on that effort to launch attacks.

"They began feeding false information into our informant network in order to lure our forces into a trap," Waltz said.

Waltz, who is now a senior national security fellow with the New America Foundation, added that if "someone was killed during that specific amount of time, unless they tripped and hit their head on the way to the mess hall, they were out looking for Sgt. Bergdahl."

Members of Bergdahl's former platoon have said at least six soldiers were killed searching for him, including 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews, whose father Andy Andrews also testified at Wednesday's hearing.

"Exactly why did my son die?" Andrews asked. "Tell me one more time because I don't know what we've accomplished."

Darryn Andrews was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack while his unit was attempting to recover a disabled vehicle. Another soldier, Pfc. Matthew Martinek, was also killed in the attack. Andrews was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions in that attack, which are credited with having saved the lives of several fellow soldiers.

The military told Andrews' parents their son was killed searching for a high-ranking Taliban commander. Andy Andrews insists "Bergdahl was never mentioned."

But since the POW's release, he said, six soldiers have approached the family with the revelation their son was actually searching for Bergdahl when he died.

The military has not confirmed this version of events, and at a hearing last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he had seen "no evidence that directly links any American combat death to the rescue or finding or search of Sergeant Bergdahl."

Bergdahl was freed in exchange for five Taliban leaders previously held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Administration officials have defended that deal despite criticisms that the exchange was lopsided and that Congress was not consulted.

Last week, the Army appointed a two-star general to investigate the circumstances behind Bergdahl's capture. Public accounts have varied widely, from those saying he walked away from the outpost to claims he was taken from a latrine.

At Wednesday's hearing, members on both sides of the aisle accused the other side of politicizing the case.

Democrat Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida accused his Republican colleagues of flip-flopping on the issue.

"Many members of Congress who are now saying they oppose this deal supported the very idea of a prisoner exchange and were urging the administration to do more" to secure Bergdahl's release, Deutch said.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, urged caution to those attacking Bergdahl's record.

"This is about somebody's service," said Connolly, "and we should withhold judgment on the quality and nature of that service until the facts are known."

"The benefit of the doubt belongs to Mr. Bergdahl," Connolly added.

President Obama urged the same restraint earlier this month, when he told reporters he makes "absolutely no apologies" for authorizing the exchange.

"We have a basic principle," he said. "We do not leave anybody wearing the American uniform behind."

Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, however, said the administration is touting Bergdahl as a hero "to divert the public's attention from the price that we paid," referring to the five released Taliban detainees.

He and others have criticized the President for hosting Bergdahl's parents at the White House, and for comments made by members of his administration celebrating Bergdahl's release.

In particular, National Security Adviser Susan Rice has come under fire for saying that Sgt. Bergdahl served "with honor and distinction."

Full addressed that comment directly on Wednesday.

"Bowe Bergdahl should not be characterized as having served with 'honor and distinction,'" said Full, who said that he was motivated to speak out because he was offended by the "hero's welcome" given to Bergdahl, which he said was not extended to those who died searching for him.

In perhaps the most poignant moment of the hearing, Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, asked Andy Andrews whether, given the option, he would be willing to trade five senior Taliban leaders to have his son back.

"If my son had been a deserter, then no," Andrews said. "Absolutely not."

"But my son was a man of honor," he continued, fighting back tears, "and I would do almost anything."

Filed under: Afghanistan • Capitol Hill
soundoff (148 Responses)
  1. Big Ben

    The Army will handle this as they have for over 75 years. It never looks good when soldiers condemn another soldier before he has a chance to speak. This is a new one for me. It looks like this whole unit is deserters as they have turned their back on American military justice.

    June 18, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  2. Name

    Bergdahl is a traitor and deserter and should have been left for dead. Those who made the ultimate sacrifice are the true heroes, not Bergdahl.

    June 18, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  3. captcaps

    So Where is the Beef, he this, he that, but no solid proof, no proof only Conjecture and Barracks Bull, had a sailor fall off the fantail of the USS John F. Kennedy as we left port in Norfork Navy Yard in 1970 for an ORI ,Only he knows if he jumped or fell but the ships crew branded him a deserter. Many Voices are not always correct and often dead wrong. Five years in the Afghan hell is Punishment enough for anyone.... One way or another we all pay a price for our actions often much higher than we Deserve.....My call is give the man the benefit of the doubt unless you actually witnessed this incident...... But Crucify by Media Madness is the American way.... Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    June 18, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  4. cindy lou who

    a true hero

    June 18, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  5. Eric

    Some clown traded 5 high ranking Taliban for this guy who can possibly put to death if convicted for deserting his unit. Obama, was it worth it? You make me sick!

    June 18, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  6. jonquil123

    Hearing Andrews Father...it just breaks my heart. I don't think Bergdahl is a bad guy but these are the consequences of a soldier not following Military code. They are as serious as they come. These rules aren't made for no reason.

    June 18, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  7. Dale Powers

    We needed to get the young man back. Every mission in Afghanistan had the possibility of causing a video to be released of the Taliban beheading PFC Bergdahl.

    That said; He should now be court marshalled for desertion. He should lose all rank and benefits and be released to live in shame. He should not cost us another life or dime.

    June 18, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  8. phantom235

    Digesting behavior on behalf of this deserter.

    June 18, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  9. Rascalmcdoogle

    So a dreamer and adventurous young man just went out to make friends with the enemy. His actions sure hurt a lot of his fellow soldiers.

    June 18, 2014 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Why is he being investigated by a two star general? Under the UCMJ, a two star has the authority to convene a general court martial for a major charge like desertion in the face of the enemy. This charge, if filed, does carry a possible death penalty.


    June 18, 2014 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  11. captcaps

    Look at the Faces behind SPC Cody Full , are they full of Hate or seeking the Truth? You Judge! Facts Speak louder than Summery Judgement..... Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    June 18, 2014 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  12. TheLostSurveyor

    Congress hasn't accomplished a thing over the last few years. But they sure can put together an investigative hearing fast. The fact that we are having hearing about an American Citizen who is not there to rebut the allegations smacks of a political witch hunt. Since when did we find someone guilty until proven innocent?

    June 18, 2014 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  13. Tom Shafer

    Why is he being investigated by a 2 star general? Under the UCMJ, a two star has the authority to convene a general court martial for serious charges like desertion in the face of the enemy. This offense carries a possible death penalty.


    June 18, 2014 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  14. Peteyroo

    Susan Rice got it wrong again.

    June 18, 2014 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  15. 98C

    Testifying? really! Seems much more like CYA for some of those unresolved "security & command problems" reported in that 15-6 investigation when he went walkablout.

    And rather than making the entire situation a platform for congress critters to get in their partisan jabs at each other, why don't you let the military complete their 15-6 investigation now that the subject is back stateside?

    That would be the honorable thing to do.

    June 18, 2014 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  16. dotheflippin'math

    He may have lost his senses and wandered-off/deserted, but bottom line is that he was taken prisoner, tortured, and held against his will. A hero? Probably not, but neither was he a traitor. More of a lost lamb, captured by a pack of wolves, imo. I think this public assault on him amounts to the worst bullying I've ever witnessed, and could make him take his own life. Some of you would like that, I'm sure. I'm sorry that any soldiers got killed or injured searching for him, but that's always the risk when you're a soldier. They died honorable deaths, trying to rescue one of their own. After all they gave, I can't imagine any of their souls would feel better if this young man killed himself. He should tell the honest truth, and share anything he learned. If he deserves to be thrown in the brig for 20 years, so be it, that's still a lot better than where he was. Right now, the poor guy is just a political pawn. He probably wishes that last ride was for his death. Some salvation he's getting here.

    June 18, 2014 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  17. ja

    Never scrutinized the invasion wmd claim, get over it or reopen the pack of lis from the original invasion

    June 18, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  18. Jim

    Deserters, traitors, drug dealers, terrorist, Obama your home-boy has a deal for you. Deserters traitors, drug dealers and terrorist get out of jail free. If you happened to be a Muslim terrorist you also get money and guns. Deserters and traitors get a pay raise, and drug dealers you get social security disability checks for life.

    June 18, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  19. Smeagel4T

    Congressional hearings? Really? They're absolutely redundant to what should be a proper military investigation and trial. What an absolute and total waste of congressional time and money doing their usual grandstanding. Did all the congress members manage to show up and present their prepared statements for the cameras before leaving the room while their fellow congress members made their prepared statements? Congress needs to leave this alone until the military has done with it. Then if they think the military didn't do a good job, they can investigate why the military didn't do a good job.

    June 18, 2014 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  20. Brian Richards

    Bergdahl needs a fair trial, not some Republican political circus in Congress.

    June 18, 2014 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  21. Robert N. constant

    Once again, The Republican Party bosses have moved to try Sgt Bode Bergdahl in the public media, thus denying him due process. They are doing this to call into question the President's honoring the US Military promise of "No Man Left Behind." They are doing this for partisan political grandstanding.
    In the meantime this young man who volunteered to serve in the military at a time of war is still recovering from his five year captivity, unable to speak in his own defense.
    Not one in ten of these Republican Congressmen has ever fired a shot in defense of this country or set foot on a battlefield. Yet these Chickenhawks are fostering the character assassination of this young man, allowing charges to be leveled against him and not allowing him the chance to defend himself..
    Here you see the Republican Party exposed for what it is. These people who prate on about "Constitutional Rights" when gun manufacturers are filling their campaign coffers, are blatantly violating the Constitutional Rights of Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, denying his his Constitutional right of DUE PROCESS
    It is time to send these people home and let more honest representatives of the people run Congress.

    June 18, 2014 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  22. Robert N. constant

    These hearings are a violation of Bowe Bergdahl" right to a fair and impartial hearing where he is allowed to speak in his own defense. He is being denied his Constitutional Right to Due Process by the bosses of the Republican Party.

    June 18, 2014 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  23. WW

    This was so wrong.

    June 18, 2014 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  24. rick

    this guy should not have been given a "hero's welcome" nor should have 5 senior taliban members been essentially freed for his safe return. someone who deserts on their own free will should suffer the consequences, especially if people died searching for him. this kid should still be rotting in the cage he was held in. he was a private, not privileged to any classified information and therefore no use to the taliban but a bargaining chip... what happened to we don't negotiate with terrorists? did the 5 we set free change the attitude of the rest of the fighters still killing us/allied soldiers and innocent children? no. this guy is a joke and a disgrace to the united states of america. fuck him and fuck his father for growing out that terrorist beard until his dumbass son was released.

    June 18, 2014 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  25. alex wright

    Has anyone thought of the fact that the leaders of the greatest country in the world and a super power by most standards had some type of plan for this exchange? That the media plays a part in the plan to push this story out so hard and fast that any terrorist group would never suspect something more complex going on? That they simply were better at negotiating and got 5 top guys back for one lower level guy and one that by all accounts left on his own accord? Idk I tend to believe someone knows whats going on and that some decisions the govt makes especially when it comes to secret related measures are best kept a secret from the general public.

    June 18, 2014 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
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