H/T Right Scoop
H/T Right Scoop
A Taliban commander close to the negotiations over the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl told TIME Thursday that the deal made to secure Bergdahl’s release has made it more appealing for fighters to capture American soldiers and other high-value targets.
“It’s better to kidnap one person like Bergdahl than kidnapping hundreds of useless people,” the commander said, speaking by telephone on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “It has encouraged our people. Now everybody will work hard to capture such an important bird.”
The commander has been known to TIME for several years and has consistently supplied reliable information about Bergdahl’s captivity.
The U.S. agreed on May 31 to exchange five Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for Bergdahl, America’s only living prisoner of war. Following the deal, the outpouring of relief by those who had long lobbied to “Bring Bowe Home” was soon eclipsed by accusations and recriminations as Republican lawmakers accused the administration of making a dangerous precedent.
“What does this tell terrorists?,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz said on ABC’s This Week the day after Bergdahl’s release. “That if you capture a U.S. soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorist prisoners?”
The Obama administration largely bypassed the intelligence community to green-light the risky swap of five Taliban leaders for American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, officials tell Fox News, as new details emerge about concerns with the deal at the highest levels of President Obama’s team.
A military intelligence source also confirmed to Fox News that a second option – involving the payment of a cash ransom for Bergdahl’s freedom – was pursued as late as December 2013.
The source said the goal was to reach out to Pakistan leadership with direct ties to the Taliban, and float the possibility of trading cash, instead of prisoners, for Bergdahl. That option, though, was put “on hold” in December when it was made clear the administration intended to pursue a prisoner swap.
Intelligence officials confirmed to Fox News that the Bergdahl prisoner swap was then on an accelerated track, and no formal assessment of the entire intelligence community was conducted. This made the opportunity to push back against the transfer extremely limited.
Further, top officials including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta were firmly against the proposed transfer in 2012 after it was first floated.
The details add to concerns that the White House and others involved in the decision did not adequately assess the risks before springing five senior Taliban leaders from Guantanamo over the weekend.
“I think he bypassed the intelligence community,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told Fox News. “I believe he bypassed Congress because this was done for political reasons. There was no policy justification for this.”
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, claimed the freed Taliban members are likely more dangerous now than they were when they were captured.
“This is Mullah Omar’s board of directors, it’s his fab five team,” he told Fox News, referring to the Taliban leader. Chambliss has called on the administration to declassify the files on the five men.
The Washington Post reports that Panetta and Clapper weren’t the only ones who had misgivings about a prisoner trade after it first came up. According to an article on Wednesday, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also opposed the original terms of the prisoner exchange deal.
It’s unclear how the terms may have changed since then, and whether different Guantanamo prisoners were considered since the original plan emerged.
Clapper’s office and other intelligence agencies have been notably quiet since the prisoner trade was announced over the weekend. In a brief statement, a spokesman for Clapper said he had concerns but the conditions of the transfer limited the risk.
One Gulf official, though, was quoted by Reuters on Tuesday saying the Taliban leaders would be free to move about in Qatar – where they are staying – for a year, and then would be allowed to travel outside the country.
In an apparent attempt to turn the transfer into propaganda, the Taliban have also released a video showing the handover of Bergdahl into U.S. custody. It was emailed to media outlets on Wednesday – a Pentagon spokesman said they have “no reason to doubt [its] authenticity.”
According to Time magazine, the decision to proceed with the transfer was ultimately made among top officials on Obama’s national security team.
Given past opposition to the plan, though, one unidentified official told Time: “This was out of the norm.” The official said the White House and State Department had previously urged the military to “suck it up and salute.”
Members of Congress who were first briefed on a possible trade more than two years ago voiced similar concerns.
House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday the administration “never satisfactorily answered” lawmakers’ questions and concerns that surfaced from the beginning about the proposed trade. Further, Boehner alleged that the only reason the administration failed to notify Congress is “the administration knew it faced serious and sober bipartisan concern and opposition.”
President Obama’s aides met with unanimous opposition from Congress when they first raised the possibility of releasing five Taliban guerrillas from Guantanamo Bay in 2011 and 2012, and administration officials publicly and repeatedly vowed to return to Capitol Hill before making any final moves.
But with what they now say was a closing window to secure the release of ArmySgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Mr. Obama made the call to bypass Congress and make a deal swapping the five Taliban fighters in exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl – and sparking a major constitutional battle with Congress.
With anger boiling over, the administration dispatched officials to deliver a closed-door briefing to senators late Wednesday, but many lawmakers emerged to say they still have too many unanswered questions about the legality of Mr. Obama’s move, the details of Sgt. Bergdahl’s capture and the likelihood that the five Taliban will return to the battlefield.
“I think there’s still an awful lot that has to be looked into. There’s a lot of information that came out of this, but this is something that is extremely disturbing. It’s something that needs to be looked into, and I came out of there with more questions than I got answers,” said Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat.
Lawmakers were shown a short video that the Taliban-aligned group holding Sgt. Bergdahl provided as “proof of life,” and several lawmakers said the soldier did appear to be unwell in the video – countering speculation from some corners that his health situation was not as desperate as the administration had suggested.
But the administration made little headway in convincing senators that it was a good decision to release the five Taliban members, who have been sent to Qatar, where they are supposed to be monitored for a year but seem to be living openly.
“I promise you, in a year from now, if not before, they will be back in Afghanistan and in the fight,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.
In an earlier closed-door briefing, officials even confirmed there was a great likelihood some of them will return to war-fighting, a possibility Mr. Obama himself had acknowledged earlier this week.
“I think the White House was looking for a twofer, to announce in one week that we were going to withdraw from Afghanistan, ending the longest war in U.S. history and, oh, by the way, as commander in chief I secured the last captive – the only captive – of that war. That was in their mind a pretty good political story for that week. It blew up in their face,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican and vice chairman of the intelligence committee, called on Mr. Obama to declassify the prisoner review files kept on each of the five Taliban.
He said Americans will see from the files that the men had been deemed too dangerous to release – if Mr. Obama approves declassifying the documents.
“Every prisoner at Guantanamo has a file. That file is updated every so often. What we’re asking for is that file on those five prisoners, with the recommendations of the review committee spelled out as to their opinion of what should happen with these guys. And their opinion – it’s already been stated publicly – is these five guys should have been held indefinitely,” the Georgian said.
In another sign of the growing skepticism about the prisoner swap, Sgt. Berdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, announced Wednesday that it had canceled plans for a welcome-home celebration. The town of 8,000 said it was not sure it could handle the expected crowds and pro- and anti-Bergdahl demonstrations at the planned June 28 event.
The split was reflected in two public opinion polls released Wednesday. A Fox News survey had 47 percent of Americans disapproving of the swap, while 45 percent approves. And a Rasmussen poll showed a similar split, with 40 percent agreeing with the government’s decision and 43 percent disagreeing.
But both surveys had error margins larger than those gaps that favor the “disapprove” answer, meaning those edges are statistically insignificant and the public is essentially evenly split.
Sgt. Bergdahl disappeared from night guard duty at a remote outpost roughly two hours south of the Afghan city of Sharana on June 30, 2009. Comrades said they found his gear – save for his compass – neatly stacked, which they took to be a signal that he had left of his own accord.
Some of those comrades say American lives were lost in the ensuing search for someone they termed a “deserter.”
A Pentagon official, who spoke under condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said that Sgt. Bergdahl maintained a status of “Missing-Captured” but was not considered to be a deserter during the time he was being held by the Islamist militia.
Sgt. Bergdahl could, if the Army deems appropriate, receive a promotion to staff sergeant “in accordance with Army policy for captured personnel,” the official said.
Debate over whether to make the exchange has raged – within the administration and between it and Congress – since 2011.
Mr. Chambliss said that when the possibility of releasing the five Taliban fighters was raised, there was unanimous opposition from those in Congress who were briefed on it.
In the years since, both State Department and White House officials went on record saying that any final decision would be made in consultation with Congress and in accordance with the law, which requires Mr. Obama to give Congress 30 days’ notice before releasing detainees from Guantanamo.
The White House has argued that the short window of time to seal the deal for Sgt. Bergdahl’s release created extenuating circumstances – though they also argue that the previous secret briefings with Congress in 2011 and 2012 constituted consultation.
With questions about the legal situation mounting this week, a White House official said the Defense Department “consulted” with the Justice Department but declined to say whether a formal legal opinion was produced justifying the decision to bypass Congress.
“We’re not going to get into the details of our internal legal deliberations,” the official said.
The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Times.
After initial reports of dissent, the administration presented a unified front Wednesday, including pushing back on press reports that Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper had initially rejected the release of the five Taliban fighters.
“Like others, DNI Clapper expressed concern in 2012 about the prospect of releasing these five detainees. However, the circumstances have changed dramatically,” Shawn Turner, the chief spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in a statement.
Mr. Turner said Mr. Clapper was swayed by Sgt. Bergdahl’s deteriorating health, the assurances of the Qatari government that the five will be monitored and the ongoing drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, which Mr. Clapper argued would make recovery efforts for Sgt. Bergdahl tougher.
Several Democratic leaders in the Senate also defended the administration’s moves.
“It was a very complex negotiation. It was a last-minute negotiation, and as we heard more and more detail and circumstances, I think it was a lot different than we’ve seen in the press,” Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin said as he emerged from the evening briefing.
“I think it was a very hard decision. If I’d been challenged to make it myself, I might have come to the same conclusion under the pressure of the moment,” the Illinois Democrat said. “But now that you can step back and reflect on it, it’s easy to pick it apart and criticize it.”
Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democrats’ leader in the chamber, said GOP critics were trying to harm Mr. Obama politically.
“It’s clear they’re worried his release could be seen as a victory for President Obama. Let me put that notion to rest – it’s not a victory for President Obama. It’s a victory for our soldiers, their families and the United States of America,” he said. “No member of the armed forces should be left behind, and President Obama saw to that.”
Yesterday Obama administration official Brandon Friedman floated the idea that Bowe Bergdahl was justified in deserting his platoon in Afghanistan and joining the Taliban over disagreements with the platoon’s “psychopath” leadership.
Here’s the thing about Bergdahl and the Jump-to-Conclusions mats: What if his platoon was long on psychopaths and short on leadership? (1/5)
11:44 PM – 4 Jun 2014
120 Retweets 21 favorites
Brandon Friedman, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs for the Department of Housing and Urban Development posted a series of tweets Wednesday evening.
Friedman speculated that Bergdahl deserted over bad leadership of his platoon and that is why his fellow soldiers were smearing him.
This morning Brandon Friedman deleted his bio – His anti-military tweets are still posted.
Right Wing M nailed it:
68 Retweets 19 favorites
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin says Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is clearly a deserter who should never draw a free breath, and President Obama is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors for once again ignoring federal law in pursuit of an administration goal.
Boykin is also ripping the president for releasing five key Taliban figures in exchange for Bergdahl and slamming the Obama administration for attacking the character of Afghanistan veterans who publicly denounce Bergdahl’s actions in Afghanistan.
The general said Obama’s actions in this episode demonstrate why he is unfit for office. He categorically dismissed Obama’s contention that the exchange had to happen to honor America’s commitment to leave no Americans behind. Boykin said that clearly wasn’t true in Benghazi and that the administration seems to have little regard for a U.S. Marine jailed in Mexico, an American pastor imprisoned in Iran or the Sudanese Christian in custody for her faith along with her two American children.
“This was about emptying out Guantanamo,” he said. “This was a backdoor deal. The reasons for it, the details of it will probably never come out in its entirety, but this is an ugly story.”
The general is also taking the commander in chief to task for once again flouting the law, this time skirting a requirement to give Congress 30 days notice of his intent to free any Guantanamo detainees. Boykin said he understands why Obama would feel constrained by the law and admits that it might not be constitutional. However, as long as it is the law, he said Obama is required to abide by it instead of ignoring statutes he doesn’t like, whether on this issue or several others.
“It was really bad form for him not to at least call in the chair and ranking member of the intel or armed services committee and tell them what he was about to do with regard to the release of these prisoners,” he said.
“It’s an example of how this president only obeys the laws and follows the policies that he wants to. In our Constitution, it falls under the category of high crimes and misdemeanors, where you just selectively obey certain laws and ignore others.”
As for Bergdahl, Boykin said he has no doubt the soldier ended up in Taliban custody because he deliberately deserted his unit.
“We know for sure that he is a deserter,” Boykin said. “In fact, the 15-6 investigation that was conducted immediately after his departure from his base concluded that he had deserted, and I think all the evidence supports that conclusion, particularly given the fact that he had asked a series of bizarre questions of his teammates. He also left a very revealing message explaining how he was ashamed of being an American and wanted to help the people of Afghanistan. This guy’s a deserter.”
Boykin added, “The fact that (National Security Adviser) Susan Rice went on television and said that served honorably is just another example of why she needs to be removed and replaced, because this is the second time, Benghazi being the first, where she has gone on television and openly lied to the American public. This administration knows he deserted. They knew how people felt about him, and she went out there and called his service honorable. If that’s the case, then you tell me what the concept of honorable service is for this administration.”
The term “desertion” has been used far and wide in media reports this week. While no one applauds a soldier abandoning his unit, considerable debate has ensued about how significant of an issue this ought to be.
Boykin said it’s an extremely serious issue.
“Desertion in combat – and I emphasize in combat, which means you are in a combat zone and routinely engaged with the enemy – is punishable by death,” he said. “That should give you some indication as to how serious this is taken. When a man walks off and leaves his post in combat, he jeopardizes everybody else.”
Boykin said, in addition to leaving his men shorthanded against the enemy, Bergdahl compromised military intelligence, whether he willingly went along with the Taliban or was interrogated.
“You have a tremendous amount of information, which would be very useful to the enemy,” Boykin said. “Whether he was a collaborator or not is yet to be determined. My guess is that he was. Even if he was not a deliberate collaborator, the interrogation techniques of these people is such that he probably provided an awful lot of very useful, valuable information to the enemy.”
So what should happen to Bergdahl as a result of his desertion?
“They should do an Article 32 investigation immediately. It should be ongoing right now. That is a prelude to a court-martial. There can be no other option. They must take him to court-martial, and they must hold him accountable for his actions. If he didn’t desert, then the truth will come out,” said Boykin, who explained that Bergdahl’s actions are even more severe than desertion.
“There are are other soldiers that were endangered and even some we are positive now that were killed in the efforts to find him,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, that exacerbates his crime from being a simple desertion to being one that resulted in the deaths of his comrades. I think that has to be considered as we talk about what to do with him. From my perspective, he needs to spend the rest of his life in prison at a minimum.”
At least one of the other soldiers who served alongside Bergdahl in Afghanistan believes this is a case of desertion at best and treason at worst.
Is Boykin willing to go that far?
“Absolutely. What else could you call it?” he asked
At least a half-dozen soldiers who served with Bergdahl are speaking publicly. They all consider him a deserter and not the hero portrayed by the administration. In response, the State Department accuses those veterans of not telling the truth, and White House aides tell reporters that their criticism amounts to a swift-boating of Bergdahl, a reference to the criticism Vietnam veterans leveled at John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign.
“Do you think if Bergdahl had served honorably that those guys wouldn’t be coming out now rejoicing in the fact he had been returned?” Boykin asked. “Use a little common sense and just ask yourself: Would they have had this reaction had he not deserted his unit?”
Boykin is appalled that Bergdahl’s return also came at the cost of five high-level Taliban leaders being held at Guantanamo Bay. The general said he would not even have paid such a price for an honorable soldier being held by the enemy, but he would have quickly gathered intelligence by which to launch a rescue mission. He believes the military knew exactly where Bergdahl was but didn’t have any motivation to go get him.
“That’s what should have happened if this was a man with honorable service. He wasn’t,” Boykin said. “So you have to ask the question, ‘Why didn’t the military go and try to rescue him?’ I’m going to speculate that it’s because they were not willing to risk another life for a guy they knew was a traitor.”
There’s something very odd going on these days at the White House.
How else to explain the Bowe Bergdahl debacle? Team Obama, which games every move it makes to gauge the political leverage gained or lost, must have known the true story about the Army sergeant who his former comrades say was disgruntled with the war and simply walked away.
If the charge of desertion is true, why trade five top-level Taliban terrorists for him? Why would the White House expose itself to such easy criticism? Why would President Obama so clearly violate the law that requires him to notify Congress 30 days before any release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay?
And why on earth would the president send National Security Adviser Susan Rice, she of the multiple lies on the Benghazi attack that left four Americans dead, to the Sunday talk shows to proclaim that Sgt. Bergdahl had “served the United States with honor and distinction”?
There can be only one answer: Mr. Obama saw more upside than down with the hostage-for-terrorists trade. Aside from changing the subject from the president’s latest scandal – the horrendous treatment of veterans at the nation’s VA hospitals – Mr. Obama must have concluded that the controversial move would, in the end, deliver him political leverage against Republicans, which he sorely needs going into what is expected to be a bloodbath for Democrats on Election Day 2014.
Of course, part of the calculation was that the U.S. media would once again defend Mr. Obama. And while some news outlets have run stories about the puzzling details behind Sgt. Bergdahl’s “capture,” others are adhering to the White House talking points.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post said “the long arc of Bergdahl’s deployment and captivity is being scrutinized in light of the rising, mostly partisan debate.” The White House calculation was no doubt that Republicans would object to the swap, allowing the president to charge that the GOP will “say no” to anything – even the release of an American soldier.
The New York Times on Monday disputed reports that some U.S. soldiers were killed searching for Bergdahl. And ABC News has moved on altogether, opening its Tuesday nightly news with a story about a big hailstorm in Nebraska.
That the White House had gamed out every scenario for the post-release spin was evident Sunday, when Mrs. Rice and other Democrats hewed closely to talking points: That Sgt. Bergdahl was a “prisoner of war,” not a “hostage”; that his “deteriorating health” made the swap so urgent there was simply no time to notify Congress; that questions about the Army sergeant are “not the point,” as Mrs. Rice said, “The point is that he is back.”
What then of congressional objections? Even top Democrats, like Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she wasn’t notified of the swap. The takeaway: Mr. Obama is more willing to negotiate with the Taliban than Congress.
But the White House conclusion on lawmakers was this: Let ‘em whine. Their approval rating is in single digits, so no one cares what Congress thinks.
Still, there’s this: The White House must have known that first-hand accounts of Sgt. Bergdahl and his disgruntlement with America would eventually make the press. Even though Army colleagues were ordered to sign nondisclosure agreements, Team Obama had to know that if Sgt. Bergdahl suddenly became a “hero,” members of his platoon would be outraged and talk, damn the consequences.
Mr. Obama must have also known that more details would emerge, like the fact that top Pentagon and intelligence community officials had nixed previous deals for the five terrorists, citing top-secret information. Time magazine reported that in the end, the White House and State Department won by arguing that the military should “suck it up and salute.”
So the question that remains is: Could Mr. Obama and his advisers have so miscalculated the swap? Is the terrorist trade just another example of a Year Six president drunk with power, taking advice from a handful of sycophantic yes men on the couches in the Oval Office?
“We are going to learn the facts on what happened here,” State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said Tuesday. “We do not know the fact pattern yet.”
But the White House is delivering its own “fact pattern,” so far being followed by the media. And the Sgt. Bergdahl saga is playing out almost exactly like the aftermath of Benghazi, right down to lies from Mrs. Rice. Mr. Obama and his fellow Democrats are painting Republicans as purely partisan. Soon, the entire mess will be plunged into a “blue ribbon investigation,” allowing administration officials to refuse comment.
Mr. Obama is all about the politics. The White House has done this time after time with scandal after scandal. They know how to play the game. And despite appearances now, this whole saga is going along as planned.
The president may be incompetent, but he’s not stupid. He’s just counting on the American people to be.
Fox News reporter James Rosen claimed intelligence sources have told him not only that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl willingly collaborated with the Taliban, but that his involvement with the terrorist group may be “as serious as you can imagine.”
Rosen spoke with Bill O’Reilly Wednesday night about his ongoing conversations with intelligence and Pentagon officials regarding both old and new investigations into Bergdahl’s likely desertion and possibly treasonous activities.
“My reporting has shown that the intelligence community also undertook a separate [from the Army] investigation of Sgt. Bergdahl,” Rosen explained, “both his final period of active duty that culminated in that mysterious evening, and also his conduct over the past five years, which is said to have been a period of captivity.”
“Alright, now why would – you say the intelligence, I assume that’s defense intelligence, the CIA, all those people – why would they bother investigating a sergeant who was taken captive?” O’Reilly asked. “I mean, why would they spend those resources?”
“Well, with greatest proximity, because they were tasked with doing so,” Rosen responded cagily. “But my reporting on this is that there are many inside the intelligence community who harbor outstanding concerns not just that Sgt. Bergdahl may have been a deserter, but that he became an active collaborator with the enemy.”
The reporter reiterated information regarding Bergdahl’s emails, the packing up of his personal effects, his failure to take certain equipment with him before he left his post and “anecdotal evidence” from Taliban commanders – including how Bergdahl taught Islamist fighters how to reprogram a mobile phone into an IED.
“The last thing I will tell you is – I’m still working on this story, I’m talking to a broad range of sources in and out of the government, in and out of the military,” Rosen explained. “And all I will say is, there are many forms that active collaboration can take. I’m investigating claims that it could go as serious as you could imagine.”
It’s mind-boggling how clueless this administration is. In reality it does nothing except encourage the Taliban to kidnap more U.S. soldiers.
[I]nside the administration, the calculations over Bergdahl’s fate were complicated by seemingly unrelated events, including the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011, when U.S. forces traveled deep into Pakistan and killed the al-Qaeda leader. The operation infuriated Pakistan’s government and raised fears among U.S. officials that their uncertain ally’s already mixed support for the war effort would wane further.
Around that time, U.S. officials began to contemplate an operation to rescue Bergdahl, according to a former senior administration official who participated in the discussions.
At least twice before Bergdahl’s release, U.S. officials had a possible fix on where he was being held, but some administration officials familiar with the intelligence said there were gaps that left his circumstances unclear. And there were strong voices opposed to an operation, led by then-national security adviser Thomas Donilon and his deputy, Denis McDonough, who is now White House chief of staff.
Their concern, the official said, was further angering Pakistan’s government and spy agency, which has close connections to the Haqqani network.
Those who supported a rescue operation included Adm. Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and then-CIA Director Leon E. Panetta. Their argument in favor of a high-risk, lower-reward operation than the bin Laden raid eventually failed.
During the same debate, officials were considering the emerging prisoner-exchange proposal. White House advisers believed that a successful exchange would not only free Bergdahl but would also encourage moderate Taliban members to take an Afghan-led reconciliation process seriously.
Reporting from just outside the Landstuhl military hospital in Germany, NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel says that the media is receiving more information about the release of Sgt. Bergdahl from the Taliban than from our own government.
Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski also noted how difficult it is to get information from the Administration, save for the few press releases it periodically releases.
How does it look for the “most transparent administration in history” when a reporter says it is providing less information than a terrorist organization? Whatever it is, it can’t be good.
The Obama administration passed up multiple opportunities to rescue Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl because the president was dead-set on finding a reason to begin emptying Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a Pentagon official.
‘JSOC went to the White House with several specific rescue-op scenarios,’ the official with knowledge of interagency negotiations underway since at least November 2013 told MailOnline, referring to the Joint Special Operations Command. ‘But no one ever got traction.’
‘What we learned along the way was that the president wanted a diplomatic scenario that would establish a precedent for repatriating detainees from Gitmo,’ he said.
The official said a State Department liaison described the lay of the land to him in February, shortly after the Taliban sent the U.S. government a month-old video of Bergdahl in January, looking sickly and haggard, in an effort to create a sense of urgency about his health and effect a quick prisoner trade.
‘He basically told me that no matter what JSOC put on the table, it was never going to fly because the president isn’t going to leave office with Gitmo intact, and this was the best opportunity to see that through.’
While military commanders wavered on the value of rescue plans, a second Pentagon source said Wednesday, they were advised by their chain of command that the White House was pushing hard for a prisoner swap, over the objections of the intelligence community.
That official told MailOnline that at least two separate intelligence agencies cautioned against taking the January video at face value.
The Daily Beast reported Monday, however, that the White House moved the process along too fast to permit a formal intelligence assessment of the impact of allowing what some on Capitol Hill are now calling the Taliban’s ‘dream team’ to return to the Middle East.
Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News on Wednesday that the Obama administration ‘bypassed the intelligence community’ to make the deal, adding that ‘I believe he bypassed Congress because this was done for political reasons. There was no policy justification for this.’
The result, according to multiple published reports, was an environment in which the White House could insist on moving forward quickly on the basis that a soldier’s health was at immediate risk – using that justification also to explain its failure to keep Congress informed.
The White House has yet to explain why the deterioration of Bergdahl’s health, seen in a video in January, was sufficient reason to steamroll a decision that ended up taking four months to execute.
In a video distributed Wednesday morning by the Taliban, Bergdahl appeared to be strong and in good health as he was handed over to U.S. Special Forces on Saturday
The Washington Times reported that a congressional aide said JSOC never forwarded specific military rescue plans to the White House, judging independently that President Obama was more interested in a diplomatic solution.
But both the Times’ sources and MailOnline’s also agreed that commanders on the ground were not in favor of sending Special Forces into the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region and risking their lives to rescue a presumed deserter from the terrorist Haqqani network.
‘Military commanders were loath to risk their people to save this guy,’ a former intelligence official told the Times. ‘They were loath to pick him up and because of that hesitancy, we wind up trading five Taliban guys for him.’
Evidence suggests that at least six soldiers were killed in the search for Bergdahl after he walked away from his unit on June 30, 2009, and another eight perished in a bloody eastern Afghanistan battle later that year because their air support and relief infantry units were occupied in the search.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, however, said Wednesday in Brussels that he does ‘not know of specific circumstances or details of U.S. solders dying as a result of efforts to find and rescue Sergeant Bergdahl.’
Less than 48 hours after Bergdahl, then an Army private, disappeared, military commanders in Afghanistan were offered terms to reclaim him. It’s unclear why that opportunity fell through.
According to field reports published online by WIkileaks, soldiers conducting a Key Leader Engagement (KLE) discussion with tribal elders and Afghanistan National Police in Paktika province weretold of a Taliban offer for his safe return.
Battallion Command was radioed that officers had ‘just finished with the KLE with 2 x elders from Mest and the Mest ANP commander. The elders were asked by the Taliban to [arrange] a trade between the U.S. and Taliban.’
‘The Taliban terms are 15 of their Taliban brothers in U.S. jail and some money in exchange for Pvt Bergdahl,’ a transcript of the radio traffic read. ‘The elders assured me that Pvt Bergdahl is alive and that he is not being harmed.’
Police offered help the tribal elders with money for a car, fuel and light weapons in order to make the exchange, but it never happened.
It’s also unclear whether the ‘U.S. jail’ the Taliban referred to was Guantanamo Bay or a local holding facility in Afghanistan.
Obama’s promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp has been controversial since he first made it in 2008, and his January 22, 2009 executive order calling for it to be shuttered in a year – his first such order as president – was met with eye-rolls in Washington.
But political momentum has slowly gathered on the president’s side, even as military and foreign policy concerns continue to make the task seem impossible.
First the Justice and Defense departments were ordered in late 2009 to acquire a defunct prison in Illinois as a replacement, but six months later Congress blocked funding for any project that would move Guantanamo Bay’s detainees to U.S. soil.
Then in 2011 Obama ordered the creation of a formal review process for detainees and green-lighted the military tribunals that prisoners could turn to for due process before he canceled them upon taking office in 2009.
In early 2013 the State Department announced that it had closed down its office in charge of handling Guantanamo’s closure. But in January a group of 31 retired U.S. military officers grabbed the national spotlight with a letter urging Obama to shut down the camp and move its population somewhere else.
‘As long as it remains open, Guantanamo will undermine America’s security and status as a nation where human rights and the rule of law matter,’ they claimed.
Obama’s latest political stroke came around the same time, when he signed the latest National Defense Authorization Act into law. It loosened the requirements he must satisfy before he can transfer detainees from Guantanamo to foreign nations.
The fly in the ointment is that he is required to tell Congress 30 days in advance of relocating any of Guantanamo’s prisoners – something his administration failed to do before cutting a deal that sent five Taliban ringleaders to Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl’s safe return.
California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the existence of the secret Taliban videos, that there still ‘certainly was time to pick up the phone and call and say “I know you all had concerns about this, we consulted in the past, we want you to know we have reviewed these negotiations”,’
Ultimately, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken called Feinstein to apologize for the lack of notice, claiming that it was an ‘oversight.’
Other members of Congress were quick to suggest on Wednesday that the Berghdal prisoner swap was thin cover for the president’s desire to empty Guantanamo’s cells.
South Caroline Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told The Washington Examiner that Obama was floating a ‘trial balloon,’ to test the political waters for a larger prison release.
And Oklahoma GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe said Tuesday on TheBlaze TV that ‘this president has an obsession – has two obsessions, I guess I should say – that he wants to turn into his legacy when he leaves office.’
‘One of those happens to be to close Gitmo.’
With five Taliban leaders now in Qatar and a year to work with – the length of time that country’s emir has said he will keep them under a loose form of house arrest – an only somewhat forgiving clock has started ticking.
‘Obama now has the tool he’s always wanted,’ a former U.S. intelligence official who is now a private government contractor told MailOnline on Wednesday.
‘The question is how many of these Taliban guys he can sneak past the goalie while Congress is busy hassling him about the IRS, the VA and Obamacare.’
Already, Graham has threatened to invoke Congress’s ultimate nuclear option – impeachment – if Obama relocates any more Guantanamo detainees without putting Capitol Hill in the loop.
He warned The Hill that ‘it’s going to be impossible for them to flow prisoners out of Gitmo now without a huge backlash.’
‘There will be people on our side calling for his impeachment if he did that.’
None the four senior congressional leaders who serve as chairmen or ranking minority members on the two intelligence committees were notified. And of the four most senior House and Senate members, only Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was apparently told about the prisoner exchange ahead of time.
Reid complained Wednesday that Republicans in Congress have blocked Democrats’ attempts to pass a bill closing the Guantanamo Bay prison for good.
Graham countered that he has added language to the pending defense authorization bill – the successor to the 2013 legislation that included the 30-day notification rule – forbidding Congress from closing Guantanamo without a public up-or-down vote.
Shutting down the facility would still require a decision about where to relocated the remaining detainees, whose reported number is now 149.
Graham also said his legislative language would deny the Defense Department the option of sending any of them to Yemen, a small Arab nation that has served as a crossroads for al-Qaeda and other Islamist terror groups to train together and cross-pollinate their missions and tactics.
Liberal advocacy groups have leaped for joy at the prospect of closing the facility.
Ken Gude of the Center for American Progress told Politico that the Bergdahl case marks ‘the first time’ the Obama White House has ‘followed through on their repeated separation-of-powers objections to the transfer restrictions. Hopefully, [there’s] more to come.’
‘The Obama administration’s backbone on Gitmo and assertion of its executive branch prerogatives finally seem to have solidified,’ American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero added.
Obama administration officials continued to stonewall Congress about the Taliban prisoner exchange deal during a classified closed-door briefing Wednesday evening in which senior administration officials attempted to justify the White House’s decision to skirt congressional approval of the controversial deal, according to multiple Senate insiders familiar with the briefing.
Obama administration officials attempted to show that there was an imminent threat to the life of released soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and that this justified President Obama’s decision to release five top Taliban leaders from prison.
Senators were presented with a “proof of life” video from December that showed Bergdahl in Taliban captivity. This video is said to be the sole basis for the administration’s decision to accept the exchange deal, according to Senate insiders.
Obama administration officials, including representatives from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Department of Defense, did not present any new evidence to justify the deal and stonewalled lawmakers when they asked for concrete information about the exchange, according to those familiar with the brief.
The administration also sought to deflect accusations that Obama broke U.S. law by signing off on the deal without first consulting with Congress.
“There was nothing new that they brought to the table,” said one Senate insider who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon. “It was the typical, ‘We don’t know, we have to get answers, we have to investigate, we don’t know all the facts.’”
“One person described it by saying it’s like Benghazi all over again: A constant stonewall and providing no new information,” added the source.
Questions continue to circulate around the so-called proof of life video that was provided by the Taliban to the State Department in December.
Taliban leaders apparently led the administration to believe that Bergdahl’s condition was rapidly deteriorating, a move that some now describe as a “pressure tactic” to force the White House into making a deal.
While Bergdahl appeared “weaker” and in poor health in the video, there was no solid evidence to show that his life was in imminent danger, according to a second Senate insider familiar with the briefing.
However, the Obama administration is believed to have used this December video as the sole basis for their decision to accept the prisoner exchange deal, taking the Taliban at their word that Bergdahl’s life was in immediate danger due to deteriorating health conditions.
“That video alone was where they made the basis that there was an imminent threat to life,” explained the first Senate insider familiar with the brief.
Administration officials would not give an assessment of Bergdahl’s current status and could not explain why a December video was relied upon to justify the deal.
There was “no new info to indicate a threat to his life to justify why this happened now,” the source said.
The Obama administration is under the impression that “it could cause some sympathy for Bergdahl if the video would be leaked,” according to the second Senate source, who described the briefing as “worthless.”
Bergdahl himself has come under scrutiny for purportedly deserting his war post, leading to a massive search and rescue operation that resulted in the deaths of several other U.S. soldiers.
“Every person who spoke seemed very scripted from the White House,” the source said. Senators “didn’t learn anything new aside from what the administration has leaked to the press.”
Some in attendance at the briefing expressed concern that the administration is attempting to closely control the narrative by leaking only select classified details to the press and keeping Congress in the dark.
The White House is “tying congressmen’s hands behind their back by saying you can’t talk about it or provide oversight over it,” said the second Senate source.
There was a broad consensus among senators that the administration wrongly sought to skirt congressional oversight of the deal.
Concerns remain on Capitol Hill that the prisoner swap was the first step to release more prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, which the White House hopes to shut down.
Obama has indicated that he seeks to end U.S. war authorization in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, a decision that could pave the way for roughly 100 or so Guantanamo detainees to be released.
The father of America’s first fatality in Afghanistan denounced the Obama administration for releasing Taliban prisoners that he holds responsible for his son’s death, saying the move was a slap in the face to every American who died in the war against terror.
Johnny “Mike” Spann, part of a CIA paramilitary unit, was killed Nov. 25, 2001 during an uprising by Taliban prisoners near Mazar-e-Sharif a month after President George W. Bush ordered U.S. forces into Afghanistan to punish al-Qaida and its allies for the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
Two of the five Taliban prisoners released last weekend from Guantanamo prison in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl were present during the uprising at Qala-i-Jangi prison, according to U.S. documents obtained by The Washington Post. They were Mullah Mohammad Fazl and Mullah Norullah Noori.
Spann’s father, Johnny Spann, told Stars and Stripes that his first reaction to the exchange was “disappointment and disbelief.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” Spann recalled. “It’s a slap in the face to everybody that’s died in this war on terror… Every American that’s lost their life to the hands of the Taliban and al-Qaida – this is a slap in their face to know that we had five high-powered leaders that we just turned loose.”
Details of the two mullahs’ roles in the uprising have never been publicly spelled out by the U.S.
Nevertheless, Spann, 65, of Winfield, Alabama, is convinced the two were responsible even if they weren’t the ones that pulled the trigger.
“I’m convinced from all the reports and all the information that I have that that was a planned event from the night before, and [the Taliban] knew exactly what they were going to do and when they were going to do it. And I think that those two men were part of it — part of the planning,” he said.
“Everybody that was inside there had a hand in it. Nobody tried to protect Mike’s life — not a single soul in there tried to. Everybody in there was hell-bent on killing Americans… Mike lost his life inside Qala-i-Jangi, and yes, I hold everybody responsible that was inside that prison for Mike’s death… Everybody inside Qala-i-Jangi has blood on their hands and was a part of it,” he said.
Questions about the 2001 uprising have been raised again since the release of Bergdahl, 28, of Hailey, Idaho.
Bergdahl went missing in June 2009 in Paktika province in southeastern Afghanistan while serving with a unit of the 25th Infantry Division from Fort Richardson, Alaska.
Some former members of Bergdahl’s unit have accused him of deserting and that American lives were lost looking for him.
Bergdahl is currently at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where he was sent soon after his release.
Spann is withholding judgment on Bergdahl for now. But even if Bergdahl wasn’t a deserter, Spann thinks the trade wasn’t worth it.
“I see no equality in what was traded for Bergdahl. I don’t see no equality as far as value there,” Spann said. “I mean [the detainees] were very valuable to us as far as they were responsible for a lot of American lives… They weren’t the average Joe out there carrying a rifle on the battlefield. They were leaders. They were the people that were planning things.”
Obama has defended his decision, saying America had a “sacred duty” to ensure that no U.S. servicemember was left behind on the battlefield.
Spann thinks the U.S. government should try to get American prisoners of war freed, but he says the Taliban can’t be dealt with like a normal enemy at the end of a conflict.
“Certainly the U.S. needs to always work for the release of those [American] prisoners,” Spann said. “If we knew that we were making a deal with a responsible group of people and we knew that they were going to lay down their arms and they were not going to continue to try to kill Americans, then you might consider that to some extent. But now, we don’t have any agreement like that in this war with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. This war on terror is nowhere near over.”
Spann also thinks the swap sends the wrong signal and will put more Americans in danger.
“[Our enemies] know that they can get an American and they can hold them hostage, and at some point we’ll trade,” he said.
Still, Spann can sympathize with Bergdahl’s parents, who have made a high-profile effort to push for their son’s release. They appeared next to Obama in the Rose Garden on Saturday after Obama announced the swap.
“If it was my son, would I want him home? Why yeah. But… that’s a reason that parents and kin folks can’t be on the jury and they can’t be the judge because they would be biased… You can ask a parent, ‘Well, if that was your son, would you want him home?’ Well, of course I’d want him home. But if your son committed murder, would you still want him home? Yeah, the majority of the people [you asked] would want him to not go to jail… But that’s not the way this system works. They’re not the judge, and your kin folks don’t get to decide that,” Spann said.
Spann thinks Obama doesn’t understand the raw emotions people in his position feel.
“I’d almost bet you that if one of President Obama’s children had been killed in this war or on 9/11, he would have a different reflection and a different attitude as far as any leniency that he would give to al-Qaida and Taliban leaders who have been active in the death of Americans,” he said.
Spann thinks about Mike and the 9/11 attacks all the time.
“I’ve got a big picture in the front of my office of the towers smoking and falling with the airplane sticking out of it. Every day I see that. I’ve got several pictures of my son throughout my office. So it’s constantly on my mind that I remember him and I remember those people that died on 9/11, because when I walk into the front door, the first thing I see is that photo of the towers,” he said. “[My] disbelief is we would give five people back that were instrumental… in the deaths of thousands of American people all the way back to 9/11.”
Spann thinks the released detainees will try to kill more Americans, and he mocks the Obama administration’s assurances that measures are in place to prevent them from doing that.
“I don’t think any responsible American will look at this situation and think that they’re going to go to Qatar [where they’ll spend the next year under the supervision of the Qatari government] and Qatar is going to keep them under some kind of security measures where they’re not going to be able to have any kind of influence on the Talban and al-Qaida movements throughout the world. I just don’t believe that… I just don’t think they were rehabilitated. I think that’s sort of a joke for us to think that or even suppose that they have been. And I think they’ll be out there costing more American lives or more American deaths,” he said.
On Monday, Shannon Allen, wife of disabled Afghanistan veteran Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen, took to social media to voice her personal concerns on the idea that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is a hero. Sgt 1st Class Mark Allen was severely wounded while supposedly searching for Bergdahl during a firefight in Kabul, when sniper fire pierced the armor on his helmet and passed through the frontal lobe of his brain.
Shannon posted this image on Facebook with the caption:
“Meet my husband, injuries directly brought to you by the actions of this traitor. He can’t give an account of what went down, because he can no longer speak. Now, which guy is a ‘hero’ again?!? Sick.”
The lengths to which our service members are willing to go to leave no man behind are boundless.
As more information continues to develop surrounding #Bergdahlgate, one thing is for certain: there are many questions left to be answered. When all is said and done, we can only hope the right judgement call is made.
The massive fourth branch of government – the administrative state – is officially out of control. Please consider the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, under the direction of the Obama administration, which is now doing the work the Taliban won’t do.
The EEOC is suing Star Transport for rightfully terminating two Muslims who refused to do their job. If these Muslim truck drivers don’t want to deliver alcohol, then they shouldn’t have taken a job in which part of their duties would be to deliver alcohol. It’s that simple.
PEORIA, Ill. – Star Transport, Inc., a trucking company based in Morton, Ill., violated federal law by failing to accommodate two employees because of their religion, Islam, and discharging them, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
The lawsuit alleged that Star Transport refused to provide two employees with an accommodation of their religious beliefs when it terminated their employment because they refused to deliver alcohol.
The drivers refused to deliver legal products in America? So where, pray tell, does this end? I suspect the EEOC hasn’t quite figured out where they’ll draw the line on their enforcement of Sharia law:
Alcohol (line already crossed)
• Ham sandwiches?
• Single women on buses?
• Magazines that depict “un-Islamic” images?
• Slot machines and other devices related to gambling?
Perhaps you could contact the Office of the Inspector General of the EEOC and ask them where exactly this line will be drawn.
E-mail Address: email@example.com
OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL
P.O BOX 77067
WASHINGTON D.C. 20013-7067
OIG Main Number: 202-663-4327
OIG Fax Number: 202-663-7204
OIG Hotline Number: 800-849-4230
As attorney Mark Levin has frequently observed, we now live in a post-Constitutional Republic.