Report: Defense Officials Doubt White House Justification For Bergdahl Swap


There are reportedly doubts by some in the Defense Department regarding two claims put forth by the White House to justify the prisoner swap that secured Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s rescue.

NBC’s chief Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reported Tuesday on “Morning Joe” that “senior defense officials” have rejected the notion that Bergdahl was at risk of being killed by his captors.

The White House has defended its decision to approve the swap without consulting Congress, as President Obama is required to do under federal law, arguing that any exposure of the plan would have endangered Bergdahl’s life.

According to Miklaszewski, some Pentagon officials disputed that:

I can tell you, however, that early proclamations or declarations or statements from the administration that the Taliban had threatened to kill Bowe Bergdahl if, in fact, information leaked out in advance — which is why their excuse for not informing Congress before the actual event — we are told categorically by senior defense officials that is absolutely not true. The Taliban did not threaten to kill Bowe Bergdahl.

Miklaszewski added that some at the Defense Department expressed concern that Bergdahl may have lost value to his captors as the war in Afghanistan winds down, but the reporter characterized that as “speculation, not a threat.”

The drawdown of the war was a central part of the administration’s execution of the swap, which resulted in the release of five Taliban figures from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl.

Many legal analysts believe the administration will lose its justification to hold Afghan prisoners at the detention center after America has fully withdrawn from Afghanistan.

CNN’s Brian Stelter noted over the weekend that the five Taliban prisoners were released partly because the Obama administration concluded that it lacked evidence to put them on trial.

Miklaszewski also reported Tuesday on skepticism by some at the Pentagon toward the claim that Bergdahl’s failing health put the POW at risk of death. The administration has cited a proof-of-life video obtained by American intelligence that purportedly showed the soldier’s health deteriorating quickly.

Many lawmakers on Capitol Hill who were shown the footage weren’t convinced that Bergdahl was facing imminent death. According to Miklaszewski, neither were some officials at the Defense Department.

Well, and let’s go back to December if we could, because the administration cites this proof-of-life video which showed Bergdahl in failing health and, according to the administration again, there was fear that he was on the verge of death. But at the time that video — sources told us that, yeah, he looks like his health is failing but he doesn’t certainly look in danger and we’ve been subsequently told that medical teams who studied that tape said, yeah, he’s probably not eating as well as he should, but he does not appear to be in grave danger. It does not appear that his life is threatened by his condition. And the fact that his speech was slurred, there’s some speculation that either he was very tired, sleep-deprivation or maybe even drugged. But I can tell you categorically again, across-the-board, people in this building are saying that tape did not show that his life was in danger.