Bergdahl, wearing a dark blue Army dress uniform and closely cropped hair, is arraigned in military court. He defers entering a plea and does not decide whether he wants to face a court-martial with a jury or one with just a judge.
The Army says Bergdahl will face court-martial with a potential life sentence. In ordering the court martial Army General Robert Abrams did not follow the recommendation of a preliminary hearing which, according to Bergdahl’s lawyer, called for Bergdahl to face a proceeding that could impose a potential maximum penalty of a year in confinement.
Bergdahl’s lawyer says they had “had hoped the case would not go in this direction.” He also asks Donald Trump to “cease his prejudicial months-long campaign of defamation against our client.”
Bergdahl is interviewed on the Serial podcast.
All I was seeing was basically, leadership failure to the point that the lives of the guys standing next to me, were, literally, from what I could see, in danger of something seriously going wrong and somebody being killed.
When the interviewer calls his actions a “gutsy move”:
Gutsy, but still stupid…Twenty minutes out, I’m going ‘good grief. I’m way over my head’… suddenly it really starts to sink in. I really did something bad. Well, not bad, but I really did something serious.
He says it took the Taliban about a day to find him.
I couldn’t do anything against six or seven guys with AK-47s, and they pulled up and that was it.
To the point where you just want to scream, and like I can’t scream. I can’t risk that, so it’s like you’re standing there, screaming in your mind.
In a rally in Las Vegas’s Treasure Island hotel, Trump says Bergdahl should have been executed.
We’re tired of Sgt. Bergdahl, who’s a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed. Thirty years ago he would have been shot.
[Trump] has become a broken record on this subject…If he took the time to study what actually emerged at the preliminary hearing he would be singing a different tune.
Bergdahl tells investigators he left his base to report on misconduct in his unit and that he had intended to come right back. His lawyer plans to argue that Bergdahl was AWOL rather than a deserter. The difference in terminology could spare Bergdahl from receiving a life sentence.
He had concerns about certain conditions in the unit and things that happened in the unit and he figured that the only way to get any attention to them would be to get that information to a general officer.
Bergdahl is charged with desertion and misbehavior. Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s attorney, a lecturer at Yale Law School, says the Army has scheduled an Article 32 hearing, similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian law, for April 22 in San Antonio, Texas, where Bergdahl is based. The hearing will determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with a general court martial.
Rep. Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, states in a letter that Joint Special Operations Command made the payment covertly as part of a release deal, but that it was stolen by the Afghan intermediary claiming to represent the Haqqani terrorist network. Letter addressed to Hagel:
Given the significance of this matter, as well as the fact that Pentagon officials have denied that a payment was even considered — and you also said you were unaware of any such attempt — I ask you to immediately inquire with JSOC to determine the specific order of events
The Pentagon says the payment wasn’t a ransom, but was meant to be made in exchange for intelligence leading to Bergdahl’s release.
Army investigator Major General Kenneth Dahl estimates that he may need more than the allotted 60 days to complete and submit the investigative report. A statement released by the army clarifies:
As the investigating officer works through this final stage, it is possible that he will have to follow up on issues that may require additional witness interviews.
According to Bergdahl’s lawyer, Gene Fidell, the soldier intends to leave the army and go to college once his investigation is complete. Fidell says:
This is a chapter that’s going to come to an end, sooner rather than later, I hope, so he can get on with his life and pursue a college education and do those things a person wants to do at his age and make up for lost time, frankly.
Bergdahl is questioned by the Army about the events surrounding leaving his post, which led to him being taken prisoner by the Taliban. No reports on what kind of questions or the answers Bergdahl gave at the time. Army spokesperson:
This in an ongoing investigation; the investigating officer has 60 days from his appointment to conclude his investigation; however, he can request additional time if he feels it is necessary.
Bergdhal retains attorney Eugene Fidell as representation in the ongoing investigation into whether he is guilty of deserting his post in Afghanistan. A lawyer and lecturer at Yale University, Fidell will be representing Bergdhall pro bono. When asked about taking on Bergdhal’s case and not being paid for it, Fidell says,
Lawyers have a professional obligation to represent people who are friendless and vilified. Unpopular cases resonate with many lawyers, I’m one of them.
Bergdahl will return to duty possibly as soon as today. He will be assigned a desk job at Fort Sam Houston in a unit responsible for homeland defense, civil support operations and security operation programs.
We are treating him the same way we would treat any other person assigned here. If the family called … we would do what we could to support them.
Two films are currently in process to tell the Bergdahl story. The makers of Zero Dark Thirty’s film will focus on his time with the Taliban and the hostage exchange. while Todd Field, the director of In The Bedroom plans a profile of Bowe based on the work of journalist, Michael Hastings. Currently, both projects still need to obtain the legal rights to Bowe’s biography.
An unnamed two-star general in the US Army is appointed to begin investigating the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance and subsequent captivity. The general is scheduled to begin his investigation some time in the coming week.
In addition to desertion, military troops also claim Bergdahl cost the lives of six U.S. soldiers. These soldiers were a part of the mission to retrieve Bergdahl. Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen and Private 1st Class Morris Walker died in a roadside bomb. Staff Sergeant Kurt Curtiss was shot and died from his wounds while supporting Afghan security forces. Second Lieutenant Darryn Andrews died in an explosive attack to his vehicle. Staff Sergeant Michael Murphrey and Private 1st Class Matthew Martinek both died from their wounds after an explosive attack.
Pentagon officials currently lean towards not charging Bowe with violations, as they feel his five- year captivity was enough. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says that the priority is to asses Bowe’s health and to reunite him with his family.
The welcome back celebration for Bowe in Hailey, Idaho is cancelled. With the negative feedback the town has received, organizers express their concerns about security for the potential amount of supporters and non-supporters that would be in attendance. Chamber of Commerce President Jane Drussel Drussel, who has personally received hate mail and phone calls, due to her support of Bergdahl’s release in her statements to the media, clarifies that the event was planned to be a welcome home ceremony, not a hero’s welcome.
The joy has all of a sudden become not so joyful.
Upon Bowe’s release, several politicians gave their support via Twitter. Rep. Mark Amodei says,
Best news I’ve heard in a long time!
while GOP Senate Joni Ernst says,
US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl freed after being reported missing 5 yrs in Afghanistan. Thoughts & prayers go out to Sgt. Bergdahl & his family.
Democrat Rep. Stephen Lynch also showed support, posting,
Great to hear that Bo Bergdahl has been released from captivity in Afgh/Pak. Warmest regards to his family with gratitude for his/their service and sacrifice.
It has been found that those three posts were eventually deleted from their respective accounts. Other politicians have also followed suit. When Rep. Lee Terry’s team is questioned concerning his deleted posts, they state that the information that surfaced concerning Bowe and the exchange were troubling, and they believed it appropriate to remove them.
Some politicians have been vocal about their disagreement with the hostage swap, such as Sen. Ted Cruz who finds it disturbing. Rep. Buck Mckeon has voiced that, to many people, Obama has broken the law by not informing Congress appropriately before taking action. Mckeon’s committee, the House Armed Services Committee, plan to hold hearings to discuss the hostage exchange.
Select Intelligence Committee member, Saxby Chambliss, comments that the note Bergdahl is said to have left behind when he left, is not included in the classified file. Bowe is said to have left the note on his bed, with statements more supportive of the Taliban than the American mission in Afghanistan. The files also did not include interviews from Berghdahl’s platoon mates, some of which claim Bergdahl to be a deserter and traitor.
Normally those classified files are pretty informative.
The Department of Defense and Senate Intelligence Committee will meet June 10 to examine the conditions that lead to the hostage exchange. Some military members want Bergdahl to be court martialed after accusations of abandonment. Currently, he does not have a charge, but lawmakers are persistent in having public hearings to further examine the exchange. Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary defends:
This was the right thing to do because we do not leave our men and women in uniform behind.
Cheney calls the Bergdahl exchange “bad staff work” and believes the Obama Administration negotiated with terrorists. He notes the possibility that the five released Taliban members will resume their battle positions. To Cheney, the exchange was not a good deal. He does not believe it should be treated as a victory for the president, as the negotiations were for a person who Cheney believes left his post.
We’ll end up paying another kind of price because of the transaction that’s been negotiated here.
The Taliban release a video that documents the release of Bowe to U.S. forces. Taliban members provide commentary on the exchange. The commentator calls it a “historical achievement.” He also notes that the Taliban were disappointed with how the Americans rushed through the procedure. Two Americans shake their hands, however it is customary in Afghanistan to also provide greetings and a friendly chat. The Taliban are also offended at the way one of the soldiers pushes his left-hand forward for shaking. The commentary ends with words for Bergdahl to not come back to Afghanistan.
An anonymous soldier details his experience after Bowe’s disappearance. The soldier, along with 34 other men, was briefed on the hostage rescue/recovery mission for Bowe. The soldier then flew to Bowe’s last location, which is where they were told Bowe’s unit was ambushed. Upon arrival, the soldier notes no evidence of bullet shell casings.
This [ambush] has been proven false through written statements, including those of my unit commander.
As more negative information came out about Bowe, several units stopped looking for him. After analyzing the videos of Bowe made by his Taliban captors, the anonymous soldier concluded that Bowe vowed to help the Afghan people.
Bergdahl became a sympathizer, walked off his post to seek out the Taliban in order to join their ranks, help and live with them.
According to the soldier, the Taliban seek to release more prisoners, and warns it is now a dangerous environment for American soldiers who may captured for similar hostage exchanges.
The U.S. government releases Taliban detainees to Qatar to complete the prisoner exchange. A video uploaded onto a Taliban website shows these detainees being welcomed to Qatar.
Bowe joins the US Army without telling his parents, but later receives their support. He trains in Georgia, and is then assigned to1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based in Fort Richardson, Alaska. A former roommate, Shelly Horton, says about his enlistment:
He wasn’t going to go to college. He liked the odd jobs, but I think he was ready for a career, and that is the career he chose.
Bergdahl is discharged from the Coastguard just 26 days after enlisting. Coast Guard records indicate that Bergdahl received an “uncharacterized discharge” due to psychological issues. At the time of the discharge, Bergdahl is in boot camp in Cape May, New Jersey. In a June, 2014 interview with the Washington Post, Bergdahl’s close friend Kim Harrison says she believes that the circumstances of the discharge were psychological issues, which should have disqualified him for acceptance into the Army in 2008. Bergdahl says he “faked” his problems in order to be released.
Bergdahl enlists in the US Coastguard.