The Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman said she’s not convinced there was a “credible threat” against the life of freed Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl that motivated the White House to keep its plans secret.
“I don’t think there was a credible threat,” U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said in an interview yesterday for Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “I have no information that there was.”
Senators were told at a June 4 classified briefing that President Barack Obama’s administration had received indications that Bergdahl’s life could be jeopardized if the detainee exchange proceedings were disclosed or derailed, according to a government official who sought anonymity.
Feinstein, a California Democrat, is among lawmakers who criticized the administration’s decision not to adhere to a law requiring 30 days’ notice to Congress before releasing detainees from the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba. Prisoners from wars following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are held there.
Bergdahl, the last remaining U.S. prisoner of war in Afghanistan, was handed to U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan on May 31 in exchange for five Guantanamo detainees.
Feinstein said it was difficult for her to tell, based on the information she’s been provided, whether Bergdahl’s health had deteriorated to the point where his life was in serious danger without an immediate release.
“There’s no question he was debilitated,” she said. “There was no question he was under stress — blinking rapidly, probably held in dark surroundings for a long period of time.”
“But he’ll receive very good care and recover, and I think that’s what’s important,” she added.
Officials at the June 4 briefing showed senators a video of Bergdahl in Taliban custody, provided by that group, said several senators who attended.
Administration officials on June 2 called Feinstein and Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss, the Intelligence panel’s top Republican, to apologize for not alerting them before the prisoner trade, according to the two lawmakers.
Feinstein said the evidence was “mixed” as to whether Bergdahl was, as some military members have claimed, a deserter.
Sandy Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made “crystal clear” during this week’s classified briefing that Bergdahl “was going to have justice, that the army was going to do the appropriate investigation, and the facts eventually will come out,” she said.