The Department of Defense on Wednesday announced that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released by the Taliban only after President Obama gave up five terror leaders held at Guantanamo Bay, is being charged with desertion.
Col. Daniel King said the Armed Forces Command had reviewed Bergdahl’s 2009 disappearance from his unit while stationed in Afghanistan and was charging Bergdahl with “desertion with the intent to shirk important or hazardous duty” as well as misbehavior before an enemy.
He said Bergdahl will face an Article 32 preliminary hearing in Houston.
Ultimately, an officer with the authority to convene a court-martial could order a regular court-martial, a special court-martial, the dismissal of charges or any other action determined to be appropriate, King said.
The possible penalties for the charges include dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and up to life in prison, King said.
King said military officials cannot discuss details of their investigation of Bergdahl’s 2009 disappearance from his assignment in Afghanistan because those details may be used as evidence in any court-martial.
Bergdahl had been held by the Taliban for five years after allegedly fleeing his military unit in the Middle East.
He was freed when Obama gave up the five Taliban terrorists, a move the president has defended as appropriate because he was bringing a detained American soldier home. Obama welcomed him back to the U.S. with a Rose Garden event at the White House, and Bergdahl’s father expressed his thanks in Arabic for his son’s release.
The deal triggered a deep level of disgust by Americans for Obama. A WND/Wenzel Poll at the time showed 54 percent of Americans said Obama’s swap for Bergdahl amounted to providing aid to terrorists.
According to CBS News, Bergdahl’s attorney said his client was facing one count of desertion and one count of “misbehavior before the enemy.”
It was May 2014 when U.S. officials said they had negotiated with the terrorists for Bergdahl’s release in exchange for five Taliban prisoners.
Members of Congress claimed the swap was illegal.
In July 2014, officials reported Bergdahl was returned to regular duty at a desk job that made him available to investigators from the Army who looked into the circumstances of his departure from his assigned base.
At the time, the Army said, Bergdahl was assigned to U.S. Army North at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas, the same post where he had been recuperating from the effects of his lengthy captivity.
As WND reported, Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, told WND that despite Obama’s denials, the president probably paid a ransom to terrorists for Bergdahl.
Stockman said he based his conclusion on an exchange of letters with the administration, including a reply from the White House that was so carefully worded it appeared to confirm his suspicions.
It would be a violation of U.S. policy to pay a ransom to a terrorist group, but Stockman noted the Haqqani Network, which had held Bergdahl, is not known to have ever released a hostage without obtaining a ransom.
Stockman’s letter to Obama June 5, asked: “Did you or anyone authorized by or associated with your administration, authorize any form of compensation, direct or third party, in exchange for Bergdahl?”
Obama did not respond directly to Stockman, but on June 13, the White House issued a response in the form of a statement from National Security staff spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.
However, Stockman noted the letter’s wording was suspiciously careful, saying the U.S. “did not provide money in return for Sgt. Bergdahl.”
“That is not the question I asked,” said Stockman. “This response is oddly worded and seems intentionally evasive.”
The congressman reiterated he had asked if the White House authorized “any form of compensation, direct or third party.” He explained that limiting the response to money from the U.S. was only a partial answer.
“The idea the U.S. government would implicate itself by directly issuing a payment to a terrorist group is highly unlikely, which is why I directly included third parties,” said the Texan.
Stockman said that, given the way Obama had parsed his words, it’s almost certain there was a ransom.