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Dianne Feinstein: No Evidence That Bergdahl Was In Imminent Danger

Afghanistan Captured Soldier

While the Administration’s explanations for why it did not comply with the 30 day notice requirement for release of Gutantanamo Bay prisoners when making the deal that resulted in the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the one that they seem to be relying upon the most is the argument that the decision was made to complete the deal quickly because of concerns about Sgt. Bergdahl’s health. Earlier this week, for example, the White House showed every member of the Senate a so-called “proof of life” video from earlier this year that they say led to those concerns, but many of the remarks afterward seemed to indicate that they video wasn’t very convincing. Senator Tom Coburn, who is a physician, said it appeared to him that Bergdahl had been drugged, which is a tactic that hostage takers often use to make it appear that captives are in worse physical shape than they actually are. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, meanwhile, is saying that she’s seen no evidence that Bergdahl was in any significant danger prior to his release:

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.

Perhaps it’s the case that there is evidence that Bergdahl was in danger, thus justifying a quick deal that required the Administration to ignore the law. So far, however, they haven’t presented that evidence and, even conceding the point that Bergdahl should have been brought home somehow, the Administration still seems to have made a serious political mistake in ignoring the law and flouting Congress in this manner.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Rafer Janders says:

    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.

    Besides, the fact, of him being held as a prisoner by the Taliban?

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  2. stonetools says:

    The Obama administration has told senators it didn’t notify Congress about the pending swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban officials because the Taliban had threatened to kill him if the deal was made public before it happened. That’s according to three congressional officials who spoke to the AP. The officials said today that the threat—not just concerns that the captive’s health might be failing—drove the Obama administration to quickly make a deal to rescue Bergdahl.

    The threat had been transmitted by Qatari officials at the height of the negotiations. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was referring in part to the threat when he said Sunday that “there was a question about his safety,” the officials told the senators in a closed-door briefing yesterday.

    Try to imagine the sh!tstorm that would have happened if Obama had told Congress,it leaked out to the press, and the Taliban beheaded Berdahl.
    WIth all due respect, Doug, I think you are simply weighing compliance with the law above the life of an American citizen.With all due respect to Senator Fiensten, she isn’t on the hotseat here: Obama is. If the Administration thinks that Berdahl could lose his life if they told Congress, I’m inclined to believe them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  3. anjin-san says:

    Feinstein should stick to her work as a PR flack for PG&E.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  4. Orange says:

    We have learned that the Qatar government was intermediating the deal. Also that not all Talibans wanted the deal to happen. Critical was that until it was done, there was the risk that the Taliban would have changed their mind and done something stupid, perhaps putting more lives at risk than just Bergdahl’s.

    Should the Republicans want to start new wars, there will be time for that once they win back the White House. Then they can show their brawls once again. North Korea and Iran are awaiting their turns.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  5. Mikey says:

    It’s impossible to overstate the necessity for secrecy in negotiations like this. There are many moving parts, each with their own interests and priorities. One must assume any information given to Congress will get leaked, and there was a real possibility any leak would have led to Bergdahl’s death.

    Feinstein is just engaging in protection of Congressional turf, as she sees it (I do not–I believe the section of law requiring a 30 day notice is not Constitutional). So of course she’s going to assert the White House acted prematurely and is trying to mislead to cover its own ass.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  6. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    I hate to keep milking the right-honorable former Sen. from TN, but did Dr. Feinstein also consult with Dr. Frist on her ever-so-thorough remote examination?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  7. matt bernius says:

    @Mikey:
    Ultimately what you say makes sense.

    What needs to happen is for the White House to say this, in an unequivocal fashion, and clearly present the evidence they have to back up their side of the case. Here is exactly where — after the fact — the Administration’s promise of transparency could be used to bolster their case.

    I realize it would convince everyone (see the case of the Ohio republican who *believes* IUD = abortion). But the problem is that — as with a number of other issues over the last 6 years — it feels like team Obama isn’t willing to *sell* its point of view. That’s especially problematic when they are circumventing a law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  8. Julian Sanchez says:

    @stonetools: “I think you are simply weighing compliance with the law above the life of an American citizen.”

    Of course he is. The president gets to ignore the law every time one person might die as a result?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. An Interested Party says:

    The president gets to ignore the law every time one person might die as a result?

    A fair point…but if the President had done what Republicans/conservatives are howling about and Bergdahl had ended up dead, these same critics would be ravaging the President for that…at least this way, an American soldier is still alive…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  10. al-Ameda says:

    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.

    Well, the headline “Dianne Feinstein: No Evidence That Bergdahl Was In Imminent Danger” doesn’t quite lead us to Feinstein’s subsequent statements on this matter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  11. dazedandconfused says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    She should be asked what, for her, would’ve sufficed.

    I think it’s OK they have their noses a bit out of joint on this, but they should also admit they created this law 6 months ago and by slipping it into a defense appropriations bill the public has not fully debated it. Their reason for doing this appears to be to have limited the Presidents ability to close Gitmo, and perhaps the public has a right to be informed of that when they consider it. If they believe We The People have decided that we will have such gulag’s, it is not clear to me that is true. It appears to me that most people are calling on Obama to close the place, but that is only anecdotal.

    Pretty big thing, to strip a CiC of his ability to conduct prisoner swaps with an enemy, and it’s not something the “other guys” may agree to debate with a committee and on that committee’s time table about. Did they consider this when they wrote it? I’d like to know.

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  12. Tyrell says:

    Maybe this person knows a lot of information that the military thinks is very important.

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  13. Barry says:

    @stonetools: “.With all due respect to Senator Fiensten, she isn’t on the hotseat here: Obama is. ”

    And ‘all due respect’ ain’t much – she’s a biddable wh*re for right-wing interests.

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  14. Barry says:

    @Orange: “Critical was that until it was done, there was the risk that the Taliban would have changed their mind and done something stupid, perhaps putting more lives at risk than just Bergdahl’s.”

    And remember that from their viewpoint, killing Bergdahl wouldn’t have been an especially stupid thing to do; they’ve killed lots of people.

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  15. Barry says:

    @matt bernius: “What needs to happen is for the White House to say this, in an unequivocal fashion, and clearly present the evidence they have to back up their side of the case. Here is exactly where — after the fact — the Administration’s promise of transparency could be used to bolster their case.”

    Considering that much of it would have been secret and sensitive negotiations……..

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