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The Right Way To View The Bowe Bergdahl Deal

Bowe Bergdahl

Since the news of the deal that resulted in the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity first became public one week ago today, there has been a plethora of second-guessing, accusations, and controversy directed at President Obama, the Obama White House, and Sgt. Bergdahl himself. The criticism has been directed at the deal itself. The criticisms have ranged from the wisdom of agreeing  release five Guantanamo Bay prisoners who had once been part of the leadership of the Taliba, to the issue of why the President failed to comply with a law requiring Congress to be notified of Guantanamo Bay prisoner transfers, to the circumstances of Bergdahl’s own disappearance in 2009. In typical Washington fashion, the Obama Administration has pushed back against the critics, but in many respects its statements and explanations have done more harm to its cause than they have helped.

Underlying the entire controversy has been the suggestion by some defenders of the Obama Administration that those who are criticizing the deal, the Obama Administrations conduct, or Bergdahl’s integrity are essentially arguing that Bergdahl should have been left to rot in Taliban captivity. Admittedly, there has been some of that, with even some prominent pundits saying that if the only way to get Bergdahl home was to to give the Taliban those five prisoners, then he should have been left behind. Others have suggested that Bergdahl’s conduct and activity that may constitute desertion are reasons to not place much priority on ensuring his safe return. In some cases, it’s hard to tell how many of these people are serious and how many of them are just joining in the typical partisanship that comes with every story like this.

Some conservatives are taking a different tone, however.

David Brooks, for example, offers a fairly strong defense of the Administration’s actions and, in doing so, points out quite well why it was right for the President to try to bring him home:

It doesn’t matter if Bergdahl had deserted his post or not. It doesn’t matter if he is a confused young man who said insulting and shameful things about his country and his Army. The debt we owe to fellow Americans is not based on individual merit. It is based on citizenship, and loyalty to the national community we all share.

Soldiers don’t risk their lives only for those Americans who deserve it; they do it for the nation as a whole.

It is not dispositive either that the deal to release Bergdahl may put others at risk. The five prisoners released from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in a swap for Bergdahl seem like terrible men who could do harm. But their release may have been imminent anyway. And the loss of national fraternity that would result if we start abandoning Americans in the field would be a greater and more long lasting harm.

(…)

It doesn’t matter either that the United States government ended up dealing with terrorists. In the first place, the Taliban is not a terrorist organization the way Al Qaeda is. America has always tried to reach a negotiated arrangement with the Taliban, and this agreement may be a piece of that. In the second place, this is the dirty world we live in. Sometimes national leaders are called upon to take the sins of the situation upon themselves for the good of the country, to deal with the hateful and compromise with the loathsome. That’s their form of sacrifice and service.

So President Obama made the right call. If he is to be faulted, it would be first for turning the release into an Oprah-esque photo-op, a political stunt filled with inaccurate rhetoric and unworthy grandstanding. It would next be for his administration’s astonishing tone-deafness about how this swap

Charles Krauthammer takes a similar position:

Two imperatives should guide the answer. Bergdahl remains a member of the U.S. military and therefore is (a) subject to military justice and (b) subject to the soldiers’ creed that we don’t leave anyone behind.

What to do? Free him, then try him. Make the swap and then, if the evidence is as strong as it now seems, court-martial him for desertion.

There are several things about the Bergdahl release that bother me. The President’s failure to comply with the law and the ever-shifting White House explanations for why that happened are serious matters. Related to that is the rather bizarre victory lap that was done in the hours after the release even though it was obvious from the start that there would be controversy both due to the release of Gitmo prisoners and because of Bergdahl’s questionable to say the least service record.  The terms of the deal, and the possibility that these five men could resume aiding the Taliban in the future, is certainly worrisome as well. At the same time, though, I am not bothered by the fact that there was a deal made to bring Bergdahl home, and the consequences of the terms of the deal itself may be the price we have to pay for bringing him home.

On the first point, Brooks and Krauthammer are basically on the right page. In the end, Bergdahl is an American soldier who was a prisoner of an enemy force. As President Obama has said on more than  one occasion over the past week, we should be guided by the principle that we don’t leave anyone behind when we go to war. Now, admittedly, there have been times in the past when we have done just that either out of neglect or military necessity but, in general, there has always been an implicit promise that the nation makes to every soldier who goes into combat that we will do our best to free them if they are held captive, and to find a final resting place for them if they are killed. The fact that Bergdahl may have walked away from his unit for reasons that we still don’t know does not mean that this promise should be vitiated. Obviously, if Bergdahl were an obvious collaborator the calculus would be different, but there’s no evidence of that outside of the speculation of certain people on the right who seem to be more interested in character assassination than facts, such as a certain Fox News host who suggested that Bergdahl should have been executed on the spot and an as-yet uncorroborated report about Bergdahl interacting with the Taliban in a manner that doesn’t seem to be indicative of someone who was a prisoner. The one thing that shouldn’t happen, though, is what’s happening now, which is the trial of Sgt. Bergdahl in the court of public opinion based on selective leaks, incomplete or possibly even incorrect evidence, and motivated more by political bias than a search for the truth.

As far as the terms of the deal go, I tend to agree with Krauthammer that it’s a close call. I can see arguments both for and against agreeing to release these five men in exchange for Bergdahl and, yes, it does involve taking some degree of risk that these men will return to the fight or that their release will inspire further kidnappings. However, that’s the kind of judgment call that we elect Presidents to make and there’s an argument that we should give President Obama the benefit of the doubt here. In any case, the terms of the deal are one of the many things that will no doubt be subject to Congressional investigation in debate going forward. I’m sure there will be more evidence in the future upon which we can base the judgment about how wise the deal actually was.  Based on what’s available today, though, it’s a close enough call that, just maybe, the President should get the benefit of the doubt. More broadly, the objection that we “don’t negotiate with terrorists” is, as I stated earlier this week utter nonsense and ignores the fact that if we wanted to get Bergdahl home there was nobody else to negotiate with. It’s not a pretty deal, of course, but these things are seldom pretty.

Both Brooks and Krauthammer, and Andrew Sullivan who links to both of them approvingly in a post that went up yesterday, are far more deferential to the President on the question of notifying Congress than I would be. As I’ve made clear in my posts on that subject here and here, the idea of a President ignoring a law with impunity is one that we should not be so willing to accept even if its done for “the right reasons.” However, that  is a political dispute between the President and Congress that will play itself out over the coming weeks and months, and which is itself part of a larger debate about the expanding powers of the Presidency that is long overdue in this country. That political dispute is somewhat irrelevant to the question of whether or not it was a good idea to make a deal to bring Sgt. Bergdahl home.

What seems beyond dispute to me at least is that it is a good thing that Sgt. Bergdahl is home and that he’s receiving the medical treatment he needs. If the evidence warrants it, he should obviously face charges for anything he did wrong back in 2009, and the President should face whatever political consequences may flow from all of this. None of that, however, means that Bowe Bergdahl should have been left behind or that President Obama should not have tried to get him home. Of course, in order to view things that way, you have to turn off the outrage machine that has taken over American politics. And that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

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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. al-Ameda says:

    What I find most revealing about this manufactured political crisis, is exactly how it was birthed into existence: A few short months ago Senator John McCain thought the proposed swap a good idea, and of course once the transfer/exchange was complete, the conservative media set about “Swift Boating” Bergdahl. Democrats were completely out-maneuvered by Republicans.

    Very very little of this is about legal principles, it is apparently about the next election cycle.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    Doug, I still have a problem with your protests about ignoring the law. There are a number of constitutional scholars who think the law itself in unconstitutional. If congress is so upset they can take it to court but they won’t because a majority know they will lose.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  3. Ron,

    If there are problems with the Constitutionality of the law there are two options. One, Obama could have vetoed the bill. Two, seek a court ruling on the issue. The President is not above the law, not matter what pretty much every President since the end of World War II would have you believe

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 6

  4. KM says:

    The debt we owe to fellow Americans is not based on individual merit. It is based on citizenship, and loyalty to the national community we all share.

    Soldiers don’t risk their lives only for those Americans who deserve it; they do it for the nation as a whole.

    YES. A thousand times yes. My family members didn’t sign up just to save the people they approved of – they signed up to protect America. All of it. The good, the bad, the ugly, the saint and the sinner. Your duty is to your nation and your people. Bergdahl is one of ours.

    As I’ve made clear in my posts on that subject here and here, the idea of a President ignoring a law with impunity is one that we should not be so willing to accept even if its done for “the right reasons.” However, that is a political dispute between the President and Congress that will play itself out over the coming weeks and months, and which is itself part of a larger debate about the expanding powers of the Presidency that is long overdue in this country.

    Then Congress needs to nut up or shut up. Basically they are whining that they were ignored. They want their cake and eat it too. Don’t want the President out there with this kind of authority? Then go take it back and actually use it! Quit being backseat drivers and do your job and take the hit that comes with making unpopular decisions. Congress needs to grow a spine. They have plenty of Constitutional powers and were supposed to be the leading Branch of government. Go ahead then. Lead!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I doubt that vetoing the Defense Appropriations Bill was really an option and ignoring the that part of the bill is probably the best way to get a court ruling on the issue. As I have said before I am as worried as anyone about an imperial presidency but even more worried about a totally dysfunctional congress.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  6. beth says:

    @Ron Beasley: I suspect they won’t take this matter to court because they want the next Republican president to be able to do the same thing. It’s a shame that Congress (both sides do it really does apply in this case) has become so worried about being re-elected and holding power that they’ve decided to not do their jobs anymore.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @KM:

    Then Congress needs to nut up or shut up. Basically they are whining that they were ignored. They want their cake and eat it too. Don’t want the President out there with this kind of authority? Then go take it back and actually use it! Quit being backseat drivers and do your job and take the hit that comes with making unpopular decisions. Congress needs to grow a spine. They have plenty of Constitutional powers and were supposed to be the leading Branch of government. Go ahead then. Lead!

    Exactly. Don’t spend decades deliberately surrendering your authority, refusing to do your constitutional duty, and obliterating whatever moral authority you once had, and then be outraged at this minor infraction of your squandered authority.

    No one took power from Congress, Congress abdicated.

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  8. stonetools says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    As you know, Doug, the provision was attached to a military appropriations bill. Vetoing that provision alone was out of the question.
    Seeking a court ruling is a time-consuming affair. Are you saying the Prsident should have put off negotiating with the Taliban till the case wound its way through the courts? That said, I’m Ok with the President seeking a court ruling-so long as he continues negotiiating with the Taliban. There are still three Americans that need to come home.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  9. @stonetools:

    I am saying that since these negotiations obviously didn’t start up last Friday, there was plenty of time to notify at least the Chairpersons and Ranking Members of the appropriate Committees of Congress (Armed Services and Intelligence) as well as the leadership in both the House and Senate.

    You know, like the law requires

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  10. Moosebreath says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    “Two, seek a court ruling on the issue.”

    Would a court have issued a ruling on the issue? Or would they have found some way not to, whether saying there was no actual case or controversy, lack of standing, etc.?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  11. Ron Beasley says:

    @Doug Mataconis: The problem with this is there are far too many loose cannons in the congress and it probably would have been leaked putting the negotiations in jeopardy.

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  12. stonetools says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Yeah, also plenty of time for it to leak to the press and for the Taliban to chop Berdahl’s head off.
    You know, like they threatened.

    This may be news to you but the Taliban doesn’t care much about the niceties of American law.
    I guess the question is that would you trust Congress to keep the negotiations secret, knowing that Berdahl’s life would be forfeit if Congress leaked, as they have so often in past?
    If you would trust Congress… well, let’s say I’m glad you aren’t doing the negotiating, with all due respect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  13. Ron,

    Classified information is share with the people I mentioned above on a regular basis. When was the last time it was leaked?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  14. stonetools says:

    From the same link:

    The White House was particularly worried because previous leaks had derailed past efforts to free Bergdahl, an administration official said in a separate interview with the Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  15. mantis says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Classified information is share with the people I mentioned above on a regular basis. When was the last time it was leaked?

    What day is it?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  16. @mantis:

    Evidence to support your claim please

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  17. @stonetools:

    Pardon me for not trusting the White House that failed to comply with the law,

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 13

  18. stonetools says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Yeah, you would rather trust various members of the Congress and their staffs to all keep a secret that might get someone killed if it gets out.
    Sorry, you have more faith in Congress than I do.
    Did you read the link that said there had been prior leaks?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  19. dennis says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    … the President should face whatever political consequences may flow from all of this.

    None of that, however, means that … President Obama should not have tried to get him home.

    Doug, how do you reconcile these two statements?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  20. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Classified information is share with the people I mentioned above on a regular basis. When was the last time it was leaked?

    Um, what are you talking about? Classified information is leaked practically every week.

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  21. KM says:

    @Doug:

    Pardon me for not trusting the White House that failed to comply with the law,

    Question: Do you not trust the Executive Branch to do so or the current occupant?

    This is the key break in your logic here. Why do you expect people to trust Congress as whole when current occupants have been shown to not be trusted in the same way you can’t seem to trust the President? Congress critters break laws too, sometimes “for the right reasons”. Be consistent Doug or be honest. What makes a Congressman who’s broken a law any more inherently trustworthy then a President that’s done the same.

    Congress does not deserve trust – it has to earn it and keep on earning it every day.
    The White House does not deserve trust – it has to earn it and keep on earning it every day.

    This is a epic political temper tantrum. Either put the screws to Obama or be done with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  22. @dennis:

    Because sometimes the decisions a Presidents makes are politically unpopular.

    And, in this case, the fact that he failed to consult Congress, foolishly let his White House paint Bergdahl as a returning hero, and entered into a deal that a lot of people are going to have questions about means that there are going to be political consequences.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  23. Jeremy R says:

    @Doug:

    Related to that is the rather bizarre victory lap that was done in the hours after the release even though it was obvious from the start that there would be controversy both due to the release of Gitmo prisoners and because of Bergdahl’s questionable to say the least service record.

    There’s been plenty examples of the administration coming under withering press and partisan criticism for not immediately having a the president publicly make a statement on national security related developments. Even delays of a day or two have been the source of outraged muckraking. A low-key Friday statement by press release was simply not an option. While Bergdahl’s parents happened to be in town, in hindsight, inviting them to be part of the announcement was probably a mistake: not because there was anything wrong allowing them to share their story, but given the outrageous cruelty and abuse they’ve been subjected to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  24. matt bernius says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Two, seek a court ruling on the issue.

    Legal procedure question Doug: can a ruling be sought ahead of taking action? Or can the ruling only be made after the action was taken?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  25. @Rafer Janders:

    Again, please provide me with examples of information that was provided to the Committee heads and leadership as required under several laws has been leaked.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. @matt bernius:

    It may be difficult to get the issue before a Court without an actual case or controversy, this is true.

    And in any case, unfortunately, the Courts have proven quite cowardly in ruling on disputes of this type. Usually they get dismissed as a “political question.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  27. Jeremy R says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    White House paint Bergdahl as a returning hero

    Has the White House actually called Bergdahl a returning “hero”? The Right’s main “hero” criticism seems to center around the fact that his hometown had been planning a “welcome home”-celebration (which was terrorized out of existence) and a bizarrely outraged and over-the-top parsing of Susan Rice answering a question during one of her Sunday show appearances:

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, on this point, Sergeant Bergdahl, there are a lot of questions about how he originally was captured and whether or not he had deserted, had left his post.

    Is that going to be investigated? And if it’s found that he did, indeed, leave his post, will he be disciplined or has he already paid the price?

    RICE: Certainly anybody who has been held in those conditions, in captivity for five years has paid an extraordinary price. But that is really not the point. The point is that he is back.

    He is going to be safely reunited with his family. He served the United States with honor and distinction. And we’ll have the opportunity eventually to learn what has transpired in the past years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  28. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Again, please provide me with examples of information that was provided to the Committee heads and leadership as required under several laws has been leaked.

    As just one example, in 2009, in an open committee hearing, Dianne Feinstein leaked that Predator drones were being flown out of a Pakistani airbase.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  29. @Rafer Janders:

    Was that classified, though? Or was this another one of those situations where the CIA was trying to hide things that embarrass them?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. dennis says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Then the logical conclusion is, the President should NOT have done the deal, in order to avoid the political blow back. Either getting Bergdahl home was important and worthy, or it wasn’t. With such an intransigent Congress, did the President have a workable choice? The observable past is an accurate predictor that the Republicans would have sabotaged the deal to make the President look bad, and I think you know this.

    So, if the only workable solution to retrieving our homie was doing the deed the way it was done, then political consequences should not be an effect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  31. dennis says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    … foolishly let his White House paint Bergdahl as a returning hero, …

    You know, Doug, I live in a military town. The hero worship fetish and the fact that the term is slung around so casually has become quite sickening lo, these 13 years. It’s turned a lot of our soldiers into narcissistic, entitled brats. If John McCain is a hero for enduring capture, then so is Bergdahl.

    Okay, let it begin …

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  32. stonetools says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It may be difficult to get the issue before a Court without an actual case or controversy, this is true.

    And in any case, unfortunately, the Courts have proven quite cowardly in ruling on disputes of this type. Usually they get dismissed as a “political question.”

    So seeking a court ruling most likely would have proved fruitless. I’ll just let that lie there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  33. James Pearce says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Was that classified, though? Or was this another one of those situations where the CIA was trying to hide things that embarrass them?

    Speaking of……

    You know how the Snowden leaks make you shrug your shoulders on the “law-breaking” stuff because it resulted in something good? That’s an approximation of how I feel about the Congressional notification issue. It’s not exact, but it’s close.

    Of course one is a clear-cut crime and the other is more of a, ahem, “political issue.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  34. dennis says:

    Speaking of……

    You know how the Snowden leaks make you shrug your shoulders on the “law-breaking” stuff because it resulted in something good? That’s an approximation of how I feel about the Congressional notification issue. It’s not exact, but it’s close.

    Of course one is a clear-cut crime and the other is more of a, ahem, “political issue.”

    OH SNAP!!! LOL

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  35. rudderpedals says:

    On the afternoon of 9/11, Orrin Hatch leaked the fact that bin Laden satphones were actively tapped and the resulting intel flow abruptly shut down.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  36. stonetools says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Again, please provide me with examples of information that was provided to the Committee heads and leadership as required under several laws has been leaked.

    Sure. A quick Google search reveals:

    Congressional leaders agreed Thursday on the need for a full investigation of what one called a recent “cascade” of leaked classified information but differed on exactly how the inquiry should be conducted

    And

    The documents detailing the National Security Agency’s surveillance program were leaked by a former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, but two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee—Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.)—have been hinting at the program for years

    The plain fact is that leaks happen and the best way to prevent leaks is not to disclose info to any more people than you have to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  37. JC says:

    If the war is coming to an end, don’t we have to release these guys anyway? With no war and no designation as terrorists and no charges, what would we continue to hold them on? Say he went to congress, I guarantee they would have wanted something out of the deal, likely permission granted if…or yadda yadda. Why do you think they tacked that into the defense appropriations bill in the first place? Because its about getting something they want, not for the good of the country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  38. Tillman says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Pardon me for not trusting the White House that failed to comply with the law.

    Aww, you make it sound like they indefinitely detained a bunch of guys and tortured them for information.

    Also, more accurate to say “failed to comply with part of a law.”

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  39. Jeremy R says:

    From Doug’s OP:

    “… and an as-yet uncorroborated report about Bergdahl interacting with the Taliban in a manner that doesn’t seem to be indicative of someone who was a prisoner.”

    http://tbo.com/list/military-news/mattis-no-evidence-of-bergdahl-collusion-20140606/

    During his time in Tampa as commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. James Mattis said he saw no evidence to confirm that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, released in a prisoner swap last week, collaborated with his captors.

    “I have never seen one bit of verified or confirmed evidence of that,” Mattis said in a phone interview with The Tampa Tribune. “Not one bit. You hear things and it was second- and third-hand.”

    Other information “specifically discounted” reports that Bergdahl, captured by the Taliban in June 2009 after leaving his outpost in Afghanistan, was working with his captors, he said. Mattis declined to comment on what that information was because it remains classified.

    “The partisan bickering” over the circumstances of Bergdahl’s recovery is hard to fathom, said Mattis, one of the Marine Corps’ most beloved generals — widely respected for his vision, courage and telling it like it is.

    “I don’t know what to think,” said Mattis. “It is a bit perplexing to me.”

    For Mattis, the decision to bring Bergdahl home was simple.

    “Bottom line, we don’t leave people behind, that is the beginning and that is the end of what we stand for,” he said. ”We keep faith with the guys who sign on, and that is all there is to it.”

    In the above story Mattis and the Pentagon also address a number of elements or the “Dewey” Clarridge (“indicted for lying to Congress about his role in the Iran-Contra scandal”) Fox News article:

    The Fox News story says information about Bergdahl converting to Islam, fraternizing openly with his captors and declaring himself a “mujahid,” or warrior for Islam, came from a source new to Clarridge’s Eclipse Group “whose trustworthiness had not been fully vetted by the group. However, the report stated, the informant “does have plausible access to the information reported.”

    Fox News reported that Clarridge told them Eclipse Group “enjoyed a subcontract through the assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict from November 2009 through May 31, 2010, and that after the contract was terminated, he invested some $50,000 of his own money to maintain the elaborate network of informants and handlers that had yielded such detailed accounts of Bergdahl’s status.

    The Pentagon “is not aware of any contract, subcontract or otherwise” between SOLIC and the Eclipse Group, Cmdr. Amy Derrick-Frost, Defense Department spokeswoman, said late Friday afternoon. Clarridge declined comment.

    Mattis, who took command of Centcom a little more than a year after Bergdahl’s disappearance, told the Tribune that Clarridge’s reports “were simply one bit of information coming in. You do your normal due diligence. We found nothing to support it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  40. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Was that classified, though?

    Yes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  41. reader says:

    @Doug Mataconis: @Doug Mataconis: It must be nice to have a point of view that will never be reflected in any Administration, Republican or Democrat.

    You see, while the Republicans will play politics with this issue no American President, of either party would have done differently.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  42. bill says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    the fact that he failed to consult Congress, foolishly let his White House paint Bergdahl as a returning hero,

    one if the things that doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it deserves. the judgement of the white house seems to be out of touch with a lot of us, understatement that it is.

    @dennis:

    If John McCain is a hero for enduring capture, then so is Bergdahl

    i don’t think bergdahl is in the same universe, but we’ll see what the military investigators come up with. sure, it’ll be a year or so but they’ll figure it out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 12

  43. dazedandconfused says:

    @bill:

    The White House is a building, it doesn’t talk. The RW and the self-serving scandal seeking corporate media is cherry-picked its sole spokesperson again, Rice. Anything she says is what the “White House” says, when it gets “hits”. Granted, they need to stop trotting her out for the Sunday shows, she embellishes (and badly) but grow the fuque up, people. If I thought for a moment the chatterazzi represented America I’d deem anyone who would risk life and limb for it a damn fool.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  44. C. Clavin says:

    Doug’s ODS again.

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  45. Matt Bernius says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    And in any case, unfortunately, the Courts have proven quite cowardly in ruling on disputes of this type. Usually they get dismissed as a “political question.”

    First I completely agree on this point. The Federal Courts, like Congress, have long abdicated much of their responsibility.

    It may be difficult to get the issue before a Court without an actual case or controversy, this is true.

    Based on my conversations with my resident Legal Scholar, it seems like it would have been all but impossible as the law isn’t set up for this sort of situation. At best, once the White House had decided on it’s path, it could have sought a sealed injunction. But other than that, there really wasn’t anything they could do until they actually broke the law.

    The federal courts don’t historically issue advisory rulings. Given the “need” for things like signing statements, it may be time to revisit that.

    Or revisit the idea of a line-item veto (something that I admit that I have been historically against, but think would ultimately be a much better idea than signing statements).

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  46. Grewgills says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Or revisit the idea of a line-item veto (something that I admit that I have been historically against, but think would ultimately be a much better idea than signing statements).

    The congress can call BS on a signing statement. Line item veto lets the president nullify a compromise with a strike of the pen. Think it’s difficult to reach a compromise now…

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  47. pylon says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I think vetoing a large appropriations bill over an unconstitutional provision is neither politically smart nor morally correct. And seeking a court ruling on the provision? I’m not sure a court would hear a hypothetical case. By doing the deal, Obama is basically seeking a court ruling, if anyone in opposition has the balls to challenge the action.

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