Skip to main content

Bergdahl 'life' video shown, senators still skeptical

By Ted Barrett, CNN Senior Congressional Producer
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama administration gives senators classified briefing on Bergdahl decision
  • Lawmakers say they saw "Proof of Life" video that was key in administration decision
  • The administration's rationale for trading terror suspects has come under fire
  • Sen. Marco Rubio said the session shed little new light on the issue

(CNN) -- Obama administration officials showed a so-called "Proof of Life" video of Bowe Bergdahl at a classified Senate briefing on Wednesday, but the session failed to convince numerous skeptics that swapping Taliban terror detainees for the captured Army sergeant was the right thing to do.

"I remain as deeply skeptical about this as I did before this conversation that we just had with the administration. For two days now, we've asked questions, many of which have not yet been fully answered," Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican of Florida, told CNN after the briefing.

Since announcing Bergdahl's release this past weekend, administration officials have said they fast-tracked the operation over concerns about his health and safety, which appeared to be in jeopardy.

Newt sickened by Obama defense
New video shows moment Bergdahl was freed
These are photos, obtained by WikiLeaks that match the names of the detainees released by the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense would neither confirm nor deny their accuracy. Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa was an early member of the Taliban in 1994 and was interior minister during the Taliban's rule. He was arrested in Pakistan and was transferred to Guantanamo in May 2002. During questioning, Khairkhwa denied all knowledge of extremist activities. These are photos, obtained by WikiLeaks that match the names of the detainees released by the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense would neither confirm nor deny their accuracy. Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa was an early member of the Taliban in 1994 and was interior minister during the Taliban's rule. He was arrested in Pakistan and was transferred to Guantanamo in May 2002. During questioning, Khairkhwa denied all knowledge of extremist activities.
Guantanamo detainees swapped for Bergdahl
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
Guantanamo detainees swapped Guantanamo detainees swapped

A senior defense official said on Wednesday that recent intelligence, in addition to two proof-of-life videos released in recent months, underscored the concerns.

CNN has reported on the existence of the most recent video, believed to be recorded last December, which U.S. officials have said showed a marked deterioration in Bergdahl's condition.

Hillary Clinton wanted tougher deal for Bergdahl

Lawmakers emerging from the closed session had mixed reaction as to whether his health was evidence that he needed to be immediately freed.

Sen. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, said Bergdahl "didn't look good. I understand the emotional power the video had on the President."

President Barack Obama has defended his decision to get Bergdahl back now, saying he was not going to leave him behind with the United States in the final stage of its Afghanistan operation.

Opinion: Bergdahl's release: Motives, mistakes and excuses

Bergdahl was the only remaining U.S. military captive from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The video was short, and Bergdahl spoke English, said Kirk. He spoke softly and slowly, almost slurring. There were references to the recent death of Nelson Mandela in the video.

Kirk said there was no new information from the officials who briefed the senators on what Bergdahl's ailments were.

"His condition in the video made it clear he was not in good condition and this was a proof of life video we insisted on before negotiations commenced. Once having seen it, as we saw it, I'm sure there was great concern about his condition," Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois said.

Taliban video shows Bowe Bergdahl's release in Afghanistan

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, like several other senators, was skeptical the video provided enough evidence to warrant the extraordinary prisoner swap that some lawmakers called too open ended and could possibly have repercussions for American security down the road.

"You could tell he had been drugged and he was in a different state," Manchin said.

Adding later: "That did not sell me at all. The proof of life was five months ago, December ... That was not the person who was released here. He was not in that dire situation when he was released."

Opinion: Five tough ethics issues in Bergdahl swap

Others noted that it took five months for the White House to cut a deal to free Bergdhal after seeing the video.

Complex negotiations were conducted through the government of Qatar, which accepted the transfer of the five Taliban prisoners who had been held for years at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Who was swapped for Bergdahl?

Several senators said the video should be made public. It's not clear if that will happen.

The administration officials told the senators that none of the detainees in question were involved in attacks against the United States.

"I'm a little bit more reassured" of the President's decision, Kirk said, adding, however, that the administration could not guarantee that the former detainees wouldn't return to the battlefield.

Republicans and Democrats raised serious concerns more than two years ago with the administration about the possibility of such a swap but said promised consultation never materialized.

In all discussions and the private communications about such a step, there were exchanges about possible conditions placed on the detainees -- including renouncing al Qaeda and violence in the region. But those terms were not included in the final deal.

Celebrated at first, Bergdahl's release raises questions

Fellow soldiers call Bowe Bergdahl a deserter, not a hero

Bob Bergdahl journeyed deep into Afghan books, language to save his son

CNN's Dana Davidsen contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl released
updated 8:36 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
It was perhaps the most contentious moment during a House Armed Services Committee hearing filled with them.
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
Could former U.S. State Department contractor Alan Gross be part of a new prisoner swap?
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon June 9, 2014
What happened to six of Bergdahl's platoonmates in the months after he disappeared? Some are blaming their deaths on Bergdahl.
updated 7:43 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
The deaths of six U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan are being tied, directly or indirectly, to the search for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
CNN's Jake Tapper's in-depth, three-part documentary, reporting on Bergdahl's time in captivity, life before the Army and what happened the night he disappeared in Afghanistan.
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release from Taliban captivity was largely celebrated at first.
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
Alisa Weinstein was thrilled when she heard about Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release. She hopes her father will be next.
updated 4:10 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
The recent release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has refocused attention on some of the other Americans held captive in that region.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
Bob Bergdahl was startling to see and hear at first: the father had seemingly morphed into an Afghan tribesman, wearing a long beard and even speaking Pashto.
updated 9:43 PM EDT, Fri June 6, 2014
Marcus Luttrell, a fomer Navy SEAL and the author of "Lone Survivor," talks about being trapped behind enemy lines.
updated 5:00 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
Could the exchange of five Taliban prisoners for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl set a precedent for swaps involving other countries holding U.S. military or diplomatic personnel?
updated 7:19 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
President Obama defends his decision to swap imprisoned terrorists for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
updated 8:13 PM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
Veterans and soldiers call him a deserter whose "selfish act" ended up costing the lives of better men.
updated 7:14 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
People who know Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl have described him as a well-rounded, well-grounded and hardworking young man.
updated 7:55 PM EDT, Sat May 31, 2014
Together with the news that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released came word that five detainees at Guantanamo Bay were being transferred to Qatar.
updated 4:48 PM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
Guantanamo Bay detainees have long been considered America's most dangerous enemies.
updated 6:52 PM EDT, Sat May 31, 2014
The parents of U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl joined President Obama as they await their son's return.
ADVERTISEMENT