Despite the outpouring of information about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's physical condition before his release over the last 24 hours, the Pentagon is remaining mum about a 2010 investigation that concluded that he walked away from his unit.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has pressed the Obama administration and the military for information about Bergdahl dating back to 2011, when the administration first approached key members of Congress about the the idea of a prisoner swap.
He requested the military's classified file on Bergdahl back in 2011, and the military gave him a file to review that he says did not include information about charges that Bergdahl deserted and was unsympathetic to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
Back in 2011, Chambliss said only he was allowed to review the classified file and not any members of his staff. This week he said he has asked to see the file again and so far the Pentagon has not responded to that request, among others he has made this week regarding the Bergdahl matter, according to a knowledgeable GOP aide.
A Pentagon spokesman did not respond to a Washington Examiner inquiry about the file and Chambliss' request.
In an interview with Fox News Tuesday night, Chambliss said he was “shocked” to see press accounts of fellow soldiers charging Bergdahl with desertion and news that he left a note in his tent the night he left his post saying he was disgusted with the American mission in Afghanistan and wanted to renounce his American citizenship.
The reports cited a former military official familiar with the investigation and the contents of the note.
“The Army did do an investigation of Sgt. Bergdahl, and when we, the intelligence committee were first apprised by the administration that there might be a potential swap of prisoners for Sgt. Bergdahl, I asked for a copy of the file and I reviewed the file,” he said.
“And I could tell you that the article in the New York Times today shocked me,” he said. “This note that he supposedly left that indicated that he was sympathetic to the Taliban and unsympathetic to the American interest in the conflict was not included in that file, and I'm very surprised by that because normally these classified files are pretty informative.”
“I have no explanation for it — like I said I was shocked today,” he added.
Bergdahl also left behind his weapons but took along a backpack, water, knives and a notebook. The Army then spent months in a futile search for him that may have resulted in soldiers' deaths. The military has yet to confirm whether soldiers died in efforts to locate and rescue Bergdahl.
Bergdahl disappeared June 30, 2009, from Paktika province in Afghanistan where he was stationed. Several media outlets, including the Associated Press and the Washington Post, reported that a Pentagon investigation concluded in 2010 that evidence was “incontrovertible” that he walked away from his unit and cited a former Pentagon official familiar with the report and was present for the some of the interviews with fellow soldiers who served with Bergdahl.
The military's investigation was more expansive than a criminal inquiry, the Washington Post reported on Monday. The investigation didn't formally accuse Bergdahl of desertion but included interviews with members of his unit describing him as a “delusional” person who thought he could assist the Afghan people by leaving his post.
The Obama administration said Thursday the Taliban threatened to kill Bergdahl if news of his pending swap for five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay leaked or became public. A senior administration official said Thursday that a U.S. authorities came to the determination that Bergdahl did not look well in a video of him they received from his captors in January.
The official said the administration could not disclose specifics of what it told senators in a classified briefing Wednesday evening, but offered a broad view of the information shared regarding Bergdahl's health and threats to his life.
“We are able to say that the senators were told, separate and apart from Sergeant Bergdahl’s apparent deterioration in health, that we had both specific and general indications that Sergeant Bergdahl's recovery — and potentially his life — could be jeopardized if the detainee exchange proceedings were disclosed or derailed,” the official said.
The military's top officer, Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that the Army was still looking into the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's “capture” and would “would not look away from misconduct, if it occurred.”
“The questions about this particular soldier’s conduct are separate from our effort to recover ANY U.S. service member in enemy captivity. This was likely the last, best opportunity to free him,” Dempsey wrote on his Facebook page.
“As for the circumstances of his capture, when he is able to provide them, we’ll learn the facts. Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family,” Dempsey wrote.