WASHINGTON, January 26, 2015 – Retired Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer of the London Center for Policy Research told Bill O’Reilly that U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will face charges for desertion. Shaffer appeared on the Monday’s broadcast of “The O’Reilly Factor” on the Fox News Channel.
Bergdahl was part of a prisoner exchange last year, when the Obama Administration exchanged five Taliban members who were being held at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl. Bergdahl was being held captive by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network in Afghanistan for nearly five years, from June 2009 until 2014. The insurgents took Bergdahl after he disappeared from his small patrol base on June 30, 2009.
“Bill, the Army has come to its conclusion about Bowe Bergdahl,” Shaffer said, “Sgt. Bergdahl will be charged with desertion. I have been told and confirmed by two other sources that his attorney was given what we call a charge sheet. A charge sheet is results of the investigation listing out the articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that have been violated. The key violation is desertion. And this is has been done. The decision has been made. Let me be very clear. As a corporate entity, the Army has decided that they want to pursue Bergdahl for this violation.”
The accusations against Bergdahl are serious. He is facing criminal charges of desertion or going absent without leave (AWOL), a serious charge in cases where an individual intends to remain away from the military or to “shirk important duty,” including a combat deployment such as Bergdahl’s.
Desertion sentences can include a demotion in rank, forfeiture of pay and a bad-conduct discharge that takes away medical benefits. It also can lead to confinement.
But there also is precedent for President Obama to pardon Bergdahl by citing his past imprisonment at the hands of the Taliban, should he choose.
Bergdahl’s parents were vocal in their calls for the White House to negotiate his release, and appeared at the White House Rose Garden press conferences with President Obama when he announced the exchange.
There had been numerous questions about whether the Obama administration handled the prisoner swap legally and over alleged actions to keep platoon members from speaking out against Bergdahl.
Published reports are that the Government Accountability Office has determined that the Pentagon did violate the 2014 Department of Defense Appropriations Act by failing to provide Congress with the minimum 30-day notice when they agreed to the swap of five Taliban commanders detained in Guantanamo Bay in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Adminstration reports say that Bergdahl was traded under the longstanding practice of swapping prisoners of war and that negotiations over civilians held by terrorist groups are a ‘different matter’.
However, The Daily Beast has reported that before the Qatari government freed American couple Matthew and Grace Huang, the U.S. government agreed to release al Qaeda agent Ali Saleh Al-Marri from a maximum-security prison. The Huang’s had been convicted of neglecting their adopted daughter and causing her death, but an appeals court later overturned the conviction. The Qatar government refused to lift their travel ban despite the reversal of the conviction.
The Daily Beast further reports the proposed swap has been in discussion since July 2014 with the then U.S. ambassador in Qatar and another individual acting “on behalf” of the Qatar attorney general, Ali Bin Mohsen Bin Fetais Al Marri.
The Daily Beast writes that
“According to two individuals with direct knowledge of the case, the proposition was made shortly after the Obama administration traded five Taliban fighters for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Those fighters were also sent to Qatar, where they’re to remain under government watch until later this year. U.S. officials have said they’re at risk of plotting further attacks against the United States.”
From being a country that “does not negotiate with terrorists” to a country that is willing to make prisoner exchanges, many worry that the U.S. is signaling that the United States will trade American prisoners abroad for dangerous extremists held in the United States.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDunough, appearing on Fox News Sunday, said “We don’t get into negotiation with terrorists,” either through ransoms or prisoner swaps.
“This statement blatantly contradicts the fact that five terrorists were traded for Bowe Bergdahl,” Hunter told Obama. “The deck was reshuffled for all other Americans in captivity” because of the Bergdahl-Taliban trade, Hunter continued, charging that “the administration has made concessions [to terrorists], often through intermediaries–whether done through negotiations with Qatar or through information handlers.”
The White House has not made any public comment on Shaffer’s announcement regarding Bergdahl. However, a State Department spokesman said that “no such proposal was ever on the table” in reference to A-Marri.
Official statements from a spokesperson from the Bureau or Prisons are that Marri, who served 87 of his 100 month sentence, was given a “good conduct release” from the “supermax” facility in Florence, Colorado, on Jan. 16,
Marri accumulated credit for good behavior while in prison and time already served in jail while awaiting trial, which is why he did not serve the remainder of his time. Officials say he was sent home to Qatar as scheduled, “and not as the result of any U.S.-Qatari agreement.”