Could face life in prison…if convicted
Last year, the United States released 5 high-profile al Qaeda commandos from the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities in exchange for the release Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl was captured by militants after he allegedly deserted his base in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan. The exchange embroiled the Obama Administration in scandal—why did we trade dangerous prisoners for the freedom of a deserter?—and the public quickly began to demand answers about what consequences should and would rain down on Bergdahl’s head.
Today, finally, the Army announced that Bergdahl has been charged with one count each of desertion and “misbehavior before the enemy.” If convicted, he could face life in prison.
More from CNN:
The Army concluded its investigation into the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture in December. Until now, it has been in the hands of Gen. Mark Milley, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, who made the decision to charge Bergdahl. Several U.S. military officials CNN has spoken with suggested privately that the process took longer than expected.
Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement, officials said Milley only had a few choices. Though the sense had been that Bergdahl must be held accountable for his actions, there had been little appetite for a lengthy term in military confinement given the five years Bergdahl was held by the Taliban.
Bergdahl, who’s now 28, was taken by the Haqqani terrorist network. But the circumstances of Bergdahl’s departure from his base and how willingly he left have not been clear.
King said he couldn’t offer those details on Wednesday, and that they’re being treated as evidence for the upcoming proceedings against Bergdahl.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Arizona, called the charges an “important step” on Wednesday.
Of course, it wouldn’t be politics if we didn’t leave the charges to the lawyers and dive into the electoral consequences of one of the Administration’s most controversial decisions.
Monica Crowley explained how this could play out today on Fox News:
Monica makes a good point—on one hand, this can be framed as old news. The prisoner trade was a terrific scandal when it first went down, but the Administration managed to feed the media beast by insisting that it didn’t count as “negotiating with terrorists” because Bergdahl was a prisoner of war. It was bad, but it could have been worse—and now we’re 9 months away from the flashpoint.
On the other hand, neither media nor activists have forgotten that we gave up 5 high-profile al-Qaeda members in exchange for Bergdahl’s freedom. If any one of those 5 prisoners reconnects with extremists in the Middle East and rejoins the fight, things will get complicated for the White House, and they’ll have to be careful to not dig themselves into a hole.
I should say, dig themselves deeper into the hole they started when they chose to make deals with extremists.DONATE
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