CAPITOL HILL— U.S. lawmakers differed sharply after getting a classified briefing from the Obama administration on the prisoner swap that freed U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from five years of Taliban captivity. The entire Senate met behind closed doors with senior State Department, Pentagon and intelligence officials.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio emerged from the hour-long briefing unswayed by the administration's arguments for releasing five Taliban militants to secure Bergdahl’s freedom.
“I remain increasingly convinced from everything we have been presented that these five individuals that have been released will soon return to the fight against America. The president has now set a precedent that will encourage enemies of the United States to target American men and women in uniform - to capture them in order to carry out a similar exchange in the future," said Rubio.
Rubio added that he believes the administration violated U.S. law by failing to notify Congress prior to the prisoner swap.
Senators said they were shown a classified video of Bergdahl that the Taliban provided to U.S. negotiators. Those images give credence to the administration’s contention that the sergeant’s declining health made securing his release a matter of urgency, according to Democratic Senator Richard Durbin.
“The video made it clear this man was not in a good condition. This was a proof-of-life video before the negotiations commenced. And having seen it, as we saw it, I am sure there was great concern about his [Bergdahl’s] condition," said Durbin.
Durbin added that the administration was working on what he termed a “sound premise."
“Bergdahl was brought home because of our promise to everyone who serves our country: we will not leave you behind, we will bring you home if we can possibly do it. It was a very complex negotiation [[with the Taliban]]. It was a last-minute negotiation," he said.
Republican Senator Mark Kirk said lawmakers pressed U.S. officials about widespread reports that Bergdahl wandered away from his post prior to being taken by the Taliban. Earlier in the day, U.S. Army chief Raymond Odierno promised a thorough, transparent and complete review of the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s capture.
Meanwhile, the Idaho hometown of Bergdahl has canceled a rally planned to celebrate his release after nearly five years of captivity, amid growing questions about the circumstances of the soldier’s capture.
Organizers Wednesday said the small mountain community of 8,000 people lacks the resources to host the thousands of people, supporters and protesters expected at the event because of national media attention on Bergdahl's story.