U.S. House Republicans accused the Obama administration of misleading Congress about its efforts to release five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for captive U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a report released Thursday, the same day it was announced the soldier's case would be the topic of a popular podcast.
The report by Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee said the Obama administration also did not comply with a law that requires Congress be given a 30-day notice about transferring detainees from the prison.
In the Bergdahl exchange, the report said, the Taliban leaders were told of their release two days before the Pentagon told congressional leaders about the exchange. Also, it said the five men were put on a plane to Qatar less than three hours after Bergdahl was released.
Republican Representative Mac Thornberry, the committee's chairman, said in a statement that Congress was also misled about the status of negotiations before the prisoner transfer.
"In the months preceding the Taliban Five transfer, the administration did not communicate any of the specifics or contemplated courses of action to the committee, and the information it did convey was misleading and obfuscatory," the report said.
The report focuses more on the deal surrounding the five Taliban prisoners and how Qatar will monitor them rather than Bergdahl's case.
Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban shortly after walking away from his remote Afghanistan outpost June 30, 2009. He was held captive, abused and tortured for nearly five years, before being freed in the prisoner exchange May 31, 2014.
Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, is currently an active duty soldier with a clerical job in Texas. He was charged this past March with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy - a charge that carries up to life in prison.
However, his status remains in question, with an Army officer having recommended Bergdahl's case be referred to a special court martial, which is a misdemeanor-level forum.
The five former Taliban leaders remain in Qatar, where they are prohibited from leaving the country or re-engaging in militant activities.
Committee Republicans said in the report they do "not have confidence" the Department of Defense has not established who will be responsible for making sure Qatar monitors the activities of the five released men.
White House response
The White House did not have an immediate response to the report.
At the time of the exchange, the administration said negotiations were tenuous and they feared any leak of information would threaten Bergdahl's life.
In their rebuttal, the Democratic members of the committee agreed that the Defense Department should have heeded the 30-day notice requirement, but they called the report "unbalanced" and "partisan."
The 98-page report provides details about the Defense Department's work with the Qataris, and includes information from classified interviews, more than 4,000 pages of written material, trips to Qatar and Guantanamo Bay, and the review of several hours of classified video about the preparations for the transfer.
Subject of podcast
Meanwhile, Bergdahl's case will be the subject for the second season of the popular podcast Serial.
Bergdahl was interviewed by filmmaker Mark Boal. Excerpts of those telephone interviews - his first public telling of what he went through - will be used in the podcast.
In the first episode, Bergdahl said he left his base tohighlight poor leadership within his unit. He also said he wanted to prove he was like fictional CIA movie spy Jason Bourne.
"Doing what I did was me saying I am like Jason Bourne," Bergdahl told Boal in one call, referring to the CIA assassin played by Matt Damon in a string of Hollywood action thrillers.
"I had this fantastic idea that I was going to prove to the world that I was the real thing, that I could be what it is that all those guys out there who go to the movies and watch those movies, they want to be that," he said.
Sarah Koenig, host and creator of the podcast that is a spinoff of the radio show This American Life, said the show has interviewed former soldiers who were deployed with Bergdahl and the Taliban, with the second episode of the podcast presenting the Taliban's version of events.
In the first episode, Bergdahl said he was held at times in basement-style rooms with no light.
"There's times when I'd wake up and it's just so dark, like I would wake up and not even remembering like what I was," he said. "You're standing in this blackened, dirt room that's tiny and just on the other side of that flimsy wooden door that you could probably easily rip off the hinges is the entire world out there, it is everything that you're missing."
Serial's first season was a huge hit that resulted in a Maryland court giving its subject, a man convicted of murdering his girlfriend in 1999, a chance to appeal his sentence.
Some material for this report came from AP and AFP.