Oversight: A House Armed Services Committee member asks for a probe into reports that money was paid in a failed attempt to ransom alleged deserter Bowe Bergdahl. And where's that Bergdahl investigation report, anyway?
It has now been over six months since Bergdahl's May 14 release in exchange for five top Taliban commanders and a month since the administration's electoral thumping. Yet the report has still not been made public.
It presumably contains a conclusion on whether Bergdahl officially deserted and recommended punishment for any offense. It might also deal with reports of a botched cash ransom attempt.
As we noted in June, soon after his May release, Bergdahl was believed to have been held by the militant Haqqani network in the tribal area of Pakistan's northwest frontier on the Afghan border. He was picked up in eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border, by a Navy SEAL team.
The Haqqani network, while designated a terrorist organization, has been described by best-selling author Brad Thor as "80% Tony Soprano and 20% al-Qaida" — a group more interested in cash than a swap of prisoners that would benefit the Taliban.
A June report by Fox News said that a "military intelligence source" had "confirmed to Fox News that a second option (other than the Taliban prisoner trade) involving the cash payment of a ransom for Bergdahl's freedom was pursued as late as Dec. 13."
According to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., the payment attempt was made and botched.
"It has been brought to my attention that a payment was made to an Afghan intermediary who 'disappeared' with the money and failed to facilitate Bergdahl's release in return," Hunter wrote in a Nov. 4 letter to outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
As Bill Gertz reports in the Washington Free Beacon, Hagel's Nov. 21 response to Hunter was a tad equivocal. The Pentagon "did not make any payment of ransom nor make any attempt to pay ransom for the lease of Sgt. Bergdahl," Hagel said.
Hagel then added that "we have no information that any payment was made to an Afghan intermediary in exchange for facilitating Sgt. Bergdahl's release." OK, so which is it — that no ransom was paid or there's no information that a ransom was paid?
Gertz reports that Hunter also wrote to the Pentagon's inspector general, Jon Rymer, a letter that noted: "Defense officials said the payments were likely part of a $5 million fund that the commander of the U.S. Central Command has at his disposal, which can be used to pay rewards or to purchase information leading to the release of captive."
Hunter added in his Monday letter to Rymer: "While I am aware that you previously declined to investigate this matter, I respectfully request once again that your office initiate a review to determine the order of events under which payments of any type were made."
We second that request. There seems to be a lot of smoke where there's allegedly no fire, and the delay in releasing the Bergdahl report pending review is eerily reminiscent of that which took place regarding the Benghazi talking points. That process was designed to make the administration look good and less culpable.
We need to know the truth. We can handle the truth, however damning it may be to the most transparent administration in history.
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