House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said one key questions for administration officials on the Bowe Bergdahl swap will be whether medical professionals reviewed the proof-of-life tape to ascertain that the Army sergeant’s health was in danger.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Defense Department general counsel Stephen Preston are scheduled to testify before McKeon’s committee on Wednesday.
McKeon was in a closed-door House briefing yesterday on the trade of Bergdahl for five Taliban commanders. He called the latest informational sessions hosted by administration officials “disturbing” because the number of people who knew about the swap is “a little inflexible.”
“This is the second briefing I’ve had, and this time they were able to narrow it down to 80 or 90 people from various departments in the administration that knew about this or various parts of this, and yet not one member of Congress was informed,” he told CNN. “And we passed a law last year that said that before they would transfer any prisoners out of Guantanamo, they would give us a 30-day notice. We got the notice Saturday after the exchange was made.”
McKeon said the last question asked at the briefing led administration officials to pin the final greenlighting of the operation on Hagel.
“The answer was Secretary Hagel, which kind of surprised me, because I did see the president out there with the Bergdahls, sounded like he was taking full credit for the operation, and now they are saying that Secretary Hagel made the decision, probably parsing of words or probably maybe now that there’s a little pushback or, I don’t know, I don’t know who’s in charge or who’s making the decisions. It did seem to me that it was the president, and that was the emphasis up until this briefing, and now they are saying Secretary Hagel,” the chairman said.
McKeon added if the administration is throwing out numbers of how many people knew about the leak, “they should be able to tell us the names.”
“My question to them was, if you don’t know who knew, then how could you, if a leak had happened and the sergeant had been killed, how could you go back and find out who leaked?” he said.
In the proof-of-life video that the administration is citing as a justification to go ahead with the swap without notifying Congress, the congressman said Bergdahl was sitting and “just kind of mumbling.”
“If he was talking, the volume wasn’t high enough that I could hear,” he said, adding the video was “very short.”
“I understand that Senator Coburn indicated that he may have been drugged. He is a physician, would be better able to make that judgment. I’m not prepared to make the judgment,” McKeon continued.
“One of the questions I want to ask, though, is, did they have a physician, did they have a psychologist look at this, or did they — somebody just made a decision based on that, or were other reasons for the decision? I really don’t know, that’s why we’re having the hearing, that’s why we’re going to have an investigation into this.”