A Maryland Democrat is calling on President Obama to not only declassify details of the Bowe Bergdahl swap, but be forthcoming about efforts to secure the release of two of his home-staters held abroad.
Warren Weinstein of Rockville, Md., was working as a contractor in Lahore, Pakistan, when he was kidnapped in August 2011 by al-Qaeda gunmen. Alan Gross of Potomac, Md., was working as a USAID subcontractor when he was imprisoned by Cuba in December 2009.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said in Bergdahl’s case there “has been a rush to judgment by individuals without all the facts.”
“For this reason, I urge President Obama to move quickly to declassify as much material as possible to help all of us gain a better understanding of Sgt. Bergdahl’s capture and recent release, and the circumstances concerning the detainees who were transferred to Qatar. I would encourage the public and my fellow lawmakers to wait for all the facts to come out before we begin to draw conclusions,” Cardin said today.
But separately from Bergdahl, Cardin wants updates on what the administration is doing to bring home other Americans.
Weinstein and Gross, he noted, “are being held under different circumstances but deserve every effort so they too can return home to their families.”
“For years now, I have been raising their cases at the highest levels possible. I’d like to know how we can expedite the freedom of these two Americans,” Cardin added.
Gross turned 65 last month, a birthday his family fears might be his last.
Gross had wrapped up work on a project to increase Internet access and connectivity at Cuban synagogues when he was seized the night before he was to return home. He spent 14 months behind bars before any charges were filed, then in March 2011 was quickly tried and convicted of “acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the state” for distributing cell phones and other communications equipment as part of the USAID project.
He was sentenced to 15 years behind bars. Gross, who recently completed a nine-day hunger strike, told his attorney that this will be the last birthday he spends in prison, one way or another.
Weinstein was last seen in a December proof-of-life video, pleading Obama to help him.
“You are now in your second term as president of the United States and that means that you can take hard decisions without worrying about reelection,” he said. “I hope and pray to God that you, as leader of the United States, along with your administration, will feel an adequate level of responsibility toward me and work for my release.”
Gaunt in a gray track jacket and black beanie, Weinstein said he worried every day about his wife, Elaine, and family, and appealed to Obama as a “family man” to not forget him.
He stressed that he came to Pakistan to help the U.S. government “at a time when most Americans would not come here.”
“And now, when I need my government, it seems I have been totally abandoned,” he added.