Senator Risch frustrated after classified Bergdahl briefing


by Jamie Grey

Posted on June 4, 2014 at 8:44 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 5 at 2:57 PM

BOISE -- Skepticism continues in Washington, D.C. over the deal with the Taliban that released Hailey-native Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Senators were briefed by high level officials on Wednesday evening for more than two hours. 

Since Bergdahl's release on Saturday, information has been pouring out indicating different theories about why Bergdahl was captured and the circumstances of his release. As a result, some are calling him a traitor who betrayed his country, while some maintain he's a hero who suffered five years in captivity.

On Saturday, Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said he was happy Bergdahl was free and that it should be celebrated. But he said President Barack Obama may have broken the law in releasing five Guantanamo Bay prisoners without notifying Congress 30 days in advance.

After now being in D.C. this week and being briefed in confidential Select Committee on Intelligence meetings and the full Senate briefing, he still agrees with the release, but not the process by which it happened.

"I believe Bowe Bergdahl should have been released. I've been pressing the government to do that for a long, long time. I do not agree with the deal that was made," Risch said. "I couldn't have done what the president did here. For a number of reasons. Number one was the people who were released, and number two was the conditions of Bowe's release. I still think he should have been released, and I disagree with the terms of what the president did."

Risch says most senators came to the meeting, which is unusual. He says the last time he saw this type of meeting and turnout was for Benghazi. He couldn't disclose anything in terms of new information after the meeting.

"I was deeply disappointed in the information we got, or rather didn't get," Risch said. "I really can't add much to the facts that are being talked about on the networks. What I can say is that we heard facts put out by the administration that suggest things very different from that. Unfortunately, they classified all that information, so I really can't talk about it, and it's incredibly frustrating."

Risch couldn't say what facts are different between information the media is getting from sources and what the White House is saying, or even which set of facts is correct. He's even skeptical of what he's hearing.

Additionally, Risch says it will be a long time before everything is sorted out and perhaps even longer for the public to find out.

"Everyone wants to make a judgment in their own mind and be fair about the judgment, but in order to do that, obviously you have to have the facts," he said. "There's a set of facts that are being reported that would lead people to a conclusion. That conclusion may be tempered or changed or what have you by another set of facts that are out there."

Risch says they specifically asked the military and administration officials about if there would be charges against Bergdahl or a trial and were not given an answer.
Other senators have said that during the meeting they were shown a video of Bergdahl in captivity, looking gaunt. The administration has said they made the deal because of Bergdahl's failing health.