tv At This Hour With Berman and Michaela CNN June 11, 2014 8:00am-9:01am PDT
conflict with the taliban ends. at that point, for those detainees that are being held as enemy belligerents against our enemy, the taliban, unless there is an additional basis for holding them, we would no longer have that international law basis for holding them. it's been suggested that taliban may also be candidates to be held as associates of al qaeda as the conflict with al qaeda continues. >> the point mr. smith made is this conflict may not end in december just because the majority of our troops are pulled out. >> that is my understanding as well, sir. >> we thought the conflict was over in iraq and we see that it is not. that it continues to go on. the second thing.
i may have left the wrong impression when i was talking to the secretary saying that if you had given the same report that that probably would have solved everything. we still have big concerns about the five and i didn't mention that when we were briefed in november of '11 and january of '12, that there was real concern of members of congress that those five would be released. there was real opposition to it. that's why we're very concerned we weren't told other than if we reenter those negotiations we would be told and then we weren't. those are things that we really need to have clarified and work through. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. secretary, i would like to just begin with a brief additional observation on the notification issue. for the past several years, this committee has worked on a
bipartisan basis to establish an oversight structure for cyber operations, for terrorism operations, and for sensitive military operations. and after oversight structure that allows the department to have the flexibility it needs to operate in a volatile, rapidly changing world and still give us the ability to exercise our duties under the constitution. now, the basis for all of those in all three of those areas is that we get timely, accurate information from the department. and this failure even if it was ordered by the white house, undermines the ability to have that sort of oversight structure. i've been a member of the intelligence committee for ten years. our work depends on getting accurate, timely information from the intelligence community. if the president can violate the law and say no in this case we're not going to give you the information, it undermines the oversight process that we have
with the intelligence community. so my point to you is it's not just about this incident. it's not just about somebody having their feelings hurt. this decision undermines a lot of the working relationship in all these areas of national security. i think it's important that the whole administration understands some of the ramifications of this. let me ask a specific question. press reports indicate that sergeant bergdahl was captured by haqqani network commander and was held by the haqqani network. is that true? >> i would prefer we get into the specifics of that report that was done on circumstances at the time of sergeant bergdahl's capture. i believe that was done in august of 2009. that's been sent up here
unredacted. sent up here yesterday. i would just as soon get into that in a classified briefing. i would say this though. i would say this. he was in that report that the army did, he was classified as missing/captive. >> i wasn't really focused on the charge. i'm trying to verify as i understand it, administration people have said clearly it was the haqqani network that kept him. >> well, the haqqani network did have him through periods of time. this was another complication over a five-year period he was moved around. we had difficulty finding him and knowing where he was. different groups held him. the complication of the
being part of this. we didn't negotiate with haqqani. >> okay. i think that's a subject we'll want to discuss more if we must in the classified session. i think who held him -- >> i want to make sure the record is clear on that. we engaged the qataries and they engaged the taliban. now, if the haqqani were subcontracting to the taliban or whatever that relationship is, you know the pakistan taliban and the afghan taliban there's a difference there. we get back into definitions of who has responsibility for whom. i just want to make sure that's clear on the record and we can go into more detail later. >> i think you just pointed out some of the difficulty in making
cat categorical statements. let me ask one more thing. the five detainees that were released, you said that there's always some risk associated with releasing someone from guantanamo but you also said that they have not been implicated in any attacks on the united states. i have unclassified summary of evidence before the combatant statement review. the detainees engaged in activities against the united states and coalition partners. for one it says detainee participated in military operations against the coalition. so at least at some point there was evidence they were involved in hostilities, military operations against the coalition, weren't there?
>> yes. they were mid to high ranking members of the taliban government. so, yes, they were part of planning. my point was we have no direct evidence of any direct involvement in their direct attacks on the united states or any troops. they were part of the taliban at the time. they were combatants. >> your point is they didn't pull the trigger but they were senior commanders of the taliban military who directed operations against the united states and its coalition partners. would that be a better way to do it? >> that's right. as i said in my statement, congressman, they were combatants. we were at war with the taliban. there is no getting around that. i made that point pretty clearly. >> just like bin laden didn't
pull a trigger but we went after him because he's the one that caused the 9/11. ms. davis. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you both for being here. mr. secretary, i do think your presentation did provide us additional ways of looking at the discussion. i understand how people feel. i wanted to have an opportunity to just look at that issue and whether or not the circumstances under which he was captured or the fact regardless of whether or not his life was in danger would have made any difference in terms of the 30-day notice.
difficult to imagine that members would have included that within the language of that bill. to what extent were those situations weighing on the decision of whether or not to engage in that discussion during the imminent danger period? >> all of those were factors that we had to consider as we were think iing through this. his deteriorating health which was clear to us from the last proof of life video that we had. uncertainty of where he was and who exactly held him. again, i remind everybody that this service member was held in difficult circumstances for almost five years. we don't have facts of that
until he gets back and we're able to get the facts. the urgency of getting him, the fleeting opportunity that was made clear to us by qataries. mr. preston was there through those. all of these were factors. concern about leaks. we were warned about them. all of these different dimensions we had to think through. we had information to support this. this effort might be the last real effort that we have to get him back. there were too many things floating around that we didn't control. we had to factor in all of those. >> did you have any other -- did you entertain other approaches to his rescue that you were
looking at at that particular time and why were any of those not followed? >> congresswoman, we were, as i said in my statement, since the time he went missing, we were looking at different ways to get him back. our combatant commanders were always looking at plans, possibilities, options, rescue missions and so on. as i said in my remarks, we had to factor in the risk to our other forces to go get him and if he was in pakistan, we know he was moved in and out across the border. that would also affect some different dimensions. yes. we looked at all of the options. at all of the possibilities. up until this last time when we got him, in our opinion, our
intelligence community's opinion, our military, everyone who was involved, this was the best possibility that we had to get him out and we were concerned we might lose him. as i gave you some dimension of the time frame, we didn't even know where we were going to pick him up. it was less than an hour. >> and the detainees, was it always this five or were there others? >> it started with six, some of you may recall. one of them died. and there have been back and forth, they wanted all of the taliban detainees at one point. we said no. so this is part of the whole engagement of what we need to do and where we draw lines saying no. we're not going to do this. there were different variations
of that engagement over the years. >> all right. thank you. thank you, mr. secretary. >> mr. jones. >> mr. chairman, thank you very much. secretary hagel, mr. preston, good to see both of you. thank you for being here today. mr. secretary, on june 1, you were on "meet the press" and expressed home that release of sergeant bergdahl would lead to talks with the taliban. the taliban said there would be no peace with afghan government, with the united states or any foreign presence as long as troops remain in afghanistan and prisoners are detained at guantanamo bay. they have repeated these statements time and time again and have proven they do not desire peace with the united states or its allies. with this known, why did you at
that point on "meet the press" express hope -- we can all have hope -- that the release of the sergeant would lead to some type of direct negotiations with the united states and do you today feel that that is still a real possibility and maybe there's something you want to say in classified setting that you can't say here today, but this to me, your statement was received by many of the people that i represent in the third district of north carolina that maybe there was in negotiation about the sergeant that maybe there was some signals sent to you, sir, or to the administration that there might be a opportunity for direct negotiations with the taliban. knowing the history of the taliban, knowing how they fault the russians, alexander the
great, the brits and fighting the americans, i would hope that maybe you do know something that you can share with us if not in a public setting but in a private setting, can you comment, sir? >> congressman jones, thank you. good to see you again. first, as you know, the position of the united states government regarding the taliban has always been we support a reconciliation between the afghan government and the taliban. that's been a general position as you know. as to the specific answer i gave on "meet the press," it was to a specific question related to sergeant bergdahl's release. i don't recall exactly the question. if i can piece it together enough to respond, i think the question was set up, could this lead to talks with the taliban
or reconciliation? as you quoted me, i said, well, i hope, maybe, whatever. but, no, that wasn't any direct hint or wink or possibility that i know something that that's going to happen. i would also remind us again that if you recall some of you do because you were in some of these briefings, in the 2011-2012 time frame, i wasn't in this job at the time, but i looked at the files on this. i have seen it all. there was a larger scope and frame work of a larger reconciliation which included bergdahl's release. but the current situation that we were in was a straight get bergdahl. now, that doesn't dismiss,
congressman, the hope that there can be some possibility of the afghan government and taliban finding a reconciliation somehow, some way, in no way was i intending to imply in that answer that there is something else going on here. my interest was taliban history does not seem they want to see a foreign presence that's going to influence the future of their country. i was hopeful in negotiations for the sergeant that maybe there had been some signal sent that may have been shared and again if there has been, maybe you could through your staff or maybe in classified setting let me know that there are some possibilities because my marines down in camp lejeune are tired
of going to afghanistan and getting their legs blown off. thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> we will, congressman jones. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. secretary and mr. preston, i want to thank you for being here today and for your testimony. as we were reminded just yesterday with the loss of five american special operating forces, afghanistan obviously remains very dangerous and a battlefield for our voluntary military. i join many of my colleagues of course in expressing gratitude at the return of american prisoner of war and the return of any u.s. service member from enemy captivity should be a priority for his or her fellow soldiers and of course for our country. sergeant bergdahl is an american soldier and we are certainly grateful that he has been freed.
that said, this whole situation raises many troubling concerns and among them of course this committee has significant oversight role and legitimate questions regarding congressional notification as well as long-term incentives for the taliban and al qaeda. certainly significant personnel and other resources have been expended to conduct what could result in a dangerous and disturbing incentives on the battlefield. as one taliban commander said, i quote, it has encouraged our people. now everybody will work hard to capture such an important bird. end quote. mr. secretary, how do you anticipate this transfer will impact the incentives and behavior for the taliban and al qaeda? are we prepared to counter any new behavior?
>> congressman, i would answer this way. first, i think everyone on this committee knows, some more than others who served in war, that war is a dangerous business. a soldier is always at risk. that's number one. two, you know the taliban has standing orders to capture american service members and that's a standing order for years. there's nothing new here about where the taliban have been and where they continue to be. now that we have our last prisoner back, this very much gives us more flexibility quite frankly to free up resources that every day we were thinking about our commanders on the ground and that area. if we have the opportunity, how
can we get bergdahl? now that he's back, that frees up that obligation. i think that actually strengthens the point. and the last point i would make, i mentioned this in my comments and again those who served in uniform on this committee know this. pretty basic to military. i expressed it in different ways by quoting different senior members of our military and retired. to have our men and women in uniform all over the world who some are more at risk than others every day, to have them be reassured that this country will come get them or will make every effort to go get them, it has to be pretty significant. and i was told that by all of our commanders. it can be issues on the specifics of sergeant bergdahl
but that's irrelevant quite frankly. he was a member of our armed forces and we went and got him back after five years. i think that's pretty significant. and i think it also falls into the category of your question in answering that question. thank you. >> mr. secretary, thank you for that answer. as chairman and ranking member, i mentioned in their opening statements questions about sergeants bergdahl's conduct should be addressed with due process at the appropriate time. could you settle one conflicting report in terms of regarding the number of the loss of soldiers involved in searches for sergeant bergdahl.
>> i think we should note any loss of soldier is a terrible loss to our country. your question has been asked a number of times. i personally have gone back. i have seen no evidence that directly links any american combat death to the rescue or finding or search of sergeant bergdahl. i have a asked the question. we've all asked the question. no facts presented to me when i asked that question. >> you said there is nothing new here. the taliban is always out to capture us. isn't there one thing new that we have now made a trade for a hostage?
>> he was a prisoner of war. that's not new. >> have we made other trades with the taliban? >> with the taliban, i don't know. i don't think so. mr. forbes? >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. secretary, thank you for being here and mentioning the need for transparency. you talked about inability to prosecute individuals that were released, this administration has not had a stellar record on prosecution of people at gitmo when you look at the fact that the lead prosecutor for the 9/11 terrorists had specifically said that he would have had a guilty plea out of all of them within six months and this administration came in and shut down his prosecution, destroyed all of his pretrial work and we've been five years and still haven't brought them to trial. secondly, i don't think even you would argue that the conversations that took place in 2011 complied with the law. basically what we're trying to get across is we're a nation of
laws. you can't pick and choose because they are convenient or not convenient which ones we're going to enforce and which ones we aren't. the third thing is -- you said this. there are limits to trades that we would make and some where we draw the line. i want to talk about where we drew the line. the individuals we released were equivalent to releasing a deputy secretary of defense, a deputy secretary of intelligence, a deputy secretary of interior, a governor and a commander. when the president was asked if there was a possibility of them returning to activities that are detrimental to the u.s., his answer was absolutely. our deputy director of national intelligence was even harsher. he said the latest community-wide u.s. intelligence assessment on these five terrorists said he expected four out of the five taliban leaders would return to the battlefield. this assessment was in accord with the 2008 pentagon dossier that all five individuals released were considered to be high risk to launch attacks
against the united states and its allies if they were liberated. you state in your testimony that if any of these detainees ever tried to rejoin the fight, they would be doing so at their own peril. so my first question to you is does this mean you would put american lives at risk to go after them? >> congressman, we have american lives at risk every day. >> not for individuals we released and put out there. would we put american lives at risk to capture them if they rejoin the fight. >> let me remind you of the other pieces you didn't mention in our analysis of these five. the intelligence community has said clearly that these five are not a threat to the homeland. >> mr. secretary, you have said in here that if they rejoin the fight, they do it at their own peril. >> in afghanistan. >> my question is a simple one.
would we put american lives at risk to go after them? yes or no. >> we have american lives put at risk. >> i understand that. my question is would we put american lives at risk to go after these individuals if they rejoin the fight? >> yes. >> okay. if that's the case, let me ask you two other questions. >> you could use the same argument on yemen or anywhere else. >> not because of individuals we released. the second question i would ask you is two parts. in the calculation you made would you make an assessment of the number of lives put at risk in capturing these individuals in the first place and an assessment of the number of american lives put at risk if we have to recapture them again? >> again, i saw no evidence, no facts, i asked the question
about how these five found their way to guantanamo and i have in front of me the facts on the five. two of them were detained by u.s. forces. >> secretary, i understand that. i understand -- i only have 50 seconds left. >> the answer is no. >> you didn't make a -- >> i said the answer is you asked if there were lives lost in capturing these. >> you said no. >> i have no direct evidence that there -- >> did you make an assessment of how many american lives may be put at risk if they have to be recaptured? >> no. >> okay. >> there's risk we have to our country threats to our country every day everywhere. and the other point i would make on this, we determine that there was a substantial mitigation of risk for this country, for our interests and our citizens and
our service members when we made this decision. >> that just flies -- >> we were satisfied that we could make that determination. >> it just flies in the face of all of the other evidence we have and with that i yield back. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman, secretary hagel and mr. preston. thank you for appearing today and providing us with your testimony. secretary hagel, i appreciate the detailed information that you had in your statement and i support your position. i do appreciate also your continued commitment to our men and women in uniform and your steadfast leadership during these challenging times. my first question is for you, mr. secretary. what impact would sergeant bergdahl's continued imprisonment, if we had not engaged in his exchange, had on the security situation in
afghanistan as we drawdown forces? did his continued imprisonment create a heightened security threat to our men and women in uniform? >> well, in a sense, congresswoman, as i answered in a previous question about putting at risk american lives to capture, not to capture but to get him back, and to do that if it would have taken another course of action or if we would have taken another option. that would have put our men and women at risk. our men and women are at risk carrying out this one mission but it was done the right way. i don't think again that effort has gotten enough attention. this was all done in less than 60 seconds. not one death. not one issue. not one problem.
i have seen very little recognition of that given to our forces by anybody. that was a significant effort by our armed forces knowing as little as they did but planning it as well as they did and having the outcome as positive as it was. so thank you. >> i agree. my next question is for mr. preston. with the heightened media attention, how will you ensure sergeant bergdahl receives a fair investigation? >> thank you. we will pursue our usual policies and practices with respect to investigations and follow actions. a key element of that is avoiding what is referred to as unlawful or undue command influence so you will see that the leadership military and civilian at the department have been entirely neutral in their
discussion of this and focused on ensuring due process without prejudging what the outcome should be one way or the other. those dealing with sergeant bergdahl more directly and the army more generally are, i believe, sensitive to ensuring that in the process of bringing him home, restoring him to health, debriefing him from intelligence purposes, and then ultimately reviewing the circumstances of his capture, that fairness be preserved and that his rights be preserved. >> thank you. my final question is for secretary hagel. prior to securing the recovery of sergeant bergdahl, had you received correspondents from members of congress requesting that you take action to obtain sergeant bergdahl's release? >> yes. >> thank you.
>> thank you. mr. miller. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, mr. secretary, for being here. i look at your testimony on the third page it says that we complied with the national defense authorization act of 2014. did you or did you not notify congress within the 30-day time frame, yes or no? >> no. >> that was yes or no. does theed aati administration to violate that in future transfers? >> not unless there is an extraordinary set of circumstances like this one where we would be in a position to make a call like that. >> will you assure this committee that the department will not proceed with future detainee transfers without notifying congress consistent with the law? >> we have, i believe, before my
time in every circumstance except this one. again, we intend to continue to do that. >> you were part of the legislative branch as a member of the united states senate. we make the laws. you're part of the executive branch now, which the responsibility is to enforce the law. who's responsibility is to to interpret the law? is it the president's responsibility or is it the courts? >> the courts. >> then why did the president make the decision or you make the decision not to notify congress? >> we believed and the justice department office of legal counsel told the president that he had the constitutional authority to do that. he had under his constitutional powers the authority to make the decision that he did. >> you said that you would put american lives at risk if the taliban prisoners that were swapped in the secret deal would rejoin the fight if they rejoined the fight in afghanistan.
what if they rejoin it from somewhere else. they don't have to be on the battlefield in afghanistan. certainly we would pursue them wherever they are. >> we would do everything we needed to do to deal with that threat as we are doing today. >> your testimony is we're doing everything we can -- >> to deal with threats to the united states of america whether they're in afghanistan or they're in yemen or they're in homeland defense. it isn't just limited to afghanistan. the threats that face this country. >> mr. secretary, you keep saying we can't get the facts from sergeant bergdahl until he returns home. have you ever thought about talking to him in germany? >> i don't know how much medical training you had, congressman. i haven't had much. what we're doing is we're allowing -- >> i tell you what. mr. secretary, wait a minute.
wait a minute. why haven't he been returned to the united states? we have seriously wounded soldiers that have returned to the united states almost immediately after they are stabilized. how long did jessica lynch wait before she was returned to the united states? you're trying to tell me that he's being held in germany because of his medical condition? >> congressman, i hope you're not implying anything other than that. the fact -- >> i'm just asking the question. >> i'll give you an answer. i don't like the implication of the question. he's being held there because our medical professionals don't believe he's ready until they believe he's ready to take the next step to rehabilitation. >> have you ever seen a injured service member brought to the united states immediately upon being stabilized? we do it all the time. >> this isn't just about a physical situation, congressman.
this guy was held for almost five years in god knows what kind of conditions. we do know some of the conditions from our intelligence community. not by the way from bergdahl. this is not just about can he get on his feet and walk and get to a plane. >> he cannot be questioned because of his condition? >> i'm telling you that the medical professions that rely on their judgment for his health, which i assume everybody respects, have made the determination and will make the determination that when he is ready to move and move to the next step, which most likely in san antonio, then we can proceed. that's what i'm saying. >> one other question. why is the army just now reviewing the circumstances of sergeant bergdahl's capture? >> they're not. i said in my testimony and i said in my comments, they did it back after he went missing. in 2009. that report was filed, completed
by the general who is now our commanding general in korea in august of 2009. that report review complete not redacted was sent up to the hill yesterday to the committee. you're welcome to read it. >> thank you. >> that will be made available to all members in a proper setting to review. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank witnesses for being here today and secretary hagel for your powerful testimony which laid out the fact that this is not every choice in your choice is clear and you have to lay out factors. when you were deciding this back on may 27th, i mean, it wasn't like you had a lot of other options. there was no plan b or plan c that was sitting on your desk in
terms of how to get this american soldier back in our jurisdiction, isn't that correct? >> that's exactly correct. >> there are members on some of the shows saying that we should have sent special forces in to get him. we actually were not totally clear about where he was so there wasn't a place to send special forces to recover him. in terms of the risk mitigation of the five transferees that if they do get back into the c confli conflict, they do so at their own peril. secretary kerry made the comment that it's not like we are totally without options to raise their risks in terms of getting back involved in the fight. they don't always involve the
use of military personnel. we've always been over to afghanistan, most of us, and have seen the availability of unmanned assets that we have to take out targets that have been identified through the chain of command, isn't that correct? >> that's correct. >> and certainly that would be available to us again if a situation arose that would not put soldiers or airmen or anyone necessarily at risk? >> that's right. >> mr. preston, we've been sort of talking about the legal sort of consultation that was going on with your office and the department of justice during that five or six-day period when the decisions were being made. did doj address in terms of the legal opinions that you were given the question of consultation with congress? the 30-day requirement?
>> yes, sir. the administration sought the guidance from the department of justice on the applicability and impact of the 30-day notice requirement under the circumstances and received guidance from the department of justice. >> was that in writing? >> it was not by means of a formal memorandum opinion but rather by e-mail exchange. >> i know the chairman mentioned that he has requests from the committee for documents, which it sounds like are going to be forthcoming. i assume that's one of the requests in terms of any sort of legal analysis that you requested and received or offered from doj, that would be one of the documents you would share with us. i hope you would. >> we'll certainly take that back. i'm sure we appreciate that
there's interest and we certainly want to make sure that interested members fully understand the legal basis on which the administration acted. as for disposition of the document, we'll take that back. >> thank you. again, i'll follow-up with the chairman. i think it is important that if department claimed constituti constitutional authorities in terms of that issue, we would like to see that analysis. and with that i would yield back, mr. chairman. >> gentleman, yields back. mr. preston, when did you consult the doj on the 30-day notification? on what day was that? >> mr. chairman, i don't remember the precise date. it was in the time frame in which we completed our
discussions with the qataries over the mou but before it was signed. we anticipated that these issues would rise and i engaged in my counterpart at the national security council who in turn engaged with the department of justice to ask them to consider the legal and constitutional implications in this setting. do you recall last week how you and other members of the administration were briefing the staff. >> while the chairman is doing a follow-up question with the legal adviser over the department of defense. we'll take a quick break and resume our extensive coverage of this important hearing right after this.
welcome back. i'm wolf blitzer in washington. we're continuing our special coverage of the house armed services committee hearing on the bowe bergdahl transfer. the freedom of sergeant bowe bergdahl in exchange for five taliban detainees who had been held at guantanamo bay. they are now in qatar. david gergen is former presidential adviser and also one of our senior political analysts. they are going through a sensitive issue right now, david, over whether or not the obama administration broke the law by not notifying congress within 30 days that these five taliban detainees were about to be released. whether this was just an accident and now steven preston is the legal adviser at the
department of defense says this was a conscientious decision not to notify the legislative branch and it was reviewed by the justice department. there was a legal opinion the president was not breaking the law. your thoughts? >> wolf, i think the administration is making a case that, look, we didn't comply with the law that was rwritten but within the constitutional law of the president. there is a suspicion among many members of congress that the reason they didn't come and consult with them is they thought they would get blowback and a negative hostile reaction it would make it difficult to proceed and might well leak. overall, i have to say, i think the administration must be asking itself if they wouldn't have been better off right from the beginning to make chuck hagel their point man and make the arguments about what they did. this is so much more effective. more reason. more balance. more realistic than a celebration notice rose garden and early comments that helped to ignite this storm. >> so your conclusion, they
didn't notify the chairman of the house and intelligence committee or speaker of the house because they were afraid they would get negative reaction and they didn't want to hear that in advance? is that what you're saying? >> i've heard that more on the senate side than the house side but that that suspicion exists. nobody pinned that down. you know, when they first went to the senate in 2011 and 2012, there was real pushback from dianne feinstein saying this is not a good idea. don't make the trade up front in negotiations with the taliban. get them to come to the table and begin making peace and then make the deal. now they don't even have the peace side of that argument. i think -- i don't think there's any question had they brought this to the congress before they made the trade, they would have gotten a lot of blow back. >> hold on for a moment, david. i want to bring matthew hoh into this conversation. a friend of the bergdahl family.
former u.s. marine captain who served in afghanistan. you heard the secretary of defense make a strong case out there that they did not have evidence that suggest he was a deserter and that he was listed as missing in action. i assume, matthew, you were pleased i'm very pleased and i'm very happy that the secretary spoke as such. he said no charges were ever put against sergeant bergdahl and no charges are pending. the army did conduct an investigation. from everyone i know who has read it as well as from pretty extensive leaking of the report, the new york times it ran a big story on this five days's, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that he deserted. again, this was a case of him leaving base. he had done it before. for what purposes, we don't know. it was not a case of desertion. >> bob is one of our national security and intelligence a
natural sifts. talk a little bit about this sensitive issue, whether or not the united states was actually negotiating with terrorists. the secretary of defense makes the case, the u.s. was negotiating with qatar. they were negotiate gs with the taliban. the taliban was negotiating with the haqqani network holding bowe bergdahl. the haqqani network a terrorist organization. was the u.s., because of this various splinters if you will, this formula, was the u.s. actually note ating with a terrorist group holding bowe bergdahl? >> i wouldn't describe the haqqani network as a terrorist group. i realize it has been classified as that. the haqqani network has never attacked american civilians. it fought what he describes as a war of resistance in pakistan and afghanistan. we do it all the time, have back
channels, whether it's to iran and nor korea, it's done all the time. this is not an exception at all. >> you know the state department deemed the haqqani network to be on their list of terrorist organizations? >> i know. but we're con flating al qaeda with organizations which aren't the same. it's a clearcut case al qaeda attacked us on 9/11. the haqqani network has only fought in the field of battle in afghanistan. >> bob, stand by. everyone stand by. we will take a quick break. we will resume our special coverage of this testimony by chuck hagel before the house armed services committee right after this. hey. i'm ted and this is rudy. say "hi" rudy. [ barks ] [ chuckles ] i'd do anything to keep this guy happy and healthy. that's why i'm so excited about these new milk-bone brushing chews. whoa, i'm not the only one. it's a brilliant new way to take care of his teeth. clinically proven as effective as brushing.
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welcome back. we're continuing our special coverage of important hearings going on right now before the house armed services committee. the secretary of defense chuck hagel, he's been up there for a couple hours after a lengthy opening statement defending the obama administration decision to transfer five taliban detainees from the u.s. prison at guantanamo bay in exchange for bowe bergdahl.
the secretary of defense saying the commander in chief, the president of the united states, made the final decision. he says that all of the top national security advisers to the president, whether at the white house, the state department, the intelligence community or department of defense, they were unanimous in their support for the decision. it's been generating lots of controversy. we're continuing to monitor the hearing. we're going back to you. jim is with me here, our chief national security correspondent. how is the secretary of defense doing? >> this is an impassioned, unyielding set of testimony from the secretary on a number of issues. on the legal issue, talked about the idea of not negotiating with terrorists. he has used language -- he called bergdahl in no uncertain terms a prisoner of war. the administration has gone back and forth on this. he's calling him a prisoner of war. this is to say we didn't negotiate with terrorists. we note ate with the other
warring sides to release our soldiers. that's our commitment. we didn't break the law. we didn't break any commitments, not note ating with terrorists by doing this. using that term, he was a prisoner of war. the other thing is the passion behind this. clearly, he's bristling at the criticism levelled at bergdahl, in his view and the view of other military officials, without a full investigation. calling him a deserter. that has bred criticism. family and death threats against the family. he's insulted and thinks it's wrong. you had another moment, which was the moment of these -- of this testimony when a representative just a few minutes ago suggested bergdahl is being held in the hospital in germany to avoid questioning on his desert. when you see that exchange, you could see the steam almost coming out of the secretary's ears saying, are you kidding me? this guy is coming out of five years in prison. you see some of the passion pushing back. >> let me bring barbara star in
and discuss the issue. jeff miller, the republican congressman from florida. he's the chairman of the veterans affairs committee. he knows how veterans are treated in the united states. the implication being for some reason, i don't understand what he was driving at, but you saw the secretary of defense get irritated by the questioning as jim pointed out. the implication is for some reason they're holding him at the u.s. military hospital in germany for some extended period of time and he's raising the suspicion that this may be inappropriate. he could be getting better care here in the united states. what do you make of that? >> i got to tell you, i agree with jim. i think in all the time i've covered chuck hagel, i have never seen him so flat-out publically angry. i think perhaps what the congressman might have been suggesting is why has bowe beg daul not yet been officially, legally interrogated? to the best of our knowledge, he is not under going legal
questioning. he is in this cocoon if you will of medical care of the repatriation process. not deemed yet ready to be undergoing any kind of legal questioning. even if they brought him back to san antonio, for further repatriation counseling and psychological assistance, that doesn't mean he would under go the interrogation process, participating in questions about his actions for any kind of army review or army investigation. you know, the congressman's point that badly-wounded troops come back very quickly is quite a different one. the hospital cares for the wounded when they have come out of the war initially. they are brought back very quickly state side to military hospitals like walter reed for surgical care for infection wound treatment, additionally with help with post-traumatic stress for treatment for their burns. they come back for really
trauma-level medical care because it is so serious and so extended that physical care by all accounts bowe bergdahl is in a unique, separate medical, psychological situation. he has been locked up as a captive for five years. they are trying to help him get basically back into open society. >> you heard the defense secretary clearly express the irritation with that line of questioning suggesting that there was something improper in the u.s. deciding to keep bergdahl in this hospital in germany instead of bringing him immediately back to the united states. we're following these important hearings on capitol hill. the house armed services committee, the defense secretary chuck hagel has been testifying for a couple of hours on this controversial decision to swap bergdahl for five taliban detainees. here is hagel earlier defending this decision.