Army: Reports of decision to charge Bergdahl with desertion 'patently false'
By STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 27, 2015
The Army on Tuesday pushed back against reports that a decision had been made to prosecute Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for desertion.
Retired Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, who now works at the London Center for Policy Research, told Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” on Monday that he learned of the military’s decision from two sources.
“The Army has come to its conclusion, and Bowe Bergdahl ... will be charged with desertion,” he said.
NBC News followed that Tuesday with a report that senior defense officials said Bergdahl would be charged with desertion, and that charges could be referred within a week.
The charges, NBC reported, will not allege that Bergdahl left his base with the intent never to return.
While a court-martial could lead to prison time, NBC News reported defense and military officials as saying it is likely Bergdahl would be given consideration for the five years he spent in captivity and be permitted to leave the Army with a “less than honorable” discharge.
“The reporting from Fox News and NBC on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is patently false,” the Army said in a statement emailed late Tuesday. “To be clear there have been no actions or decisions on the Sgt. Bergdahl investigation.”
The only American prisoner of war from the 13-year fight in Afghanistan was released from Taliban captivity in May, but the celebration was short-lived.
Some of Bergdahl’s former colleagues claimed that he deserted and that soldiers were killed or injured trying to find him.
In exchange for Bergdahl, the White House traded five high-level Taliban detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo, who were to be held under loose house arrest in Qatar. President Barack Obama didn’t tell Congress in advance, which the Government Accountability Office would later say violated the law.
Army Gen. Mark Milley, the command authority in the Bergdahl case, has not publicly released his findings, NBC reported.
“The investigation is still with [Milley],” the Army statement continued, “who will determine appropriate action — which ranges from no further action to convening a court-martial. We understand the public interest in this case and once a decision has been made, the Army will be open and transparent in this matter.”
At a Tuesday afternoon briefing with reporters, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, emphasized the point: “Let me just put a fork in this right now … No decision has been made with respect to the case of Sgt. Bergdahl. None. And there is no time line to make that decision. And Gen. Milley is not being put under any pressure to make a decision, either way.”