Senators Get Background Briefing On Sgt. Bergdahl's Release

With criticism mounting on Capitol Hill of a prisoner swap that traded 5 jailed Taliban leaders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, some military, intelligence and diplomatic officials briefed senators.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. After a prisoner swap that freed an American soldier, senators are receiving information they say they should have received before.

GREENE: Lawmakers say they should have been notified for many reasons, including a legal requirement. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was traded for five prisoners at Guantanamo. And Congress is supposed to be told when they're freed from detention there.

INSKEEP: Now Congress wants more information. And last night, military intelligence and diplomatic officials talked with lawmakers about the trade. NPR's David Welna begins our coverage.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Senators who attended the briefing were shown a proof of life video of Sergeant Bergdahl in captivity. Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin said it was clear the soldier was not in a good condition.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN: They looked either drugged or tired or sick. It was hard to - it's hard to describe. But he did not look like a well person.

WELNA: Illinois' other senator, Republican Mark Kirk, had the same impression.

SENATOR MARK KIRK: I would just say it did not look good. I would definitely think that it would've had an emotional impact on the president when he saw it which is probably why the Taliban released it.

WELNA: Other Republicans remain deeply skeptical of the deal, including Florida's Marco Rubio.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: I believe it was done as part of a political narrative that the president tried to further last week - that the war in Afghanistan was over and that our last prisoner had been returned.

WELNA: And New Hampshire Republican, Kelly Ayotte, said the transferred Guantánamo inmates are now a threat to the U.S. and its allies.

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE: I don't feel assured that these five Taliban detainees, who are high level, will not get back in the fight.

WELNA: Hearings begin next week on the swap. David Welna, NPR News, the capital.

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