Senators Get Background Briefing On Sgt. Bergdahl's Release

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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.


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


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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