Alarming Bergdahl videos led to prisoner swap

(USA TODAY) -- Secret videos viewed by U.S. military and intelligence officials were enough to win their support for the prisoner swap that resulted in the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a senior defense official said Wednesday.

Bergdahl's declining health, which was determined in part by videos, were one of the drivers in the decision to make the swap, the official told USA TODAY on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The prisoner exchange, which included the release of five detainees from Guantanamo Bay, has drawn fire from both sides of the aisle in Congress. A private briefing the administration provided to lawmakers Tuesday did little to sway opinion.

Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, expressed reservations.

"I am concerned about what was given in exchange and I am concerned about what precedents we set here for exchanges," he said. "I don't want the message to be, 'You can go ahead and capture Americans and use them to barter for others.'"

STORY: New Taliban video shows Bergdahl release

Asked about those releases during the news conference in Warsaw, Obama noted that the United States is ending combat operations in Afghanistan, and accounting for prisoners of war is a normal part of the process.

Said Obama: "This is what happens at the end of wars."

The circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's disappearance, including claims from some comrades that he essentially deserted, have added to that controversy.

The U.S. Army said Tuesday it will launch a new review into the circumstances surrounding Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl leaving his post and subsequent capture by the Taliban now that he has been released and can be interviewed.

The new investigation comes amid mounting allegations by fellow soldiers and politicians that Bergdahl deserted his post and the search for him put additional troops at risk.

The review "will include speaking with Sgt. Bergdhal to better learn from him the circumstances of his disappearance and captivity," Army Secretary John McHugh said in a statement.

Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook, David Jackson and Jim Michaels; Associated Press


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