Chuck Hagel, Jeff Miller Duel Over Taliban Prisoner Exchange and Bowe Bergdahl

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: June 13, 2014 3:55 AM
Chuck Hagel and Jeff Miller

Chuck Hagel and Jeff Miller

This week, at a congressional committee hearing on the Obama administration’s approval of exchanging five captured Taliban leaders for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a Florida congressman and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had a tense confrontation on the matter.

During a House Armed Services Committee meeting on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., pressed Hagel on the prisoner exchange and Bergdahl’s health. Since his release, Bergdahl has been in American military hospital facilities in Germany.

Miller questioned Hagel about whether the Obama administration broke the law in authorizing the deal. “I’m looking at your testimony and on ... the third page, it says ‘we complied with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014,’” Miller said before questioning Hagel. “Did you or did you not notify Congress within the 30-day time frame, yes or no?”

“No,” Hagel replied. “What I ...”

Miller cut Hagel off. “Yes or no?”

“All right, no,” Hagel answered.

The Panhandle congressman pressed on. “Does the administration intend to ... violate the notice requirements of ... NDAA and ... the DOD Appropriations Act in future transfers?” Miller asked.

“Not unless there is an extraordinary set of circumstances like this one,” Hagel said.

“Will you assure this committee that the department will not proceed with future detainee transfers without notifying Congress consistent with the law?” Miller asked.

“We have, I believe, before my time, in every circumstance except this one, and we intend to continue to do that,” Hagel replied.

Miller reminded Hagel that before his time in the Obama administration he served in the U.S. Senate. Marking out the differences between the various branches, Miller asked Hagel, who was a Republican senator from Nebraska, if the president or the courts were supposed to interpret the law. After Hagel said the courts, Miller demanded to know why the administration made the decision not to keep Congress in the loop on the exchange.

“We believe the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel ....” Hagel said before Miller interrupted.

“Part of the executive branch,” Miller noted.

Hagel finished up his statement. “... told the president he had the constitutional authority to do this.”
Miller ripped the “secret deal” and wondered if the released Taliban leaders would be a future threat. Hagel assured the congressman that the Defense department would deal with any threats wherever they may be.

The testimony turned to Bergdahl.

"Mr. Secretary, you keep saying we can't get the facts from Sgt. Bergdahl until he gets home," Miller said. "Have you ever thought about going to Landstuhl and talking to him there?"

"Well, I don't know how much medical training you had, congressman,” Hagel said. "I haven't had much. And what we're doing is, we are allowing the doctors ..." Hagel said before Miller cut him off.

"Why hasn't he been returned to the United States?" Miller demanded. "We have seriously wounded soldiers that are returned to the United States almost immediately after they are stabilized ...You’re trying to tell me he is being held in Landstuhl, Germany, because of his medical condition.”

"Congressman, I hope you're not implying anything other than that," Hagel said. Both the secretary and the congressman attempted to talk over the other which led to some tension between the two.

"I don't like the implication of the question," Hagel said. "He's being held there because our medical professionals don't believe he's ready until they believe he is ready to take the next step."

Miller, who chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee, noted wounded soldiers were often immediately transferred from Landstuhl back stateside but Hagel insisted this situation was different.

“This is not just about a physical condition, congressman," Hagel said. “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 from, by the way, Bergdahl,” Hagel added. "This is not just about can he get on his feet and walk to a plane."

“You’re telling me he can’t be questioned because of his medical condition?” Miller asked.

Hagel said he would “proceed” with questioning Bergdahl during the “next step” of his recovery but was relying on medical experts for the moment.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

Comments (8)

Garry D. Yeager
6:05PM JUN 15TH 2014
Trying to get to whole truth with the Landsthul exchange will be nearly impossible to do with Obama and his so called chosen people.

There are several recent events that has occurred where the truth will nearly impossible to get because of Obama chosen, this is only one event
9:13PM JUN 13TH 2014
Have you no shame, Congressman Miller? Does your desire to posture as a "hardliner" in front of your constituents remove from your heart, all sense of human decency and compassion? After what he has suffered, why do you and others like you, want to crucify Sgt. Bergdahl? Again, I ask you, Congressman Miller, have you no shame?
4:59PM JUN 15TH 2014
Oh please. Give me a break! He deserted his post! Good men died looking g for him. They are the ones who deserve your missed placed concern.
1:00PM JUN 13TH 2014
As one of Miller's constituents, I am ashamed that he "represents" me . It has only been in the past month, with the uproar about the treatment of veterans in VA facilities, that Miller has even managed to get his name recognized-and THAT was due to the fact that he has inserted himself into every media opportunity available. Prior to the recent VA scandal, if any in the US saw/heard the name, 'Jeff Miller', it was with a head scratch and subsequent "Miller, WHO? "
Jeff Miller is angling for a higher position than that that of a mere Representative of the House.
I, and others, find it more than passing odd that Rep. Miller ,as Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, is now so publically appalled at the deplorable conditions that have existed for decades. Miller lives in and represents a District in Fl. (District 1, in NW FL) that encompasses one of the largest concentrations of Veterans and VA facilities in the country. Yet he just now has realized the conditions of the very VA hospitals in his own back yard?? At least 2 of these have been flagged by the audit committee for further investigation. As usual, the VA officials are circling their wagons; I wonder how much evidence will mysteriously become "lost" prior to the admission of the inspectors.
Miller hasn't had time to avail himself of many facts or information about the hundreds, if not thousands, of Veterans in his District, much less those in the rest of the country. He is, by his own admission, one of the most conservative Members in the House, and proud of the fact. He is also one of the most well-traveled Members of Congress. Miller and his entourage have taken more trips outside the state and outside the country than just about every other Congressperson-all at taxpayer expense.
The hypocrisy of Rep. Miller and the rest of the hyenas on Capitol Hill astounds. Were any of them actually doing their jobs, the VA debacle would either never have occurred or would have rectified long before the shameful point it has reached today. The nation's veterans are "heroes" only when they can serve a political or battle purpose for the politicians. After that-poof! they become a burden that no one in Washington can find the funding to support ; there is no oversight on how/where/and to whom those allocated funds are disbursed. The "leaders" of this country shed crocodile tears when speaking of the men and women who put THEIR lives on the line; however, when the media and cameras go away, so does any support for those who deserve so much. Out of the media eye = out of Congress' mind.
Veterans' groups have been complaining for years-since Vietnam- about the inefficiencies and outright thievery that regularly occurs in the VA system. Think any in Congress paid attention? No. Not until the situation became a public football has Congress bothered to take a look at the agency that receives funding only surpassed by the Defense Dept.
As for Jeff Miller's attempts to appear "in control and aggressive" in the "dialogue" with Hagel about Sgt. Bergdahl, neither Miller nor anyone else at this point, knows anything about the circumstances surrounding this man's capture and release. Everything Miller et.al. are suggesting is nothing but conjecture. In his quest to become a household name,Miller has jumped on the Guilt Bandwagon without the pertinent facts, as have so many other right-wingnuts. The last I looked-or heard, according to the law,everyone is innocent until proven guilty. This man, a POW for years, has suffered untold horrors at the hands of his captors; the circumstances in which he was captured will certainly be brought to light. If Sgt. Bergdahl is guilty of that which so many (who are merely a screeching, ignorant mob) he will be face the consequences. If innocent, he has already been judged and found guilty of treason by those in the press who knew and still know, nothing. Every accusation leveled at Sgt. Bergdahl has no basis in proven fact-only speculation and hearsay by those who ought to know better.
Are we nation governed by the rule of Law? Perhaps in a long-ago past. These days, justice and truth are bought and sold as political tender by every politician,their lackeys, and the special interest groups who own them. The ratings of the disparate media prostitutes also play a large role in our pursuit of "truth and justice". Constitutional precepts and compassion are sorely lacking in this country today. The Constitution and The Bill of Rights have been eviscerated by those in Washington to the point that the Founders, who all are so quick to quote, would be horrified at the changes that have been wrought in their grand documents.
Sgt. Bergdahl was a POW-FACT. Sgt. Bergdahl IS an American Citizen-FACT. The US does NOT leave American soldiers behind-a Should- Be FACT. All else concerning his release is not yet known-FACT. Would those calling for his head now be as quick to demand such were Bergdahl a member of THEIR family? This entire witch hunt should leave a most bitter taste in every Americans' heart and mind. What a shameful spectacle the American media AND certain Members of Congress have provided to the rest of the world. The resulting impression has, and rightfully so, made the US a laughingstock to all.
Integrity and honesty are the well- deserved casualties of these actions. Our "leaders" and the press are not solely responsible- We, the People, bear the blame for continuing to elect these kinds of hypocrites to represent us. A shameful period in our history.
12:49PM JUN 13TH 2014
I apologize to all-I clicked the "submit" icon twice and my comment therefore posted twice. I attempted to remove one, but was unable to do so.
11:04AM JUN 13TH 2014
Since Obama and this administration has gotten away with every "crisis"
going way,way back,It is doubtful bergdahl will face any inquiry about his
desertion from his FOB. Just look at how the men who knew him and were
stationed with him are being treated by Obama's henchmen(the long blond
bimbo comes to mind)
10:53AM JUN 13TH 2014
Amazing how Congressman Miller asked why he wasn't returned to the States yet and magically 2 days later he is back in the US.
Thank you Congressman Miller, keep up the good work!
2:43PM JUN 13TH 2014
Not "magical" at all. The fact that Sgt. Bergdahl returned when he did was due to the teams-including medical- who based their decisions on sound principles after a period of intense medical care and, I don't doubt, questioning by military and other security agencies. I doubt seriously that Miller's belligerent questioning of Sec. Hagel had any impact on the timing of Bergdahl's return. If you recall, Bergdahl has been in the military hospital in Germany for weeks recovering from 5 years of who knows what horrors he underwent as POW. Miller's timing was indeed fortuitous-for him. No one with sense would/could relate this one heretofore unknown Congressman's accusatory questioning to Sgt. Bergdahl's return to the US.
BTW-have you or anyone else who is so vehemently condemning this man heard what HIS story is? Or any other FACTS that may have been revealed about his imprisonment after his rescue and while he was recovering? For myself, I withhold judgment until I know what actually happened-unbiased by hearsay and innuendo.

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