An internal military investigation found that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl intentionally sneaked away from his forward operating base in Afghanistan just before he disappeared in 2009 — and that may not have been the first time he left the post without permission, according to officials familiar with the probe.

“We have no indication that he intended to leave permanently,” one government official familiar with the investigation told Military Times. Several soldiers in Bergdahl’s unit told investigators that Bergdahl talked about his desire to leave the base unaccompanied and that he may have done so and returned unharmed at least once before the night he disappeared for good, the official said.

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“There were three general orders that we have, and one of them is that I will not leave my post until properly relieved,” Baggett said. “And he obviously did that purposefully and walked off into the night.”

Baggett agreed that Bergdahl should enjoy the presumption of innocence, and that his rescue from Taliban captivity was important.

“But to be labeling him as a hero when all he really did was to just leave his guard post and get real heroes killed, the ones that were looking for him like Lieutenant [Darryn] Andrews, my commander at the time, and [Pfc.] Matthews Martinek, to me those are heroes,” Baggett said.

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With that near-disaster over, the soldier recounted: “We averaged 18-22 kilometers a day on foot, clearing house to house, room to room looking for PFC Bergdahl…We even went as far as rappelling down wells and crawling through tunnels to look for him.” The standard procedure for re-capturing PFC Bergdahl was not “normal,” the soldier noted. “He was very good with knives, and trained to throw and fight hand-to-hand with knives. We did not know the mental state of PFC Bergdahl at the time. All we knew was he left on his own, he caused us lots of hardship, and if we entered a room and saw him we would put him down because he could attack us.”…

The soldier continued: “A few days later we (FTF) conducted a daylight raid on some tents looking for PFC Bergdahl. We took heavy small arms and RPG fire on approach and ran off the CH-47s in contact. Our entire element engaged the enemy, who turned out to be a Taliban shadow governor and his bodyguards…Multiple people died that day…All of this happened because PFC Bergdahl got tired of playing soldier. The remainder of that deployment was focused on recovery efforts. Countless members of the brigade were wounded and we lost good friends, among them PFC Matthew Martinek and 2LT Darryn Andrews. I have no doubt these great men would be alive if PFC Bergdahl did not leave.”

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On Tuesday, President Obama insisted that he had “consulted with Congress for quite some time” over the possibility of swapping Taliban detainees for American hostage Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. That’s news to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, who said it’s been more than two years since she was consulted on the issue, adding that the exchange was greeted by the Senate Intelligence Committee with “surprise and dismay.”…

In late Nov. 2011, Feinstein was first briefed on the Obama administration’s proposal to trade five senior Taliban detainees at Guantanamo for Bergdahl, she told reporters Tuesday.

Alarmed at the prospect, Feinstein and her Republican vice-chairman Saxby Chambliss, wrote two classified letters expressing their views—in Dec. 2011 to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and to the president himself in Jan. 2012…

“We spent a lot of time on it. This was not a cursory thing,” Feinstein said. “Given the past briefings and concerns that we had addressed…I strongly believe that we should have been consulted.”

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Boehner was not notified of the exchange until after it happened, when a Department of Defense official phoned an aide in the Speaker’s office at 11:52 a.m. on Saturday and asked the aide to share the news with Boehner.

In that call, according to a GOP aide, the DoD official proactively acknowledged that the exchange was “inconsistent” with the law.

Sources say the lawmakers were concerned by the initial briefing on Nov. 30, 2011, so they wrote a letter to the president to question him on how a potential exchange could impact U.S. national security around the world.

“More than two years ago, members of Congress were briefed on the possibility of such an exchange and the chairmen at the time and I raised serious questions to the administration,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said today. “Unfortunately, the questions and concerns we had were never satisfactorily answered and they remain today.”

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[F]ollowing multiple reports that Bergdahl deserted his post and soldiers died searching for him, McCaskill will no longer say she still supports the deal she was “very proud” of just 48 hours ago. “I’m not going to comment until I look at the brief,” an annoyed McCaskill told THE WEEKLY STANDARD. “I’m not going to comment until I look at the brief,” she repeated, referring to a classified briefing senators will receive tomorrow.

McCaskill was not alone in her reluctance to support the deal. More than a dozen Democratic senators questioned by TWS Tuesday afternoon declined to defend it. “I just don’t know enough about it. I really don’t,” said Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate.

“It’s very disturbing,” said Joe Manchin of West Virginia. “Everything you hear. I’m going to reserve judgment until after we have a secured briefing tomorrow.”

“You know, I think, um, let me hold off on that,” said Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

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Let the Army take care of its own. By waffling and insinuating that the Bergdahl episode closed on a high note with his return, the administration has politicized the event. The Bergdahl episode hasn’t finished: It is just getting started. It won’t be over until the Army determines whether Bergdahl deserted his unit, and whether he should be subject to court martial and punished.

By any reckoning, the release of five dedicated Taliban terrorists was a high price to pay for the return of a single American captive. It will be a price worth paying only if the Army is allowed to live up to its own high standards. Left to its own procedures, the Army as an institution will proceed with a thorough judicial investigation. Most probably this will result in a court-martial. The evidence is too compelling to be ignored. If there is a finding of guilt, a judge may mitigate the sentence.

But not to proceed with a judicial course would harm the integrity of the Army. There is a deep anger throughout the ranks about Bergdahl’s behavior. The administration would be well advised not have anything more to do with Bergdahl. Let the Army system work. The Army can be trusted to follow the correct course.

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Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School, said by phone Tuesday that the military may want to wait for temperatures to cool on Capitol Hill and for Army leaders to “get their head wrapped around this situation.”…

If the military can prove that he deserted with the intent to shirk hazardous duty, the penalty could be as stiff as five years, either in civilian or military prison, Fidell said. The lightest penalty would be nothing…

There are wrinkles in Bergdahl’s case: He has already spent five years in captivity, and “you typically don’t throw the book at people” who have been prisoners, Fidell said.

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[A] writer who should know better, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bateman, actually tries to claim that in his prisoner exchange, President Obama stands in the shoes of Presidents Washington, Madison, and Lincoln (and that Washington, Madison, and Lincoln would endorse President Obama’s actions). After all, he notes, Washington and Madison swapped prisoners with the British and Lincoln did with the Confederacy (prisoner exchanges were not unusual in 18th and 19th century warfare). Prisoner exchanges amongst armed forces conducting warfare under the accepted legal rules in force more than 150 years ago are meager precedent for providing ransom to a terrorist entity that has never complied with the laws of war.

But if Lieutenant Colonel Bateman wants to follow Washington and Lincoln’s precedents, is he willing to go all the way? After all Washington sometimes hanged deserters, and dozens of Union soldiers were executed for the same crime during the Civil War…

The military has a long and proud history of enduring great sacrifices to retrieve pilots behind enemy lines and wounded and even dead comrades in the midst of the most intense firefights. In the conduct of those rescue missions, we are doing our best to defeat the enemies who’ve captured, wounded, or killed our comrades. But we — rightly — do not have a tradition of breaking our own laws and empowering the enemy to bring deserters home and then celebrating their return at the White House.

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“Following his disappearance, IEDs started going off directly under the trucks. They were getting perfect hits every time. Their ambushes were very calculated, very methodical,” said Buetow.

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Via the Free Beacon.

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