Not sure how else to read this except as Feinstein accusing the White House of lying flat-out about its reasons for keeping Congress in the dark before the swap.
When asked whether there was a “credible threat” on Bergdahl’s life if word had gotten out, the California Democrat responded: “No, I don’t think there was a credible threat, but I don’t know. I have no information that there was.”
Feinstein’s comments, part of an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Political Capital with Al Hunt airing Friday evening, put her at odds with White House officials. At a briefing Wednesday, administration officials told lawmakers that they couldn’t give Congress advance notice on the Bergdahl deal because the Taliban vowed to kill him if any details about the prisoner exchange came out.
Just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, Feinstein’s no random member of Congress. She’s the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, routinely privy to all sorts of tightly held info that the White House shares with her and other committee members in the name of keeping the legislature apprised of threats. Nor is this the first time a member of the Intel Committee has claimed that information about Bergdahl was withheld from them. Saxby Chambliss says it was news to him to read in the New York Times that Bergdahl may (or may not) have left a note before he disappeared. That info wasn’t in his classified file.
Two possibilities here. One: It’s all true — the Taliban was set to kill Bergdahl if anyone blabbed — but the White House couldn’t share that info with Feinstein because she’s got a big mouth and would have spilled the beans. Any evidence to support that theory? Actually, yeah.
[A]t least in Feinstein’s case, the administration may have had a reason to keep her out of the loop. In March 2012 with Josh Rogin—then with Foreign Policy magazine—Feinstein accidentally acknowledged the negotiations, appearing to disclose classified information about a potential Bergdahl deal (Rogin also reported that the White House briefed eight senators, including Feinstein, on a potential deal in Jan. 2012).
They kept Congress in the dark about a potential Bergdahl exchange ever since. Even if it’s true that Feinstein was careless with information previously, though, that’s no defense to the White House breaking the law in refusing to notify Congress. They could have simply huddled with her, impressed upon her how high the stakes were — “you talk, he dies” — and then trusted her to be quiet. She’s known all sorts of things that she hasn’t disclosed. There’s no reason to think she couldn’t have been trusted to keep this a secret too, provided they gave her some reason to believe Bergdahl would be in jeopardy if she said anything. Why didn’t they? Or is this all a big lie and the Taliban never intended to kill him over a leak?
Second possibility: This is all a big lie and the Taliban never intended to kill him over a leak. You already know the arguments on this one if you read Ed’s post yesterday. It simply makes no sense to believe the Taliban would have cared much if anyone leaked. For one thing, the prospect of a Bergdahl/Taliban swap has been reported in papers like the NYT for at least two years. The Taliban themselves chattered about it to the AP last year. Plus, if you think about it, having the deal leak in advance would only enhance the propaganda victory for them. If news of an impending swap had broken a week earlier, American media had erupted over it, and then a battered Obama had bowed to the Taliban and done the deal anyway, it would have been a supreme humiliation. The only reason to think the Taliban was skittish about leaks was because they were afraid that news breaking in advance would cow Obama into scuttling the deal — but in that case, with Obama’s course of action uncertain, why would they have gone ahead and killed Bergdahl before O had made a final decision? It may be that they told the White House that they’d kill BB if Obama backed out at the last minute, but that’s not the same as saying they’d kill him if it leaked. And it’s certainly no justification for O to withhold notice from Congress.
Feinstein’s not the only big-name Democrat causing trouble for the administration about Bergdahl today, either. Remember that the next time Obama dismisses this as a phony scandal cooked up by Republican psycho-partisans. Exit question via Guy Benson: Remember when Jay Carney said that Bergdahl was a “prisoner,” not a “hostage”? How can that be true if the White House’s story is correct, that the Taliban were ready to murder him in captivity if the deal leaked? Legitimate armies don’t threaten to kill POWs; they hold them until the end of hostilities and then release them to the enemy. The word for a group that would slaughter a prisoner over a scuttled exchange is something different. It starts with a “T,” I believe.