Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 4.36.41 PMMemo recommends slap on wrist for deserting Army, joining Taliban

The military officer presiding over the trial of accused Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl suggests he not be sentenced to prison.

“According to news reports, Lt. Col. Mark Visger, who presided over Bergdahl’s hearing in Texas last month, sent a memo to Army Forces Command recommending that Bergdahl’s case be decided in a special court-martial,” The Washington Examiner reports.

“If Bergdahl were to face a special court-martial, he would be eligible to get no more than a year of jail time, a reduction in rank and a bad-conduct charge,” the Examiner reports.

While Bergdahl would be eligible for up to a year in prison, the memo recommends a “non-judicial punishment,” meaning, if agreed to, Bergdahl would never be confined for his crimes.

The suggestion comes despite the fact several soldiers died trying to locate Bergdahl.

It also may prevent further investigation of the exchange of four Taliban commanders for Bergdahl, an arrangement that helped the terrorist group, and may have involved cash payments to terrorist groups of which the White House was aware.

In June 2014, U.S. Congressman Steve Stockman sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking if the Obama administration knew of any deal in which the Haqqani Network terrorist group would be paid in exchange for Bergdahl.

The Haqqani Network, which held Bergdahl for five years, funds its terrorist activities in part by ransoming prisoners. The ransom for a uniformed American service member would be immense, and greatly benefit the group’s terrorist activities.

“The Haqqani Network generally does not release Westerners unless they receive a large payment. It would be hard to believe they would release Bergdahl in an exchange that does not directly benefit them,” said Stockman.

“Americans deserve to know if the President paid off a terrorist group,” said Stockman.

Four of the five terrorist leaders Obama exchanged for Bergdahl are Afghan Taliban, not Haqqani, according to Brad Thor. The deal did not include the release of a Haqqani commander in U.S. custody.

The Haqqani Network demanded ransoms for other high-profile captives, such as $5 million for Afghan diplomat Haji Khaliq Farahi and $15 million for New York Times journalist David Rohde.  Farahi was freed for his ransom, while Rohde escaped before his ransom could be collected.

Their decision to hold Bergdahl themselves suggested to terrorism experts the group was seeking a large payment for the American service member.

“The fact that Bergdahl remains in his (Haqqani commander Mullah Sangeen Zadran’s) custody and not in Miran Shah under Badruddin’s watch, suggests that Sangeen maintains considerable autonomy within the network and perhaps imagines he will directly earn a ransom payment in exchange for the American serviceman,” writes Gretchen Peters of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in “Haqqani Network Financing: The Evolution of an Industry.”

This has led to concerns that the U.S. government, either directly or through a third party, agreed to a deal in which the Taliban would make cash payments to the Haqqani Network to secure Bergdahl’s release, and the U.S. would in return release Taliban terrorists.  The Haqqanis could then use the cash to carry out more terrorist attacks.

The Defense Department responded to Stockman a week later, but dodged the question.

In a statement to the media, not Stockman, National Security Staff spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden stated, “The United States did not provide money in return for Sgt. Bergdahl.”

But that was not the question asked. The White House was asked if they authorized or knew of any deal in which a third party made the payment.

Limiting the response to only money from the US is only a partial answer. The idea the US government would implicate itself by directly issuing a payment to a terrorist group is highly unlikely, which is why the letter directly referenced third parties.

The Obama administration still has not responded as to whether they knowingly approved a deal in which the Taliban paid cash was paid to terrorists in exchange for Bergdahl, which would follow the administration’s now-revealed actions in the Weinstein case.

The Wall Street Journal’s revelations, and the White House’s admissions, raise a troubling possibility.

Did the Obama administration knowingly violate U.S. policy and aid terrorism, by approving a deal in which five terrorist leaders were released and a huge cash payment made to a terrorist group in exchange for a U.S. Army deserter?