All-Star Panel: More details about Sgt. Bergdahl emerge

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 3, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


ROBERT BERGDAHL, SERGEANT BERGDAHL'S FATHER: But most of all, I'm proud of how much you wanted to help the Afghan people and what you were willing to do to go to that length.

GERALD SUTTON, FORMER BERGDAHL PLATOON MATE: I just don't want to see him hailed as a hero, and I just want him to face the consequences of his own actions and possibly face a court martial for desertion.


SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: Today, we're learning more about Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier who was the subject of a very controversial prisoner swap over the weekend. Let's bring in our panel to talk about it, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Kirsten Powers, USA Today columnist, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Steve, I'll start with you. Jennifer Griffin had some interesting reporting today, more on his background, where he came from, what his life was like growing up in Idaho. We find that he had attempted to join the French Legion as a mercenary, but also that as his family explains it, sort of him joining the armed forces and going to Afghanistan more as a Peace Corps with gun type mission, that he was going there to help the people. It doesn't sound like the mindset of somebody who normally joins the U.S. military.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I can say that's horrendously naive if that was in fact what he thought. But that sense is confirmed by his platoon mates, including some that I interviewed over the last couple of days, said that when it came to the hearts and minds work that U.S. troops were doing in Afghanistan, he was all in. He was very enthusiastic, seemed to be energized by that work. But when the tough stuff came, and there was some tough stuff, he didn't like to do that. In a typical raid you would separate the men on one side of the room and the women and children on the other side of the room. You would have to ask the men difficult questions and ask them if they've been in contact with any Taliban, harbored any Al Qaeda. Any of those kinds of questions, he did not like to ask those questions. He didn't like to be involved in those kinds of ad hoc interrogations. And I think that was one of the reasons that he became so disillusioned and clearly, I think the record now shows, walked away from his unit.

BREAM: And Kirsten, we are learning more about that point as well. Many who served with him are now coming out and saying that they at one point were asked to sign or agreed to some kind of a nondisclosure. Many of them have now left the military and so they're talking more openly about it. But it is their opinion though, we haven't seen any official designation, and there are files on this, the Pentagon has looked at it, and we may see those at some point, but their estimation is that he left by choice, and to refer to him as captured or prisoner isn't accurate.

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Well, that's disturbing if they were asked to sign a nondisclosure. And I think the Pentagon should be a little more forthcoming about this. We're having this debate right now and they're really not addressing the issue of whether or not he was a deserter or not. And, in fact, they're disputing some of the things that his platoon mates are saying. And I think – well, they are specifically disputing whether people that their families believe died going in search for him, they're disputing that that is even true. So I think the Pentagon needs to be more transparent and really lay the facts out and explain what they knew when they went to rescue him and to address more specifically these issues and these claims that are being made by a lot of people. This isn't just one or two people. This is a lot of people that are saying the exact same thing about him.

BREAM: We had family members earlier on Fox today who talked about the fact that their son died and they were never told there was any connection to this, but now there are people who served alongside him who at least in their opinion told the family that he was killed searching for Bergdahl – or on a mission to rescue him at some point.

Charles, because you are a trained psychiatrist and are probably analyzing all of us at all times, I'm very interested to get your insight into Bowe Bergdahl, what we've learned about him, his background, kind of what motivated him and why he would have gone to a place like this.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I'm a psychiatrist in remission. You can't really do any serious analysis of anybody at a distance or anybody that you don't know. So speaking as a layman, as somebody who has lived long enough to have some opinion, I think as described by Steve, this is a guy who should have been in an NGO. He should have been with OXFAM or he should have been with some other social service, and he finds himself carrying a gun. And I suspect he got disillusioned, although the fact that he wanted to join the French Foreign Legion means you have a weird, romantic, unrealistic side to you.

I think the overwhelming evidence is, and we haven't seen all of it, so all of this preliminary, is that he deserted. I don't think there's much question, once he's here. And I think it's very important that the Army pursue this. If you're going to do the swap that we did for this kind of guy, where there is a question as to whether he left on his own or not, or what the motives were, you absolutely have to bring military justice to bare. And, we don't want to prejudge this, but there was one person in the Pentagon who said after five years in captivity, he suffered enough. That's not the right answer. That's not how you deal with desertion.

BREAM: We heard from General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and he said "In America he is innocent until proven guilty, of course. Our army's leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime we're going to continue to care for him and his family." Steve, it's kind of a touchy subject to broach with people because he was away in whatever capacity for five years. He did not appear to be free to leave.  How much traction do you think it will gain at some point when all of these other soldiers are coming forward to say if I had done the same thing I would have been court martialed?

HAYES: Well, the facts of this really matter. And I think one of the things that we've gotten after not having had access to a lot of the facts over the past several days are some facts. And we know from his platoon mates the circumstances of his departure. We know that he wasn't captured on the battlefield as Susan Rice once alleged. We know that he walked away. Some people say he left a note. Jennifer Griffin reported on the note. Others have reported on the notes laying out his intentions.

And then there's a very interesting and I think very important intelligence report that several of his platoon mates have talked about that he sought out an English speaker and sought out the Taliban. That to me makes a big difference. What's interesting about that report is you have his platoon leader, you've had others say that happened, I heard it with my own ears, and yet in WikiLeaks documents related to this case, there is no actual account of that particular piece of intelligence. I think if he left seeking out the Taliban having had relationships and made friends with many of the other locals, I think that's very suggestive and I think it gives certainly investigators in the Army a lot to work with.

BREAM: I want to quickly play something from Sue Martin. She's described as a family representative, her take on what kind of guy Bowe was.


SUE MARTIN, BERGDAHL FAMILY FRIEND: He thought he could help. He wanted to help the Afghan people and to be a part of whatever was available to be helping in the situation.


BREAM: And, again, Kirsten, we hear this from people who knew him growing up, saying he's a guy of integrity. He wanted to help. Is it just maybe, as Charles suggested, he ended up in the wrong slot for doing what he thought he was going to do?

POWERS: Well, yeah. I don't think if anyone came to any of us and said I really want to help the Afghan people, we would say, why don't you enlist and go over and fight in a war. There are other things you can do. And so, he obviously was in the wrong place if that's what he wanted to do. And I think that if he did desert, then I think there's a real problem that you are sending people if, in fact, it's true what's being said, to die, for somebody who made a choice to walk away. And I think the government, the administration, the Pentagon needs to address that.

BREAM: And they have promised that they will. So we'll see.

Coming up, more from the panel on the legal authority the White House did or didn't have to make this deal. That's next.          

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