Sens. Feinstein, Chambliss: No knowledge of Bergdahl torture claims

The top two senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee both said they had heard rumors, but no official confirmation, that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl tried to escape Taliban captivity. Neither lawmaker, however, had information that Bergdahl was put in a cage and tortured after the escape attempt, as he reportedly told the people treating him at a U.S. military medical facility in Germany.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the committee's top Republican, said Bergdahl's claims about his time in captivity will be "difficult to validate."

"That's not to say they're not absolutely true, but we weren't there. We have nobody who was on the inside. So we don't know exactly what happened in his life over the last several years," he said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday.

David Rohde, a columnist for Reuters and The Atlantic who was kidnapped by the same Taliban network in 2008, told host Bob Schieffer that Bergdahl's claim "sounds very credible to me."

"There's all these rumors that came out during my case and many of them were not true and its really important to sort of wait and get the facts," he said. "We need to hear from Bowe Bergdahl about what happened that night."

Both Chambliss and the committee's chairwoman, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, have criticized the administration for failing to brief Congress in advance of a prisoner exchange that secured Bergdahl's freedom in exchange for five former Taliban officials that were being held at Guantanamo Bay. In separate interviews on "Face the Nation," the lawmakers refuted suggestions from the administration that it does not typically brief lawmakers on ongoing operations.

"Sen. Chambliss and I have been briefed on operations underway. We understand the security of that, we have never violated that," Feinstein said.

Chambliss recalled "months and months" of briefings on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden prior to the operation that lead to his death in 2011.

"We had a pretty good idea of what they were gonna do," Chambliss said.

Both lawmakers continue to express frustration with the limited amount of information the administration has given to senior lawmakers on the Hill throughout the past week. Two closed-door briefings for members of Congress last week appeared to do little to convince skeptics that the trade was necessary and won't jeopardize national security.

"It's hard to be comfortable when you really haven't been briefed on the intricacies of carrying out this agreement," Feinstein said, noting the administration has kept details of the deal "very close, and in the eyes of many of us, too close." She cast doubt on reassurances from Secretary of State John Kerry that the U.S. will be able to keep a close eye on the former detainees while they spend a year in Qatar.

"I heard John Kerry this morning say, 'You know, don't worry about them in Doha .' You can't help but worry about them in Doha. And we have no information on how the United States is actually going to see that they remain in Doha, that they make no comments, that they do no agitations," Feinstein said.

"I see no sign of the Taliban relenting; I have deep concern now," Feinstein added, noting that they have tried to kill the Afghan president-elect, Abdullah Abdullah, and a Taliban suicide bomber did kill the head of a peace commission there. "Some of us worry very much that when we pull out, the Taliban finds its way back into power, and that would be tragic."

Chambliss is one of the many lawmakers that has questioned the administration's defense that it hurried to conduct the prisoner swap without consulting Congress because of Bergdahl's rapidly declining health.

"Well, no intelligence supported that. And now, they come back and because he is in decent health, considering where he's been, they've changed their story. They said, 'Well, no, we suspected his life might be in danger, if word got out of this pending, possible trade then his life may be in danger,'" Chambliss said. "Again, I can just tell you there is no intelligence to support that...the whole scenario surrounding this is very, very strange."

Feinstein did offer the president some cover on announcing Bergdahl's release in a Rose Garden ceremony with his parents last week, a move that has been questioned because of the possibility that Bergdahl was captured after abandoning his post.

"The freeing of a soldier who has been in custody of the Taliban for five years, that's a long time, I think is news," Feinstein said. "I think the President was just justifiably proud of this."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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