Face the Nation Transcripts June 8, 2014: Feinstein, Chambliss, Rohde

The latest on the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap and the 2016 presidential speculation with Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and others
The latest on the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap... 47:16

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Always a pleasure. Senator Feinstein's counterpart on the Senate Intelligence Committee is the ranking Republican on that committee, Saxby Chambliss. He joins us now from Moultrie, Georgia. Senator, did you get any information this morning? Did anybody brief you about this new information that he was kept in a cage and that he, you know, tried to escape from his Taliban captors. This all comes as what I would think is big news. I would think this might change the views that people have, if they had known about this.

SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS (Intelligence Committee/R-Georgia): Well, just like Diane, I've heard rumors about the escape as far as keeping him in a cage and whatnot, I read about it in the press this morning. Nobody has made any effort to contact me from the administration but then, you know, I learned about this after the fact. Diane and I were both called on Monday night after Bergdahl was released on Saturday. And told that it had happened, so this administration has acted very strangely about this, Bob, and it's kind of puzzling as to why they did not let us know in advance that this was going to happen.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, this latest information that we were told by officials at the Pentagon today, there was no confirmation of what Bergdahl is apparently telling people in the hospital there. But they-- they said we wouldn't wave you off from that story, in other words, nobody was saying, hey, this is dead wrong, this never happened. Does that suggest to you that-- well, I don't know what it suggests, a couple of things, I would think, maybe they're trying to check this out, maybe they're not quite sure of what they've been told. What-- what would be your assessment?

SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS: Well, I think there're going to be a lot of things that Bergdahl tells the-- the army and the medical folks that he's talking to now that, Bob, it's going to be very difficult to validate but 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 except we do know he was captured and he's been in the Taliban's hands for these number of years. So I-- I just suspect that you're going to have, number one, rumors coming out about what he may be saying but then other actual statements that he may make that are going to be very difficult to validate. And again that's not to say they're not true.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think the administration was right in withholding information about this, Senator. At one point, I was told yesterday, well, we don't ever brief the Congress when there's an operation underway. And so then there was another report that he was in bad health and they had to-- to do this quickly because of his health. Reports this morning are: he's making a very good recovery, at least, physically. They say he's now wearing his uniform up and around, walking around the hospital, talking to people there. But the report, at least in the Times is, but he's not ready, I guess you would say emotionally, he has not talked to his parents, yet, as far as we know.

SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS: Well, two things I would say. Number one, I can't imagine anybody in the administration being able to look the American public in the eye and saying we never briefed members of Congress on ongoing operations. The classic example of that is the bin Laden operation. Diane and I knew for months and months what was suspected relative to the location of bin Laden. We had a pretty good idea of what they were going to do and I'll never forget the phone call I got from an excited Leon Panetta, telling me that bin Laden had been taken down. Those types of things are briefed to us on a regular basis. Not a day goes by, Bob, that I don't get briefed on some classified aspect of our intelligence community, a lot of which is ongoing operations. Secondly, when Bergdahl was let go, what we were told and what the public was told is that because of a video that was made apparently in December of last year and viewed by the Department of Defense in January of this year that Bergdahl looked like he had lost ten to fifteen pounds. He was in poor health, and they were concerned that if they did not make this exchange that his life would be in danger as a result of bad 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-- they've changed their story. They've said, well, we suspect his life may be in danger if word got out of this pending possible trade that his life may be in danger. Again, I can just tell you there's no intelligence to support that and Director Clapper has-- has already made that same statement. So the whole scenario surrounding this is very, very strange.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Senator, we are going to leave it there. Thank you for being with us this morning. We're going to talk to Tom Friedman--

SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS: Sure.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --and Peggy Noonan; and David Rohde, who himself, while a reporter, was captured and was in captivity for some time at the-- by-- in Tali-- in the Tali-- by the Taliban. So we'll be back with all that in just a minute.

BOB SCHIEFFER: To talk more about this handling of a prisoner swap, we're joined in New York by David Rohde. He is a Reuters' columnist. He's the author of the, A Rope and a Prayer; in studio, our New York Times columnist Tom Friedman and Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal. But David, I want to talk to you. Back when you were working for the Times, you were actually captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan and held for six months. What do you make of this new information we're hearing this morning that the sergeant actually was tortured while he was in captivity, telling people that he tried to escape. And that after he escaped from the Taliban they put him in a metal cage and kept him there for long periods of time.

DAVID ROHDE (Reuters/The Atlantic): I mean it sounds very credible to me. I was kidnapped by the exact same Taliban faction. This the Haqqani Network. They work very closely with the Pakistani military. I was able to escape. I had an Afghan help me take me to a Pakistani military base. Bowe Bergdahl didn't have that. So the reports are credible. And I also think that Bowe Bergdahl needs to answer why he walked off that base. But I would really caution Americans, this is, you know, there's all these rumors that came out during my case and many of them were not true. And it's really important to sort of wait and get the facts here. A lot of the reporting on this story has been way off and we need to sort of hear from Bowe Bergdahl about, you know, what happened that night. And just on another note, I still today five years later, feel tremendous regret for going to an interview with the Taliban, getting kidnapped, and what I put my family through. Whatever caused Bowe Bergdahl to walk off that base, you know, did he desert, did he have a mental breakdown. He will regret this for the rest of his life. I guarantee you.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Have you-- I know you kept in very close contact with his parents and with some other people whose relatives have been taken captive. Have you talked to his parents recently?