Bowe Bergdahl rescuer warns of ‘broken’ hostage system

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 14, 2015) — A decorated Green Beret told lawmakers Thursday that he’s faced retaliation from the U.S. Army for flagging what he called the U.S. government’s “broken” hostage recovery operation.

In testimony that at times became emotional, Lt. Col. Jason Amerine told the Senate homeland security committee that he “failed” a number of American hostages because he tried to alert Congress to their situation and still wasn’t able to secure their release.

Amerine was the officer assigned to bring back Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier held hostage after abandoning his base in Afghanistan.

The soldier described a “broken” process for hostage retrieval that was hindered by the State Department, FBI and CIA’s refusal to share information with the military and bureaucratic “stove pipes” that made it difficult to coordinate and execute plans.

After reaching out to Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican, to alert him that “the bureaucracy for hostage recovery was broken,” Amerine said he was pegged as a whistleblower, “a term that has become radioactive and derogatory.”

“After I made protected disclosures to Congress, the Army suspended my clearance, removed me from my job, and sought to court martial me,” Amerine charged.

He claimed that the retaliation came when Hunter issued a complaint to the Pentagon’s Inspector General alleging an “illegal or questionable” ransom had been paid to free Bergdahl from captivity.

While working to secure Bergdahl’s release, Amerine said his team found out about other captives but that they were forgotten while the focus remained on the U.S. soldier.

“Warren Weinstein is dead. Colin Rutherford, Joshua Boyle, Caitlin Coleman and the child she bore in captivity are still hostages in Pakistan. I failed them. I exhausted all efforts and resources available to return them, but I failed,” he said.

“My team had a difficult mission and I used all legal means available to recover the hostages. You, the Congress, were my last resort,” Amerine told lawmakers. “I am before you because I did my duty and you need to ensure all in uniform can go on doing their duty without fear of reprisal.”

The U.S. military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The hearing comes as the White House prepares to release a review of its hostage policy this month, which is expected to call for “critical” changes to the way the government responds when citizens are held captive.

Three other witnesses told the Senate committee of similar retaliation from government officials at other agencies, which they claimed came after they disclosed problems and abuses at their respective places of employment.

Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of the committee, urged lawmakers to consider protections for whistleblowers who “take great risk to stand up and expose wrongdoing.”

“They sacrifice their careers, their reputations and often their financial security. Congress — and this committee in particular –must support federal whistleblowers and ensure that they are adequately protected from retaliation,” he said.

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