The White House on Tuesday denied reports that there was a ransom paid for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
“These claims are flat-wrong,” White House national security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told TheBlaze. “The United States did not provide money in exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl’s release.”
Asked whether an intermediary might have paid, she was clear, “We did not pay cash for Sgt. Bergdahl’s recovery, we have no information that anyone else did, and we did not consider paying for recovery as a part of these negotiations.”
The Washington Free Beacon reported last week that a senior intelligence official said that cash was paid to the Haqqani network, the militant group that held Bergdahl for five years. Meanwhile, the State Department did not initially give a direct answer to the question of whether cash was considered.
On Monday however, Defense Department spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told Politico, “There was no money exchanged for Bergdahl’s release.”
Five high-level Taliban commanders were released from the Guantanamo Bay detention center in exchange for Bergdahl, who has been accused of deserting his unit in Afghanistan.
In a radio interview on WMAL radio in Washington, D.C., Monday, retired Lt. Col. Oliver North said he had direct knowledge of the negotiating process and said he knew of cash demands from the Haqqani network.
“My involvement goes all the way back to when the issue that was before the administration and of course from the intelligence that was being gathered was that those who held Bergdahl, regardless of how he got in their hands, were never the Taliban,” North said. “He was never regarded as a quote ‘prisoner of war.’ They all thought of him as a hostage and that’s the way they presented it. All they wanted was money. And of course the people who held him were called the Haqqani network, a criminal network enterprise that’s been around for centuries that has done trades for everything form opium to gold to get people free.”
He continued that he has been in touch with the Bergdahl family.
“All I ever saw for a year and a half was how much the price was going to be in dollars,” North said. “Now, here’s my conclusion. At the end of the day, this administration adds to the mix the transfer of five, the fab five of the Taliban, which the Haqqanis had never asked for.”
He later added, “I now realize someone else added to the mix, and it was the Obama administration, the release of these fab five of the Taliban.”