The White House gave its first significant comments Monday on the imprisonment of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi in Mexico, but still had little to say.
This May 3, 2014, photo shows Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi in Tijuana's La Mesa Penitentiary in Mexico. (AP Photo/U-T San Diego, Alejandro Tamayo)
Asked about demands that the U.S. work for Tahmooressi's release, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the matter is different from that of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, because the latter was being held by an enemy combatant.
"I don't have a lot of information to provide you in terms of the current efforts underway," Earnest said.
"Certainly the president is concerned about all detainees or Americans who are being held against their will in other countries," he continued. "This is something the president is certainly concerned about. But in terms of what specific efforts are underway, I'd refer you to the State Department."
The White House has previously referred all inquires to the State Department. Secretary of State John Kerry has said the U.S. is monitoring the situation and working to determine the facts.
More than 123,000 people have signed a petition on the White House website calling for President Barack Obama to get directly involved in Tahmooressi's release. Last week, Veterans of Foreign Wars leader William A. Thien urged Obama in a letter, “A personal phone call from you to Mexican President Nieto can make this happen.”
“I write as the national commander of the 1.9 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its auxiliaries to urge your immediate action to secure the release of Andrew Tahmooressi from a Mexican jail,” the letter said.
Tahmooressi has been incarcerated in Mexico for more than two months after he says he mistakenly crossed the border into the country with three firearms in his car.
"Let me draw a distinction between the Marine you are siting in the Mexican prison and Sgt. Bergdhal," Earnest said. "Sgt. Bergdhal is being held by the Taliban, which is engaged in an armed conflict with the United States and coalition forces. So what was conducted to free Sgt. Bergdahl was a prisoner exchange. This is something that has been part of winding down armed conflicts for centuries."