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Army whistleblower asked to testify on Bergdahl
Posted on June 04, 2015

POW/MIAs http://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/jason-amerine-army-whistleblower-testimony-bowe-bergdahl-118588.html

By AUSTIN WRIGHT 6/3/15 12:46 PM EDT Updated 6/3/15 3:18 PM EDT

A Senate panel is asking a war-hero-turned-whistleblower to testify about an Army investigation involving his efforts over the past few years to recover Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — an investigation that has delayed his retirement and that a congressman says is retaliatory.

Lt. Col. Jason Amerine, a Green Beret who played a major role in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and then helped recruit soldiers to fight in the war through media appearances and a role in the promotional video game “America’s Army,” has been invited to appear June 11 before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

In a letter obtained by POLITICO, the leaders of the panel ask him to testify at a hearing on whistleblower retaliation.

“This hearing will highlight the stories of whistleblowers from different agencies who allege they face retaliation because they brought attention to government wrongdoing,” wrote Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and ranking Democrat Tom Carper of Delaware. “We ask that your testimony discuss your experiences because of your whistleblower disclosure.” Amerine is expected to harshly criticize the Obama administration over its efforts to recover Bergdahl, U.S. aid worker Warren Weinstein and other former or current Western hostages held in Pakistan and Afghanistan — efforts that Amerine has called “completely dysfunctional.”

In late 2013, Amerine took his concerns to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a former combat Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan who credits Amerine’s whistleblowing with having a major impact. According to the congressman, Amerine’s communications with his and other congressional offices were the driving force behind advocacy that contributed to the White House’s decision to launch an ongoing review of its hostage-recovery efforts. Amerine also helped craft a provision by Hunter incorporated into the House version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act that would create an interagency hostage coordinator.

And Amerine’s whistleblowing led Hunter to push last year for then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to put a single person in charge of efforts to recover Bergdahl – a step Hagel took several months before Bergdahl, who was held for five years by the Taliban after he walked away from his post in Afghanistan, was traded for five Taliban commanders confined to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Bergdahl has since been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Amerine has had “tremendous influence” in efforts to address “failures in the U.S. government’s recovery of Americans held captive in hostile areas,” Hunter said in a letter last week to Army Secretary John McHugh. “It remains my firm belief that the Army investigation, as it currently stands, is strictly retaliatory and has severely exceeded the appropriate time frame for reviewing such a complaint.”

The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command began investigating Amerine after the service was notified by the FBI in January “of a potential unauthorized disclosure of classified information,” according to a February letter from the Army to Hunter’s office. But Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper said Tuesday that “at no point whatsoever were sources, methods or any other potential point of classified information ever discussed with Rep. Hunter or Congress.”

On his Facebook page last month, Amerine, who was awarded a Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart for his actions in Afghanistan, said, “The Army somehow thought it made sense to initiate a CID investigation into me executing both my duty and my right to speak to Congress.”

The investigation involves an effort Amerine led over the past few years to recover Bergdahl and other Western hostages.

According to Hunter, Amerine was crafting plans within the Army for a prisoner swap that would have included Bergdahl and other hostages — including Weinstein, who was killed by mistake in January in a U.S. drone strike. But Amerine and his team “struggled to get attention beyond the walls of the Pentagon and were ultimately sidelined,” Hunter said in an April statement, because of “infighting and disagreements among lead organizations.” The congressman believes the State Department-led effort to trade Bergdahl for five members of the Taliban “reshuffled” the deck “for all the other Americans in captivity” in Afghanistan and Pakistan and is part of “a string of failures related to the administration’s decisions and efforts related to Bergdahl’s release.”

Amerine’s expected testimony next week could raise questions about why the State Department didn’t include Weinstein or other Western hostages as part of the Bergdahl trade. He could also voice publicly the concerns about the administration’s hostage-recovery policies that led Hunter and other members of Congress to conclude that a single person should be put in charge of the efforts.

The Senate panel is also expected to probe whether the Army’s investigation into Amerine is in retaliation for his whistleblowing to Congress.

 
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