The court martial proceedings involving Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl have hit yet another speed bump – this time due to a disagreement over the release of classified documents. While the need to protect sensitive material is obviously a concern, should it outweigh the speedy and just conclusion of this long, drawn out investigation which more closely resembles a soap opera than a criminal prosecution?
Sgt. Bergdahl became a household name following his 2014 release by the Taliban, who had been holding him since he reportedly walked away from his combat base in 2009. Despite the President hailing Bergdahl as a hero, and even inviting his family to the White House, former service members began coming forward with claims he had actually deserted and that the Army has opened an investigation concerning the allegations at the same time they were conducting search and missions.
Over the last year and a half, the government has flip flopped back and forth on its official position concerning Bergdahl, motivated by what some considered a fear of embarrassing the current administration. Although he was eventually referred to court martial on two charges, desertion and misbehavior in the face of the enemy, it appears that the prosecution is using petty disagreements and red tape to further delay that trial.
During a January 12th hearing, the defense asked the judge for two things: one, authorization for Bergdahl to wear service related medals for service in Afghanistan and his status as a POW ; two, release of classified documents which they claim the prosecution was using in preparation of its case against him. Prosecutors claimed the medals were an issue which should be addressed with his chain of command and that release of the documents was not up to the Army but the original classifying authority. While both of these arguments may be technically correct, they are also unnecessary bureaucratic tap dances which should be abandoned.
This is hardly the first case where either of these issues has been raised. When it comes to the military criminal justice system, disputed awards and classified material is as common as blood test results in a DUI, and something which should have been worked out from the onset. Furthermore, neither appears to be especially helpful to the defense or harmful for the prosecution. Panel members will not be swayed by medals, especially when most will also be wearing the same ones and see the hypocrisy of a deserter doing so and the court has already taken steps to protect classified material by limiting outside access to proceedings and requiring Bergdahl and his attorneys to obtain the necessary clearances.
In the name of final justice, the prosecutors should stop throwing up road block after road block and let a court hear the evidence as soon as possible. Not only will this provide closure for the witnesses as well as Bergdahl, it will finally let the service as a whole put this incident in the rearview mirror and restore faith in the military justice system as one which is free from political influence.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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