Bergdahl Attorneys, Army Tussle Over Docs

     (CN) – Attorneys for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on Monday defended their decision to release the 373-page transcript of the accused deserter’s interview with an Army general officer, saying the online disclosure fully complies with the case’s protective order.
     Bergdahl’s legal team was responding to assertions by U.S. Army attorneys who last week said the release of the documents raises questions about how the soldier’s attorneys will handle classified material.
     “Nothing in the petition indicates that Sergeant Bergdahl’s attorneys have either violated or ‘exploited’ the stay,” said Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s civilian defense attorney, in a filing with U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals.
     Fidell has long sought the release of documents by Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl detailing the Army’s 2014 investigation of Bergdahl’s disappearance and capture by Taliban insurgents.
     His requests, however, have been repeatedly rejected by a military appellate court due to lack of jurisdiction.
     Bergdahl – who turns 30 next week – is expected to face court-martial in a military courtroom at Fort Bragg, N.C in August. He was charged in March 2015 with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy after allegedly walking away from his combat outpost in Afghanistan’s Paktika province.
     Bergdahl ‘s disappearance sparked a five-year search for answers while the Taliban held him prisoner in torturous conditions a military expert who debriefed Bergdahl described as the worst a U.S. prisoner of war has faced in the last 60 years.
     His release came only after the White House agreed to swap five Taliban detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay in a still-debated prisoner exchange.
     Bergdahl’s defense attorneys included the full transcript of the soldier’s interview with the then-Army Major in a website they created called “The Bergdahl Docket.” They argue the website is necessary “because the government has not established an electronic reading room for the case.”
     While Army prosecutors protested the “unauthorized release” in a court filing Thursday seeking to halt the proceedings, Bergdahl’s attorneys argue that the petition would serve no purpose “since there already is a stay.”
     “Nothing referred to in the petition suggests that the defense, the prosecution, or Judge Nance have violated that stay,” the defense filing says. “The court should reject this desperate and bizarre theory.”
     A Feb. 9 order granted a request by Army lawyers to halt the proceedings, Fidell says.
     Fidell said the cell phone number of an assistant trial counsel under the signature seal does not qualify as personal identifiable information under the protective order since they have elected to include the number on countless other communications.
     Bergdahl faces up to 5 years for desertion and up to life in a military prison for misbehavior before the enemy if he’s found guilty.

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