By Justin Sink - 06/05/14 09:10 PM EDT
A senior White House aide said Thursday he had seen “no evidence” to confirm a report that rescued Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl converted to Islam, fraternized with the Taliban and declared jihad during nearly five years of captivity.
“We have seen no evidence of that,” deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken told CNN when asked about a Fox News report about Bergdahl’s conduct while imprisoned by the Taliban.
“The idea that we are trying Sergeant Bergdahl in the court of public opinion in abstentia, without giving him an opportunity to give his story and to tell us what happened, frankly, I find repugnant,” Blinken said. “We don't know what happened. We are determined to get to the bottom of it. The military will investigate appropriately. Let's get the facts before we rush to judgment.”
The Fox News report is based on dispatches written by a Pentagon subcontractor staffed by former intelligence officials hired to prepare reports on terrorist activities. The head of the firm told the network he provided intelligence briefs to the director of intelligence at the U.S. Central Command.
According to those dispatches, Bergdahl played soccer and at times was allowed to carry a gun while in Taliban captivity. But the report also says Bergdahl attempted to escape and was punished by being kept in a metal cage.
Bergdahl has also come under criticism from fellow service members who charge he deliberately left his camp before he was captured by the Taliban.
President Obama said earlier Thursday that he would make “no apologies” for securing Bergdahl’s release.
“The American people understand this is somebody's child and that we don't condition whether or not we make the effort to get someone back,” Obama said.
Obama also denounced “controversies that are whipped up in Washington.”
“I make absolutely no apologies for making sure we get back a young man to his parents,” Obama said at a joint press conference in Brussels with British Prime Minister David Cameron.