WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jason Amerine, a Green Beret war hero, told lawmakers that the government retaliated against him, in part, because he told Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) that the Obama administration paid a ransom that ended up stolen for accused deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
The Pentagon has denied paying a ransom for Bergdahl.
Moreover, the decorated Special Forces soldier who worked on the Pentagon’s hostage policy revealed that he was close to reaching a deal where Haji Bashir Noorzai, a Taliban-linked warlord and drug trafficker known as the Pablo Escobar of Afghanistan, would have been liberated in exchange for seven Westerners.
The Westerners– which included six civilians and Bergdahl, then-considered a prisoner of war– were being held hostage by terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The colonel has refused to identify the seventh hostage.
Once the Taliban got involved in the negotiations, the Obama administration decided that trading five Taliban leaders in exchange for Bergdahl was the “only viable option,” said Col. Amerine.
The Department of Defense (DoD) and the FBI were behind the ransom deal, he noted.
He went on to say that after he told Rep. Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, that the FBI was involved in the ransom, the federal law enforcement agency complained to the Army, accusing him of providing classified information to the California Republican.
The FBI also threatened the father of one of the civilian victims, saying that if he maintained contact with Rep. Hunter, he would no longer receive assistance from the federal law enforcement agency, also said the colonel.
“I mean, just atrocious treatment of family,” he added.
Col. Amerine made those comments during a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing entitled, “Blowing the Whistle on Retaliation: Accounts of Current and Former Federal Agency Whistleblowers.”
The hearing featured federal employees who have claimed retaliation from the government for shedding light on illicit activities.
Amerine told lawmakers that the federal government retaliated against him because he reached out to Rep. Hunter in his efforts to liberate Bergdahl, American Warren Weinstein, who was accidentally killed in a U.S. drone strike, Colin Rutherford from Canada, and a family of three including Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlin Coleman, and their child who was born in captivity.
Most of them are still being held hostage in Pakistan.
The Army colonel testified that he began working on the Pentagon’s hostage policy in early 2013. Eventually, he became frustrated at what he described as a “dysfunctional” effort to recover American hostages overseas that is cloaked in bureaucracy.
He ended up expressing his hostage policy concerns over to Rep. Duncan after running out of all other options.
The Army responded by suspending his clearance, removing him from his job, deleting his retirement orders as it considers to court martial him, and launching a criminal investigation that he claims stems from him involving the FBI in the botched Bergdahl ransom deal.
“You told me that in the course of your attempts to gain the freedom of these hostages in Afghanistan and Pakistan, you were made aware, to your belief, that the government did pay a ransom and that ransom money was stolen and, secondly, that you believe you were pretty close to potentially having a deal where we would get seven hostages in exchange for one Taliban leader, and instead we got one hostage in exchange for five Taliban leaders,” Ron Johnson (R-WI), the chairman of Senate homeland security panel, said to Col. Amerine during the hearing.
Sen. Johnson went on to ask the colonel if that is why he was retaliated against.
“Yes sir… On Dec. 1st of 2014, Rep. Hunter submitted a complaint to the [DoD] IG [inspector general] alleging an illegal or questionable ransom possibly being paid for Sgt. Bergdahl, there was a good deal of evidence that it occurred and a lot of questions as to how it occurred,” responded Amerine. “That complaint implicated both the DoD organization and the FBI. So, part of what lit the fuse was the same folks in the FBI that were basically implicated in the DoD IG complain of 1 December were the ones that later complained to the Army that I was sharing sensitive information with Rep. Hunter.”
Amerine pointed out that the FBI was also frustrated with him speaking with Rep. Hunter as the California lawmaker was pressuring the agency to rescue the civilian hostages.
“Amerine led a Special Forces team [in Afghanistan] in 2001, and was wounded by an errant American bomb on Dec. 5, 2001, that killed three other Special Forces soldiers,” reports The Washington Post. “He later received the Bronze Star with ‘V’ and the Purple Heart, and was labeled by the Army as a ‘Real Hero’ in the 2006 version of its popular video game, ‘America’s Army.’”