WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has told senators it didn't notify Congress about the pending swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban officials because the Taliban had threatened to kill him if the deal was made public, three congressional officials have said.
The threat — not just concerns that Bergdahl's health might be failing — drove the Obama administration to quickly make the deal to rescue him, the officials said Thursday. The threat was transmitted by Qatari officials at the height of the negotiations, they said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was referring in part to the threat when he said Sunday that "there was a question about his safety," officials told the senators in a private briefing Wednesday.
The latest explanation comes as several administration and congressional officials say that a December video shown to senators in the briefing portrayed Bergdahl's health as in decline but not so severe that he required an emergency rescue. An assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies in January came to the same conclusion, said two congressional officials familiar with it.
The congressional officials were briefed by the administration but spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.