BERGDAHL DEFENSE TEAM WINS CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS APPEAL
May 2, 2016
Court-martial proceedings for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl have been halted over a question of his legal team's access to classified documents for weeks now. In a decision handed down last week, however, The United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in Bergdahl's lawyers' favor, saying that the legal team should have access to classified documents as part of the discovery process.
As Stars and Stripes reports, prosecutors and Bergdahl's lawyers clashed over the documents in some of the case's earliest hearings. A military judge had ruled that Bergdahl's team should have access to the documents, but the military prosecutors appealed the decision, claiming that it "directs the unauthorized disclosure of classified information and grants the defense unfettered access to classified information."
If the latest ruling stands, it clears the way for the discovery process to continue and puts Bergdahl back on track for an August trial. It is not clear, however, whether the prosecutors will appeal the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals' ruling.
While Bergdahl's legal team hasn't fully elaborated on what it hopes to find the documents in question, but there have been concerns whether there have been biased handling of Bergdahl since his rescue from Taliban captivity in 2014. Bergdahl was criminally charged after more than one expert who evaluated him recommended against legal action. Bergdahl's team is also pursuing the Army's correspondence with the Senate Armed Services Committee, particularly following Senator John McCain's public comments that characterized Bergdahl as a deserter.
"And I am not prejudging, O.K., but it is well known that in the searches for Bergdahl, after—we know now—he deserted, there are allegations that some American soldiers were killed or wounded, or at the very least put their lives in danger, searching for what is clearly a deserter," McCain told a reporter in Boston. "We need to have a hearing on that."
Speaking to CNN, Bergdahl's Attorney Eugene Fidell praised the court's decision but is eager to receive the 300,000 documents he and his team can now review. "The government basically has been brushed back on what I thought were extravagant claims," Fidell said. "It's anybody's guess [what's in the documents]... The government has not told us what it's giving us. The real question is how long the government is going to take to get these things to us."
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