The popular podcast “Serial” launched its second season Thursday, shining a spotlight on the mysterious disappearance of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Berghdahl — and allowing him to be heard publicly for the first time since he was freed by the Taliban in May 2014.
Bergdahl’s dramatic rescue in eastern Afghanistan came nearly five years after he deserted his post and was captured, military officials said. Getting him back was part of a complex exchange that involved five Taliban prisoners who were being held at Guantanamo Bay — a move that drew sharp criticism from GOP lawmakers.
“I’m going, ‘Good grief, I’m in over my head,'” Bergdahl says in the premiere episode of “Serial’s” second season, recounting how he walked away from his military base in June 2009.
“Suddenly, it really starts to sink in that I really did something bad. Or, not bad, but I really did something serious.”
As Bergdahl, 29, faces a court-martial and even a life sentence in prison for leaving his base, House Republicans are claiming in a new report that the Obama administration misled Congress about the effort to release the five Gitmo detainees.
Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee released a 98-page report Wednesday on its inquiry into the case of the so-called Taliban Five after lawmakers expressed outrage that the Obama administration did not give Congress a 30-day notice about transferring the detainees to Qatar, as required by law.
The report also provided behind-the-scenes details about the Defense Department’s work with the Qataris, who played the middleman in negotiating the swap with the Taliban.
Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, was charged in March with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, a charge that carries up to life in prison. However, an Army officer has recommended that Bergdahl’s case be referred to a special court martial, which is a misdemeanor-level forum. The five former Taliban leaders remain in Qatar, where they are prohibited from leaving the country or re-engaging in militant activities.
Berghdahl’s story is certain to gain even more attention — and scrutiny — because of “Serial,” which became a phenomenon last year after focusing on Maryland man Adnan Syed, who is serving a life sentence in prison. Some believe Syed was wrongly convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend in 1999, and the podcast is credited with helping him win another hearing that will allow him to present new evidence.
“Serial” — a spinoff of the radio program “This American Life” — became the most popular podcast in history after it was downloaded more than 100 million times and made a household name out of narrator Sarah Koenig.