Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, the highest-ranking American military officer.
The U.S.' top military official on Tuesday defended the controversial prisoner swap that freed Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, even as he said the military would look into the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's capture.
"Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said in a statement Tuesday morning.
"Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred," the statement continued. But Dempsey defended the Obama administration's decision amid a burgeoning controversy over its decision to free five prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl's release.
After the weekend prisoner exchange, several soldiers who served with Bergdahl said he willingly deserted his unit. And Republican lawmakers have leveled claims that the swap was illegal because it proceeded without a timely notification of Congress.
Dempsey said the deal presented the "last, best opportunity" to recover Bergdahl. He said freeing U.S. soldiers from enemy captivity is a priority regardless of the speculation about Bergdahl's conduct. And he thanked those who tried, and ultimately succeeded, in securing Bergdahl's release.
Here's Dempsey's full statement:
"In response to those of you interested in my personal judgments about the recovery of SGT Bowe Bergdahl, the questions about this particular soldier’s conduct are separate from our effort to recover ANY U.S. service member in enemy captivity. This was likely the last, best opportunity to free him. As for the circumstances of his capture, when he is able to provide them, we’ll learn the facts. Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family. Finally, I want to thank those who for almost five years worked to find him, prepared to rescue him, and ultimately put themselves at risk to recover him."