The Defense Department on Monday denied that the United States paid a ransom for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in an attempt to settle allegations that other federal officials declined to deny for nearly a week.
“There was no money exchanged for Bergdahl’s release,” a Pentagon spokesman told Politico.
The denial came after the State Department repeatedly refused to confirm or deny the allegations, made by a number of current and former military and intelligence officials, including one who told the Washington Free Beacon that a ransom was almost surely paid.
Politico characterized news outlets quoting those officials as “eager to keep up attacks on the Obama administration’s handling of the Bergdahl exchange.”
Commentator Brit Hume of Fox News raised questions about the possibility of a ransom on TV on Monday morning, then tweeted a transcript of his comments to his 261,000 followers.
The narrative about a ransom appeared to have its origins in an interview from earlier this month, in which retired Lt. Col. Oliver North told NewsMaxTV that, at one time, the Taliban wanted $1 million for Bergdahl. That amount must have grown by the time of his release earlier this month, North said.
“Someone paid a ransom,” North said. “Whether the Qataris paid it, or some big oil sheikh, or somebody used our petrodollars, but there was a ransom paid in cash for each one of them, my guess somewhere in the round numbers of $5 [million] or $6 million to get Bergdahl freed.”