Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's statements in lengthy interviews with medical and psychological teams during the re-integration process could possibly be used against him in a court martial, Army officials said Tuesday.
At a Pentagon background briefing, a senior Army official said that Bergdahl was speaking freely and has been cooperative in interviews in Germany and at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas since his release on June 2 from nearly five years in Taliban captivity.
The senior official said that Bergdahl's statements "could be used against him if he makes some sort of admission" on how and why he went missing from his unit in Afghanistan's southeastern Paktika province on June 30, 2009.
The 28-year-old Bergdahl also has been told in general terms that any incriminating statements could be used against him but "to my knowledge" he has yet to ask for a lawyer, the official said.
The official used the same phrase – "not to my knowledge" – when asked if Bergdahl had thus far made any statements that could be considered incriminating.
Since his release in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at the Guantanamo Naval Base, Bergdahl has yet to be told formally of his right to remain silent and to have legal representation, the senior official said.
Bergdahl will be read his rights in about two weeks, prior to his first interview with Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, Army officials said.
Dahl, now deputy commanding General of the Army's I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, has been appointed by the Army to lead an Article 15-6 investigation that could result in recommendations for punishment for Bergdahl.
A previous Article 15-6 investigation conducted shortly after Bergdahl went missing concluded that he likely deserted his post while serving with the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat, 25th Infantry Division out of Fort Richardson, Alaska.
Members of Bergdahl's unit were interviewed for the initial Article 15-6 investigation and the senior Army official said Dahl might interview them again.
In TV interviews and in House testimony, several troops who served with Bergdahl have charged that he stacked his weapon and body armor, and walked away from their combat outpost.
Thus far, "we have no reason to believe he engaged in criminal conduct" by aiding the Taliban while he was in captivity, the senior official said.
The official would not comment on the state of Bergdahl's mental health, but said "I can tell you he's been cooperative to date."
Dahl has been given 60 days to complete the Article 15-6 investigation and make recommendations, which would mean that Bergdahl should know by mid-August whether he might face action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Dahl will be "looking at the facts and circumstances surrounding his (Bergdahl's) disappearance," and then will decide on recommendations to the command.
The senior official described Dahl's range of options as the following – no action, counseling, reprimand, non-judicial punishment and court martial. The command could either accept or reject Dahl's recommendations, the senior official said.
A second senior Army official said that Bergdahl was currently being paid as an E-5 Sergeant. The official declined to give the exact amount but it would be in the range of $2,555 per month, according to current military pay charts.
The official also declined to say how much money Bergdahl might get in back pay for his years in captivity but did not dispute that it would amount to "several hundred thousand dollars."
Military.com has estimated that Bergdahl's back pay, when all factors are considered, could amount to more than $300,000.
Bergdahl currently has access to some of the back pay, the official said. When he initially went missing, Bergdahl's pay was put into his personal account, the official said. Then "at some point, it was determined to put it into a holding account," the official said.
The official could not give a cutoff date for when the Army stopped putting Bergdahl's pay into his personal account. The official said it also was a possibility that Bergdahl might forfeit all of the back pay if he was found to have deserted or gone absent without leave.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at email@example.com