The Pentagon denied Thursday that a ransom was paid for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl while refusing to either confirm or deny that money went to an informant.
"There was no ransom offered, there was no ransom paid – nor was there an attempt to do so that failed" to gain the release of Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban from June 2009 to May 31, 2014, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.
Kirby was less adamant on whether money went to an alleged informant who claimed to have knowledge of where Bergdahl was being held.
"I'm not aware that any money changed hands," Kirby said at a Pentagon briefing, but he acknowledged that the U.S. military occasionally pays informants. "There are such exchanges," Kirby said.
The Washington Times first reported on the possibility of a ransom, citing a Nov. 5 letter to Defense Secretary from Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, a frequent critic of Hagel and the Obama administration.
In the letter, Hunter claimed that U.S. Joint Special Operations Command officials paid an Afghan informant for information on Bergdahl's location, but the informant absconded with the money.
"I ask you to immediately inquire with JSOC to determine the specific order of events," Hunter said in the letter. Kirby said the Pentagon was aware of Hunter's letter and would soon issue a reply.
Bergdahl was released in exchange for the release of five Taliban operatives who were being held at the detention facility at Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba. Several soldiers who served with Bergdahl in Afghanistan have charged that he walked away from his post and alleged that he was a deserter.
Bergdahl is now living without restrictions on the Army base at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl has been conducting an investigation of the case to determine whether there should be charges against the 28-year-old Bergdahl.
"The work is complete and now it's in review – that can take a while," Kirby said of the investigation.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org