Bergdahl Lawyer Wants Army to Turn over Communications

In this Jan. 12, 2016, file photo, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl arrives for a pretrial hearing at Fort Bragg, N.C. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson, File)
In this Jan. 12, 2016, file photo, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl arrives for a pretrial hearing at Fort Bragg, N.C. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson, File)

The lawyer for alleged deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl wants the Army to turn over all of its communications with the Senate Armed Services Committee dating from mid-2014.

In a civil lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Eugene R. Fidell filed a complaint to compel the Army to release the records, which he requested under the federal Freedom of Information Act in October. Fidell's lawsuit comes after he appealed a redacted response provided by the Army.

Fidell requested documents of all communications regarding Bergdahl between the Army and the committee, including the committee's leadership, members, staff and congressional fellows from May 31, 2014, to the date of the Army's response. He said he also wanted documents that summarized, memorialized or reflected oral communications, according to the lawsuit.

Bergdahl, who walked off a remote base in Afghanistan in 2009 and was subsequently held by the Taliban for nearly five years, is charged with desertion with the intent to shirk important or hazardous duty and misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.

The court-martial is set to begin in August at Fort Bragg.

All proceedings leading up to the trial were put on hold in February as the military's highest court -- the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces -- reviews an appeal from Bergdahl's lawyers to lift a stay in all matters not related to a protective order set on classified information.

Fidell's Freedom of Information Act request was filed three days after a spokesman for the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote to The New York Times concerning statements made by Chairman John McCain regarding Bergdahl.

According to the lawsuit, Fidell said the comments referred to the oversight of the entire matter of Bergdahl, not just his conduct.

Fidell wanted the following offices to be searched for responsive records: Office of the Secretary of the Army, the Army staff, Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Army, U.S. Army Forces Command, Army Public Affairs, Army Congressional Liaison and Army Congressional Fellows. Along with his request, Fidell attached a notarized authorization from Bergdahl and offered to pay $1,000 in reasonable search and copying fees.

On Feb. 19, Fidell said he received a number of redacted documents in response to his request.

He filed an administrative appeal the following day. Among his concerns, Fidell said some of the redactions aren't properly cited, are excessive and are unfounded.

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