Defense shows replica of cage used to hold Bergdahl

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s defense team showed off a cage — designed to replicate the one in which he was held for four years — in a military courtroom on Tuesday.

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban after leaving his post in Afghanistan. He was at first chained to a bed and tortured, he testified on Monday, but after an escape attempt was moved to a cage.

Terrence Russell of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, the Pentagon agency charged with recovery of Department of Defense personnel, told the court that his group created the cage based on Bergdahl’s accounts of his captivity.

Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom Tuesday, but CBS North Carolina’s Sheena Elzie described the cage as being similar to a metal dog cage.

The agency is using Bergdahl’s experience in the training it provides to American Special Forces troops, Russell said.

Bergdahl was a “gold mine” of intelligence, helping the military better understand insurgents and how they imprison the enemy, two agents testified Tuesday as defense attorneys sought to show the soldier’s contributions since he was returned in a prisoner swap.

The testimony runs counterpoint to the case prosecutors presented at Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing, calling on severely wounded soldiers to offer gripping testimony about the injuries that troops suffered while searching for Bergdahl after he walked off his post in Afghanistan in 2009.

Bergdahl, who pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, testified Monday and apologized to the wounded. He faces up to life in prison. The military judge hearing the case has wide leeway in deciding Bergdahl’s punishment.

Amber Dach, who spent 16 years in military intelligence, was the primary analyst assigned to Bergdahl’s case for the five years after he disappeared. She described how eager he was to help intelligence officials at a hospital in Germany days after he was returned to U.S. authorities. Though his voice was weak and raspy, he helped authorities and even drew diagrams in his downtime to bring to his next debriefing session.

“He was very motivated to just downloading all of the details that he recalled,” she testified. “It was a gold mine. It really reshaped the way we did intel collection in the area.”

An official from the military agency that helps reintegrate former captives and develops survival training for service members testified that information Bergdahl provided him was invaluable.

The 31-year-old soldier from Hailey, Idaho, was brought home by President Barack Obama in 2014 in a swap for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Obama said at the time the U.S. does not leave its service members on the battlefield.

Republicans roundly criticized Obama, and Donald Trump went further while campaigning for president, repeatedly calling Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” who deserved to be executed by firing squad or thrown out of a plane without a parachute.

Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing is expected to last several more days.

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