Let’s catch up on last week’s Serial. Sorry for the delay on this recap but I did forget it had posted with the new bi weekly format. Here we go…
Bowe’s close friend Kim went to the local police to report a missing person, but that’s not the whole story. Kim began by calling Interpol, where she had some friends. To her this was worth a shot, because they had ways to navigate that the military didn’t. Interpol would need to issue a Yellow Notice which can only be generated by a police report, as unbelievable as that sounds. Kim gave Interpol all the necessary documents to start the investigation before they reached the final step, which is acquiring permission from the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense denied the request because they were already working with FBI and CIA so Interpol would cause too much trouble in the investigation. Kim felt as if she was a burden to them but that didn’t stop her from continuing on. Kim wonders still to this day, could Interpol’s help have brought Bowe home earlier. Sarah wants to know how this is supposed to work. How do you get Bowe back?
The military wasn’t the final resolution but an act of diplomacy. The President signed the final deal, but before that, his rescue effort was with those much lower on the totem pole.
The base of operations after the Dustwun, about a month and a half after he went missing, was in Tampa, FL at an organization called Sencom, which was in charge of missing persons. They dealt in PR, not Public Relations but Personnel Recovery. Sarah spoke with representatives from this organization and learned that they do much more than just find missing soldiers or even just missing Americans. Sarah imagines the headquarters as a very high tech place, but the women she spoke with said it’s just desks, computers and phones. The girls couldn’t reveal details since the investigation is ongoing but they never stopped even after the Dustwun was called off.
The women revealed that Iraq had a full time hostage recovery team which only worked on finding people but Afghanistan didn’t have one. They pleaded for a team like that, but it didn’t happen so their team rotated in and out of Afghanistan for months at a time. They used every piece of Intel they had available to themselves. Once they had Intel, the next step was to figure out what method would best get Bowe out: military, diplomatic or civilian for example. Since Bowe was actually in Pakistan, the challenge was greater. It meant that these teams working to save Bowe had to do a lot of asking for help. Sarah went on to reveal some of the things going on in Pakistan at this time which further complicated getting Bowe back.
Back to Kim, who grew up in Idaho with Bowe. She thought of him as her own child, because she cared so deeply for him. Kim was so passionate for his release that she wanted to go to Pakistan to help get him out. She got so far in her plans, before someone cancelled her passport in her best interest. Bowe’s parents were concerned and trying but didn’t wish to speak with Sarah. Kim was our link to the civilian effort.
One thing Kim did, which she couldn’t discuss, ending up helping in a way. She found a contact in the Taliban and got a call back. She couldn’t understand him, so they spoke via email which she still can’t read. But she did use an online translator to attempt to read the emails, but it was largely unsuccessful. However, she got the gist. The gist was that they wanted something for Bowe but she had to go to the FBI to get the help she would need. Her contact was credible, and she continued to contact him for the FBI. He pulled a Raymond Reddington and only spoke with Kim, no one else. She did this for two years and then it fizzled out for Kim but in reality the FBI passed it to the Department of Defense. This contact was one of the best leads to Bowe they got. The contact wanted his family brought over which they began to work on but the contact withdrew eventually. Even after, he was always on the list of possible solutions.
The DOD could never get a complete lockdown on where Bowe was because they never had all the resources they needed. If they had, they say they could have had his location in thirty days. However, they had to ask for other agencies help for two years in order to get what they needed. Sarah goes on to describe the goals of each specific agency.
For Secom, they wanted to find who they needed to find and they would do anything in order to find them. They used tactics like advertising to remind everyone that these people are missing. The girls spoke about others who got captured, even a woman who gave birth. The girls spoke about how people react to their desire to find and bring captives or missing persons home. People react with a lot of nastiness, almost blaming the missing person for getting themself into that situation. With Bowe, it was cubed because he walked away from his post.
Sarah spoke with an Intelligence Analyst, and he cared about finding Bowe and even thought the President needed to get involved. Sarah called him Nathan and Nathan reached out to Bowe’s parents to get them to push buttons. He broke all the standards of his world in order to tell them the truth about how bad it was. Bowe’s Dad was the right man to light the fire under. Nathan urged the Bergdahl’s with what to ask and who to push. Bowe’s dad released a video plea right after Osama Bin Laden was captured asking Pakistan directly to release Bowe. Bowe’s dad did what we couldn’t as a country because diplomacy takes steps, and you can’t step on toes.
Eventually they got the plea of a high ranking General who cared with his heart about getting Bergdahl free. He was able to uncover the ultimate problems with the way we recover hostages. The General’s name is Jason, and he was investigated based on how deeply he looked. Eventually, even Obama saw the problem and they reformed the policy. This was after Bowe was returned.
Next week on Serial, we’ll learn about how the rescue could have been different had they known Bowe’s motives.