Recognise the name Bowe Bergdahl? If you don’t, you soon will.
The 29-year-old United States army soldier is set to become a household name if recent reports are to believed, as the centre point in an upcoming season of gripping podcast phenomenon Serial.
While serving in Afghanistan in 2009, Sgt Bergdahl disappeared from his post under mysterious circumstances.
One month after his disappearance, the Taliban released a video showing a frightened Bergdahl living in captivity. They demanded money and the exchange of Afghani prisoners for his safe return.
Over the coming years, Sgt Bergdahl featured in several Taliban videos. In some of them he could be seen emaciated and pleading for rescue, much to the distress of his parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl.
Prior to his disappearance, Sgt Bergdahl posted some his belongings including his uniform and some books back to his parents.
He also sent them an email which read: “I am sorry for everything … The horror that is america [sic] is disgusting.”
Much of his correspondence with his parents leading up to his disappearance criticised the behaviour of his platoon and the purpose of American military presence in the area.
Once he was a hostage with the Taliban, Sgt Bergdahl attempted to escape twice to no avail.
In 2010, there were reports claiming the Idaho-born soldier was assisting the Taliban in bomb-making and ambush tactics, reports US military officials dimissed as Taliban propaganda.
On May 31, 2014, Sgt Bergdahl was released as part of negotiations undertaken by President Barack Obama which involved the exchange of five Guantanamo Bay detainees for his safe return.
In March 2015, military prosecutors charged Sgt Bergdahl with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
According to CBS News, a misbehaviour before the enemy charge pertains to Sgt Bergdahl leaving his post “without authority” and “wrongfully causing search and recovery operations”. It could lead to a life sentence.
While Sgt Bergdahl has maintained he was abducted by insurgents during a staged walk-off protesting conditions at his post, soldiers who served alongside him have claimed otherwise.
According to testimony given this month by Sgt Bergdahl’s platoon leader, Captain John Billings, he “snuck off” from his post “under the cover of darkness”.
Media coverage of Sgt Bergdahl’s ordeal focused on the circumstances of his disappearance and release, which many said went against the US government’s policy of never negotiating with terrorists.
Upon his return, Sgt Bergdahl said he had been tortured and kept in a cage by his captors.
Maxim magazine has reported several of Sergeant Bergdahl’s former comrades have been interviewed by Sarah Koenig, the host and creator of Serial.
Ms Koenig and one of the show’s producers were also spotted at a preliminary hearing for Sgt Bergdahl’s case just last week in Texas.
Joining them was Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Mark Boal who, according to Maxim, is trying to bring Sgt Bergdahl’s story to Hollywood. According to Maxim‘s sources, Mr Boal has even supplied Serial‘s producers with source material.
All of this points to a Bergdahl focus in one of the upcoming seasons of Serial. The plethora of mixed opinions, experiences and testimonies would lend itself perfectly to Ms Koenig’s style of storytelling and investigation, which draws on source material from the case and follow-up interviews to build a case.
The debut season of Serial revisited the evidence in a 1999 murder case involving teenage victim Hae Min Lee and her high school boyfriend, Adnan Syed, who was charged with her murder.
Earlier this year Mr Syed, who is currently serving a life sentence for Ms Lee’s murder, requested an appeal for his conviction based on fresh evidence from witness Asia McClain presented in the podcast. In what is believed to have been an oversight, Mr Syed’s attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, failed to interview Ms McClain at the time of the case, despite the fact Ms McClain could place Mr Syed away from the scene of the crime. Ms Gutierrez passed away in 2004.
Thanks to the success of Serial season one, which was released in October 2014, two more instalments have been announced. Season two is set to be released this year, while season three is slated for 2016.
It’s unclear which season Bergdahl is likely to feature in.
When Maxim approached the show for comment, production manager Emily Condon had this to say:
“We’d very much appreciate if fellow journalists would give us some room and not feel the need to attempt to dig into and try to figure out what you think we might be doing, especially since we’re actively reporting stories, and having a bunch of wild speculation out there makes our job reporting harder. Doesn’t feel very menschy.
“In any case, here’s what I can tell you: The Serial staff is currently working on several things simultaneously: Season 2, Season 3, and some other podcast projects. For now we’re not talking publicly about anything that we’re working on.”
Maxim‘s exclusive piece was written by Matthew Farwell, a former US soldier who contributed reporting to the late Michael Hastings’ feature on Sgt Bergdahl in the 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.