Fact Check

FALSE: Terrorist Exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl Now Top ISIS Commander

Rumor: Prisoners swapped in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl now top 'ISIS leaders.'

Published Sept. 16, 2014


Claim:   Prisoners swapped in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are now "ISIS leaders."


Example:   [Collected via email, September 2014]


Just saw this online article from the National Report & want to know if it is true. I don't think it is but I have friends posting it as
true on FB. Thanks.


Origins:   On 13 September 2014, National Report published an article regarding the fate of at least one of the five prisoners exchanged to broker the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who left his post in a remote part of Afghanistan and spent nearly five years imprisoned by the Taliban. According to the site, Mullah Mohammed Fazi, "one of the five Guantanamo Bay detainees released by the Obama administration in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl," has steadily risen through the ranks of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS (or ISIL.)

Initially, reaction to the release of Bergdahl was positive. Rather quickly, however, the story took an unexpected turn, with many objecting to the prisoner exchange and release of five Guantanamo Bay detainees. One common objection pertained to the suspected danger posed to American citizens by the release of the five prisoners.

During the months following Bergdahl's release, concern over ISIS escalated in the media. News that one or more of the prisoners exchanged for the soldier had joined forces with ISIS played into the political back-and-forth surrounding both of the issues, with the National Report article claiming:

Reports indicate that Fazi, classified by a 2008 Pentagon dossier as being considered a high risk to the United States if released, appears to be heavily engaged in the systematic murder of Iraqs non-Sunni population. Internal Pentagon assessments say the strategy of wholesale slaughter carried out in ISIS occupied territories very well could have originated with Fazi. Many of the same techniques were utilized by the Taliban in Afghanistan to consolidate and strengthen their position under Mohammed Fazi’s direction.

... The Obama administration is worried that news of Fazi's emergence as a top commander in ISIS will worsen public perception of both the terrorist swap for Bergdahl and the GAO's findings of illegal activity. The two events, taken together, could generate sufficient fallout to derail some of the political agenda President Obama has for the remainder of his 'lame duck' term. The White House has gone into full damage control mode regarding both developments.


The article went on to "quote" John McCain as condemning President Obama over the purported recent development:

"The GAO has clearly declared that President Obama broke the law," said Senator McCain. 'The prisoner that President Obama illegally ordered released has joined another group hostile to our country and has led our enemies in the murder, rape and torture of innocent men, women and children. I personally can't imagine anything worse a sitting President could do. In my mind it rises to the level of an impeachable offense."


The original claim involved Fazi, but later iterations stretched the tale to include two more of his fellow former detainees. Of course, as ISIS remains a political hot potato, and with the story's inclusion of a complicating factor involving the contentious release of Bergdahl, you'd imagine that this story would have been reported across major mainstream news sites.

The reason this development wasn't front-page news is that National Report is a fake news site, posting outlandish and sensational claims that often quickly go viral on social media sites such as Facebook. A disclaimer on the site explains that no story published there is meant to be taken seriously, including another recent entry that also touches upon the topic of the imminent impeachment and/or resignation of President Obama.

Last updated:   24 September 2015

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.