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July 22, 2017

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US advisor defends remarks on freed soldier & Benghazi

WASHINGTON--U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice defended Saturday her comments that army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, freed in a prisoner swap after five years' captivity with the Taliban, had served "with honor."

The remarks have come under fire amid allegations that Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan only after deserting his post.

Rice, who first spoke on a U.S. talk show last Sunday shortly after Bergdahl was turned over to U.S. special forces, told CNN it was too soon to judge the soldier's actions.

"This is a young man whose circumstances we are still learning about. He is, as all Americans, innocent until proven guilty," Rice said.

"Let the military work in the first instance to bring him back to health. We will have a full, comprehensive review of what happened and then we will be able to" determine whether he was a deserter, she said.

Rice said, regardless, her description of Bergdahl as a man who served "with honor and distinction" was not incorrect.

"What I was referring to is the fact that this was a young man that volunteered to serve his country in uniform at a time of war. That is, itself, a very honorable thing," she said.

Rice previously sparked a firestorm of criticism, especially among Republicans, for comments she made soon after the assault at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Then U.S. envoy to the U.N., Rice initially said the attack was sparked by local anger over an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube.

It has since become clear that the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the mission — which cost the lives of four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens — was planned by armed militants.

The uproar over Rice's Bergdahl comments is drawing parallels to the Benghazi controversy. But Rice said she works to be "up front with the American people."

On Benghazi, she said, "I provided the best information the U.S. government had at the time. Parts of it turned out to be wrong. I regret the information I was provided was wrong."

But she said, "that doesn't make me a liar. That makes me a public servant trying to say what we knew at the time."

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