Who Is Jason Amerine? The 'Serial' Subject Is A War Hero Who Helped Bring Bowe Bergdahl Home
In the fifth episode of Serial released Thursday morning, host Sarah Koenig speaks with 27-year war veteran Jason Amerine, the man she describes as being the quintessential G.I. Joe archetype. Considering the army legitimately made an action figure of him, it seems as though the comparison isn't just one of Koenig's coy analogies. With his impressive military career behind him, Amerine helped change the way hostage recovery missions are run in the government. Though he implies his actions were inspired particularly by Bergdahl's case, he hopes he has helped to change the way all hostage situations in the Middle East are handled.
Amerine was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army Special Forces and led his own special forces team in Southern Afghanistan during the war in 2001. During his service, he received both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, rendering him an American hero. The Army manufactured a "Real Hero" action figure of him, kneeling on the ground and pointing his gun. Koenig introduces him in a nutshell:
Jason is as close as you could get to putting G.I. Joe on the Bergdahl case. His stellar career nearly unravelled last year in connection with his work on hostage recovery.
After serving overseas, Amerine took a job based out of the Pentagon, leading a team of strategists in January 2013. The unit's tasks were primarily investigative and involved finding ways to approach the army's dilemmas. General John Campbell, the man in charge of operations and plans for the military, was Amerine's immediate higher-up, to whom he reported. Campbell's biggest mission was to bring Bergdahl home.
Amerine and his team of strategists did an audit of Bergdahl's case to uncover why the investigation to find Bergdahl and rescue him had not been effective. In Amerine's opinion, the United States wasn't doing everything they possibly could to save Bergdahl.
I was in uniform for 27 years. To me, the notion of not leaving a soldier behind, you know that, you internalize that, and for me, it was just always just a false assumption that America doesn't leave Americans behind. I'd never been put in such a ridiculous position before of wait, there are these Americans that no one gives a f*** about? Nobody is doing anything to get them home. Our greater bureaucracy is treating their families horribly while telling the families to just 'shut up and wait.' I mean, to me, it was bordering on criminal how we were treating our common citizens.
He discovered that Bergdahl's case was being investigated by both the Special Operations Command, which runs special units, and the State Department. According to Amerine, the problem was that neither collaborated effectively with the other. Instead, he says they simply deferred to each other and assumed that the Department of Defense was ultimately in charge.
There wasn't anybody there asking the questions to even figure out that it was that big of a mess.
Amerine noted that the agencies denied his accusations that they were disorganized.
Feeling frustrated, he brought his complaints to a Congressman who relayed the allegedly insubstantial hostage recovery efforts to the FBI.
This is where things took a turn for the worst. The FBI filed a report against Amerine, claiming he shared sensitive information about Bergdahl to Congressman Duncan Hunter. In June 2014, Amerine testified before Congress.
“I continued to work with Rep. Hunter’s office to repair our dysfunctional hostage recovery efforts,” he said. “He set up a meeting between my office and the FBI. The meeting appeared to be cordial, but the FBI formally complained to the Army that information I was sharing with Rep. Hunter was classified. It was not.”
Regardless of the tarnish his efforts put on his reputation, Amerine's complaints reached President Obama, who spoke about the effectiveness of the hostage recovery program and apologized, promising to do better in the future. On June 24, 2015, the president addressed the nation on the issue, saying:
Today, I’m formally issuing a new presidential policy directive to improve how we work to bring home American hostages and how we support their families. I’ve signed a new executive order to ensure our government is organized to do so.
The army investigation was dropped; Amerine retired that same year.