In the wake of a national debate surrounding the exchange of five Taliban detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Maryland's two senators are asking the Obama administration for answers regarding the fate of two Americans civilians held captive abroad — Alan Gross and Warren Weinstein.
“I am concerned that the same energy and resources that we rightfully put into our nation’s prisoners of war are not being extended to our nation’s civil servants and contractors,” wrote Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski in a letter sent to the president on Thursday. In her letter, the Maryland Democrat wrote of two Marylanders who were abducted abroad while working for USAID. She asked the president, “Does this exchange represent a new way of thinking for winning the release of abducted Americans through exchanges?"
Mikulski referred specifically to Alan Gross, who was working as a sub-contractor in Cuba. Gross was arrested in Cuba in 2009 for “facilitating communications between Cuba’s Jewish community and the rest of the world.” Mikulski also referred to Warren Weinstein, who was abducted by terrorists in 2011 while working on “economic development projects” in Pakistan.
Mikulski wrote that the Bergdahl exchange has raised questions as to whether the administration considered including other abducted Americans in the operation. She asked the administration to answer her questions as soon as possible and said she would accept a classified response if it is necessary.
“I urge you to expand our policy to be ‘no American left behind,’” wrote Mikulski.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., also said he has questions about what the administration is doing to secure the release of Gross and Weinstein.
They "deserve every effort so they too can return home to their families. For years now, I have been raising their cases at the highest levels possible. I’d like to know how we can expedite the freedom of these two Americans. "
The lawmakers' push comes amid congressional criticism of the exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl.
Cardin suggested Obama release as much of the classified information available about Bergdahl to the public as possible.
Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.