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Transcript

Episode 11: Present for Duty

Note: Serial is produced for the ear and designed to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that's not on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Bowe Bergdahl

Thirty-second version? Uh, you know what a DUSTWUN is, right?

Ira Glass

Previously on Serial.

Bowe Bergdahl

I wanted to be a soldier, but I wanted to be a World War II soldier.

Man 1

And they were out there handing out watercolor maps of Afghanistan.

Man 2

We all felt like, why are we up here?

Man 3

This is fucking bullshit. He's in Pakistan. [LAUGHS]

Susan Rice

He served the United States with honor and distinction.

Man 4

The refrain was almost always that the guy was a traitor.

Man 5

That's not something you can ever come back from.

Man 6

I haven't seen from you or any other journalist a real dig into how the army came to that conclusion.

Man 7

But as soon as you walk out that door, get ready, 'cause there's a...there's a shitstorm, and it's not going away anytime soon.

Sarah Koenig

From This American Life and WBEZ Chicago, it's Serial, one story told week by week. I'm Sarah Koenig.

Justin

I'm driving to go pick up, um, my dry cleaning. And I'm listening to episode seven or whatever it was, and I was like, Wait a second. He was in the Coast Guard?

Sarah Koenig

I had a couple of conversations recently that I just want to tell you about. One was with this guy, Justin. He had emailed us, so I gave him a call.

Justin

Boom, boom, boom, January 2006, and I like...I paused the show. And I called my sister, and I was like, "Jill, you are not going to believe this. Bowe Bergdahl, season two? And she's like, "Yeah. Blah-blah-blah." I was like, "I went to boot with this guy."

Sarah Koenig

Coast Guard boot camp. And he remembers the night Bowe broke down. He remembers standing outside on a freezing February night in Cape May, New Jersey, while something strange happened inside. He remembers seeing blood and broken glass in the bathroom and yellow caution tape. Justin was 17 at the time, and there are some details he couldn't recall. But he led me to another guy, also from that boot camp class: John Raffa.

John was an older recruit—he was 26. He remembered Bowe, and he liked him. He thought he was a nice guy. One night a couple of weeks in, John says there was a fire drill. (They did that a lot, these wee-hours fire drills.) Some commander would bang on the top of a garbage can and wake everybody up. And they'd all have to rush outside and muster up.

Each person had a number, and they called out in order: "0-1," "0-2," "0-3," et cetera. It became clear there was a number missing. Also clear that number was Bowe. John was at the edge of the group, so his commander sends him and another guy back inside to find Bowe.

John

We go running back and, uh, go running into the head. And there he was. He, um...he had bloodied himself pretty good. Uh, I'm...we were never sure exactly how he did it, but there was quite a bit of blood. There was some blood on the wall, uh, blood on the mirrors, blood on the...on the...the sink of the countertop area. Um, and he was bleeding from his face. There was, you know, blood on his hands. It looked like he had kind of smashed his face into the mirror. Um...and he was huddled up crying. He was...he was kind of balled up.

And it was one of those moments you run in, and you're like, oh shit. [LAUGHS] Like, what the fuck did I just step into?

Sarah Koenig

Did you try to talk to him?

John

I...I did, and he was just weeping. Uh...I was just...and it was shocking. But, you know, I liked the guy, so I was trying to find out what happened. I remember just kind of crouching down next to him and being like, "Hey, dude. What's going on? Are you OK?" And he was just weeping. He was just like, "Go away. Leave me alone."

Sarah Koenig

This version is more alarming than the one I'd heard previously from Bowe or from the army investigation. It's why Justin emailed us in the first place, to say it sure didn't look like a garden-variety panic attack to him.

And it seems it wasn't. A military psychologist I talked to said you don't usually hospitalize someone, much less eject them from the military, based on a single panic attack. So whatever was going on with Bowe must have been more serious than that. So Bowe got sent home. To John and Justin, no big surprise there. They said Coast Guard training was very demanding psychologically. And it was clear Bowe couldn't hack it.

The big surprise came much later. When Bowe was rescued, a friend of John Raffa's called him and said, "Can you believe? That POW—it's Bowe from boot camp." John said it took him a while to put it together.

John

Like, "No, he's the guy who was captured by the Taliban." I'm like, "Who? Bowie?" Like, what the hell's he doing in the army?

Sarah Koenig

[LAUGHS] No way! You weren't like, "How'd he survive five years with the Taliban?" You were like, "How'd that guy enlist?"

John

[CHUCKLING] Exactly.

Sarah Koenig

Are you serious?

John

Yeah! I was like, what? Like, it didn't make any sense to me. That just blew my mind away. He...like I said, he was a really nice guy, but if he couldn't handle the Coast Guard—and the Coast Guard is stressful, and there's a lot of things that happen in the Coast Guard; I don't wanna make it sound like it's a cakewalk—but he should not have gone to another branch.

Sarah Koenig

Again, in his investigation, General Kenneth Dahl found the army recruiter followed all the regulations when he signed Bowe up. But Dahl also wrote that he thought those regulations were inadequate in Bowe's case, that his Coast Guard separation should have been looked at more carefully than it was.

John spent eight years in the Coast Guard reserves. Justin became a rescue swimmer—it's like the Special Forces of the Coast Guard, the guys who drop out of helicopters into the ocean. Presumably, they both know a thing or two about the military mindset. Justin had the same question as John: why'd they let that guy into the army?

Justin

Based on what I saw, based on what happened during Coast Guard boot camp, not at all. There's no reason why they should have ever let him in, at all.

Sarah Koenig

Sometimes Bowe's case is summed up like this: What Bowe did was wrong. Walking off his post was wrong. But the army shouldn't have let him enlist in the first place. Plus, five years captivity. Five years. So, the scales are balanced. The army messed up, Bowe messed up. Let's move on.

But that leaves out a reckoning. And a reckoning is what the military wants, understandably. To a lot of people who served in Afghanistan, and to their families, if you don't consider the consequences of Bowe's decision to walk off OP Mest, it feels as if something important and painful has been papered over, and that doesn't feel like justice. They want an accounting.

This is our last episode this season. And so I wanna try to answer this now. What exactly should we blame Bowe for? What's his fault, and what isn't? And, the heaviest moral charge against him—the elephant in so many discussions about Bowe and about the trade and about the military proceedings against him: did any American soldiers die looking for him?

Some people very high up in the military world are saying, yes, people did die looking for Bowe. Michael Flynn is the highest-ranking person I've interviewed so far. He's a retired lieutenant general who was head of DIA—the Defense Intelligence Agency. Back in 2009, when Bowe went missing, Flynn was in Afghanistan. He was General Stanley McChrystal's director of intelligence.

McChrystal, in case you've forgotten, was commander of US and coalition forces for all of Afghanistan. So Flynn, just under McChrystal, he's a big deal. I explained to him that this was one of my outstanding questions about Bowe's story.

Sarah Koenig

This very thing of like, well, wait, did people die during this search for Bergdahl as a...you know, as—

Michael Flynn

Yes. No, answer...the answer is—

Sarah Koenig

...first order—

Michael Flynn

Sarah, the answer is yes.

Sarah Koenig

[CHUCKLES] OK. OK—

Michael Flynn

So if somebody was on a mission to go find an American, you know, there's...you know, did the guy...did a soldier walk down a road and an IED blew up, and if this soldier was walking down that road in an area where he would not have been had it not been for the search for Bergdahl—and in fact, his mission, their tactical mission, was to, you know, conduct a patrol and try to find intelligence or try to find any indications of where this soldier might be—and in fact was blown up by that IED or others wounded, that's a no-brainer to me.

Sarah Koenig

I agree. That does seem like a no-brainer—

Michael Flynn

Those are dots. Those are dots I...those are dots I connect.

Sarah Koenig

Here's the problem, though. General Flynn's no-brainer scenario—I haven't found one like that. When he said those are dots he connected, he wasn't thinking of any particular cases of soldiers who died. Just, he was there, he says he knows it to be true.

There have been lots of media stories, declarative stories, citing specific cases of soldiers who died because of the search. Usually, there are six names, all from Bowe's battalion, the 1st of the 501st. And we know for sure there was a massive search for Bowe. He walked off OP Mest on June 30, 2009. And for the month of July, people were sent out all over Paktika Province and beyond, doing nothing but missions to find the DUSTWUN.

But, rather miraculously, no one died on those missions. The six names of soldiers who died, they were all on missions that happened later, seven to ten weeks after Bowe disappeared. And none of those missions was a search-and-rescue mission.

We've looked into all these incidents. (There were four of them.) We talked to soldiers who were there, and to people higher up who planned and organized them. Official information on these missions is thin. We've seen army investigations on only two of the four cases. One of those was just a summary. They were both redacted, so we can't tell what the precise mission orders and objectives were.

We put in FOIA requests with the army long ago on all these cases, but haven't gotten anything back. Again, the army itself hasn't formally investigated the question of whether people died looking for Bowe—that we know of. But somehow, this idea that people died looking for Bowe—to a lot of people, it's not a question. It has traveled out of the realm of the murky and has solidified into concrete information—to the point where a clothing company made a Fuck Bergdahl T-shirt with six stars underneath to represent, quote, "the six honorable soldiers from the 1st of the 501st that lost their lives all because of Bergdahl," unquote.

Why are some people so sure about this? Where did it come from? On September 4th, 2009, one of those six soldiers, Darryn Andrews, was killed in Paktika Province in a village called Palaw, right near OP Mest. He was a second lieutenant, a platoon leader.

His parents, Sondra and Andy Andrews, had been told by the army that Darryn was killed in an RPG attack on a mission to arrest a high-value target, a Taliban guy. When the attack happened, he apparently pushed aside other men. He was awarded the Silver Star posthumously.

About five years later, his parents were on a long drive to the hospital for Andy's cancer treatment when President Obama announced Bowe's return. Andy says the way he remembers it, the Rose Garden ceremony hadn't even finished before someone contacted them.

Andy Andrews

He hadn't even got through talking, I don't think, and Sondra got a call. And this guys says, "I wanted to let you know we're fixing to break this story and tell the truth of what really happened."

Sarah Koenig

This phone call was someone in Darryn's unit. This was the first Andy and Sondra were hearing that Darryn was actually killed on a mission related to Bowe.

Andy Andrews

And then we were on the phone...literally, she was on the phone, literally, from the time we left Cameron till we got to MD Anderson some three hours later, with NBC, CBS, ABC...I don't know, everybody, you know. You know, and when it broke, it broke hard.

Sondra Andrews

But the guys started texting and sending messages on Facebook and calling and telling me, you know, "We're not gonna stand by and let them say he is a hero. Your son and the other guys were a hero, and we're not gonna stand for this."

Sarah Koenig

That same day, the six names were put out there online. By day three, the story had anchored in the mainstream press. To Sondra and Andy, it was such a jolt, that first call. Because after five years, they'd come to accept the original army-issue version of what happened to Darryn—that he'd been killed on a mission to arrest a Taliban guy. They weren't looking for someone else to blame. They were doing OK with what they thought they knew.

Sondra Andrews

You know, we'd kind of fit the story into our life. We had, uh, talked about it. And now all of that was gone. We had a whole new story to get used to. And, uh, a lot more anger.

Sarah Koenig

Sondra said they felt angry at Bowe, for one thing. And they felt they'd been lied to by the army, by Darryn's commander. Because no one had ever mentioned Bergdahl to them before—which felt fishy to them, like there was a cover-up. Two and a half weeks later, the Andrewses went to Washington, DC, to testify before a congressional committee.

Andy Andrews told the committee that six different soldiers who served with their son had told him and his wife that Darryn was killed while searching for Bowe. Sondra says, at the very least, Bowe was a contributing factor in his death.

Sondra Andrews

It may not have been directly, but indirectly, he was responsible.

Sarah Koenig

So this story—the six names, the lineup of photos in the press—as far as I can tell, it originated at the ground level from Bowe's platoon mates. And while they didn't have documentation to back up what they were saying, the Defense Department wasn't seconding these claims. These guys did have reasons. They weren't just making it up.

Take Palaw. That's where Darryn Andrews died on September 4th. I was unclear what exactly that mission was about, and I didn't understand what the connection to Bowe was. So I asked Jon Thurman to explain it to me, because he was on that Palaw mission. And I also knew Jon was in the camp of soldiers who thought Bowe was responsible for the people who died.

Jon Thurman

They said we're going out for, you know, up to 10 days. And that's basically all I remember.

Sarah Koenig

But what was the mission?

Jon Thurman

Well, I don't actually know. That was definitely way above my pay grade. We were gonna be going into Palaw, and we were gonna be looking around and going house to house. And we had quite a few attachments that I'd never seen before. We had a female engagement team. And we also had a combat camera team that was with us. So I don't actually know.

Sarah Koenig

This isn't unusual, actually—that a low-level soldier doesn't know the overall mission. What's communicated to him is, pack for x many days. And then, before they go out each day, they're briefed by their immediate leader—in this case, Darryn Andrews—who tells them, we're gonna go to this location, we're gonna knock on doors, or hand out stuff, or meet with Afghan security forces—whatever.

I've asked a lot of people—not just Jon, but battalion officers, people doing intel—what was the purpose of the Palaw mission? Here's what I've gathered, big picture. The trip to Palaw was part of a larger, roughly 10-day operation to push into the Yahya Khel district. U.S. forces had been pretty successful in other towns a bit farther north. They were working up there with local leaders doing COIN, essentially—making friends, helping build local government and security—but not so much in Yahya Khel, which was right near OP Mest. The villages around there had quite a bit of Taliban activity. They were not friendly to U.S. forces.

And so the battalion had planned this mission to try to push back in there. That area was strategic: it was between the Pakistan border and a main highway in Afghanistan that goes up to Kabul and then all through the country. The way the battalion planned these larger operations, they weren't just about one objective. You try to accomplish a bunch of things at once. You had all kinds of U.S. government agencies doing their stuff at the time. The State Department or the Department of Agriculture, they might be assessing which little grapes are best to grow in whatever valley, so you might have them along. On this Palaw mission, Jon remembers a female engagement team that likely would have been headed up by a social scientist whose job was to help the U.S. military understand Afghan culture.

Jon doesn't remember looking for a specific high-value Taliban guy on that mission. But other people I spoke to who were there do remember that—that they in fact did detain someone, zip-tied his hands, guarded him, but then were told by higher-ups to let him go, which they did. Again, I haven't seen the mission order or the after action report, so I can't be sure.

But here's what Jon remembers from his vantage point: in the driver's seat, behind the wheel of an MRAP. He remembers they had a lot of trucks that day, maybe seven. They'd made a cordon in the village, and Jon and the gunner were waiting in the truck while the other guys went door to door. About 45 minutes passed, Jon says.

Jon Thurman

So my gunner and I were sitting in the truck, and we just...we had this eerie feeling, and we were talking about it, you know, over some cigarettes. Like, this town just doesn't feel right. It didn't give us a good vibe. And I remember a bunch of kids were congregating under this gigantic tree there. And then they all started to filter back into their houses.

And my gunner had actually been in Iraq on the deployment prior to ours. And he said, "You know, I got a bad feeling we're about to get fucked up. Because when the town clears out, usually it means that the Taliban's gonna stand something up. They're bringing the civilians back in so that they don't get hurt. And they've put the word out—you know, 'We're gonna attack the Americans today.'" So we radio up, and everybody kind of knows what's going on.

Sarah Koenig

They all get ready to leave, and then someone comes out from behind a wall and shoots an RPG at one of their trucks. They shoot back. They're in a narrow space.

Jon Thurman

I was truck three, and I just see the first truck just explode. Not the whole thing, obviously, but I see the mine roller and the hood separate from the vehicle, and they had rolled over a pressure plate IED. And then from then on, you know, it was RPG volleys, it was small-arms fire, recoilless rifles, mortars, everything. Because once they took out that first truck, we were stuck.

Sarah Koenig

Because you're all behind that truck.

Jon Thurman

Correct. Yeah, and that's...that's a technique that the Taliban had sort of adapted when the Soviets had invaded, is: take out the first truck, shoot up the last truck, and then everybody in the middle is completely fucked.

Sarah Koenig

Darryn Andrews had been in Jon's truck, the third truck. Jon says Darryn ran out to the first truck, the one that had just gotten blown up, to help the guys there. They set up what's called a casualty collection point, a little field-trauma area. And then so many RPGs started coming in. Jon says he watched Darryn Andrews get killed. He watched Matt Martinek, Jon's good friend, who'd also been in his truck, get hit. Matt would die in a hospital in Germany a week later.

Jon and the gunner are inside the truck during the ambush, stuck there. His gunner is firing at whatever he can.

Sarah Koenig

And how...but how long are you sitting there just like taking this attack?

Jon Thurman

[SIGHS] I think...I think the initial attack kicked off somewhere around 1500. And we didn't get back to Mest till 0-5, 0-6.

Sarah Koenig

Oh my god, you were out there all night.

Jon Thurman

Yeah. It was terrible.

Sarah Koenig

Oh man.

Jon Thurman

I mean, my gunner and I just accepted it. I said to him, I said, you know, "I think we're probably gonna die tonight." And he said, "Yeah, I think we are."

Sarah Koenig

So it was horrible, the whole thing. People died. People were injured. But I asked Jon, again, how is any of this connected to Bowe? And he said, well, we were always supposed to be looking. He said his platoon leader, Darryn Andrews, didn't mention Bowe before they set off for Palaw that day, but he did mention Bowe back at FOB Sharana a few days before they set off on the whole operation.

Jon Thurman

I remember Lieutenant Andrews saying, you know, "And if you hear or see any signs of Bergdahl, we need to know about it." And I mean, that was just the amendment to everything, you know? Before any big push.

Sarah Koenig

And it wasn't...it doesn't...also sounds like it wasn't terribly specific to any one mission.

Jon Thurman

No. No.

Sarah Koenig

Got it. OK. Now I'm getting to understand why you could have a mission that is simultaneously not specific to Bergdahl and also involving Bergdahl. [CHUCKLES]

Jon Thurman

Right.

Sarah Koenig

I see. Oh, so it's hard! It's hard 'cause it's like an umbrella over everything you're doing.

Jon Thurman

Exactly. That's the perfect way to describe it.

Sarah Koenig

So if you close the umbrella, then you can't make the argument it was looking for Bergdahl.

Jon Thurman

Right. But if you open it, you can.

Sarah Koenig

So it's just...depends on who's living under the umbrella and who isn't. [LAUGHS]

Jon Thurman

But again, you know, from my...from my small scope as Specialist Thurman, I, uh...I don't who knows what above me.

Sarah Koenig

Right.

Jon Thurman

You know, I only know what I know.

Sarah Koenig

Jon told me it's totally possible this was a specific mission to look for Bowe, but that information just never filtered down to him. Jon's battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Clint Baker, would probably know, but I haven't been able to talk to him.

But I did talk to his number two, Command Sergeant Major Ken Wolfe. He's out of the military now, but at the time, he was the highest NCO in the battalion. He knew the commanders. He knew the privates. And he cared about them.

It took me quite a long time to persuade Ken to talk to me. He has no love lost for Bowe. He thinks he's selfish, plain and simple, a traitor to his unit. But finally, after many emails and negotiations, Ken agreed, on one condition. He wanted to be able to say this:

Ken Wolfe

The families who...who lost sons during this deployment, to let them know that their...their sons did not die looking for PFC Bergdahl. Their sons didn't die looking for him.

Sarah Koenig

Explain why...why you're saying that—like why you know this to be true.

Ken Wolfe

Because all you've...all you've got to do is look at a map and look at a time frame.

Sarah Koenig

OK, so time frame. Again, the incidents that resulted in the six deaths in their battalion happened between August 18th and September 5th, about two months after Bowe left.

Ken Wolfe

We looked, and we looked, and we looked. And we didn't find him. But you can't...and this is where...this is where it gets very difficult for people to understand. Because you can never...no one in the army is ever gonna say, we stopped looking for you. OK?

Sarah Koenig

Right, right.

Ken Wolfe

I mean...but here's the deal. You know? It's been 45-plus days. At this point, we know where he's at. And he's in Pakistan. All right? A vanilla unit like the 501st is not leaving its battle space and going into Pakistan to find him.

Sarah Koenig

That's what Ken means by "look at a map." Because if anyone was going after Bowe in Pakistan, it would be a Special Forces team, not an infantry unit. Ken says of course they were going to keep their eyes and ears open. But if you're a commander, you're balancing no-man-left-behind with some very practical matters.

Your intel regarding the DUSTWUN is drying up. You're unlikely to find him in Afghanistan, anyway. There's an Afghan presidential election to prepare for, a war to win. So you're not sending your guys on search missions anymore. In terms of operations, they needed to get back to work.

Ken says that Palaw mission had nothing to do with Bowe. What some of the soldiers will say is, OK, maybe not directly, but it's still connected to Bowe, because the search for Bowe affected everything. They talk a lot about second-and third-order effects—a concept that's drilled into soldiers, that everything they do has consequences once or twice removed.

The search changed the course of their deployment, changed the landscape of their overall mission in a bunch of detrimental ways. And that led to people dying. I put their argument to Ken.

Sarah Koenig

Well, sure, you know, the September 4th mission wasn't expressly only to go look for Bergdahl, say. But because we had been out looking for him for the past two months, we had been making inroads in certain places, and because we had to kind of pull away from that and focus on looking for him—and we became much more kinetic, we became more aggressive, we were going into places we hadn't been before, we were stretched thin—that it gave the insurgents a foothold in places, you know, where we had kind of kept them at bay. And now those places were more dangerous. Like, that's one of the arguments they'll make. I mean, is that a fair argument?

Ken Wolfe

It doesn't hold water because you're...you are in a very bad neighborhood regardless.

Sarah Koenig

OK.

Ken Wolfe

You can get killed any day. I mean, if you...you could've been on a random patrol in Palaw on the 29th of June and hit an IED as well. So, I mean, I get it. However, you know, it's purely speculation and hypothetical.

Sarah Koenig

Speculation and hypothetical to Ken are a far cry from, say, knowledge and understanding. Ken says there were so many factors, factors beyond Bowe, these soldiers are not taking into account, so many factors they aren't aware of. I'll give you a perfect example, he said. And he did. He told me this whole story about Yahya Khel and the surrounding villages. Different factions had been in conflict there since the early 1970s—loyalists to the monarch kicking around the communist sympathizers...

Ken Wolfe

Well, and then, when the Communists come in, they kick the loyalists around. Well, and then, when the Taliban comes in, you know, they kick the Communists around. And then when we come in, we take the Taliban out, so now they retaliate.

Well, some of these folks, they went across the border into Pakistan, because they didn't wanna get kicked around. And then when they came back, they found that their houses were occupied by the people who were kicking them around, right? All right, so they're angry. I've just come back from Pakistan, and when I left here 10 years ago, this was my house, and now you're living in it.

Well, there is no...you can't go down to the county courthouse in Sharana and pull up this deed that says "this house belongs to me." So what do you do? You fight over it. So it didn't matter that PFC Bergdahl walked off. There was conflict that was so much deeper than Bergdahl, and quite frankly so much more important than Bergdahl, just to solve the problem in Paktika, that these guys, they don't understand—the guys that are making these arguments.

Sarah Koenig

I see. Yeah.

Ken Wolfe

And it's not because they're bad guys. It's not because they're ill informed. It's because they aren't privy to the same information that I am. And...and here...here's the deal. That story I just told you—you know how long it took me to learn that? Took me nine months. It took me nine months of rolling in there all the time and talking to people before they laid that whole story out for me.

Sarah Koenig

Mm-hmm. Right.

Ken Wolfe

Their mission is different than my mission. My mission was to go out there and figure out what the problem is—why, you know, why every time we rolled through this one place we got blown up.

Sarah Koenig

For the soldiers who see all of this differently, Ken doesn't begrudge them their perspective. He just wishes they hadn't been so public about it.

Ken Wolfe

These young men that are saying these things, I love every one of them. And every one of those guys know that they can get a hold of me, and I'll do anything in the world for those guys. They know that. And...but what they're doing, I just don't think that they thought it through. And by not thinking it through, they didn't understand the ramifications of their verbalization and what that was gonna have on the families.

Sarah Koenig

Again, Ken's not being protective of Bowe here. He just thinks the record ought to be set straight. And he doesn't want the memories of the guys who died to be dragged into the Bergdahl morass, to be sullied by it, by the politics of it. He thinks it's not fair to those men or to their families.

All right. Here's something else I've heard along the way. Maybe some of these guys think they were looking for Bowe, but really, their commanders were only using Bowe as an excuse, as top cover, to get extra assets and to go kick in doors in RC East.

Scott

We were actually looking for him. There did come a point where he did just become an excuse to go out and do things. But—

Sarah Koenig

This is a guy I'm calling Scott. He arrived in Afghanistan, in Ghazni, in mid-July. His job was classified, which is why he doesn't want to use his name. All he could say was that he was attached to an elite unit. He said before Bowe left, in order for a unit to leave the wire, you had to have good, actionable intelligence.

Scott

But when he disappeared, those limits, those thresholds for going out, became much, much lower. So if you had very unreliable information about Bowe Bergdahl's whereabouts, you could go anywhere. And so we would just use him as an excuse to go wherever we wanted to go.

Sarah Koenig

How do you know that? I mean, you weren't there before he walked off, so how do you know the threshold got lower?

Scott

Because every other mission that we tried to go on, um, that didn't involve him was much more difficult to get out outside the wire on.

Sarah Koenig

So someone would say, I think we need to go do x, and would be told forget it unless it involves looking for Bergdahl?

Scott

Yes. I mean, I sat through live briefings where, uh, missions were turned down. And I sat through live briefings where missions were accepted that probably shouldn't have been to go look for him.

Sarah Koenig

So, is this true? Were people just using the search as a way to get unrelated missions OK'd? Or as a way to scam assets? I asked, and I asked, and finally I found Lieutenant Colonel Paul Edgar. He was the guy in charge of managing the search for Bowe. He was operations officer for the brigade.

If you were planning a mission for the 501st, and you wanted special assets—usually aircraft or drones—you had to go through Paul.

Paul Edgar

Around mid-August, I thought that there were a couple of requests from subordinate units that, uh...that were taking advantage—or attempting to take advantage, a little bit—of doing something else in the name of looking for Bowe Bergdahl.

Sarah Koenig

And when his team saw that, they disapproved those missions. Paul says he didn't see rampant abuse or anything. He said it was more like a natural inclination to try to sell your own mission, spin your objectives, in a way that was gonna be most persuasive to your bosses.

For instance, a couple of the people who helped plan missions lower down, at the company and battalion level, told me that if you wanted extra support for your operation in August or September, say, you might sandwich Bowe in there. So the operation paperwork might well have included, among other objectives, language saying they were "facilitating recovery of DUSTWUN," or "in support of DUSTWUN recovery operations"—DUSTWUN meaning Bowe.

If you had that, you were more likely to get additional assets, such as a helicopter.

On the other hand, to get approved in the first place, you had to have actual intel backing it up. Maybe it wasn't the strongest intel, but still, it had to be legitimately connected to Bowe's whereabouts.

And then, on your mission, you were actually questioning people about Bowe. You couldn't just invent something and get assets for it. Because, first off, that's just wrong. Resources are scarce. And so you're very aware that if you're getting use of an aircraft, someone else who needs it just got denied. And, second, if you tried to manufacture a reason, someone—like Paul—was gonna catch it.

So, a little cheating maybe, a little massaging, but not a scandal. But all this leads to another big question hovering over the search for Bowe. By mid-July, common sense told you Bowe was probably in Pakistan. So why through August and into September are U.S. soldiers still looking for him in Afghanistan at all? Why might an operation planned for September include a legitimate objective of facilitating recovery of the DUSTWUN, when the DUSTWUN is long gone, across the border in Miram Shah?

Within two or three days of Bowe's disappearance, news outlets were quoting Taliban sources saying Bowe's kidnapping was directed by Mullah Sangeen, that Bowe's case would be referred to Sirajuddin Haqqani. Those guys operate in Pakistan. On July 20th, right after the Taliban released the first proof-of-life video of Bowe, ABC ran a story with the headline "Exclusive: Missing U.S. Soldier May Be In Pakistan." So, again, why were they still looking in Afghanistan 30 days later, 60 days later, and beyond?

Well, first off, Afghanistan's the only place they really can look, since they can't go tromping into Pakistan (sovereign nation, ally, et cetera). And Paul told me, sure, they saw those news stories saying Bowe was in Pakistan. And they had their own intel that Bowe was in Pakistan. But they also had intel—just as persuasive—that Bowe was in Afghanistan.

Paul Edgar

What I would say is that, uh, that we had stuff just as strong as a news report, yes. [CHUCKLES]

Sarah Koenig

Right, OK.

Paul Edgar

And I'm not dissing news reports. Um—

Sarah Koenig

Well, no, fair enough to diss a news report.

Paul Edgar

Because sometimes the news is right. So. But if you see something on...you know, if I see something on CNN International, and then I go across the hallway to our brigade intelligence cell and talk to a number of folks and overlay some different information, unless Bowe's standing there in front of a known land marker in Pakistan with today's newspaper or something like that, well, I'm gonna...I'm gonna look very seriously and consider very seriously the credibility of our information versus what, uh...what I read on CNN.

Sarah Koenig

A probability that Bowe was in Pakistan wasn't enough. In fact, Paul said his best guess was that Bowe was initially captured by some JV Taliban, and that rather than spiriting him across the border into Pakistan, the Taliban had sent a big cheese from Pakistan back into Afghanistan to handle the situation. So Paul wasn't at all convinced Bowe wasn't still in Afghanistan.

Army commanders are literal when they say they needed to know for a fact that Bowe was in Pakistan before they would change course. General Flynn, the guy who was McChrystal's intelligence chief at the time, made this clear to me.

Sarah Koenig

If you...if you think, probably a few weeks after, like, Yeah, he's probably in Pakistan—

Michael Flynn

So, what do you want me to say, Sarah? Do you want me to say that we're gonna give up on him? I mean, no! So I'm not gonna say that. I'm not gonna sit here and...we will never give up. You know, you don't...I mean, you know, I'm an American, you know? I'm gonna hold out hope until...until the last possible, you know, thing that we can potentially do. And we would even pull intelligence threads even after months.

I mean, I'm not...I'm not a satisfied person. [CHUCKLES] If you ever talk to an intelligence officer who says they're satisfied, there's...there's something we call bulletproof intelligence. And when you get bulletproof intelligence, that's rare. That is rare.

Sarah Koenig

And even when you think your intel is bulletproof, you double-check. Flynn says we've consistently underestimated our enemy in these wars. They use deception; they lie effectively. With Bowe, we never got to 100 percent on his location. So the search for Bowe in Afghanistan was never called off, because again, it's an army value—an American value—that you don't give up on a comrade who's fallen into enemy hands. As one battalion officer said to me, "Even if they're a dickhead, you will do everything you can."

But. But...one last word on this. Zoom out one level to U.S. Central Command. Because it wasn't just the army calling the shots here. CENTCOM ultimately controlled Defense Department assets in Afghanistan at the time: planes, helicopters, drones, predators, with and without weapons attached. About two weeks after Bowe was captured, so mid-July, a ground-level analyst at CENTCOM informed the boss, we think he's in Pakistan.

But this analyst was told, you can't write that in your assessment, not unless you have bomb-proof evidence—meaning two independent corroborated sources. Which is not the normal standard for an intel assessment. Rather, that's the standard usually reserved for a recovery mission—say, when you're actually sending people into harm's way—not for an intel assessment.

But in this case, they weren't allowed to put it in a report. So they didn't. They waited another 30, 40 days or so, until sometime in late August or early September. Which meant the intensity of the search for Bowe remained high in Afghanistan for several more weeks, rather than tapering off in mid-July.

My source wasn't sure why they weren't allowed to call it earlier. Maybe because this was an unprecedented situation. Nobody exactly knew the implications tactically, strategically, politically, of saying a U.S. soldier was being held in Pakistan, where the DOD had no authority.

Lieutenant Colonel Mike Waltz, the Special Forces commander, was one of the people who went on TV very early on and said people died looking for Bowe.

Mike Waltz

Men died searching for Sergeant Bergdahl, and we believed at the time—

Sarah Koenig

It's the shorthanding, the stating it as unnuanced fact, that I have trouble with. It seems reckless to throw around something like that without solid cause. If you press for the evidence, Mike and others will argue on the basis of second-and third-order effects.

So many resources were diverted to look for Bowe, depriving other units, resulting in fatalities.

On July 4th, just a few days after Bowe walked, there was a big attack at an outpost in Paktika called Ziruk, in which two mortar men died. Maybe it wouldn't have gone down the way it did, if they'd had the intel aircraft they'd asked for—intel aircraft tied up in the search for Bowe.

In early October, another big attack on an OP located hundreds of miles north of Paktika. Eight Americans were killed. It happened three months after Bowe left, but it's also been linked to him. Plans to shut down that OP, which was considered vulnerable, had been delayed, partly because of the search.

When I interviewed Mike Waltz, I pushed him on this—that the causality here is tenuous. So why are people saying it? And he said, look, directly or indirectly, killed or almost killed, why are we parsing this? There were real consequences to what Bowe did. Why can't we talk about that?

Which made me realize, this is the root of what these guys are saying—what they've been saying since the day Bowe got traded. And that is: don't tell me it's over, he's back—no harm, no foul.

Mike Waltz

You could spend I think the rest of eternity parsing, well, it was a supply run to the base at Salerno, and was that indirectly...you know, that was IED, and was that related or not? But look, I mean, for that period of time, that's all we were doing.

And if you were hurt, injured, I listened to it on the radio—people being medevacked during ambushes from TCPs that they had set up trying to find Bergdahl. Um, my own soldiers barely escaped death from...from essentially an ambush based on...that was set up based on information looking for Bergdahl.

I'm absolutely adamant in my mind that soldiers were either put in harm's way or were harmed looking for him. And...so I...sorry, I do get a bit, um...not emotional, but I couldn't push back more forcefully that his actions just had no effect. And so the notion that it didn't really affect the elections, or didn't really do that much, I think is just...it's just absolutely untrue.

Sarah Koenig

I think it's a stretch too far to say people were killed looking for Bowe, or because of Bowe. But that's not to say there weren't major consequences. For a month or six weeks, the shape and mood of the war and of the U.S. mission in Regional Command East changed. Resources were diverted. People stopped doing some of the arguably constructive things they were doing to look for Bowe.

And people suffered looking for Bowe. They suffered psychologically and physically—in a couple of cases, severely. In September, a Navy SEAL named Jimmy Hatch went on CNN and talked to Anderson Cooper. Hatch said he was part of a team that flew two helicopters into a compound on the night of July 9th.

Jimmy Hatch

Guys had to immediately deal with a pretty major gunfight.

Anderson Cooper

And at that point, what's the...what's the goal?

Jimmy Hatch

The goal was to get that kid.

Anderson Cooper

Find Bowe Bergdahl.

Jimmy Hatch

Yeah. Fast. And we were close. 'Cause things started right away.

Sarah Koenig

Hatch didn't wanna talk to me, but I spoke to another person who was on the mission, who backed up Hatch's story—that they had information Bowe was there, and that's why they went. It turned out Bowe wasn't there, but a lot of Taliban were killed in the fighting. Hatch was shot just above the right knee. His bone was shattered. In the CNN story, he talks about how he became depressed and suicidal.

One day earlier, on July 8th, Sergeant First Class Mark Allen was with a National Guard team going door to door in a village in Dila District, south of Mest. There were a handful of Americans who happened to go along with a platoon of Afghan National Army soldiers. Their commander had offered them up.

We spoke to the commander as well as to one of the other guys on that mission, and they both said, yeah, it was clear—the mission was to look for Bowe. Which, considering the date—just a week out—it makes sense. They got attacked. One soldier, his right hand was badly wounded. A medic took shrapnel and was shot in the hip.

Mark Allen was shot in the head. He survived, but he's in a wheelchair. He can't walk or talk. He's got a wife and two kids. And it's been awful for all of them, obviously.

So, yes. During the search for Bowe, people were very seriously injured in ways that permanently messed with their lives, messed with their families.

One of the charges against Bowe is that he endangered the safety of other soldiers and wrongfully caused search and recovery operations. If he's convicted of that, he'll be punished. But punishment is very different from blame. Blame is more delicate. It comes up almost always in my conversations about Bowe with soldiers, commanders, civilians, diplomats—everybody, really.

And it can be slippery. It can lodge where it shouldn't, and it can skirt where it ought to stick.

When I was talking to Ken Wolfe, Bowe's former command sergeant major, going through the list of names of men from the 501st who died during that deployment, Ken was explaining, no, these deaths are not to do with Bowe.

But he stopped short when we got to the name Kurt Curtiss. Ken said that one, he partly blames himself. It was a firefight in a medical clinic. They were going after a Taliban guy who'd committed some really brutal crimes, apparently. Staff Sergeant Kurt Curtiss was shot and killed.

Curtiss was supposed to work from the base in Alaska, but Ken told him, our numbers are low, I need you to deploy to Afghanistan. Curtiss was married. He'd been on something like four deployments already—more than most guys. But he said OK, I'll do it. In late August, Curtiss was on the quick-reaction team that was called out to the medical clinic in a town called Sar Hawza.

Ken Wolfe had been to that clinic many times. He'd toured it. He said the people in the town had a lot of pride in it. So he knew the layout better than anyone. And Ken said before Curtiss and the other guys went out there, they were briefed on how the road was, where the trouble spots were.

Ken Wolfe

I did not tell them—and this is what haunts me to this day, because I just didn't think about it—there's this clinic, has two parts. You know, it's inside a walled compound, like most places in that part of the world. And so you had kind of like the inpatient, outpatient side. And I never told these guys that there was really two different buildings.

And...so they went in with the Afghan police, you know, went to the first one, no issues. And then they went in the second one, and [SIGHS] Kurt Curtiss was...was ambushed when he went in that building—the second building—along with his squad, and, uh...and was killed there that day.

Sarah Koenig

But why would it have mattered if they had known there were two buildings? Like why does that part haunt you?

Ken Wolfe

Because they...their tactical plan would have changed.

Sarah Koenig

And maybe Kurt wouldn't have died, is what he's saying. That's why Ken's haunted by it. And Jon Thurman, he feels guilt about what happened in Palaw. It's hard for him to talk about the guys who got killed there. One of them, Matthew Martinek, was a radio telephone operator, like Jon. But that day, Jon was the driver instead, which means you stay in the truck.

Darryn Andrews, their platoon leader, had called Martinek out of the truck to help when the attack happened, because Matt was RTO that day, not Jon. And that was just by chance.

Jon Thurman

Yeah, and it was actually...we were drawing straws, and I had drawn the longer straw on that one.

Sarah Koenig

Oh, you literally drew straws, like not metaphorically. Like, you actually drew straws?

Jon Thurman

Yeah, literally.

Sarah Koenig

Oh.

Jon Thurman

Um, yeah, so that's why that one's been pretty hard for a really long time.

Sarah Koenig

Jon is the son of Air Force veterans. He grew up in Texas and in Washington State. He danced cotillion, and was a competitive figure skater as a tyke. In 2007, when he was a fresh 21 years old, it's not that he was up to no good or anything—he was selling shoes at Nordstrom, and he learned a lot about shoes. But that was not the direction he wanted his life to take. So he joined the army.

I'm not even sure why I'm telling you this, except to remind you, to remind me, that these guys who deployed to war zones are so young, and then they're traumatized—all of them, pretty much. And it sucks. It's not Jon's fault that Matt Martinek died. It's not Ken's fault that Kurt Curtiss died.

Two of the other deaths in the 501st, Clay Bowen and Morris Walker, they were doing election prep on August 18th, 2009, when their vehicle ran over an IED. They were both killed. They were in an armored Humvee, not an MRAP, which might have protected them. Who's to blame for that? Their battalion commander? Then defense secretary Robert Gates? President Obama? Bowe?

Reesa Doebbler

You just wanna blame something or somebody. I blame the Taliban. [CHUCKLES] You know?

Sarah Koenig

Yeah.

That's Reesa Doebbler, Clay Bowen's mother. When I first talked to Jon Thurman last August, he blamed Bowe for the deaths in the 501st. But by the time we had this conversation, five, six months later, he had moved off of that—not toward clarity, exactly.

Jon Thurman

And I blame...I blame...um, I mean, you can point the blame at anybody, but sometimes I...I don't know. Sorry. Um, sometimes I just think war is one of those things that it's hard to pin down who's responsible.

Sarah Koenig

I know. And I feel like that sounds like a cop-out, but it's—

Jon Thurman

Yeah. No. No, it's not. You know, I've done a ton of therapy on it, and I still haven't...you know. I've made like 75 percent sense of it, but I still can't get that last 25. 'Cause it's...you know, you start playing with variables, and the what-ifs, and that's where you can drive yourself insane.

Sarah Koenig

These things happen in war. It's normal. I was talking to retired Lieutenant Colonel Paul Edgar, the former brigade level officer who managed the search for Bowe. And he said something that surprised me. He said Bowe is also normal in war.

Paul Edgar

As a society, we treat Bowe, you know, as some aberration, when really, he's...his case is simply a very normal part of war.

Sarah Koenig

Paul said we signed up for Afghanistan—not every single citizen, obviously, but as a country reeling from the September 11th attacks, nobody put up too much of a fuss about going after Osama bin Laden. But when we signed up, we were also signing up for all the things we tend to forget but that nevertheless attend war: mistakes, accidents, people dying for avoidable or even ridiculous reasons, an army recruiting system that lowers its standards when it needs more bodies, 20-something-year-olds who quickly become disillusioned and do something rash or criminal. It's all, unfortunately, normal.

Paul Edgar

So there's a level of responsibility here—whether it's Bowe and his particulars, or the things, the baggage of war, that goes along with every single one—that we signed up for as a society. And to take all of that and to pin it, politically and otherwise, on, you know, this 20-year-old is, in my opinion, um, very very wrong.

Sarah Koenig

When we first teamed up with Mark Boal for this story, Mark had just come to the end of his own extensive reporting on Bowe. And I wanted to know if there was anything Mark still wondered about, any outstanding questions he had. And he said, yeah. He did have one.

Mark Boal

I think the biggest question that I have is, what's the appropriate punishment for what he did? And like how do you treat...how do you treat this guy who, after all, was put through the wringer by the Taliban because he was an American soldier? Um, is there some recognition that he was coming from a place which was basically altruistic? I mean, maybe self-serving too, but certainly not, you know, intending to cause, um, harm?

So I don't know. I guess the question of how the country ultimately views him is interesting to me, because it speaks to, I think, you know, our capacity for forgiveness in some ways, and also the kind of...I think the ambivalence about Bowe somewhat reflects the...you know, the larger confusion about the wars.

Sarah Koenig

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mark says because we don't think of them like World War II, the quote-unquote "good war," or like Vietnam—in a lot of circles, a "bad war." So, what are these wars?

Mark Boal

Because there's just like this incredible like haze over our thinking about the "war on terror," and because these wars just seem to be so, you know, hard to define, um, it seems like, as a country, we don't know what to do with this guy.

Sarah Koenig

A few weeks ago, Zach Barrow, one of Bowe's platoon mates, got in touch with us. I also interviewed Zach back in the summer, but now he wanted to say something else. He'd been listening to the podcast, and it was bothering him that Bowe might be listening too and getting the idea that everyone was mad at him.

Zach was mad at first. He said it was kind of easier to be mad. You go on any military website, everyone's angry with Bowe. And you see your friends on TV, talking about all the bad stuff Bowe did. And you get it, why they're mad. But after he thought it through, Zach said he realized, eh, Bowe's not what he was mad about. Bowe had just become a kind of repository.

Zach Barrow

Maybe, like, we're holding on to all this stuff and wanting to punish this kid for stuff that...you know, we were all in a bad situation. Bad stuff happened. Yes, he added to the bad situation, but I don't think maybe as much as people blame sometimes.

I mean, it was gonna suck no matter what. I feel like he's a young guy who was in a really stressful place, and he made a terrible mistake.

And...I don't know, maybe we just...for myself, I guess, maybe I can accept that. I can understand that, when you're young and you're dumb—obviously I didn't make that mistake, but I could see how it happens to people.

Sarah Koenig

Another platoon mate, Austin Lanford, told me he decided not to blame Bowe anymore either. He said when he was in Afghanistan, he had crazy thoughts sometimes too. He said, "I hated it over there. I wanted to leave extremely bad sometimes." He said, "That could have been me."

The army gave us some numbers. From 2001 to 2014, more than 3,500 people were convicted of being AWOL, and 980 of those were convicted of desertion. Most of those happened here in the U.S.—people not showing up at their bases, for example. But there have been cases not unlike Bowe's.

A military therapist told us about a guy who left his FOB in Kandahar in 2012, apparently trying to walk to an outpost to rejoin his platoon—kind of the reverse of what Bowe said he was planning. He was quickly picked up by Afghan police. He wasn't charged with anything. And in 2010, eight months after Bowe disappeared, a young soldier sneaked off FOB Sharana at 3 a.m. About seven hours later, Afghan police found him wandering around, and they handed him back over to the army.

When this kid was questioned, evidently he said he'd planned to walk to Eastern Europe. He had a sleeping bag, first aid kit, food and water, sunscreen, an ornamental sword, an ornamental battle-axe, his journal, and an English-to-Pashto translation guide. According to an army report, he, quote, "planned to make it look like he had been kidnapped," unquote. He had cut his left hand, and left a trail of blood from his bunk to the fence line of the FOB, and then cut his way through the fence.

You haven't heard of him because he didn't get kidnapped by Taliban, because he wasn't declared DUSTWUN, because there was no search. You haven't heard of him because no one noticed he was even gone until the Afghan Police called. You haven't heard of him because we didn't trade five guys out of Guantanamo Bay to get him back.

We talked to someone in this guy's command group, and he told us as a group they sat down and they talked about what to do about this soldier. Quote, "Unlike Bergdahl, which gained a lot of publicity, this was very low-key. Didn't make the news. So there was no pressure from anybody higher," unquote. The kid wasn't charged with any crimes. A guy from the command told us he was sent home to get the help he needed. About a year later, he was medically retired from the army.

That military therapist we talked to said these soldiers who walk off into Afghanistan, the army treats them as head cases. It's so dangerous, you kind of have to be crazy to do it—or suicidal. He compared them to astronauts taking off their helmets in space.

Bowe's court-martial is scheduled to start in August, but right now, the proceedings are stayed, because the Defense and the government are fighting over this massive trove of classified documents—more than 300,000 pages, apparently—and who knows what's in there. So it seems very unlikely to me that anything's gonna start this summer.

In one of the recordings of Mark and Bowe, there's this part where Bowe explains that most of the time he was a prisoner just dealing with the day to day. His mind felt kind of numb. But then he said there were a couple of times—brief moments—when he got this surge, like he could breathe for a second.

One of those times, he said, was during his first year. He was being held in a mud compound, the one where he said he made friends with the dog and had tried to tunnel himself out. One night, Bowe managed to slip outside into the courtyard. And he looked up.

Bowe Bergdahl

It was a completely empty night. Like...there weren't any clouds. There was just no light pollution or anything like that. It was just a full sky of stars. And I'm just sitting there, and after so many months of being in the rooms, just being in that empty...like just this vast space above me, it was thrilling in the sense that things went so far beyond me, you know?

Mark Boal

Yeah.

Bowe Bergdahl

It is just that relief of knowing that the stupidity doesn't go any further than that little planet, or this little country, or a little house, or whatever it is, you know? If something is as big as that, then it's almost like you don't have to be scared.

Sarah Koenig

Mark still talks to Bowe occasionally—not as much as he used to. Mark says there isn't much more to say until the military settles Bowe's case. Bowe and the army are adversaries, legally speaking, but Bowe is still a soldier. As soon as he was rescued, somewhere in a government office, someone filled out a Department of the Army form 4187. And they changed Bowe's status from missing-captured to present for duty.

After knocking down this huge, long serpentine of geopolitical dominos, Bowe was assigned to an office job on his base in San Antonio. He's fighting the charges against him, which means he waits—a lot longer than he thought he'd have to. But waiting is something Bowe knows how to do.

Serial is produced by Julie Snyder, Dana Chivvis, and me, in partnership with Mark Boal, Megan Ellison, Hugo Lindgren, Jessica Weisberg, Page One, and Annapurna Pictures.

All right, every episode for the past 10 weeks, I've spun through the credits pretty fast, because none of you really gives a hoot about the credits. Am I wrong?

But I do! I care so much. And if you listened to this whole story, I'm telling you, you do care, you just don't know it.

This reporting project was enormous, but it's always me talking—so what you don't know is that entire sections of this story were doggedly and expertly reported by Dana Chivvis.

And then Kevin Garnett and Whitney Dangerfield, they also hunted down so much information—really interesting stuff that I didn't even know to look for. Ira Glass sat in on endless edits, no matter when they fell—even if he was in a taxi coming home after a red-eye flight, he dialed in to help us.

I won't go on and on. It's just that I've been waiting all season to say how stupendously grateful I am for the crackerjack skill of everyone I work with. Not least: Michelle Harris, our fact checker. Benjamin Phelan—he did additional research for us this week. Anaheed Alani did our copyediting. Joel Lovell helped edit this week. Emily Condon is our line producer.

Our music is composed by Nick Thorburn and Fritz Myers. (Fritz was on call for us all season.) Matt Block played trumpet for our theme music on Thanksgiving weekend. Carl Burton did the artwork for each episode. Thanks also to Rich Orris for his work on the website.

The show is mixed by Kate Bilinski. Kristen Taylor is our community editor. Other Serial staff: Seth Lind, Elise Bergerson, and Kimberly Henderson. Finally, a special thanks this week to Mark Sparrough and Ben Schreier.

Our website: serialpodcast.org.

We will be watching Bowe's case as it moves through the court, and it's possible we'll update you, depending on what happens there. Plus, there's just a lot of great stuff on the website right now, including new stuff. So please check it out. And sign up for our mailing list.

Also, do not forget to listen to This American Life. You will be so happy you did. Serial is a production of This American Life and WBEZ Chicago.

Correction: An earlier version of this episode said that Jimmy Hatch lost his leg. In fact, he was shot above his right knee, and his bone was shattered.

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