Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was tortured during his captivity, the former prisoner of war has told medics at the U.S. military hospital in Germany.
He also claims he was locked in a metal cage in total darkness for weeks at a time, the New York Times reported.
Bergdahl’s release—in exchange for five Taliban detainees—has kicked off a media firestorm as critics slam the government’s negotiations with the Taliban, the release of Guantanamo detainees, and the release of a soldier accused of desertion.
The 28-year-old sergeant doesn’t know of his many critics yet, though, because the hospital is keeping the news and media away from him, the paper reports.
He’s declined to speak with his family, a sign of the tough reintegration process he will face in the coming months. Pentagon officials say it’s not unusual for a former prisoner to wait to speak with their families.
While Bergdahl is physically able to return to the U.S., he is not emotionally ready to return—something that can only have been complicated by the criticism and media firestorm. He is in better health than many expected based on the video that set into motion a prisoner trade to free him; he is suffering mostly from skin and gum disorders, but doesn’t show signs of malnourishment. American officials say that as the talks on a prisoner trade progressed, he may have been fed better.
Military officials have not asked Bergdahl about his disappearance because, they say, doing so would prompt them to deal with accusations of a possible desertion.
And while most details of Bergdahl’s wishes and recovery have been kept private, one official did tell the Times that he has protested against being called a sergeant—a result of two automatic promotions that were granted to him while he was in captivity.
“He says, ‘Don’t call me that,’” the official told the Times. “‘I didn’t go before the boards. I didn’t earn it.’”