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US advisor defends remarks on freed soldier, Benghazi

US National Security Advisor Susan Rice speaks in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on March 21, 2014 in Washington, DC
US National Security Advisor Susan Rice speaks in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on March 21, 2014 in Washington, DC

US National Security Advisor Susan Rice is defending her comments that Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, freed in a prisoner swap after five years' captivity with the Taliban, had served "with honor."

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

Rice, who first spoke on a US talk show last weekend shortly after Bergdahl was turned over to US special forces, said 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 told CNN on Friday.

"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 that regardless, her description of Bergdahl as a man who served "with honor and distinction" was correct.

"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.

The uproar over Rice's Bergdahl comments is drawing parallels to another controversy triggered by remarks she made soon after the assault at the US mission in Benghazi, Libya.

A sign announcing the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl sits in the window of the Hailey Paint and Supply store on Main Street June 1, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho
A sign announcing the release of Bowe Bergdahl in the window of a store on June 1, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho

Serving at the time as US envoy to the United Nations, Rice initially said the attack was fueled by local anger over an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube.

The comments sparked a firestorm of criticism, especially among Republicans.

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

But Rice said she works to be "upfront with the American people."

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

"That doesn't make me a liar," Rice added.

"That makes me a public servant trying to say what we knew at the time."

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