Report: President Obama broke the law, misled Congress and the American people, in swap for Bergdahl
The House Armed Services Committee has released a scathing report on the exchange of five Taliban commanders for Bowe Bergdahl, concluding that the president failed to give Congress the statutorily required 30 days' notice of the deal and actively sought to hide negotiations from Congress and the American people.
The report said the administration broke a law requiring it to give members of Congress 30 days' advance notice of any detainee transfers from the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, where the senior Taliban leaders were held.
It also found that it misled reporters and lawmakers about a potential prisoner exchange. Congress was instead notified just hours before the May 2014 transfer took place.
Bergdahl, who is facing charges of desertion, had left his base in Afghanistan in 2009, and was subsequently captured and held hostage for five years.
"At the time, there were rumors that on-again, off-again talks about a prisoner exchange, which had broken down several years earlier, might be underway again, but the administration repeatedly suggested to reporters and to Congress that nothing significant was going on," the report found.
The report also found that the administration kept some defense officials who would normally work on transfers out of the loop. The administration has said it feared a leak of the swap would scuttle the deal and could endanger Bergdahl's life.
"Our report finds that the Administration clearly broke the law in not notifying Congress of the transfer," said the committee's chairman, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas).
"Leading up to the transfer, DOD officials misled Congress as to the status of negotiations. Pentagon officials best positioned to assess the national security risks were left out of the process, which increases the chances of dangerous consequences from the transfer," he said.
"It is irresponsible to put these terrorists that much closer to the battlefield to settle a campaign promise and unconscionable to mislead Congress in the process,” he added.
The White House said Thursday it "absolutely" stands by its decision to exchange the Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl, describing it in line with its principle to leave no U.S. service member behind.
“There was a unique opportunity that was presented to rescue Sgt. Bergdahl and that is exactly what we did," Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati might take issue with the White House pledge to leave no American serviceman behind. Hekmati has been rotting in an Iranian prison for more than four years as the U.S. negotiated a nuclear deal with Tehran without bringing up Hekmati's case.
It is the most spectacularly one-sided prisoner exchange in U.S. history. It would be like swapping Admiral Yamamoto – the Japanese architect of the Pearl Harbor attack – for a deserter, which the military believes Bergdahl is. Bergdahl is apparently going to get off with a much lighter sentence than he deserves and might not even get any jail time. The administration simply can't afford to acknowledge its monumental error in giving up so much to get this worthless American in return.