The House Armed Services Committee has concluded that President Barack Obama “misled the public” and broke several laws when he swapped five Taliban leaders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
“Our report finds that the Administration clearly broke the law in not notifying Congress of the transfer,” declared committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX). “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.”
The committee presented several findings in its report.
The transfer of the Taliban Five violated several laws, including the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014. The constitutional arguments offered to justify the Department of Defense’s failure to provide the legally-required notification to the Committee 30 days in advance are incomplete and unconvincing. The violation of law also threatens constitutional separation of powers…
The Committee was misled about the extent and scope of efforts to arrange the Taliban Five transfer before it took place. The Department of Defense’s failure to communicate complete and accurate information severely harmed its relationship with the Committee, and threatens to upend a longstanding history and tradition of cooperation and comity.
The prisoners learned about their transfer on May 29, 2014, while Congress knew nothing. The department finally alerted Congress on May 31, “less than two hours” before the terrorists departed from GTMO.
The Committee also found that the five prisoners resumed their activities once they reached Qatar. “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,” said Thornberry.
During its investigation, the committee was told by the Pentagon’s serving General Counsel, Stephen Preston, that the Department of Justice “believed the president’s ‘constitutional authority’ over service members could permit the president to act notwithstanding the 30-day notification requirement.”
In August 2014, the Obama administration brushed aside a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that said Obama broke the law with the swap.The GAO cited the fact that the Pentagon or Obama did not notify Congress 30 days before they transferred the five prisoners. They also said the DoD “wrongly used $988,400 from a wartime appropriations to facilitate the transfer,” said the report.
White House officials dismissed the GAA report. “We strongly disagree with GAO’s conclusion, and we reject the implication that the administration acted unlawfully,” commented White House spokesman Eric Schultz. “The president has the constitutional responsibility to protect the lives of Americans abroad, and specifically to protect U.S. servicemembers.”
The Committee suggests that Obama purposely misled the public and Congress “to advance the president’s goal to fulfill a campaign promise to close Guantánamo Bay.”
The release coincided with the release of Bergdahl’s participation with NPR’s popular “Serial” podcast. In it, he claims he deserted his unit “to highlight poor leadership” and even compared himself to character Jason Bourne.
He claimed he fled his unit in order to “create a DUSTWUN – a radio signal that stands for ‘Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown’ – to highlight poor leadership within his unit.” Bergdahl knew his disappearance would cause a “hurricane of wrath” and a manhunt.
He immediately realized he was “in over his head,” changed plans, and become Bourne-like by collecting “intelligence and look for the Taliban before turning himself in as a way of limiting the amount of trouble he faced.”
The report is titled “Report On The Inquiry Into: The Department of Defense’s May 2014 Transfer to Qatar of Five law-of-war Detainees In Connection With the Recovery Of A Captive U.S. Soldier.”