Congress Ignores Illegality of Bergdahl Swap
It has been nearly three (3) weeks since the House Armed Services Committee released their report in the illegality of the Bergdahl swap. Three weeks and nothing but silence from Congress on holding the administration accountable.
Not a word.
The report outlines, in detail, how Obama and his administration conducted the negotiations. It took years to complete this deal. It was not something that happened on the spur of the moment. They had numerous opportunities to inform Congress, as required by law. They chose not to comply.
Whenever rumors would start flying about the deal, the administration chose to Lie about it. They continued to deceive Congress and the American people.
Included in the report is a timeline that outlines the details of this appalling deal. It reminds us of the following, and more:
Two days after Obama was sworn in (2009), he signed an order to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility (GTMO). This was a campaign promise that has not yet been fulfilled.
On June 30, 2009 U.S. Army soldier “Bowe” Bergdahl left his post in Afghanistan and was taken captive.
Within a year, the Taliban were suggesting a prisoner exchange, Bergdahl for six specific GTMO prisoners. (The original sixth prisoner in the negotiations had a heart attack and died in GTMO in February 2011. The remaining detainees are called the “Taliban Five.” )
This was during Obama’s first term, while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. The Administration started negotiations with the Taliban, with redoubled efforts beginning in 2011. This deal did not take days or weeks to come to fruition, it took years.
On December 31, 2011 Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (2012). At this time, he complained that a particular section within the Act ‘needlessly interfered’ with his reviewing detainees for transfer from GTMO.
Over the years, there were several communications between the Administration, Members of Congress, the Secretary of Defense, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, etc. These communications specifically addressed the rumors of a prisoner swap involving Bergdahl and the Taliban Five.
Congress expressed concern that, if true, it would be a very bad deal for the United States. Hillary, among others, reassured them that nothing will happen without first notifying Congress, as per the law.
Excerpt of letter from Hillary Clinton, 2012: I want . . . to make clear that any transfer from Guantanamo will be undertaken after consultation with Congress and pursuant to all legal requirements for transfers, including those spelled out in the FY2012 [National] Defense Authorization Act.
In September 2013, the country of Qatar offered itself as ‘intermediary’ in the negotiations. On December 9, 2013, Steven Preston, then the General Counsel of the Department of Defense, met in Qatar with the attorney general of Qatar to “refresh” a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) potentially guiding a detainee transfer.
On December 26, 2013, While signing the FY 2014 NDAA into law, Obama issued a “signing statement” that expressed his opposition to the GTMO transfer sections.
In January 2014, the Taliban provided a ‘proof-of-life’ video of Bergdahl, at the request of the United States.
Between January 10, 2014 and May 2, 2014, Cabinet Secretaries, Administration officials, Department of Defense (DoD), and more, are in heavy negotiations to get the transfer completed. This includes at least one “Principals Committee” and at least one inter-agency “Deputies Committee” to discuss the MOU and swap.
When asked about news accounts about a prospective Taliban Five transfer, committee staff are told the officials either know nothing about the details outlined or that the stories are overstated.
But, on May 6, 2014 the DOD sought “authoritative guidance” from the Department of Justice (DOJ) about the “applicability and impact of the 30-day notice requirement.”
On May 8th, the DoD began the paperwork typically compiled when the Secretary of Defense considers a GTMO transfer, including a draft congressional notification letter, and on May 13th senior inter-agency representatives met in a deputies meeting on details of the exchange.
In a special ceremony on May 12, 2014, the MOU was signed in the White House.
On May 24, 2014 National Security Adviser Susan Rice signs a memorandum to Secretary Hagel relaying the president’s guidance in connection with detainee transfers other than the Taliban Five entitled “Guidance on Guantanamo Bay Transfers.”
On May 27, 2014 the deal was finalized. Obama called the Emir of Qatar, and General John F. Kelly was ordered to prepare the Taliban Five for transfer.
The official transfer took place on May 31, 2014, however, Congress did not receive the written notification until June 2, 2014. The notification letter included the security assessments required by the NDAA, but were required to be submitted 30 days before the transfer.
Within months, the Pentagon acknowledged they had reason to believe that at least one of the Taliban Five were back to their previous activities.
As you can see, there were many opportunities for Obama and his administration to comply with the law and notify Congress. They chose not too, apparently afraid that Congress would not allow them to complete this horrible deal.
The Government Accountability Office investigated and said this transfer was a clear violation of the law. Additionally, they used nearly One Million Dollars ($988,400) to make the transfer. The GAO also said the Pentagon’s use of funds, that hadn’t been expressly appropriated, violated the Anti-deficiency Act.
However, the GAO’s report is on the level of a ‘Legal Opinion’, therefore the Obama Administration has not felt it necessary to respond to it.
The House Armed Services Committee initiated an inquiry immediately after the transfer. The results were made public on December 10, 2015.
In the nearly three weeks since the report came out, there has been ONE question asked of Josh Earnest by the press, and it was a softball. The press has all but ignored the ramifications of this report.
Additionally, there has been NO WORD from Congress on how they intend to proceed. They are, also, ignoring the issue in favor of politics.
Do they intend to allow Obama to get away with this thwarting of our Constitution? Will they hold him accountable?
Congress has not been the friend of the American people, as of late. They have rejected the people’s wishes and instructions. They have forgotten who they work for. They have refused to do their jobs.
The people demand accountability. Call your Representatives. Tell them you are tired of waiting. Remind them of their duty to uphold the law. Remind them who they answer to.
We originally posted this article here.