Congressional investigators said today that the Pentagon broke the law when it swapped Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders.
From the AP:
The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said the Defense Department failed to notify the relevant congressional committees at least 30 days in advance of the exchange — a clear violation of the law — and used $988,400 of a wartime account 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.
"In our view, the meaning of the (law) is clear and unambiguous," the GAO wrote to nine Republican senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and various committees. "Section 8111 prohibits the use of 'funds appropriated or otherwise made available' in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014, to transfer any individual detained at Guantanamo Bay to the custody or control of a foreign entity' except in accordance" with the law.
Both Republican and Democrat lawmakers were furious with Obama over the May 31 swap. Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein was upset over the trade and expressed concern that Bergdahl was a deserter – a claim that some of the people who served with Bergdahl say is true.
The administration defended the swap and its decision to keep Congress in the dark, saying concern about Bergdahl's health and safety required speedy action.
Oh, and remember – the White House apologized for the lack of notification of the swap, and called it "an oversight."
As we reported in June, we aren't sure how the failure to notify Congress could have been some kind of "oversight" when Obama himself signed the 30 day advance notice into law just last year:
The administration is required to give Congress 30 days advance notice of any plans to release a prisoner from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, per section 1033 of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.
Also, Congress had previous discussions about what a prisoner exchange would involve:
More damning evidence that the "oversight" was anything but comes from House Speaker John Boehner. In a statement, he said that serious questions about the possibility of a prisoner exchange were raised in talks with Congress in 2011 and 2012. CNN reports:
"Unfortunately, the questions and concerns we had were never satisfactorily answered, and they remain today," he said.
Boehner said the administration "provided assurances" in late 2011, early 2012 and again in 2013 that talks with Congress over an exchange would resume if the possibility became credible again.
"There was every expectation that the administration would re-engage with Congress, as it did before, and the only reason it did not is because the administration knew it faced serious and sober bipartisan concern and opposition," he argued.
After the swap, Judge Napolitano stated that because the released Taliban officials may return to terror, Obama could be guilty of helping terrorists:
"That's why I say the president may well have committed a federal crime," said Napolitano, "by giving material assistance to a terrorist organization. He knows — ought to have known — that that's what these guys will do."
"The president should be impeached for this," he said. "In my view, it's a very, very valid argument that people are going to start talking about."
The five senior Taliban were released from detention at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo in exchange for Bergdahl are to remain in Qatar for a year. However, lawmakers have cited intelligence that suggests those Taliban officials could return to the battlefield in Afghanistan.
An Army fact-finding investigation conducted in the months after his disappearance concluded he left his outpost deliberately and of his own free will, according to an official who was briefed on the report.
There has been no definitive conclusion Bergdahl was a deserter. He met for two days earlier this month with an Army investigating officer who has been reviewing his case.
Unless he requests an extension, the investigating officer has until mid-August to complete the probe. A report would typically be issued about a month later.
Bergdahl is doing administrative duties at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio while that investigation continues.Facebook, Google Plus, & Twitter. You can also get Freedom Outpost delivered to your Amazon Kindle device here.