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Bergdahl-Taliban Swap Stirs Criticism in Congress

Bergdahl-Taliban Swap Stirs Criticism in Congress

By Michael Cipriano - June 2, 2014

President Obama is facing mounting criticism on Capitol Hill for what critics are calling his unauthorized deal to secure the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The return of Bergdahl -- who had been the lone American prisoner of war in the Afghanistan War -- came in exchange for five high-ranking Taliban commanders held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, himself a prisoner during the Vietnam War, found the arrangement “disturbing.”

“These are the hardest of the hard core,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”“These are the highest high-risk people, and others that we have released have gone back into the fight.”

Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, added that he was “extremely troubled” that the United States negotiated with the Taliban to secure Bergdahl’s freedom after five years in captivity.

"This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages," Rodgers said in a statement. “… I believe this decision will threaten the lives of American soldiers for years to come.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney disputed this claim, telling CNN that Bergdahl “was not a hostage -- he was a prisoner.” He explained that the U.S. is “engaged in an armed conflict with the Taliban, and we have a history in this country of making sure that our prisoners of war are returned to us. We don’t leave them behind.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Charles “Buck” McKeon contested the prisoner exchange from a legal standpoint, arguing the president broke the law by not providing Congress with a 30-day notice -- as required by the National Defense Authorization Act -- when releasing Gitmo detainees.

"This is not a partisan issue, it's just a matter of the law and breaking the law, and not informing the Congress according to the law," he said on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown."

McKeon added that his committee will hold hearings to determine whether the president violated the NDAA.

“I'm sorry that this is being portrayed as a Republican issue. I think Democrats also voted for this law -- it was important for our national security, it's important for our responsibility of oversight of the administration and our national security,” the retiring congressman said.

House Foreign Affairs Committee member Gregory Meeks defended the administration’s actions, arguing there are “extraordinary circumstances” under the rule requiring 30-days’ notice. The New York Democrat said reports of Bergdahl’s declining health justified the president’s decision. “If that’s the case, then the administration has to do what it has to do in a timely fashion, because otherwise, [they’d] be criticized the other way, which is devastating if, in fact, the prisoner loses his life and we don’t get him back,” Meeks said on MSNBC.

Michael Cipriano

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