Watchdog: Bergdahl Prisoner Swap Was Illegal

Congress should have been told, GAO says

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 22, 2014 2:55 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Obama administration's release of five Taliban prisoners in exchange for captive soldier Bowe Bergdahl was illegal in more ways than one, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. The government watchdog says the decision violated federal law because Congress wasn't given 30 days' notice of the transfer of the Guantanamo prisoners, as required under a law President Obama signed in February, and also broke the Antidefiency Act spending law by using $1 million in funds that Congress hadn't authorized, reports USA Today. Violating the Antidefiency Act carries a penalty of up to two years in prison, although nobody has ever been convicted of a violation.

Some Republicans have strongly criticized the trade, and Sen. Saxby Chambliss said the watchdog report shows that Obama "completely disregarded laws" he signed himself, reports Reuters. "This latest overreach regarding our national security has dangerous implications," the Georgia senator said in a statement. "The United States has a longstanding policy of not negotiating with terrorists for good reason, and these senior Taliban leaders will soon rejoin the fight." The Pentagon disputed the findings, saying the Justice Department was consulted before the transfer and the administration had to act on "a fleeting opportunity to protect the life of a US service member held captive and in danger for almost five years." Bergdahl returned to active duty last month and his lawyer says he has been speaking freely to military investigators about the circumstances of his capture, which are still unclear.

Bowe Bergdahl sits in a vehicle guarded by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan just before the prisoner trade.
Bowe Bergdahl sits in a vehicle guarded by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan just before the prisoner trade.   (AP Photo/Voice Of Jihad Website via AP video, File)
This photo taken earlier this month shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl preparing to be interviewed by Army investigators.
This photo taken earlier this month shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl preparing to be interviewed by Army investigators.   (AP Photo/Eugene R. Fidell, File)
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