FRIDAY FACT CHECK:

Dec 11, 2015
Defense Drumbeat
After Report, DOD Continues To Mislead On Taliban 5

“You've got to obey the laws, even if you're the president, even if it's inconvenient...”
                                                                                                                 - Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX)

MYTH: The Report doesn’t identify any statements Pentagon officials made to Congress that were incorrect or misleading.- Lt. Col. Joe Sowers, DOD Spokesman - Wall Street Journal,12.10.15 
 
FACT: Senior DOD officials failed to inform Congress about negotiations related to the Taliban Five transfer, discounted suggestions that they were talking with the Taliban -- based after the fact on the dubious justification that their talks with the Taliban were through Qatari intermediaries, and denied the accuracy of media reports on the topic.

  •  In February of 2014, the Washington Post disclosed DOD negotiations about swapping the Taliban 5 for Sgt. Berghdal.  In internal e-mails, DOD officials describe the Post’s reporting as “very accurate,” and share the White House dismay that it the details have become public.  HoweverDOD Officials denied the veracity of these reports to Congress.
  • In subsequent weeks, after pledging to keep Congress informed, DOD Officials took the following actions.  They did not consult with Congress again until 2 hours before the swap took place.
    • Traveled to Doha two more times to meet with Qataris about the swap
    • Held an official White House ceremony to sign the agreement allowing the Taliban 5 to be sent to Qatar
    • Prepared paperwork on the swap for Secretary Hagel’s approval
    • At least twice consulted the Department of Justice about how to keep Congress in the dark on the swap.
  • Following the swap, Secretary Hagel, in testimony before Congress, admitted: “we could have done a better job of keeping you informed.’”

MYTH: The opportunity to swap the Taliban 5 for Sgt. Berghdahl was “fleeting” and the exchange needed to take place “quickly”. – Lt. Col. Joe Sowers, DOD Spokesman - Wall Street Journal, 12.10.15

FACT: The exchange took months to arrange and involved multiple opportunities to inform Congress, consistent with the law.

  • The initial offer from Qatar to renew negotiations occurred in September 2013.
  • The Secretary of Defense traveled to Qatar in December 2013 for discussions on the topic with the Qataris.
  • Officials consulted with the Department of Justice on how to keep Congress in the dark as early as May 6th.
  • Key Pentagon personnel prepared documents for the transfer on May 8.
  • A secret White House ceremony was held to formalize the agreement to allow the Taliban 5 to be sent to Qatar a full 19 days before the transfer took place.

The Taliban 5 were informed of the transfer two days before it took place.  Members of Congress were only given two hours notice.

114th Congress