Major Coverage Of HASC Taliban 5 Report

Dec 10, 2015
Defense Drumbeat

"...A really important report [that] dives into detail about a very controversial episode..." reported MSNBC's Kelly O'Donnell today.  Click here for the full segment.

House Republicans Denounce Obama’s Handling of Prisoner Exchange
New York Times - Charlie Savage - 12.9.15
WASHINGTON — After months of secret talks in early 2014 on a potential deal to swap five Taliban detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for a captive American soldier,... an agreement seemed near that May...

The news of the prisoner exchange, and the Obama administration’s failure to comply with the 30-day notice statute, set off a legal and political uproar and an investigation by the House Armed Services Committee...[the] report… sheds new light on the administration’s secret maneuvers before the swap and portrays the deal as both reckless and illegal….

At the time, there were rumors that on-again, off-again talks about a prisoner exchange, which had broken down several years earlier, might be underway again, but the administration repeatedly suggested to reporters and to Congress that nothing significant was going on. It did this in part by emphasizing that there were no “direct talks” with the Taliban. This was “obfuscatory,” the report said, since preparations were underway for indirect talks, with Qatar as an intermediary....

The report expressed strong objections to the Obama administration’s decision not to keep the congressional oversight committees fully informed. It noted that the Armed Services Committee “routinely receives briefings about sensitive military operations before they occur.”

The report also shows that the Pentagon officials who normally plan transfers of lower-level detainees were largely sidelined in planning for the resettlement of the higher-level Taliban detainees in Qatar. It suggested that the secrecy and unusual process indicated that the administration’s motive was in part to avoid controversy that might disrupt its ability to rid itself of five harder-core detainees, making it easier to fulfill Mr. Obama’s goal of closing the Guantánamo prison...


Lawmakers accuse White House of elaborate deception in Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap
Washington Post - Missy Ryan - 12.9.15
A new congressional report details what Republicans call a deception surrounding a controversial 2014 prisoner swap…

“Indeed, [a Taliban statement to the Associated Press] contained more specifics about a prospective exchange than what was conveyed through official channels to the Committee and others in Congress at the time.”

Around the same time, then-Pentagon General Counsel Stephen Preston was helping prepare then-Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel for budget testimony. According to the report, Preston proposed the following response if Hagel was asked about the subject: “As for recent reports, let me just say this: ‘We have not been involved in active negotiations with the Taliban recently, but SGT Bergdahl’s return is an issue we would like to discuss with the Taliban if and when such talks are restarted.'”...

Perhaps most problematic for the White House, committee Republicans contend that the transfer was at least partly motivated by a desire to clear out hardened detainees who could stand in the way of closing Guantanamo...

The sole point  in the report that secured bipartisan support was what the Democratic dissent called the “unfortunate” fact that the administration failed to comply with rules requiring a 30-day notification to Congress before a detainee transfer...

The General Accountability Office determined the administration violated the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act by failing to give 30-day notice and also the Anti-Deficiency Act because it used money for that purpose…

Since the Taliban swap took place, lawmakers have tightened rules governing those transfers, making it harder for the administration to empty out the prison.

114th Congress