Washington D.C. - House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith made the following statement at today’s markup of House Resolution 644:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Before we proceed to considering the legislation before us this afternoon, I would like to acknowledge its principal proponent, Mr. Rigell. Scott approached me a few days ago to discuss the contents of his resolution and to ask me for my support. Although we disagree on much of the substance of H. Res. 644 and, although as a consequence, I cannot support it, I commend the gentleman from Virginia for reaching across the aisle to engage in a meaningful dialogue. That is the kind of openness for which members of this committee have long been praised, and it is precisely the kind of communication that should occur on a regular basis. Thank you, Scott.
“Mr. Chairman, it appears that the three main thrusts of H. Res. 644, concerning the May 31, transfer of five Taliban detainees from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Qatar in exchange for the release of Sergeant Beau Bergdahl from captivity, are: (1) dissatisfaction with the administration’s failure to work constructively with Congress and to provide notice to the appropriate committees of Congress at least 30 days before the transfer occurred, as called for by section 1035(d) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014; (2) concern over the national security implications associated with transferring the five Taliban detainees to the custody of Qatar; and (3) concern over the national security repercussions of having negotiated with the Taliban, through Qatar as an intermediary, to effectuate the transfer.
“Regarding the first concern, and as I’ve stated before, I believe the administration should have provided the appropriate committees of Congress at least 30 days’ notice of the Guantanamo detainee transfer. I agree that it would have been far more constructive for it to have done so, and I agree that this administration, or any administration, should always provide the appropriate committees with the appropriate notices of such transfers. There is no question that the Congress needs to be informed of these matters.
“However, I find the resolution’s treatment of the other two concerns to be less compelling. It fell on the President and his administration to perform the important duty of securing the safe return of an American serviceman held captive by an enemy combatant. As with many arduous tasks in the national security arena, significant risks were involved, and difficult choices needed to be made.
“On balance, I think the President made the right decision to negotiate and effectuate this particular transfer in order to secure Sergeant Bergdahl’s safety and freedom. For the Congress to second guess that decision, in hindsight, on the basis of risk, while simultaneously expressing relief that the benefit of Sergeant Bergdahl’s safe return was in fact achieved, would be as unfair as it would be wrong. Unfortunately, Mr. Chairman, the language in H. Res. 644 goes too far in that direction, even if it is altered by your amendment in the nature of a substitute, and I cannot support its passage.”