The Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is disputing the Obama administration’s claim that officials had to move quickly to bring U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl back home because of an acute health issue.
“This health issue, again, we learned today is simply just not the case,” Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said on CNN’s “Situation Room” Monday evening. “They had no information that he had an acute health issue as of last weekend. They just didn’t have it.”
“These are the people who make the assessments. You’d think that they would have that information.”
Rogers also rejected the administration’s argument that it had no time to inform Congress that it was trading Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Earlier Monday, the House Armed Services Committee said it was given five hours’ notice, not the 30 days as required under U.S. law.
Rogers said talk about trading prisoners dates back to 2011, when officials raised it with members. But Rogers said there was broad, bipartisan opposition to that idea.
“That last meeting… where they had all the national security chairs in the room, there was bipartisan opposition to any negotiation to release prisoners in an exchange, and that was back in 2011,” he said.
He also said there were indications of new talk about swapping prisoners late last year, and said that means the administration had plenty of time to keep officials informed of the effort if they wished. He said the lack of any significant notice is “nonsense and it’s an excuse” to try to avoid the notification requirement.
“They’re basically arguing they just don’t have to follow the law because they just don’t have to follow the law,” he said.
Rogers has asked his own committee staff to conduct a thorough review of Bergdahl’s release, and the release of the Guantanamo detainees.
The House Armed Services Committee has said it would hold a hearing to examine the circumstances of the prisoner swap, and earlier on Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called for a similar hearing in the Senate. Graham said the Obama administration agreed to release the “Taliban Dream Team,” and said Americans are now at risk around the world of being kidnapped in the hopes of future swaps.
“I fear President Obama’s decision will inevitably lead to more Americans being kidnapped and held hostage throughout the world,” he wrote to the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee.