House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday that the Obama administration must explain how it will ensure that the Guantanamo Bay prisoner swap does not encourage terrorists around the world to capture U.S. citizens in the hope of making future swaps.
“[I]t is important that we get clarity in the days and weeks ahead about not only how this exchange came about but what steps the President has taken to guarantee this exchange is not a signal that it is open season on our fellow citizens, both military and civilian personnel, serving our country abroad so faithfully,” Boehner said.
“[W]e all must be mindful that the United States has diplomatic, civilian, and military personnel deployed in other countries with both challenging security environments and active terrorist networks interested in targeting not just our facilities but our people,” he said. “One of their greatest protections – knowing that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists – has been compromised.”
Boehner is among the many Republicans who were critical of President Barack Obama’s decision to swap five Guantanamo detainees for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Several GOP members have said they agree with Boehner that the swap creates an incentive to capture other U.S. citizens, and many others have pointed to evidence that Bergdahl was an Army deserter, something the administration has denied so far.
On Monday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said there is no evidence that Bergdahl’s return to the U.S. had to be hastily arranged because of his failing health. Rogers also said members of Congress had not been briefed on the possibility of a swap since 2011, and that members opposed the idea then.
Boehner made that same point on Tuesday, and said he believes the administration avoided telling Congress because it knew of that opposition.
“There was every expectation that the administration would re-engage with Congress, as it did before, and the only reason it did not is because the administration knew it faced serious and sober bipartisan concern and opposition,” he said.
On Monday, members of the House Armed Services Committee said members were given just five hours’ notice of the transfer.
Boehner said he supports the effort of that committee’s chairman, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), to hold a hearing to discuss how the deal was made and why Congress was not given 30 days’ notice, as required by law.