The White House apologized Tuesday to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying that it was an “oversight” not to notify members of Congress about swapping five high-level Taliban prisoners for one U.S. prisoner held in Afghanistan.
Feinstein told reporters Tuesday that White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken called her on Monday after the weekend deal for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was finalized this weekend.
“I had a call from the White House last night, from Tony Blinken, apologizing for it,” Feinstein said, according to The Hill newspaper. “He apologized and said it was an oversight.”
Under the National Defense Authorization Act, Obama must notify Congress 30 days in advance of releasing a prisoner from Guantanamo Bay.
Obama administration officials contend that Bergdahl’s life was in danger and that the government had to act swiftly. Bergdahl was held by the Taliban for five years.
Speaking at a press conference in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday, Obama said Congress had been consulted on the possibility of an exchange.
“We have consulted with Congress for quite some time about the possibility that we might need to execute a prisoner exchange in order to recover Sgt. Bergdahl,” Obama said, according to the White House transcript. “We saw an opportunity. We were concerned about Sgt. Bergdahl’s health. We had the cooperation of the Qataris to execute an exchange, and we seized that opportunity, and the process was truncated because we wanted to make sure that we did not miss that window.”
Feinstein said that in 2011, the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees were unanimous against a prisoner exchange.
“I certainly want to know more about whether this man was a deserter,” Feinstein said of Bergdahl.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday he was notified by the administration of the prisoner swap immediately before it happened.
(H/T: The Hill)