What piece of evidence persuaded former U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that the five terrorists released from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are no longer dangerous to the U.S.?
The answer to that question matters a lot now since the one-year deal the Obama administration reached with government of Qatar concerning the five former Gitmo inmates is set to expire in just a few weeks.
Under federal law, the U.S. secretary of defense can transfer or release prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba “if the secretary determines, following a review…that the individual is no longer a threat to the national security of the United States." This provision can be found in Section 1035 (a)(1) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, which President Barack Obama signed into law on Dec. 26, 2013.
File - In this file image taken from video obtained from Voice Of Jihad Website, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, sits in a vehicle guarded by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Voice Of Jihad Website via AP video, File)
Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made use of this provision when he traded five terrorists held at Gitmo for Bergdahl who was recently charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Bergdahl left his post and was held captive by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network in Afghanistan from June 2009 until May 2014.
A court date of July 8 has been set for a hearing on the charges against Bergdahl at the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas where the Army sergeant served. Those are some of the latest developments.
But there’s another date concerning Bergdahl story that should raise alarms. That would be the deadline for the one-year deal top U.S. officials struck with the Gulf nation of Qatar that set the terms for the supervised release of the prisoners. This deal is set to expire at the end of May.
Fortunately, Judicial Watch, the non-partisan government watchdog group based in Washington D.C., is stepping up to ask the right questions and pull out pertinent information Obama administration officials are working to conceal.
One big question that stands out here is what persuaded Hagel to conclude that the five terrorists are no longer a danger to the U.S.?
In November, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense seeking “any ‘determinations’” made by Hagel that the terrorists now in Qatar are “no longer a threat to U.S. national security.” Earlier this year, Judicial Watch filed another FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. State Department asking for copies of the Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Qatar concerning the prisoner exchange.
Source: Mad Magazine
Contrary to Hagel’s expectations, it has been reported that three of the five Taliban terrorists who were exchanged for Bergdahl have attempted to contact their former terrorist networks. This news adds further impetus to the Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuits. At least some of the terrorists the Obama administration saw fit to release to Qatar will very likely be back on the battlefield taking aim at U.S. forces. The names of the five terrorists are Mohammad Nabi Omari, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mullah Mohammad Fazl and Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa.
Bergdahl’s attorney, Eugene Fidell, says Begdahl left his base to report wrongdoing, not because he intended to desert. Bergdahl is entitled to a strong legal defense, but the American people are entitled to the truth. We still don’t know why Bergdahl left his post and why Team Obama decided the exchange was in the best interests of the U.S.
This is where the FOIA process takes on a heightened importance. Most recently, Judicial Watch filed a new FOIA lawsuit in February against the DOD to obtain a copy of the “initial report” of the U.S. Army’s review of the disappearance of Bergdahl. Judicial Watch has now filed at total of five FOIAs in the case.
How the exchange advances the national security interests of the U.S. is unclear. There may be good reasons behind the decision-making and the Obama administration deserves to have its side told. So why not answer some of the lingering questions? It would seem there is ample room for the the DOD and the State Department to answer the FOIA requests without disclosing sensitive information. On the surface, the arrangement appears to be a loser to the U.S. and an advantage to the terrorists.
There is good reason to believe the administration will be less than forthcoming with the information requests. The Government Accountability Office found that the Obama administration violated the “clear and unambiguous” law affecting prisoner swaps. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 says that all prisoner transfers from Guantanamo Bay require 30 days’ notice to Congress. Such notice was not provided in Bergdahl’s case.
So, if the Obama administration is going to violate the clear letter of law where the exchange process is concerned, should we really expect that it will honor the federal transparency law?
Kevin Mooney can be reached at Kevin.MooneyJ@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @KevinMooneyDC. Please visit KevinMooney.Info for additional information and previous reports.
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