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Five Hard Questions Surrounding Obama’s Decision to Free Gitmo Prisoners

President Obama speaks at the White House and is joined by parents, Bob and Joni Bergdahl. (Image source: White House/YouTube)

The Saturday release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, believed to have been in Taliban captivity since 2009, sparked all sorts of commentary, as observers questioned everything from the Obama administration's tactics to the solider in question.

Here are some of the more important questions being asked.

  1. "Did the U.S. negotiate with terrorists for (Bergdahl's) release?"

    Candy Crowley asked this question point-blank of National Security Advisor Susan Rice Sunday, and Rice initially dodged.

    “I think the question now is," Crowley asked again, "and you point to the kinds of warfare we’re having now, that no longer can it be said that the U.S. doesn’t negotiate with terrorists?”

    “I wouldn’t put it that way,” Rice said. “When we are in battles with terrorists and terrorists take an American prisoner, that prisoner still is a U.S. serviceman or woman."

    Obama administration officials have repeatedly pointed to the fact that the U.S. did not directly negotiate with the terrorist group holding Bergdahl, but rather went through an intermediary: the emir of Qatar.

  2. Does this prisoner exchange set a precedent for future negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban?

    On "Meet the Press" Sunday, David Gregory asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel whether the exchange might open the door to future negotiations.

    "It could, it might, and we hope it will present an opening," Hagel responded, saying he has long supporting Afghan-led efforts to work out terms with the Taliban.

  3. Did the Obama administration break the law to get Bergdahl back?

    Republican leaders blasted the Obama administration on Saturday, saying the President had broken the law by going forward with the exchange without giving Congress 30 days notice.

    Why couldn't the exchange have waited for another month to comply with the law?

    "We had information that (Bergdahl's) health could be deteriorating rapidly," Defense Secretary Hagel said on Sunday. "We found an opportunity (to secure his release), we took that opportunity; I'll stand by that decision."

    National Security Advisor Rice echoed Hagel on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," saying, “We had reason to be concerned that this was an urgent and acute situation, that his life could have been at risk."

    "We did not have thirty days to wait," Rice said, "and had we waited and lost him, I don’t think anybody would have forgiven the United States government.”

  4. Where do the Bergdahl family's sympathies lie?

    Shortly before his disappearance in 2009, Bergdahl wrote to his family that he was "ashamed to even be American," and Bergdahl's father is believed to have posted a now-deleted tweet in which he says, "I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners."

    The tweet came mere days before Bergdahl was released — in exchange for five Guantanamo detainees.

  5. How did Bergdahl wind up in Taliban hands?

    Bergdahl wasn't captured during a mission — he instead appears to have wandered off-base and then been captured — and he was initially listed as "duty status unknown," not "missing/captured."

    The circumstances could beg the question: was Bergdahl captured, did he desert, or did he go looking for the Taliban?

    Intelligence sources have said Bergdahl was drunk when terrorists picked  him up — hardly a heroic capture, if that's true.

    Military members have expressed mixed reactions to Bergdahl's release — there's no consensus that he was a war hero, or even a POW in the first place.

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

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