Did White House Keep Taliban Trade a Secret Because Congress Opposed It?
Officials say Bergdahl too fragile to be questioned.
When the Obama administration arranged the trade of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (accused of being a deserter) for five members of the Taliban held in Guantanamo Bay, lawmakers accused the administration of violating a law requiring the White House give Congress a month's notice before transferring or releasing these prisoners. The White House said it had moved quickly when an opportunity arose.
Today, though, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wondered whether the real reason the administration didn't tell Congress was because it knew Congress would oppose the deal, as it has in the past. The Hill takes note:
[Boehner] also said lawmakers were opposed to the exchange when it was first raised, and accused the White House of keeping Congress in the dark because of that opposition.
"More than two years ago, Members of Congress were briefed on the possibility of such an exchange, and the chairmen at the time and I raised serious questions to the administration," Boehner said in the statement.
"Unfortunately, the questions and concerns we had were never satisfactorily answered and they remain today. At the time, the administration deferred further engagement because the prospects of the exchange had diminished," Boehner said.
The White House apologized to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for not telling the Senate like they were supposed to. Feinstein said she got a call from an administration official declaring the failure to follow the rules "an oversight."
Bergdahl too fragile for questioning
The details about how Bergdahl ended up becoming a prisoner of the Taliban in Afghanistan and whether he deserted his post are still unanswered. Officials say he's still recovering from his five-year captivity and hasn't been interviewed as yet. From ABC News:
Newly freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is not being asked about the circumstances of his "capture" by the Taliban, though a note he left at his base back in 2009 could help tell the story, a senior defense official told ABC News today.
The official, who spoke about the sensitive details of Bergdahl's case on the condition of anonymity, said that Bergdahl is not being interrogated at the American military medical facility in Germany, to which he was brought this weekend after being released from five-year captivity by the Taliban. The official said there are legitimate concerns about Bergdahl's physical and mental health, which have deteriorated over the years – so serious that doctors have cautioned officials and family not to reach out to even just say "welcome back" yet.
Though the medical facility said today that Bergdahl's condition is listed as "stable," it may be a long time, the official said, before Bergdahl can be questioned about his experience with the Taliban.
Reportedly, Bergdahl walked away from his post, leaving behind a note that he was disillusioned with the mission in Afghanistan and had a better plan. Officials still don't know how he got off the base in Afghanistan and got into contact with the Taliban.