News / USA

Boehner: Americans 'Less Safe' After Bergdahl Deal

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, joined by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., right, pauses while speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, June 10, 2014, after a Republican Conference meeting.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, joined by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., right, pauses while speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, June 10, 2014, after a Republican Conference meeting.
VOA News
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said the Obama administration has made Americans "less safe" by releasing five Taliban prisoners in exchange for the freedom of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
 
Speaking Tuesday at a news conference with other House Republican leaders, Boehner warned the United States will "pay" for the prisoner exchange, saying there is no doubt in his mind there will be "lost lives" associated with the swap.

He added that he and other lawmakers had raised sharp concerns when briefed more than two years ago on the possibility of such a trade. But Boehner told the AP that he "was never briefed on any specific negotiation."

In the administration's defense, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said the White House only finalized the exchange of Bergdahl for the five detainees a day before the swap, the AP reported on Tuesday.

Durbin, speaking to reporters in the Capitol, said American officials didn't learn the pickup location for Bergdahl until an hour ahead of time.
 
FILE - Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in an undated image provided by the U.S. Army.FILE - Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in an undated image provided by the U.S. Army.
x
FILE - Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in an undated image provided by the U.S. Army.
FILE - Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in an undated image provided by the U.S. Army.

Durbin presented the timeline as an explanation for why Obama didn't inform Congress 30 days before the May 31 prisoner trade.

"They knew a day ahead of time the transfer was going to take place," Durbin told reporters. "They knew an hour ahead of time where it was going to take place."

The Senate Armed Services Committee was briefed on the Bergdahl exchange Tuesday from Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and other officials.
 
Lawmakers' concerns

Boehner said while Republican lawmakers are glad Bergdahl is free after nearly five years in captivity at the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan, he repeated lawmakers'  concerns that they were not informed of the deal before it happened.

Durbin criticized his colleagues in Congress for focusing on the lack of notification.

"Are we saying that once we decided to do the prisoner transfer, we had to notify Congress and wait 30 days? The president couldn't do that," he said. "It was impossible. It could have endangered the man's life by waiting 30 days."

The law on notification "doesn't square with reality," he added, according to the AP.

Congressman Xavier Becerra echoed Durbin's point.

“Sergeant Bergdahl’s life may have hung in the balance in being able to do this quietly and quickly when the window opened,” he said.

One of the loudest critics of the lack of notification is Durbin's fellow Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Other Democrats remain ill-at-ease about the swap. Senator Jeanne Shaheen emerged from the administration's classified briefing to House members of both parties on Monday saying she wants more answers. Fellow Democrat Joe Manchin deplored the release of high-level Taliban militants.

“It still does not justify [releasing] five of the most-notorious people we have had [at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba] for 10 years," he said. "If they were that important for us to keep them that long, then how can all five all of a sudden be released?”

Republicans heaped scorn on the Obama administration’s defense of the swap.

Senator John McCain dismissed any suggestion that the administration had to act swiftly out of concern for Bergdahl’s life in Taliban captivity.

“It is of utmost value to them [the Taliban] to keep an American prisoner alive," he said. "Look what they got for it.”

Republican Senator Ted Cruz plans to introduce a bill that would freeze any prisoner releases for six months.

A visibly angry Senator Jeff Sessions summed up Republican outrage this way:

“We are in a war. This is what this White House does not understand. We have people now in combat, their lives at risk this very day.”
 
Members of Congress descend to a secure area at the Capitol to meet with national security officials for an intelligence briefing about the decision to swap captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five detainees at Guantanamo Bay, in Washington, June 9, 2014.Members of Congress descend to a secure area at the Capitol to meet with national security officials for an intelligence briefing about the decision to swap captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five detainees at Guantanamo Bay, in Washington, June 9, 2014.
x
Members of Congress descend to a secure area at the Capitol to meet with national security officials for an intelligence briefing about the decision to swap captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five detainees at Guantanamo Bay, in Washington, June 9, 2014.
Members of Congress descend to a secure area at the Capitol to meet with national security officials for an intelligence briefing about the decision to swap captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five detainees at Guantanamo Bay, in Washington, June 9, 2014.

Administration officials have defended their decisions, saying Bergdahl's life was in danger and there was no time to wait. In Monday's briefing the administration showed lawmakers a 90-second "proof of life" video that showed a debilitated Bergdahl, the AP reported.
 
House Republicans said they are angered to learn on Monday that as many as 90 members of the Obama administration knew about the deal to free Bergdahl from the Taliban, but no one in Congress was informed.
 
California Republican Dana Rohrabacher accused the president of "thumbing his nose" at Congress and said he will "not get away" with it.
 
U.S. law requires a president to give Congress 30 days' notice before Guantanamo inmates are released, a step that was not taken in this case.
 
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is scheduled to testify on the situation Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee.
 
House bill would deny funds

Also Tuesday, in response to the congressional outcry over the prisoner exchange, a House panel overwhelmingly backed a measure barring the use of U.S. funds for the transfer of detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the AP reported.

The Appropriations Committee voted 33-13 on Tuesday for an amendment to the defense spending bill that captured bipartisan frustration with the Obama administration for failing to give Congress 30 days' notice before Guantanamo detainees are released.

The five Taliban who were exchanged for Bergdahl were sent to Qatar.

The amendment was sponsored by Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey and backed by six Democrats. It would prohibit money for the foreign transfer of detainees.

The full House debates the bill next week.

VOA's Michael Bowman contributed to this report and some information was provided by AP.

You May Like

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt

Issue of AIDS in workplace is one of many social issues being discussed at the 20th International Aids Conference in Australia More

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid