If Democrats worried about the incompetence of the White House in the Taliban swap, they should be in full-fledged panic attack after the latest attempt by the Obama administration to spin their violation of the law. Statute signed by Obama required 30 days’ notice to Congress before releasing anyone from Guantanamo Bay’s detention center, let alone the five worst non-AQ Taliban figures being held. The AP issued a “breaking” report five days after the deal was announced with no notification at all that the White House was told by the Taliban not to tell anyone, or they would kill Bowe Bergdahl:
BREAKING: Officials: Congress not told of swap because Taliban threatened to kill Bergdahl if it leaked .
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 5, 2014
First, let’s parse this on its merits. By Saturday, we had Bergdahl back, and the Taliban had … five of the worst mass murderers and terrorist leaders back in the open. By Sunday, at least, people were already pointing out that the White House had violated the law with this release, and the two intel committee chairs didn’t even get their calls until Monday night. It took five days to go public with this and let everyone know that the White House had agreed to that condition?
And if this is true, it means that Obama allowed the Taliban to dictate whether the US follows the rule of law or not. It also flies in the face of a long tradition of Congressional leadership acting with care in covert situations when the lives of men and women serving abroad are at stake. That’s even more insulting to Congress than the initial arrogance shown after the complaints about their failure to notify them.
But let’s face it — this is sheer nonsense, and everyone knows it. Bergdahl was kept alive for five years because he had value as a trading chit to the Taliban. Why would they kill him on the cusp of getting exactly what they wanted, just because it leaked to the press? They’d possibly have had some internal resistance, but after five years of negotiating with Bergdahl, no one would have been surprised by a deal.
As Rep. Justin Amash says, this just doesn’t add up:
Makes no sense. Told in classified setting. MT @AP: Officials: Congress not told of swap b/c Taliban threatened to kill Bergdahl if leaked.
— Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) June 5, 2014
And as our friend Morgen Richmond pointed out on Twitter, the AP itself reported six weeks ago that the Taliban was agitating to make a deal:
Critics of the U.S. government’s nearly five-year effort to seek the release of the only American soldier held captive in Afghanistan claim the work suffers from disorganization and poor communication among numerous federal agencies involved, leaving his captors unclear which U.S. officials have the authority to make a deal.
The shrinking U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan has refocused attention on efforts to bring home Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, who has been held by the Taliban since June 30, 2009.
About two dozen officials at the State and Defense departments, the military’s U.S. Central Command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Special Operations Command, the CIA and FBI are working the case — most of them doing it alongside their other duties, a defense official said.
Bergdahl’s captors are anxious to release him, according to a defense official and a military officer, who both spoke to The Associated Press only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
“Elements in all echelons — from the top of the Taliban down to the folks holding Bergdahl — are reaching out to make a deal,” the defense official said.
So the Obama administration can leak to the press about how the Taliban want to make a deal, but Congress can’t be trusted to keep a deal secret? Is that how this works?
Update: Heck, even if the Taliban didn’t get the wire services, they could have read about the deal in the New York Times in 2012, as Allahpundit points out. It even came from the Bergdahls themselves:
Re: leaks, NYT was running stories about a Bergdahl/Taliban trade more than two years ago http://t.co/iFy1gC4xI5
— Allahpundit (@allahpundit) June 5, 2014
The parents of the only American soldier held captive by Afghan insurgents have broken a yearlong silence about the status of their son, abruptly making public that he is a focus of secret negotiations between the Obama administration and the Taliban over a proposed prisoner exchange.
The negotiations, currently stalled, involved a trade of five Taliban prisoners held at the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of the Army, who is believed to be held by the militant Haqqani network in the tribal area of Pakistan’s northwest frontier, on the Afghan border. Sergeant Bergdahl was captured in Paktika Province in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. His family has not heard from him in a year, since they saw him in a Taliban video, although they and the Pentagon believe that he is alive and well.
The family’s decision to end its silence could free up the Obama administration to discuss the case publicly and reframe the debate in Washington about releasing the Taliban prisoners, which is seen as a crucial confidence-building measure in efforts to strike a political settlement with the Taliban. American officials believe that a peace deal would help ensure Afghanistan’s stability after 2014, when most American and NATO forces will have left the country. In the absence of a prisoner exchange agreement, those talks are “moribund,” one Western official said.
So the idea that the Taliban needed strict operational security or else is sheer nonsense. It’s yet another horribly incompetent attempt to get Obama out from under an avalanche of well-earned criticism for his ineptitude and arrogance.
Update: Twitter reader ConservativeLA made an interesting observation:
BREAKING: Officials: Congress not told of swap because Democrats can't be trusted.
— ConservativeLA (@ConservativeLA) June 5, 2014
I wonder how Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) interprets this spin. Certainly seems to be a pretty good definition here.
Update: Yeah, it was the Taliban who wanted this deal kept secret — riiiiiiiiiiight:
Those press shy Taliban suggested this prisoner swap on a call with AP last year: http://t.co/Hg8ZTznPRM
— John Sexton (@verumserum) June 5, 2014
The proposal to trade U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for the Taliban detainees was made by senior Taliban spokesman Shaheen Suhail in response to a question during a phone interview with The Associated Press from the militants’ newly opened political office in Doha, the capital of the Gulf nation of Qatar.
The prisoner exchange is the first item on the Taliban’s agenda before even starting peace talks with the U.S., said Suhail, a top Taliban figure who served as first secretary at the Afghan Embassy in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad before the Taliban government’s ouster in 2001.
“First has to be the release of detainees,” Suhail said Thursday when asked about Bergdahl. “Yes. It would be an exchange. Then step by step, we want to build bridges of confidence to go forward.”
The Obama administration was noncommittal about the proposal, which it said it had expected the Taliban to make.
“We’ve been very clear on our feelings about Sgt. Bergdahl and the need for him to be released,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “We have not made a decision to … transfer any Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, but we anticipate, as I’ve said, that the Taliban will all raise this issue.”
That was almost exactly a year ago, by the way.