Of course they did. Only one of these two groups has any accountability leverage over Obama. That’s the group, naturally, that had to be kept in the dark.
The information was available on a need-to-know basis and the people’s representatives, in the White House’s judgment, simply didn’t need to know.
Sources with knowledge of the transfer tell THE WEEKLY STANDARD that prisoners at Guantanamo understood in the days before the transfer that something significant was imminent and may well have known who was being transferred. The security profile at Guantanamo had been raised, these sources say, and the daily routines of several prisoners had been broken up.
Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York who has represented detainees, told the Associated Press that the coming transfer was hardly a secret among the prison population. Kassem told the AP that the guards explained the heightened security as cautionary measures taken in advance of a coming hurricane. “The prisoners saw right through that and knew something big was up,” Kassem said. “Within a day or two of the event, everyone knew.”
The five Taliban members spent most of their time in recent years held at Camp 6, a relatively low-restriction facility where detainees are free to interact with one another. Each prisoner to be transferred typically goes through a series of pre-release procedures, including a physical examination. One source tells TWS that there is virtually no chance the five Taliban commanders didn’t understand what was coming, particularly because they would have all been subject to that pre-release processing.
A U.S. official disputes the theory that the Taliban Five would have necessarily gone through the telltale pre-release procedures, but if that’s true, it’s interesting in itself. Why would the standard protocol have been skipped? Were they worried that knowing the Five were on their way out might have fired up the other detainees and risked some sort of riot, or were the procedures skipped because O’s inner circle feared the news would somehow make it back to Congress via U.S. personnel stationed at Gitmo?
This wasn’t the only unorthodox procedure followed in the Bergdahl case, if you believe the Washington Times:
The Obama administration gave the parents of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl extraordinary insider access to the military’s hunt for their son by having them take part in a series of secure video conferences with senior commanders as well as White House and State Department officials.
A former government official involved in American hostage issues said he had never heard of giving a family such access and questioned whether sensitive information could have been conveyed to Robert and Jani Bergdahl and somehow leaked out. A family spokesman said he knows of no such breach…
There [at National Guard headquarters in Boise] they were hooked into secure video conferences that included representatives of U.S. Central Command, which runs the war in Afghanistan, as well as with White House, State Department and intelligence officials.
It’s appropriate that the Bergdahls were kept updated on Bowe’s whereabouts but they didn’t need to patch them through to the CENTCOM uplink to do that. Having an Army spokesman stay in touch by phone or visit to deliver the latest news would have sufficed. Was it because his parents were so outspoken for so long about bringing him home that the White House felt obliged to give them unusual access? Better to keep the Bergdahls friendly to the administration than hostile, stirring up political trouble by accusing them of having abandoned a man behind enemy lines. Remember, too, that it was the Bergdahls who first tipped the media in May 2012 to the fact that a prisoner swap for their son was in the offing. The NYT speculated at the time that the White House might have nudged them to leak that, since it would have left Obama and his aides free to talk more openly about the deal. Which is fine, except that … the big takeaway from the past week is that the White House was desperate to keep the deal secret, for murky and ever-evolving reasons. Did Bob Bergdahl really leak the news about a swap deliberately in 2012 or did he accidentally spill the beans about something he learned during this CENTCOM briefings? And why did Obama feel it important to keep him posted on the precise mechanism by which Bowe would be brought home instead of just reassuring him that “we have a plan”?