Ironically, the White House apology to Sen. Dianne Feinstein over the lack of notification about the swap that freed Bowe Bergdahl for five high-value Taliban detainees chalked the whole thing up to an “oversight” — which is exactly what the Obama administration wanted to avoid. Feinstein didn’t take the apology well, especially since it came more than 48 hours after Barack Obama’s Rose Garden speech with the fully-informed parents of Bowe Bergdahl in attendance:
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein took at shot at the Obama administration on Tuesday for failing to give lawmakers 30 days’ notice about a deal to release five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only POW from America’s war in Afghanistan.
“It’s very disappointing that there was not a level of trust sufficient to justify alerting us,” Feinstein told reporters in the Capitol.
That’s bitter scorn, not a lament. As Feinstein knows full well, the White House doesn’t have to justify informing Congress on GITMO releases — they’re required to do so by law. Furthermore, the White House knew that requirement full well, long before this transfer took place. The scorn becomes more apparent when Feinstein was asked to unpack the “oversight” remark:
Feinstein said that National Deputy Security Adviser Tony Blinken called her Monday night “apologizing” for failing to notify lawmakers sooner.
“He apologized for it and said it was an oversight,” Feinstein said. When asked whether he used the word “oversight,” Feinstein clarified: “In so many words, I can’t say. That was my impression.”
Feinstein went further in her criticism by noting that opposition to the release of these five detainees had been almost unanimous among the intelligence committee members in 2011. And despite the arguments offered by the White House that they needed Bergdahl back no matter how he’d been captured, Feinstein suggested that his status mattered in the equation:
She said the chairmen and ranking Republicans of the “connected committees” spent a lot of time in 2011 reviewing the possibility of a prisoner swap and came out firmly opposed to releasing senior militants from the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
“There were very strong views and they were virtually unanimous against the trade,” she said.
“I certainly want to know more about whether this man was a deserter,” she said of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released to American special forces in return for the freedom of five senior Taliban commanders.
Had their minds changed in three years? The Obama administration wouldn’t know. Despite their claims that they had been continuously consulting with Congress on the swap, House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers (R-MI) told Morning Joe earlier today that the last consultation the White House conducted:
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers on Tuesday said that Congress hadn’t heard from the Obama administration since 2011 on the possibility of a prisoner swap with the Taliban.
The Michigan Republican also cast doubt on the administration’s claims that it had to act due to Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s health, saying, “Their public rhetoric does not match the facts on the ground.”
President Barack Obama, speaking in Poland earlier Tuesday morning, said administration officials “have consulted with Congress for quite some time” about the possibility of a prisoner exchange.
But Rogers, appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” said Congress hadn’t heard anything from the White House in years and that the administration only informed them of the deal after it had already taken place.
“I don’t know what he means by consulted Congress for some time,” Rogers said in response to Obama’s comments. “In 2011, they did come up and present a plan that included a prisoner transfer that was, in a bipartisan way, pushed back. We hadn’t heard anything since on any details of any prisoner exchange.”
He said that administration officials met with the relevant national security committees in 2011 to discuss the potential freeing of some U.S. prisoners as an act of “goodwill,” which the lawmakers resoundingly rejected. He said that the only thing Congress had seen since 2011 concerning Bergdahl was a proof of life video released in December 2013.
Is there any part of the Obama administration narrative that hasn’t fallen apart?