People of Northwest Public Radio
Bergdahl Prisoner Swap
Thu August 21, 2014
GAO Finds Bergdahl Prisoner Swap Broke Federal Law
An independent government investigation out Thursday finds that the Pentagon broke the law when it swapped five members of the Taliban for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Idaho. The Government Accountability Office said officials should have given Congress a 30-day notice.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released on May 31 after nearly five years in Taliban captivity, but members of Congress— Republicans as well as some Democrats— said the means of retrieving him was unlawful.
Now Congress’ investigative arm agrees. The GAO said the Department of Defense had a legal duty to consult key committees before releasing Guantanamo Bay detainees. In addition, investigators found that the department violated the Antideficiency Act because no money was legally available to fund the costs of the transfer.
Defense officials told the GAO they believed the requirement to notify Congress was unconstitutional in this case. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel previously said they believed Bergdahl's health and safety required swift action.
The possibility of some sort of prisoner exchange for Bergdahl had been in the works for years, but the sudden news that a deal had been struck surprised Congress and members of the public. Bergdahl’s release incited a controversy both over the swap and whether he had deserted his post.
Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho canceled its welcome home celebration amid threats, but many longtime supporters continue to defend the swap. They’re asking people to participate in a “Thank You President Obama Video.”
Meanwhile, the Army has extended the deadline for a separate investigation into the circumstances that led to Bergdahl's capture.
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