We knew about Bowe Bergdahl’s plight, and we knew the U.S. policy of not negotiating with terrorists. It was an unfortunate plight for Bergdahl, but it was unclear how the U.S. would possibly get him back. Then, suddenly, he was here, and there was a press conference announcing his safe return. That’s when we found out the price of getting him back: We traded prisoners at Guantanamo for Bergdahl’s life.
There was some backlash, of course. But, the Obama administration insisted it did what was necessary, and through legal means, in order to save Bergdahl’s life. Except, maybe they didn’t do it very honestly.
The probe into the exchange involved 16 classified interviews totaling 31 hours, perusing more than 4,000 pages of written material, trips to Qatar and Guantanamo Bay and the review of several hours of classified video about the preparations for the transfer and how the five were flown to Qatar.
The report from House Republicans reiterated lawmakers’ complaint and a General Accounting Office finding that the transfer violated the National Defense Authorization Act and other laws. It said the Pentagon’s own Office of Detainee Policy was kept out of the loop about the prospective exchange.
“In the months preceding the Taliban Five transfer, the administration did not communicate any of the specifics or contemplated courses of action to the committee, and the information it did convey was misleading and obfuscatory,” the report said.
A Taliban statement to The Associated Press in June 2013 “contained more specifics about a prospective exchange than what was conveyed through official channels to the committee and others in Congress at the time,” the report said.
When news reports surfaced hinting at a swap, the report said administration officials told lawmakers that the U.S. was not engaged in direct negotiations with the Taliban, which was true because the Qataris were acting as intermediaries.
This report isn’t very damning on its face – it’s really just about the question of the 30-day notice law – but the implications here are worrisome, especially in a presidential administration that prides itself on “transparency.” They didn’t lie, necessarily. They just didn’t tell the whole truth before exchanging Taliban fighters for Bergdahl. That’s cool, right?
The administration said it was not in direct contact with the Taliban about the Bergdahl deal. It’s technically true, ethically bankrupt. The administration was in direct contact with Qatar, who were acting as mediators for the deal. Recall, too, that Bergdahl deserted his unit and was captured on some sort of walkabout, the motives of which are still unknown. We gave up five Taliban fighters for a deserter.
If the Obama Administration is willing to lie or hide the truth from Congress over a prisoner exchange, what else will they be willing to lie or hide the truth about?
Just kidding. The question is “What have they lied or hidden the truth about already?”