The Lawless Bergdahl Swap
By Matthew Vadum
Virtually no one in the nation’s capital now doubts that President Obama violated the law when he approved an unconscionable prisoner swap that repatriates an American deserter while freeing five Islamofascist terrorist field commanders.
Just throw it on the growing pile of impeachable offenses committed almost daily now by President Obama.
In yet another new historical first that paints a bulls-eye on the backs of U.S. citizens and military service members around the globe, Americans learned this week not only that Obama negotiates with Islamofascist terrorists — but that he does so with all the skill an 18-year-old boy who just won the lottery employs when dealing with a Porsche salesman.
Perhaps Obama thought that the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl who was held for five years by the Taliban in Afghanistan would be a sure-fire good news story to distract from the Veterans Affairs hospital waiting list scandal. If so, he guessed wrong.
Bergdahl, it turns out, expressed dismay about the war and walked off his base overseas in search of terrorists to whom he could surrender. There are conflicting reports, but it appears Bergdahl became an active collaborator with America’s enemies and fed them valuable information that helped them strike U.S. military targets in Afghanistan with enhanced efficiency.
Bergdahl, whom one of his former military colleagues described on TV as at best a deserter, and at worst, a traitor, was traded for five high-value Guantanamo Bay inmates in a clandestine transaction that might be the modern-day equivalent of swapping the high command of Nazi Germany’s armed forces for a wartime saboteur like Ernest Peter Burger or Herbert Hans Haupt.
Thanks to Obama and the same people who brought you HealthCare.gov and a growing list of governmental monstrosities, bearded unlawful combatants are now at liberty in Qatar where supposedly somebody is keeping an eye on them. They will, no doubt, return to plotting against the United States and orchestrating plans to kill Americans.
In carrying out the deal President Obama bypassed most of the congressional leadership and violated a statute he recently signed into law. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), ever the Obama water carrier, took time out from his ambitious hate speech campaign against the Koch brothers to claim the administration let him know of the operation in advance. Apart from Reid, just about nobody else on Capitol Hill makes the same claim.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he was not notified of the unseemly transaction until it had already happened. Boehner said the administration gave congressional leadership a heads-up about a prospective prisoner swap over two years ago but did not revisit the issue with lawmakers.
“Unfortunately, the questions and concerns we had were never satisfactorily answered and they remain today,” Boehner said. “At the time, the administration deferred further engagement because the prospects of the exchange had diminished.”
As recently as June 21, 2013, White House spokesman Jay Carney said “we would not make any decision about transfer of any detainees without consulting with Congress.”
“There was every expectation that the administration would re-engage with Congress, as it did before, and the only reason it did not is because the administration knew it faced serious and sober bipartisan concern and opposition,” Boehner said in a statement. His office was reportedly notified of the swap, by that time a fait accompli, on Saturday at 11:52 in the morning.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) corroborated Boehner’s version of events, explaining that a prisoner exchange was discussed with congressional intelligence panels and met with more or less unanimous opposition.
Lawmakers reportedly worried such a deal would provide terrorist groups with an incentive to hold more U.S. soldiers and that the administration would be powerless to stop the released detainees from returning to the battlefield.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who is ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a joint statement that the president “clearly violated laws which require him to notify Congress thirty days before any transfer of terrorists from Guantanamo Bay and to explain how the threat posed by such terrorists has been substantially mitigated.”
The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act mandates that the defense secretary advise the relevant congressional committees 30 days before freeing any prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Obama signed the measure into law and griped in an accompanying signing statement that such a requirement was unconstitutional.
“Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans,” the two lawmakers said. “Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans. That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk.”
Two prominent left-wing legal commentators who are otherwise sympathetic to Obama’s policy agenda accused the president of breaking the law by executing the prisoner exchange.
“I think he clearly broke the law,” said CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. “The law says 30-days’ notice. He didn’t give 30-days’ notice.”
“The law is on the books, and he didn’t follow it,” he added.
When asked if the Obama White House violated federal law, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley replied, “they did.”
“I don’t think that the White House is seriously arguing that they’re not violating federal law. And to make matters worse, this is a long series of violations of federal law that the president’s been accused of. … This is going to add to that pile. I don’t think there’s much debate that they’re in violation of the law.”
President Obama “is essentially arguing the very same principle as George Bush, that when it comes to Gitmo, he has almost absolute power, that it’s his prerogative, his inherent authority, to be able to make these decisions as he sees fit.”
Strangely, the normally docile Speaker Boehner wants to do something about the Bergdahl swap, which he said “invited serious questions into how this exchange went down.” He said he supports calls for congressional hearings on the issue.
Because of Obama’s action, U.S. personnel abroad now face an elevated risk of being kidnapped by terrorists.
“One of their greatest protections — knowing that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists — have been compromised,” Boehner said.
Obama unleashed the White House propaganda machine over the weekend to spread false information about this stinker of a deal. Naturally, he used White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice as his TV talking head. Rice also served as reelection candidate Obama’s emergency first-prevaricator on the Benghazi coverup in fall 2012.
Rice went on TV to spread the administration’s bogus cover story. She said with a straight face that Bergdahl “served the United States with honor and distinction.”
“Sergeant Bergdahl wasn’t simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield.”
No doubt Rice won’t have any difficulty landing a job in public relations or academia after Obama leaves office in 2017.