Leading lawmakers on Monday called for an immediate investigation into the Obama administration’s controversial decision to release from prison five top Taliban leaders in exchange for an American prisoner that some troops have dubbed a “traitor.”
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R., S.C.), in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, requested that an immediate hearing be organized to examine if the Obama administration broke any laws by unilaterally releasing five top Taliban leaders in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who spent five years in captivity.
Graham and other key lawmakers charge that the White House has jeopardized U.S. national security and broken the law by freeing top Taliban leaders who are likely to rejoin the terrorist network and pick up the fight against America.
New information released Monday by Congress further shows that the Obama administration violated the law by not informing Congress of the release beforehand.
Lawmakers were notified by the Obama administration of the release 72 hours after the prisoners were set free, according to new information released by the House Armed Services Committee (HASC).
It was further revealed that Defense Department, in a May 31 phone call, told HASC lawmakers “that the exchange was underway” and that the inmates would be freed “in the next five hours.”
“A phone call does not meet the legal standard of congressional notification,” HASC Chairman Buck McKeon (R., Calif.) noted in a fact sheet outlining the law.
Graham noted in his letter to Senate Armed Services Committee leaders that the released prisoners are “the hardest of the hard-core.”
“The five terrorists released were the hardest of the hard-core,” Graham wrote on Monday to Sens. Carl Levin (D., Mich.), the Armed Services Committee’s chair, and Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.), its ranking member. “They held positions of great importance within the hard-core anti-American Taliban, including the chief of staff of the Taliban army and the Taliban deputy minister of intelligence.”
The Taliban leaders, who were released from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp over the weekend, “have American blood on their hands and surely as night follows day they will return to the fight,” Graham wrote. “In effect, we released the ‘Taliban Dream Team.’ The United States is less safe because of these actions.”
Obama’s decision to release the Taliban leaders appears to run counter to U.S. law, which includes stringent requirements that must be met before a Guantanamo Bay inmate is released.
The secretary of defense is required to determine “the risk posed by the detainee” and certify that release or transfer “is in the national security interests of the United States,” according to U.S. law as written in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Congressional committees also must be notified by the administration at least 30 days before the release of any Gitmo inmate, the law states.
Additionally, the secretary of defense “must provide detailed information regarding the circumstances of the transfer or release along with the notification, including how the risk posed by the detainee will be substantially mitigated, the security arrangements in the receiving country, and an assessment of the capacity, willingness, and past practices of the receiving country,” according to the law.
However, none of these criteria were met, sparking outrage and concern from leaders in Congress.
“I fear President Obama’s decision will inevitably lead to more Americans being kidnapped and held hostage throughout the world,” Graham wrote in his Monday letter to SASC.
“There are also questions about why the administration failed to comply with the law,” Graham wrote. “We need a thorough review of this decision and I urge you to hold a hearing on this matter as it has profound implications for our national security.”
Additionally, current law makes it illegal for taxpayer funds allocated by Congress to be used for the transfer of any Gitmo inmate to a foreign country.
“More than 72 hours after this deal has been done, we have still have not been told what they’re going to do to ensure that these top five Taliban leaders do not re-enter the fight,” McKeon said in an interview with Fox News on Monday.
The U.S. troop who was exchanged for the Taliban leaders has been criticized by his fellow soldiers for being "more traitor than hero."
Bergdahl's release was not worth the cost, they maintained, citing his purported efforts to desert the military.