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House panel to investigate prisoner swap

By Donna Cassata and Bradley Klapper

WASHINGTON (AP) - The House Armed Services Committee will investigate the Obama administration's swap of an American prisoner held for five years for five Taliban leaders that caused a political firestorm over the lack of congressional notification and fears the high-level Taliban could return to the Afghanistan battlefield.

"We ought to look at the price," Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the panel, told reporters after administration officials held a tense 90-minute, closed-door briefing for House Democrats and Republicans.

Officials from the White House, State and Defense departments and the intelligence community defended the exchange of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured in June 2009 in Afghanistan after he disappeared from his infantry unit, for five Taliban militants from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In the week since the deal, lawmakers have raised questions about whether Bergdahl was a deserter and whether the United States gave up too much for his freedom. Republicans emerged from the Monday night session incensed that 80 to 90 people in the government knew about Bergdahl's release ahead of time and not one member of Congress got a head's up, including leaders of the national security committees.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., criticized the administration for not presenting any classified information.

The U.S. officials said neither the U.S. nor Qatar provided any money to the Taliban as part of the deal, according to Bachmann.

The administration pledged to look into how many American or allied servicemen might have died in efforts to capture the five Taliban prisoners and how many people the ex-Afghan government officials were responsible for killing, she said.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., said President Barack Obama is "not going to get away with this one," and described it as an "arrogant thumbing of his nose by the president of the United States at the Congress of the United States. ... This is going to cost American lives."

Lawmakers said they were shocked to hear Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken say that eight congressional committees had been briefed this past February on the deal. Congressional staffers insist those briefings never occurred.

Obama has defended the exchange and administration officials have argued that the government needed to move expeditiously due to Bergdahl's health. Officials also have said that any leak of information about the deal could have posed a threat to Bergdahl's life.

To reinforce its case, administration officials showed the 90-second "proof of life" video from December that showed a debilitated Bergdahl.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said Bergdahl looked bad in the video. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Bergdahl looked "unhealthy but didn't appear to be on his deathbed."

But all the Republican criticism angered Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.

"I am so grateful to the people who were up there that we didn't leave someone on the battlefield," she told reporters. "And now, they would demonize this individual and find technical reasons why they're bad that we brought the soldier home?"

Beyond securing Bergdahl's release, she said, "the rest is extraneous." The prisoners, she added, were former Afghan government officials who've never been charged with any acts of wrongdoing by the United States. Schakowsky also compared the five-to-one swap favorably with prisoner exchanges by Israel, which has sometimes released more than 1,000 Palestinians to secure the return of one soldier.

"I find it absolutely unacceptable that we're hearing these kinds of attacks on this administration for bringing someone home," she said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will testify on Wednesday before the Armed Services Committee. McKeon said additional hearings and briefings are planned as part of the panel's investigation.

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zzyxx June 09 2014 at 11:55 PM

this president hasn/t a clue how to handle any situation....but he is a master of lies.

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29 replies
howitzers1 June 09 2014 at 11:06 PM

Leave no man behind.

Oh...wait... there was the four in Benghazi when our Commander-in-Chief went to bed early in order to catch some Zs.

After all, he had to make his big appearance in Las Vegas the next day with Beyonce and JayZ.

When the dust finally settles (unfortunately, years from now after he has collected his millions on the speaking circuit) I am confident that it will come out that this is why the White House has refused to say where he was in the White House that night.

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49 replies
svhtwo June 09 2014 at 11:56 PM

Fear that they will return to killing innocent civilians and Americans???? Are they clueless? Of course they will. This is all on Obama and his lawless administration. Anyone voting liberal politicians into office have to be insane or crazy or both!

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14 replies
dmr1946nut4 June 09 2014 at 11:44 PM

What ever happened to the government's policy of not dealing with terrorists? How arrogant Obama was to bypass Congress. This usurper president is consistently making mistake after mistake. When will Congress impeach him? Obama has made so many impeachable acts especially snubbing our Constitution. America better get smart when they vote for the next president.

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54 replies
saultydog42 June 09 2014 at 11:54 PM

Just wait and see, there will be more than an even 1 for 5 swap, it will be found that NOBAMA gave big money also. Congress is investigating this as we speak. I smell impeachment.

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24 replies
Kimberly June 10 2014 at 12:09 AM

This president will only be remembered for his treason of the USA!

Flag Reply +78 rate up
13 replies
RICK June 09 2014 at 11:00 PM

You know what the problem is? We turn everything in this country into a republica vs democrat fight. Bottom line, if you think he did the right thing say so. If you think it was wrong say so. Keep the damn political parties aside. Say so as an American, plain and simple.

Flag Reply +69 rate up
26 replies
ricklexus June 09 2014 at 11:38 PM

Lets see, 1 AWOL, deserter, potential traitor, Taliban sympathizer, free-loading hippie with views of achieving peace with radicals for 5 hard core radical Islam terrorists committed to our complete destruction. AHHHHHH, No! His actions are already the cause of 6 American deaths, several wounded and thousands spent. The Feds will do everything to cover this up, but he is no different then the very population that occupies this country right now.....radical liberals. From OWS to the Nation, to Southern Poverty Law Center, to MSNBC, to the Grio, to Slate, To Demos,to Naacp, to CBC, to BAN, to Salon, to ANY Progressive group. We do NOT want your message or ideas. Simply moving faster towards destruction is not a worthy goal.

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13 replies
arnold.smith2027 June 09 2014 at 11:53 PM

The Liberal's continue to what they do best...... Blame Bush, Reagan or even George Washington if necessary. President Barry Soetoro has been the President for the past 6 years and stated that he would make everything fine. We are simply entering into another scandal/cover up yet again.

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13 replies
larrysanta1 June 09 2014 at 11:49 PM

if this so called rep. Jan Schakowsky thinks the swap for this guy was right we should have swap her for him, just another one of Obama cronies

Flag Reply +58 rate up
9 replies
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