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GAO: Pentagon violated law with Bergdahl swap



By DONNA CASSATA

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon broke the law when it swapped Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a prisoner in Afghanistan for five years, for five Taliban leaders, congressional investigators said Thursday.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said the Defense Department failed to notify the relevant congressional committees at least 30 days in advance of the exchange - a clear violation of the law - and used $988,400 of a wartime account to make the transfer. The GAO also said the Pentagon's use of funds that hadn't been expressly appropriated violated the Antideficiency Act.

"In our view, the meaning of the (law) is clear and unambiguous," the GAO wrote to nine Republican senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and various committees. "Section 8111 prohibits the use of 'funds appropriated or otherwise made available' in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014, to transfer any individual detained at Guantanamo Bay to the custody or control of a foreign entity' except in accordance" with the law.

The GAO said the relevant committees received phone calls from May 31 - the day of the transfer - to June 1, with written notification coming on June 2.

Five senior Taliban were released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo in exchange for Bergdahl, who had disappeared from his post in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. The five Taliban are to remain in Qatar for a year.

Spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby defended the Pentagon's actions, saying that as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stated in his congressional testimony earlier this year, the Defense Department "acted lawfully in the operation to recover Sgt. Bergdahl, a judgment that was supported by the Justice Department."

Lawmakers, especially Republicans, were angry with President Barack Obama and members of the administration for failing to notify them about the swap. Some in Congress have said Bergdahl was a deserter and the United States gave up too much for his freedom. Several lawmakers have cited intelligence suggesting the high-level Taliban officials could return to the Afghanistan battlefield.

The administration has defended the swap and its decision to keep Congress in the dark, saying concern about Bergdahl's health and safety required speedy action.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a member of the Intelligence Committee, said it was "completely disingenuous" for the administration to suggest that notifying Congress might have compromised the transfer because dozens of administration officials knew well in advance.

"It's not hard to imagine that the president didn't notify us until after the fact because he knew the proposed transfer would have been met with opposition," Collins said in a statement Thursday. "The president's decision is part of a disturbing pattern where he unilaterally decides that he does not have to comply with provisions of laws with which he disagrees."

The Joint Chiefs of Staff has unanimously supported the exchange, insisting that the United States has a sacred commitment to men and women who serve that it will never leave anyone behind on the battlefield. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the swap in May was "likely our last, best opportunity" to free Bergdahl.

Bergdahl is doing administrative duties at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio while an investigation into how he was captured by the Taliban is conducted.

Last month, a bitterly divided House Armed Services Committee voted to condemn Obama for the swap. The Republican-led panel backed a nonbinding resolution that disapproves of the exchange and faults Obama for failing to notify Congress 30 days in advance of the swap, as required by law.

The bipartisan resolution raised national security concerns about the transfer of the five Taliban, who had been held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for more than a decade, and the "repercussions of negotiating with terrorists." The measure also expresses relief that Bergdahl has returned safely to the United States.

The full House is expected to consider the measure in the fall, just a few weeks before the midterm elections.

___

Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

Bowe Bergdahl Is 'Grateful' To Obama For 'Saving His Life'

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dhsdome August 21 2014 at 6:34 PM

So basically Obama negotiated with terrorists and broke the law all at the same time? Hard to believe he had time to do so between vacation, fund raisers and golfing.

Flag Reply +44 rate up
6 replies
kimmer0310 August 21 2014 at 6:34 PM

This administration's blatant disregard for our laws is never-ending.

If Obama put as much effort into cutting spending and unemployment as he does bypassing our laws he would have accomplished something besides dividing this country.

Flag Reply +35 rate up
4 replies
PappyHappy August 21 2014 at 7:10 PM

Why are we surprised?

This administration has not allowed the 'law' to interfere with their actions in:

*Destroying Emails when it is to their
advantage to do so.
* Intimidating private citizens who differed with the President on ideology (IRS)
* Firing on and killing US citizens without the benefit of due process
* Intimidating the FREE PRESS due to ideology differences, and an attempt to keep facts from the public (AP, CBS & FOX)
* The lies surrounding Benghazi
* Operation Fast & Furious
* The numerous scams surrounding OBAMACARE
*Use of the CIA and NSA to spy on our allies and US citizens

So, gang, WHAT IS NEW?

Flag Reply +26 rate up
3 replies
joelknowlton August 21 2014 at 6:43 PM

What's new, this president has the typical thug mentality he used to organize

Flag Reply +26 rate up
6 replies
aljoramaggio August 21 2014 at 6:48 PM

So, since when does this Administration do anything through Congressional approval, of our elected Senators and Representatives?

Flag Reply +24 rate up
5 replies
dan_crabtree August 21 2014 at 6:51 PM

Barrack Hussein Obama and Eric Holder made this swap..not the pentagon...as they the pentagon were following orders from this commander and cheif..And the demos have the nerve to arrest perry over over nothing..

Flag Reply +21 rate up
2 replies
Hello Diane dan_crabtree August 21 2014 at 8:40 PM

Welcome to the US where we vote for the great give way---like OUR COUNTRY

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Richard dan_crabtree August 21 2014 at 9:22 PM

Pentagon recommended the swap be made.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
2 replies
usmcltc Richard August 21 2014 at 11:47 PM

And, who made the final decision? Obama took all of the credit for the exchange when it happened, and now, when there is a possible law violation, the GAO blames the Pentagon. It will be interesting to see how Obama and Holder get around the fact that they did not notify Congress 30 days, as required by law, before the swap.

Flag 0 rate up
MIKEY'S SCREEN Richard August 22 2014 at 1:24 AM

And the Pentegon Chiefs follow orders and will defend those orders because THAT is what they were ordered to do.

Every one of those Chiefs are at risk of losing theirt retirement benefits IF they do not follow orders, and after serving 35+years for administrations that basically made sense, they are npot going to jeopordize their career over this moron.

Just look at what happened to Douglas MacArthur when Truman fired his butt.

Flag 0 rate up
aptwest August 21 2014 at 6:48 PM

Welcome to the Kingdom of Oblamo.

Flag Reply +17 rate up
2 replies
elobel1044 aptwest August 21 2014 at 7:38 PM

If he were truly a king you would be exiled if not beheaded. Kings have absolute power and morons like you are not tolerated and would be hung for treason or sent to the dungeon for the rest of you life!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
3 replies
brenhatestwinkie aptwest August 21 2014 at 8:52 PM

go back to crack land

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Jerry August 21 2014 at 6:51 PM

Obama's administration broke the law? Are you kidding me...ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? Probably not.

Flag Reply +14 rate up
Angela9 August 21 2014 at 6:41 PM

Yes, obama and his cohorts broke the law and they know it! obammy could care less what law he breaks brcause he thinks he is above any law and that includes Gods. Oneday he will bow before his creator and may God have some mercy.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
5 replies
joper201 August 21 2014 at 8:06 PM

I wonder if obama's illegal trade of 5 top terrorists for ONE DESERTER had any impact on the ISIS decision to behead an innocent American when obama refused to pay a ransom and do a prisoner swap.

Obama HOPED the swap for bergdahl would be a PR triumph.

It wasn't and now he has the blood of 1 possibly 2 AMERICAN journalists on his hands.

The sad thing is OBAMA doesn't give a damn about the blood o his hands.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
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