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U.S. watchdog finds Pentagon broke law in Bergdahl transfer

(Reuters) - The Defense Department violated U.S. law by failing to alert Congress before releasing five Taliban members held at Guantanamo Bay military prison in exchange for a captured U.S. soldier, a government watchdog agency said on Thursday.

The Government Accountability Office said the Pentagon broke the law by using money appropriated by Congress to carry out the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners without giving lawmakers the required 30-day notice.

"In addition, because DoD (the Department of Defense) used appropriated funds to carry out the transfer when no money was available for that purpose, DoD violated the Antideficiency Act" barring agencies from spending more than authorized, the GAO said in a letter posted on its website.

The GAO assessment was requested by Republican lawmakers who were angered over the lack of notice they'd received about the U.S. decision in May to transfer five Taliban prisoners to Qatar in exchange for the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

Senator Saxby Chambliss, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the GAO finding validated the view that President Barack Obama had "completely disregarded laws duly passed by Congress and signed by his own hand" by allowing a prisoner transfer that cost almost $1 million.

"This latest overreach regarding our national security has dangerous implications," Chambliss said in a statement. "The United States has a longstanding policy of not negotiating with terrorists for good reason, and these senior Taliban leaders will soon rejoin the fight."

But the Pentagon defended the transfer, insisting the prisoner swap to recover Bergdahl was conducted lawfully after consultations with the Justice Department.

"The administration had a fleeting opportunity to protect the life of a U.S. service member held captive and in danger for almost five years," said Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. He said it was necessary to forego the notice to obtain Bergdahl's safe return.

The Defense Department told the GAO that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel authorized the exchange based on a section of the law that allows transfers of Guantanamo prisoners if actions are being taken to reduce the risk that they will re-engage in hostile activity.

The Pentagon told the GAO it did not believe the failure to give 30-days notice would make it unlawful to approve a prisoner transfer that was otherwise permitted under the law. And similarly, payment for the transfer would be lawful.

The GAO disagreed with the Pentagon's interpretation, saying it would make the 30-day notification requirement "meaningless."

Bergdahl spent five years as a Taliban captive after walking away from his outpost inAfghanistan.

His release was greeted by an initial wave of euphoria, but the prisoner swap deal triggered a backlash among U.S. lawmakers angry over the Democratic administration's failure to give 30 days notice as stated in the law. Some of Bergdahl's former Army comrades also charged that he had deserted.

Bergdahl returned to active duty after receiving treatment for several weeks. He is hoping to return to civilian life, his attorney said this week.

Army Major General Kenneth Dahl is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's disappearance to determine whether he broke any military laws. He interviewed Bergdahl earlier this month and is expected to report on the case soon.

(Additional reporting by Missy Ryan; Editing by Leslie Adler and Ken Wills)

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Joe Schwabaucker August 22 2014 at 8:01 AM

Why... once again isn't the responsibility put where it belongs? OBAMA violated the law... HE is the "commander in chief". When is this pathetic liberal stupidity going to stop? obama needs to be brought to justice along with the entire democrat party for crimes against the citizens of the United States and treason against America.

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1 reply
marbillou Joe Schwabaucker August 22 2014 at 1:49 PM

Bla Bla Bla

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Trapper August 22 2014 at 8:30 AM

The whole thing was a sham so why not the Pentagon actions as well? This was a publicity stunt the blew up in Obama's face. Can't put spin on a turd.

Leave no one behind - my ass! This applies to the wounded and the dead that honorably were injured and died in battle - not to cowards who cut and run and hung their buddies out to dry. Bergdahl is a traitor. He went AWOL in a combat area. That constitutes desertion in the face of the enemy which is a capital offense. Ransoming him from the Taliban is an insult to any soldier who ever fought in combat. It says - don't like your lot then go for a stroll and see what the other side is doing. Maybe things are better there.

As for Congress, it should stop whining. It couldn't make a decision in 30 years never mind 30 days. The ransom money was the least concern. The whole idea of getting Berdahl back was a debacle from the start.

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bentbouy1 August 22 2014 at 7:25 AM

Obama breaks the law all the time but no one cares.

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3 replies
BRUCE August 22 2014 at 9:16 AM

One word explains my disgust....

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Buzz August 22 2014 at 8:18 AM

President Barack Obama had "completely disregarded laws duly passed by Congress and signed by his own hand" by allowing a prisoner transfer that cost almost $1 million. To say nothing about the fact that he traded 5 of the most dangerous war criminals in recent history in the process.

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2 replies
jaded13640 Buzz August 22 2014 at 8:37 AM

Exactly. That alone should be grounds for a jail term. The fact that they used money they didn't have to do it is just typical of the left. They do it so often they assume their entitled to do so. The FACT is that they traded 5 high ranking taliban for one US deserter. Unless he was a high ranking officer that was helping the enemy, let him rot. The law says you have to notify congress before you do a prisoner swap. He didn't. Case closed.

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2 replies
Judith jaded13640 August 22 2014 at 9:28 AM

Congress told him to do it in the first place, you idiot! Look it up instead of just repeating the lies spewed by Fox News, Hannity, Limbaugh, et al.

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WildMtHoney888 jaded13640 August 22 2014 at 10:57 AM

Judith your reply to jaded 13640 with no link is like making up facts in your head you did not post one because you could not find one. Typical democrats thinking facts get in the way. Here are a few for you.
Congress rejected it TWICE!!!

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marbillou Buzz August 22 2014 at 1:50 PM


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Mcnabb sucs August 22 2014 at 8:17 AM

Has anyone else noticed that those prisoners were released a week before news broke of the threat that ISIS posed on the region and the world? Would this Niglet have been able to release them after news broke of the middle east falling apart? good timing Mr O'monkey, good timing.

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1 reply
marbillou Mcnabb sucs August 22 2014 at 1:51 PM

u r an ******* racist

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1 reply
FEDUP365 marbillou August 22 2014 at 6:34 PM

Sounds like your a demoturd and think your prezidaunte is doing a superb job in my White House. I suppose your also a muslim brotherhood supporter like your little ghetto robbing prezidaunte. Some day his 2 terms in office and the destruction of America will come back to get him. Trading 5 taliban for a deserter is rediculous.

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ray66v August 22 2014 at 7:54 AM

Has Bergdahl's father tried speaking to him in English yet? Is his mother still dating President Obama?

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GUNSLINGER August 22 2014 at 8:10 AM

Say it isn't true, the "KENYAN" broke the law? Next your going to tell me that he lies too!!!!

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John August 22 2014 at 8:15 AM

A Dictator does not need anyone`s permission .

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1 reply
kentuckycowby John August 22 2014 at 11:01 AM

He definitely doesn't need your permission idiot!

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anvmd August 22 2014 at 7:53 AM

We let Obama break the law repeatedly, so why is this different? He is so "foreign" to this country. Why is he still President?

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