House panel to investigate prisoner swap

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House panel to investigate prisoner swap
SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 13: (From left) Colonel Bradley Poppen, Ph.D., Major General Joseph P. DiSalvo, and Colonel Ronald N. Wool deliver a press conference at the Fort Sam Houston Golf Course July 13, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. They are reporting on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, his return to the United States, and reintegration at Brooke Army Medical Center after being a prison of war under Taliban captivity. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: President Barack Obama walks with the parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Jani Bergdahl (L) and Bob Bergdahl (R) back to the Oval Office after making a statement regarding the release of Sgt. Bergdahl from captivity May 31, 2014 in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was held captive by militants for almost five years during the war in Afghanistan. (Photo by J.H. Owen-Pool/Getty Images)
Bob Bergdahl, the father of freed US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, speaks following the release of his son, US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 31, 2014 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama and the Bergdahl's spoke after the release of Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban in Afghanistan.  MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Supporters of freed prisoner of war US Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl including representatives of the ANSWER Coalition, CODEPINK and March Forward, rally in front of the White House in Washington, DC, June 10, 2014, to welcome Bergdahl home after 5-years of being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies before the House Armed Services Committee about the about the prisoner exchange that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill June 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. The trade of Bergdahl for five senior Taliban officials has angered some members of Congress because they were not informed of the swap beforehand. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11: U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel listens during a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee June 11, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held the hearing to examine the exchange of five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay for the release of U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl who had been held for almost five years by the insurgents in Afghanistan. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
HAILEY, ID - JUNE 01: A sign announcing the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl sits in the window of the Hailey Paint and Supply store on Main Street June 1, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province. Yesterday he was released after a swap for 5 prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay was arranged. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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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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