That Bergdahl-For-Taliban Exchange Was Illegal

A nonpartisan government watchdog found the Obama administration's prisoner swap for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl violated law by not informing Congress.

That Bergdahl-For-Taliban Exchange Was Illegal
The Telegraph

​​PRESIDENT OBAMA: “We saw an opportunity and we seized it and I make no apologies for that.”

President Obama might not have made apologies for it, but a government watchdog says the administration broke the law in late May when — in exchange for the release of captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — the Pentagon released five Taliban leaders. (Video via The Telegraph)

Which, as you might recall, was immediately controversial.

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-Wash.), VIA FOX NEWS: “The law is the law, and the way you challenge that is you go to court.Until the courts rule on that, it is the law.”

There was a lot at play. Frankly, revelations that Sgt. Bergdahl had abandoned his post in Afghanistan made him — at least in some quarters — hard to sympathize with.

That fed suggestions that releasing Taliban fighters from Guantanamo Bay was too high a price to pay — and both Democrats and Republicans in Congress protested not being informed ahead of time.

And turns out — the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found — the administration did violate a section of the Defense Appropriations Act by not telling Congress at least 30 days before the transfer.

At the time, administration officials said Sgt. Bergdahl’s declining health made quick action necessary.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL, VIA C-SPAN: “The exchange needed to take place quickly, efficiently and quietly. We believed this exchange was our last best opportunity to free him.”

But while the administration “breaking the law” makes for some juicy headlines, we’d want to couch the news with an important caveat.

Namely that the report wasn’t a referendum on whether the transfer was the right thing to do. Just that it violated Congress’s legal right to know ahead of time — and more importantly — its right to authorize the funds.

The Pentagon says the exchange cost just less than $1 million.

And as the report’s conclusion notes, “This opinion does not address the Secretary’s decision to transfer the five individuals in this case as part of DOD’s efforts to secure the release of an American soldier.”

As for Sgt. Bergdahl, we learned in July the former captive is heading back to active duty. He had spent five years in captivity before his release.