U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga) and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga) released statements on Monday criticizing President Barack Obama’s decision to swap five Taliban detainees, the Taliban Five, held at the Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for release of American soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl was in captivity for the past five years by an Afghan terrorist network.
“After five long years, I am pleased to join the American people today in welcoming home Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl,” said Chambliss, who is a vice chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “However, the United States has a long-standing policy of not negotiating with terrorists, and I am deeply troubled the Obama administration not only broke this policy, but also did so without the notification or consent of Congress, as required by law. Six months ago, I was assured by the administration they would not consider the release of these senior Taliban leaders without consulting Congress. Today, they violated that commitment.”
President Obama signed a law six months ago requiring the Administration to notify Congress 30 days before releasing any prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. However, as he signed the law the President issued a statement warning the lawmakers that the notification requirement is unconstitutional and that as the commander in chief he could override it.
The White House national security adviser Susan Rice told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that the Obama administration acted swiftly and without notifying congress because Bergdahl’s health was rapidly deteriorating and they believed his life was in immediate danger.
But many congressmen expressed great concern that the release of the five high level Taliban terrorists puts more American lives at risk.
"The return of an American prisoner to our soil should be an occasion for celebration, but the cost of that return - the release of five known terrorists and prisoners of war - is troubling because of the precedents set for future presidents and captured Americans,” said Kingston. “I am concerned our commander-in-chief and top diplomats were negotiating with terrorists and ignoring Congressional intent that prisoners at Guantanamo not be moved without notification. The President should instead work with Congress and within the law to combat terrorism and protect American soldiers, not go around the law and deal with dictators.”
The controversy over the swap, which took place around last Friday and Saturday, is only growing since several Afghan war veterans who knew Bergdahl or participated in operations to rescue him accused the young soldier of deserting. It is unclear how Bergdahl was captured, but some of his colleagues said that he fled his outpost on foot after growing disillusioned with American role in the region.
Sen. Chambliss is retiring at the end of this year and Rep. Kingston, who currently represents Georgia’s first congressional district, is one of the Republican candidates to replace the Senator. Kingston is running against businessman David Perdue in the runoff primary election to be held on July 22. The Republican winner will run against Democrat Michelle Nunn in the general election.