A chairman for a House of Representatives committee on Monday released a report expressing condemnation of President Barack Obama's releasing of five top-ranking Taliban fighters detained in the U.S. detention center at the Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), Cuba, military base on May 31.
According to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., in his report, the Committee expressed "disapproval of the Obama administration's transfer of five senior Taliban leaders from Gitmo in exchange for a U.S. soldier, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an alleged deserter and enemy sympathizer, who was held captive by Islamists in Afghanistan.
In the released report which precedes the House markup on July 29, Chairman McKeon is quoted as saying, "When the President takes his oath of office, he is duty bound to follow the laws set by the American people. Here, his office broke a law that was originally adopted by his own party in the Senate, passed by a large bi-partisan majority in Congress and signed by the President himself. Just as the President must do his duty, so must Congress. Following the law is not optional."
The transfer of the Taliban Five to the Qatar government, according to the House report, violates the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 (NDAA) which stipulates that the POTUS is required by law to notify Congress 30-days before transfering or freeing terrorists being held as enemy combatants at the Gitmo facility.
Article One, Section Eight of the U.S. Constitution gives the U.S. Congress the authority to "make rules concerning captures on land and water."
The Committee chairman stated in the report that the Obama administration had sufficient time to notify the U.S. Congress about the prisoner exchange thereby following the law yet maintaining secrecy.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel admitted during a congressional hearing that the negotiations to exchange five Taliban terrorists for one American POW were going on for months and the failure to lawfully consult with Congress was intentional.
"The violation prevented Congress from fulfilling its vital oversight duties on national security matters. Congress was not given an opportunity to assess the risks to U.S. national security presented by the transfer, the security assurances from Qatar before the transfer took place, or the credibility of the negotiating process," said Chairman McKeon .
In response to the Obama administration's argument that they didn't negotiate with terrorists but used Qatar to perform that function, McKeon and his committee said, "Negotiations through intermediaries are still negotiations with terrorists. In this case, the United States negotiated through intermediaries in Qatar. Both the Haqqani Network and the Taliban are designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. Violation of the 30 day notice law prevented Congress from evaluating the negotiation process and the repercussions of negotiating with terrorists."
McKeon's Committee report closes with a warning about terrorist recidivism:
The Taliban Five will be free to leave Qatar in less than a year and could easily rejoin the fight against America. By the President’s own admission, there is 'absolutely' the 'possibility' that these detainees would try to return to the fight. Other transferred GTMO detainees have become leaders of al Qaeda [sic] associated groups actively planning attacks against America and our allies.