Mike Rogers: Lawmakers were consulted on idea of prisoner swap in 2011

June 3

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Tuesday that lawmakers hadn't been consulted by the Obama administration on the possibility of a prisoner swap in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl since at least 2011.

The leaders of the House and Senate national security committees -- Armed Services, Foreign Affairs and Intelligence -- met with administration officials in 2011 to discuss the possibility of a prisoner exchange in 2011, Rogers said. "And in a bipartisan way, they said, this is not a great idea. That's the last time we really heard from the administration."

Rogers made his comments on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." Asked whether Rogers would have agreed to swap five detainees at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Bergdahl's release, Rogers said, "not under these circumstances."

"I would have continued to pursue his release, not under these circumstances," he added. "I wouldn't have given the Taliban" the release of five of its members, he said, "when we have soldiers on the field for another 12 months."

Members of Congress have known at least some details of the proposed swap through briefings and conversations with the Pentagon, White House national security council  and State Department going back at least two years.

The outlines of the proposed Bergdahl swap have been public since the spring of 2012. Several news organizations, including The Washington Post, had learned of the proposal much earlier but refrained from reporting on it at the request of the Pentagon, which argued that public disclosure that Bergdahl was a subject of a negotiation between the Taliban and the United States could put his life at risk.

Administration officials briefed some senior leaders of congressional national security committees as recently as December 2013, when a video of Bergdahl surfaced. The video had been requested by American negotiators as “proof of life” ahead of a revival of indirect negotiations that had been stalled for more than a year.

At a news conference in Poland on Tuesday, President Obama strongly defended his decision to approve the prisoner swap in exchange for Bergdahl, even as he acknowledged that some of the detainees released over the weekend may one day try again to attack the United States.

"We have consulted with Congress for quite some time about the possibility that we might need to execute a prisoner exchange in order to recover Bergdahl," Obama said during his trip to Poland to discuss Eastern European security. "We saw an opportunity, and we were concerned about Bergdahl’s health. We had the cooperation of the Qataris to execute an exchange, and we seized that opportunity." He added that "the process was truncated because we wanted to make sure we would not miss that window."

Asked about Obama's comments, Rogers said: "I almost wish the administration would just stop talking about it and come up and meet their members of Congress and introduce themselves to the national security committees who do this work every day."

 

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