The Washington Post

Clinton originally opposed prisoner swap

As secretary of State, Hillary Clinton opposed the terms of the proposed prisoner exchange that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s from captivity in Afghanistan, according to a former senior administration official who participated in the discussions.

Then-CIA Director Leon E. Panetta  and other officials — including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr -- also opposed the deal.

Clinton, now considering a run for president in 2016, on Tuesday publicly endorsed the deal to free Bergdahl that the official said she once privately opposed. The differing positions in the high-profile, controversial case could pose another complication for Clinton as she prepares to embark on a tour promoting her book, "Hard Choices," on her time as secretary of State.

"I think concern among some of these guys had to do with whether or not we could get a travel ban for the five in Qatar. Once they got that travel ban, there was support," said a former senior administration official. Qatar is the Persian Gulf emirate where the released Taliban commanders will remain for at least a year under some restrictions.

In between various meetings to discuss the proposed swap of Bergdhal for five Taliban commanders, Clinton replied in writing to the written concerns of lawmakers, according to House aides. The contents of her responses were deemed classified and were not available for review by reporters, the aides said Tuesday.

Clinton was asked about the exchange by the moderator at an event in a Denver suburb on Monday, according to the Associated Press.

"This young man, whatever the circumstances, was an American citizen — is an American citizen — was serving in our military," Clinton said. "The idea that you really care for your own citizens and particularly those in uniform, I think is a very noble one."

She added that she understood regrets about the deal but that the Obama administration feared Bergdahl wouldn't survive much longer, according to the AP. She described it as an example of the "hard choices" in government that is also the title of her forthcoming book.

"You don't want to see these five prisoners go back to combat. There's a lot that you don't want to have happen. On the other hand you also don't want an American citizen, if you can avoid it, especially a solider, to die in captivity," Clinton said. "I think we have a long way to go before we really know how this is going to play out."

Scott Wilson is the chief White House correspondent for the Washington Post. Previously, he was the paper’s deputy Assistant Managing Editor/Foreign News after serving as a correspondent in Latin America and in the Middle East.



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