The growing bi-partisan controversy over the Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl/Taliban prisoner swap shows no sign of letting up this week. U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) went after the White House today in a national media op-ed. Meadow charges that the Obama Administration is eager to negotiate with the Taliban to release terrorists, but unwilling to talk to Congress about solving the nation’s problems.
Appearing on the Sunday talk shows, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel proclaimed, “We didn’t negotiate with terrorists,” followed by a disjointed explanation about how Prisoner of War (POW) exchanges are commonplace and part of long-running U.S. policy.
However, this interpretation quickly unravels once we look at the facts. At no point in time were the terrorists detained at Guantanamo classified as POWS, as Hagel’s comments would imply.
The Obama administration chose to follow Bush-era policy that classified detained Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives as “unlawful enemy combatants.” By doing so, the detainees were not entitled to the same protections a POW would have under the Geneva Convention. (As a matter of practice, the U.S. still afforded the detainees many of the same rights, but specifically chose not to give them POW status.)take our poll - story continues below
It’s important to note that the men released were not low-level combatants who pose no future risk to the United States–quite the opposite. The Department of Defense classified all five as high threats to the U.S. One of the men released, Mullah Norullah Noori, is a senior Taliban military figure who had direct ties to Usama bin Laden.
Meadows further agrees with Constitutional law experts from the left and the right: President Obama broke the law by not consulting with Congress on the prisoner swap.
This decision was made without consulting Congress, which holds the authority to determine whether or not Guantanamo detainees can be released. It seems, in this case, President Obama is more willing to negotiate with terrorists than Congress.
Further, the recidivism rate to terrorism for released Guantanamo Bay detainees is 29 percent or higher. How can we justify releasing individuals who wish to cause direct harm to the U.S. and our troops abroad? By engaging in this deal, the White House signaled to terrorist groups worldwide that kidnapping Americans will result in having their criminal operatives freed. This is an incredibly dangerous precedent to set.
Hagel and other Obama Administration members are expected to testify to Congress this week about the Bergdahl scandal.