Politics
White House press secretary Jay Carney answers questions about health insurance during a briefing at the White House in Washington Nov. 15, 2013. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque) White House press secretary Jay Carney answers questions about health insurance during a briefing at the White House in Washington Nov. 15, 2013. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)  

Carney Stonewalls Reporters On Bergdahl Swap

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

White House press secretary Jay Carney completely stonewalled reporters seeking more information about the complex four-way prisoner trade between President Barack Obama, the Emir of Qautar, the Haqqani terror group and the Taliban.

“All I can tell you is that Sergeant Bergdahl is an American member of the military who was held captive by our enemies for five years, and it is the absolutely right thing to do, consistent with U.S. history, consistent with an ethos that was identified by the chairman of the Joint chiefs of staff and that we secure his release in the way that we did, and it was the right thing to do,” Carney said as he ended the June 2, White House briefing.

Few reporters protested Carney’s 41-minute stonewall, and none denounced his efforts to hide the details of the much-criticized hostage deal.

Through the relatively short press conference, Carney robotically repeated his claim that the trade was “the right thing to do” at least 10 times, instead of providing details about Obama’s decision to trade five top Taliban leaders in exchange for a suspected deserter captured by a Pakistani and Afghan terror group, the Haqqani network.

Carney simply repeated his initial claims when reporters asked for details.

For example, when he was asked to justify his claim that the new trade matches previous prisoner trades, Carney simply said “there are ample precedents for this kind of decision,” without actually naming any precedents.

In 1975, North Vietnam returned most U.S prisoners back to the United States, after the U.S. signed a peace deal with North Vietnam. But there is no peace deal with the Taliban, who have broken off negotiations with Obama.

Carney blustered when he was asked to explain why the president did not comply with federal law that demands a 30-day notice to Congress before the release of prisoners from the Guantanamo prison. “This should not have comes as a surprise to Members of Congress,” he declared.

Carney evaded when he was asked if the deal meant that Obama is willing to negotiate with terrorists. Instead of explaining the Haqqani network’s role in the deal, Carney talked about the legal status of the Taliban, whom he described as “enemy combatants,” despite their role as rebels against a legitimate government. But the released soldier, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was captured by the Haqqani network after he deserted his post five years ago, and held by the Haqqani groups since then.

Obama designated the Haqqani network as a terror group in 2012.

Officials have not said what the Haqqani network received in exchange for trading the sergeant for five members of the Taliban group.

The complex deal was brokered by the Emit of Qatar, who arranged for Bergdahl to be released to U.S. soldiers just prior to Obama’s release of the five top Taliban leaders.

Carney evaded when he was asked what measures had been made to ensure that the five Talban leaders would not reenter the war prior to the removal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2016. “The threat posed by the detainees to the United States would be sufficiently mitigated,” he said.

That formulation, however, does not offer any guarantees to the United States’ ally, the government of Afghanistan, which the Taliban has been fighting to overthrow since 2001.