George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said Monday that he doesn’t believe there’s much debate over whether the White House broke the law by releasing five high-ranking Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay without congressional notification — noting that not even the White House is seriously arguing that it is not violating federal law.
Turley spoke with CNN anchor Carol Costello on Monday about the weekend prisoner swap, which saw Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl released from Taliban custody in exchange for five top-ranking Taliban officials held at Gitmo. Republicans in Congress have already accused the White House of ignoring a law requiring a 30-day notification before any prisoners are transferred from the high-security Caribbean prison, and have promised to hold hearings on the issue.
“Did the White House violate federal law?” Costello asked Turley.
“They did,” the professor replied matter-of-factly. “I don’t think that the White House is seriously arguing that they’re not violating federal law. And to make matters worse, this is a long series of violations of federal law that the president’s been accused of. … This is going to add to that pile. I don’t think there’s much debate that they’re in violation of the law.”
Turley explained that President Obama “is essentially arguing the very same principle as George Bush, that when it comes to Gitmo, he has almost absolute power, that it’s his prerogative, his inherent authority, to be able to make these decisions as he sees fit.”
“Well, does it matter?” Costello asked. “Because the administration says that the Department of Defense consulted with the Justice Department, and that was enough. Does that matter?”
“Well, unfortunately the Justice Department has been involved in many of these controversies, and they tend to support federal power,” Turley replied. “The federal law seems quite clear.”
“And the fact that you have negotiations that have gone on for years really undermines the argument that this was a matter where time was of the essence,” he added, attacking the White House line that Bergdahl’s health was at stake. “Clearly you have committees with classified proceedings, people who have been cleared for this information that could have been consulted. And this really is the reason they enacted the law.”