Responding to a government report deeming the deal illegal, Speaker of the House John Boehner on Friday faulted the Obama administration for secretly ordering the swap of five Guantanamo Bay detainees in return for American prisoner of war Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl earlier this year.
“At a time when we are grappling with the evil terror of the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ in Syria and Iraq — a group whose leader was once an American detainee, before being released — it is difficult to imagine a more potentially serious lapse in judgment by the Obama administration,” Boehner said.
On Thursday, a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office said the Obama administration broke the law with its Bergdahl deal by not giving a heads up to congressional committees 30 days in advance, as required by the law.
“Yesterday, the nonpartisan, independent Government Accountability Office confirmed what everyone capable of reading the English language already knew: the White House ignored the law when it released five dangerous Taliban prisoners without proper Congressional notification,” Boehner said.
Citing the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014, the GAO said in a summary that, “Section 8111 prohibits DOD from using appropriated funds to transfer any individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay unless the secretary of defense notifies certain congressional committees at least 30 days before the transfer.”
It also said the Pentagon violated the Antideficiency Act by spending money on this swap in a “manner specifically prohibited by law.”
“Further, it is yet another reminder of this White House’s stubborn and dangerous practice of simply ignoring laws it finds inconvenient,” Boehner said. “As news reports continue to suggest that the president is contemplating re-writing the law again, he should take into account the fact that this nonpartisan, independent agency has confirmed he exceeded his authority.”
On May 31, Obama announced the deal in a Rose Garden press conference with Bergdahl’s parents at his side.
“We’ve worked for several years to achieve this goal, and earlier this week I was able to personally thank the emir of Qatar for his leadership in helping us get it done,” Obama said. “As part of this effort, the United States is transferring five detainees from the prison in Guantanamo Bay to Qatar. The Qatari government has given us assurances that it will put in place measures to protect our national security.”
On Friday, Boehner said: “Every time the president unilaterally re-writes the law and ignores the Constitution, he does damage to the institutions of our democratic government, and undermines further the bonds of trust between that government and the American people.”