Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Republicans demand hearings in Congress over soldier's release -- (Reuters) - President Barack Obama set a dangerous precedent by swapping five Taliban prisoners for a captured U.S. soldier in Afghanistan and may have broken the law, members of Congress said on Monday as they pressed for public hearings on the issue. -- Fueling criticism of the decision to swap Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees being held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba were accusations by some soldiers that the Idaho native was a deserter who cost the lives of several comrades. -- The State Department said it considered Bergdahl "a member of the military who was detained while in combat." The Pentagon said it was unable to confirm media reports that troops had been killed in operations trying to locate Bergdahl following his June 2009 disappearance. -- "There have been several looks into the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, but we've never publicly said anything, primarily because we haven't had a chance to speak with Sergeant Bergdahl himself," said Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. -- The White House pushed back against Republican criticism that the administration may have broken the law by releasing the five Taliban leaders without giving Congress 30 days notice. Officials said lawmakers had been briefed for years on efforts to free Bergdahl, including a potential prisoner swap. -- White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said the deal to secure Bergdahl's release "should not have been a surprise" to lawmakers. -- "We did not have 30 days to wait to get this done," McDonough said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. "And when you're commander-in-chief, you have to act when there's an opportunity for action." -- Congressman Mike Rogers, Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, dismissed the White House's portrayal of events leading to Bergdahl's release as urgent and sensitive. In comments on CNN he called it "nonsense" and an "excuse to try to violate or certainly circumvent the law". -- Republican lawmakers on the Armed Services panels in both the Senate and House called for public hearings into the prisoner exchange. The Senate panel scheduled a closed session next week to hear testimony on the issue from senior defense officials. -- "The question is ... by getting the return of Sgt. Bergdahl, are you placing in danger the lives of Americans in the future, and I believe you are," Arizona Senator John McCain told reporters at the U.S. Capitol. - More, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/03/us-usa-afghanistan-bergdahl-idUSKBN0ED26X20140603


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