A yearlong investigation by the House Armed Services Committee released Thursday concluded the Obama administration not only broke the law, but went out of its way to hide the negotiations as they were happening. U.S. law requires Congress be provided 30 days' advance notice of transfers from the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. Congress was instead notified just hours before the May 2014 transfer took place.
"Our report finds that the Administration clearly broke the law in not notifying Congress of the transfer," said the committee's chairman, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas).
Furthermore, the report stated the administration misled reporters and lawmakers about a potential prisoner exchange.
"Leading up to the transfer, DOD officials misled Congress as to the status of negotiations. Pentagon officials best positioned to assess the national security risks were left out of the process, which increases the chances of dangerous consequences from the transfer," Thornberry said.
Naturally, the Obama administration had politically advantageous reasons for violating the law.
According to the report, the administration kept key defense officials who work on transfers out of the loop. Why? The administration has stated it feared an information leak could shut down the deal and potentially endanger Bergdahl's life.
"At the time, there were rumors that on-again, off-again talks about a prisoner exchange, which had broken down several years earlier, might be underway again, but the administration repeatedly suggested to reporters and to Congress that nothing significant was going on," the report found.
On Thursday, the White House doubled down, "absolutely" standing by it's decision to exchange high risk Taliban prisoners --- prisoners that were on a list of those not eligible for transfer --- for Bergdahl.
“There was a unique opportunity that was presented to rescue Sgt. Bergdahl and that is exactly what we did," Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said.
At the time of the swap, critics argued it went against U.S. policy not to negotiate with terrorists, saying it could cause more hostage-taking. The report suggests the administration hid the swap in order to advance the president's goal to fulfill a campaign promise to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.
"It is irresponsible to put these terrorists that much closer to the battlefield to settle a campaign promise and unconscionable to mislead Congress in the process,” he added.
Bergdahl, who is facing charges of desertion, was captured and held hostage for five years after leaving his base in Afghanistan in 2009. In subsequent missions to directly and indirectly rescue him, American military personnel sacrificed their lives and limbs for him.
Featured Image: President Barack Obama walks with the parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Jani Bergdahl (L) and Bob Bergdahl (R) back to the Oval Office after making a statement regarding the release of Sgt. Bergdahl from captivity May 31, 2014 in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was held captive by militants for almost five years during the war in Afghanistan. (Photo by J.H. Owen-Pool/Getty Images)