House Dem: That the White House didn’t notify Congress of Bergdahl deal “did not sit well”
POSTED AT 9:01 PM ON JUNE 9, 2014 BY ERIKA JOHNSEN
Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, didn’t have much to say in defense of the White House’s highly selective Bergdahl-deal maneuvering this evening. As CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield notes, “80 to 90″ administration officials across various agencies knew about the deal beforehand, and regardless of whether or not the administration had the legal authority to proceed without notifying Congress, Schiff notes that they would have done themselves a world of at least PR-related favors if they had asked for Congress’s input. Via the Free Beacon:
It didn’t sit very well with those of us who were sitting at the briefing. Look, I think the president had the constitutional authority under Article Two to make this decision without consulting with Congress, but I think it would have been wiser, far wiser, for the administration to have notified, certainly, the leadership of Congress in the interest of having good relations and comity with a co-equal branch of government, so they should have done it. It was a mistake that they didn’t, and the fact that there were so many people within the know in the administration doesn’t help their case. One other fact I’ll raise is that most of the leaks that have taken place have come from the administration and not from Congress, so they really should have brought at least the leadership within their confidence, and I think that was a mistake.
Andrea Mitchell not buying State Dept.’s spin on Bergdahl Swap
POSTED AT 2:01 PM ON JUNE 9, 2014 BY NOAH ROTHMAN
MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell appeared visibly irritated with State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on Monday amid her efforts to suggest the Osama bin Laden raid serves as a precedent for a national security matter that is too sensitive to allow members of Congress to be briefed on its details. Harf even suggested that Mitchell and others were attempting to “recreate” the history of the bin Laden raid by insisting that members were briefed on it before it was executed.
Mitchell began by noting that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), “hardly a critic of the administration,” is vocally critical of the White House’s failure to notify congressional intelligence committee chairs on the details of the Bergdahl swap. Harf replied with a rehashing of the well-worn arguments surrounding the “short timeframe” imposed on the administration by Bergdahl’s supposedly worsening health and the Taliban, which reportedly threatened to kill the captive solider if details of the swap became public (an assertion Feinstein has refused to corroborate).
“Let me question you about that,” Mitchell interjected, “because the bin Laden raid was completely briefed for 11 months.”
“It was not, actually,” Harf interrupted.
“Marie,” Mitchell said sternly. “In fact, that was claimed initially by [former National Security Advisor] Tom Donilon, in fact, in a conference with me a week ago. But since that time, [former acting CIA Director] Mike Morell says that it was completely briefed.”
She added that she has spoken with at least two members of Congress who were briefed on the raid ahead of time. “It was briefed,” Mitchell stated matter-of-factly.
Harf just wouldn’t let it go. “What we’re talking about with Bergdahl is somewhat the same with bin Laden,” she insisted.
Adding that Congress was made aware of what the “architecture” of a prisoner swap would look like, Harf maintained that the operational intricacies of the deal, like the bin Laden raid, had to be kept secret.
“I don’t want to argue the point,” an increasingly exasperated Mitchell said. She did, however, by again relating a personal experience in which a Senate committee chair told her that the briefing on the details of the bin Laden raid occurred before the public knew about it.
“It was briefed to Senate leaders,” Mitchell concluded. “I know this from Dianne Feinstein. I know this [Rep.] Mike Rogers.”
Admitting defeat, Harf insisted that she and Mitchell could “recreate history” on the bin Laden raid all they wanted, but that was not relevant to the subject at hand. Harf is hoping you will forget that she had originally equated the Bergdahl swap to the bin Laden raid just two minutes prior.
Say what you want about Mitchell, but that was about as effective a dismantling of a political spin job in real time as I’ve ever seen.
Report: Gitmo detainees may have learned of Bergdahl swap before Congress did
POSTED AT 8:01 PM ON JUNE 9, 2014 BY ALLAHPUNDIT
Of course they did. Only one of these two groups has any accountability leverage over Obama. That’s the group, naturally, that had to be kept in the dark.
The information was available on a need-to-know basis and the people’s representatives, in the White House’s judgment, simply didn’t need to know.
Sources with knowledge of the transfer tell THE WEEKLY STANDARD that prisoners at Guantanamo understood in the days before the transfer that something significant was imminent and may well have known who was being transferred. The security profile at Guantanamo had been raised, these sources say, and the daily routines of several prisoners had been broken up.Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York who has represented detainees, told the Associated Press that the coming transfer was hardly a secret among the prison population. Kassem told the AP that the guards explained the heightened security as cautionary measures taken in advance of a coming hurricane. “The prisoners saw right through that and knew something big was up,” Kassem said. “Within a day or two of the event, everyone knew.”The five Taliban members spent most of their time in recent years held at Camp 6, a relatively low-restriction facility where detainees are free to interact with one another. Each prisoner to be transferred typically goes through a series of pre-release procedures, including a physical examination. One source tells TWS that there is virtually no chance the five Taliban commanders didn’t understand what was coming, particularly because they would have all been subject to that pre-release processing.
A U.S. official disputes the theory that the Taliban Five would have necessarily gone through the telltale pre-release procedures, but if that’s true, it’s interesting in itself. Why would the standard protocol have been skipped? Were they worried that knowing the Five were on their way out might have fired up the other detainees and risked some sort of riot, or were the procedures skipped because O’s inner circle feared the news would somehow make it back to Congress via U.S. personnel stationed at Gitmo?
This wasn’t the only unorthodox procedure followed in the Bergdahl case, if you believe theWashington Times:
The Obama administration gave the parents of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl extraordinary insider access to the military’s hunt for their son by having them take part in a series of secure video conferences with senior commanders as well as White House and State Department officials.A former government official involved in American hostage issues said he had never heard of giving a family such access and questioned whether sensitive information could have been conveyed to Robert and Jani Bergdahl and somehow leaked out. A family spokesman said he knows of no such breach…There [at National Guard headquarters in Boise] they were hooked into secure video conferences that included representatives of U.S. Central Command, which runs the war in Afghanistan, as well as with White House, State Department and intelligence officials.
It’s appropriate that the Bergdahls were kept updated on Bowe’s whereabouts but they didn’t need to patch them through to the CENTCOM uplink to do that. Having an Army spokesman stay in touch by phone or visit to deliver the latest news would have sufficed. Was it because his parents were so outspoken for so long about bringing him home that the White House felt obliged to give them unusual access? Better to keep the Bergdahls friendly to the administration than hostile, stirring up political trouble by accusing them of having abandoned a man behind enemy lines. Remember, too, that it was the Bergdahls who first tipped the media in May 2012 to the fact that a prisoner swap for their son was in the offing. The NYT speculated at the time that the White House might have nudged them to leak that, since it would have left Obama and his aides free to talk more openly about the deal. Which is fine, except that … the big takeaway from the past week is that the White House was desperate to keep the deal secret, for murky and ever-evolving reasons. Did Bob Bergdahl really leak the news about a swap deliberately in 2012 or did he accidentally spill the beans about something he learned during this CENTCOM briefings? And why did Obama feel it important to keep him posted on the precise mechanism by which Bowe would be brought home instead of just reassuring him that “we have a plan”?
Via the Free Beacon, here’s the State Department’s spokesman insisting she hasn’t heard anything about a ransom being paid for Bergdahl. Maybe that’s on a need-to-know basis too.
Of course: White House tells Congress Chuck Hagel made the final call on the Bergdahl/Taliban leaders swap
**Written by Doug Powers
Hey look at this — Team Obama is selflessly sharing credit for yet another popular decision. The humility of this White House never ceases to amaze.
From ABC News:
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel – not President Obama – executed the administration’s final call to proceed with the prisoner exchange of five ranking Taliban detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, administration officials told Congress today in a classified briefing today.“They indicated [it was] Secretary Hagel [who made the final call],” House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R-California, told reporters following the briefing Monday evening. “It was the president of the United States that came out [in the Rose Garden] with the Bergdahls and took all the credit and now that there’s been a little pushback he’s moving away from it and it’s Secretary Hagel?”Officials also told Congress that 80 to 90 people within the administration knew of its plans to go forward with the controversial swap, exacerbating tensions between the White House and members of Congress.
CNN also reported the same thing.
This is pretty much all we need to know about the White House’s read of the barometer that’s gauging reaction to the Taliban/Bergdahl swap.
As proof that the Bergdahl/Taliban deal was totally Chuck Hagel’s call, the White House released this photo of the announcement being proudly trumpeted in the Rose Garden on March 31:
Hopefully Hagel can at least change the oil while he’s under Obama’s bus.
Obama: Climate change is a national security issue
POSTED AT 12:31 PM ON JUNE 9, 2014 BY ED MORRISSEY
Maybe this is just bad timing, because it’s not really a new argument. In the context of the recent activities of the Obama administration, though, claiming that we need to take action now on climate change because of national security just looks more ridiculous. After all, this comes at the same time that Barack Obama and John Kerry both argue that letting five Taliban commanders out of Guantanamo Bay’s detention facility won’t have any impact on American security — but the weather will?
Thomas Friedman gets the scoop:
But the area he’s just as worried about, said Obama, ”is how climate change could end up having profound national security implications in poorer countries. We’re obviously concerned about drought in California or hurricanes and floods along our coastlines and the possibility of more powerful storms or more severe droughts. All of those things are bread-and-butter issues that touch on American families. But when you start seeing how these shifts can displace people — entire countries can be finding themselves unable to feed themselves and the potential incidence of conflict that arises out of that — that gets your attention. There’s a reason why the quadrennial defense review — [which] the secretary of defense and the Joints Chiefs of Staff work on — identified climate change as one of our most significant national security problems. It’s not just the actual disasters that might arise, it is the accumulating stresses that are placed on a lot of different countries and the possibility of war, conflict, refugees, displacement that arise from a changing climate.”
You know what else has profound national security implications for poorer countries? Releasing commanders from a group that imposed a reign of terror until an American invasion booted them from power. Two of the men released from Gitmo were wanted for mass murder by the United Nations and at least one has pledged to return to the battlefield, but Obama and Kerry dismiss those concerns by insisting we can stop them if we really want to do so. Instead, we really need to hike taxes and ration American energy to improve our national security and those of places like Afghanistan.
Oh, and do you know what caused the civil war in Syria? Not decades of oppression and tyranny or the rise of virulent radical Islam, but a lack of rain:
Syria couldn’t manage a four-year drought when it had a government, and that drought helped fuel the uprising there, because the government did nothing for the people. Imagine what will happen if they have another prolonged drought and they’ve destroyed half their country?”Which gives you a sense of what happens in a lot of these countries that are just barely hanging on,” said Obama. ”They don’t have a lot of margin for error, and that has national security implications. When people are hungry, when people are displaced, when there are a lot of young people, particularly young men, who are drifting without prospects for the future, the fertility of the soil for terrorism ends up being significant. And it can have an impact on us.”
Only in the alternate reality where Bashar al-Assad is a “reformer” (as Hillary Clinton insisted as Secretary of State) does it take a drought to demonstrate that the Assad regime wasn’t working on behalf of the people. This is sheer nonsense, a backwards rationalization that ignores a century of unrest after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Western attempts to impose a nation-state model in the region that didn’t fit, and the rise of militant Islam in response to both. All of that had been in motion long before any “global warming” took place, and continues even while the global climate hasn’t warmed at all over the last 17 years.
This argument attempts to hijack the legitimate concerns over terrorism and US policy in order to push an entirely unrelated domestic agenda. It’s not the first time this will happen, nor the last, but it’s one of the rare times when current events depict just how cynical and exploitative this argument is.