WASHINGTON — The Obama administration broke the law when it swapped five Taliban terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a government watchdog agency said Thursday.
The Government Accountability Office said the Pentagon violated a provision of a 2014 law that requires key congressional committees to be notified "at least 30 days in advance” of any transfer of GITMO prisoners.
The report also slapped the Defense Department for using $988,400 of a wartime account to make the transfer. The report said the spending was not authorized by Congress.
“It's obvious that the President should have notified at least the leaders of Congress as a matter of policy and to maintain a relationship as this struggle [with terrorism] goes forward," Rep. Pete King (R-Long Island) said after the report’s release.
"There has to be trust. By not telling key leaders of committees, he clearly violated that trust."
The White House has raised doubts about the constitutionality of the 30-day notice requirement, arging it could violate executive powers.
The administration also has said the nature of the negotiations for Bergdahl’s releasze and the risks to Bergdhal made any 30-day notice impractical.
The report was requested by Senate Republicans. It constitutes an opinion on the relevant law and does not trigger any actions. Bergdahl is back on active duty at an base in Texas and is under Army investigation for possible desertion.
The prisoner exchange angered members of both parties but mostly Republicans. It prompted charges of bargaining with terrorists, though the administration said it dealt only with the government of Qatar in arranging the swap.
The report does not address the actual prisoner exchange. It only deals with the use of Defense Department funds to execute the deal without the 30-day notice