June 1st, 2014
10:01 AM ET
2 months ago

Susan Rice responds to political debate over negotiations for soldier's release

(CNN) - White House national security adviser Susan Rice defended the Obama administration's decision to exchange Guantanamo detainees for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, amid criticism that the United States negotiated with terrorists in the process.

She also said the “acute urgency” of Bergdahl’s health condition justified President Obama’s not notifying Congress beforehand that Bergdahl was being swapped for five Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

"What we did was ensure that, as always, the United States doesn't leave a man or a woman on the battlefield," Rice said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

"If we got into a situation where we said, 'Because of who has captured an American soldier on the battlefield we will leave that person behind,' we would be in a whole new ear for the safety of our personnel and for the nature of our commitment to our men and women in uniform," she continued. "Because it was the Taliban that had him did not mean that we had any less of an obligation to bring him back."

Bergdahl, who was held for five years by Afghan militants, arrived Sunday morning at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany as part of his return to the United States.

Hagel: U.S. acted fast to save Bowe Bergdahl's life

U.S. special operations forces recovered Bergdahl without incident early Saturday local time at a pickup point in eastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan. American officials said the government of Qatar brokered the deal.

Multiple Republican members of Congress expressed joy at the return of Bergdahl, but deep concern about what it meant for U.S. service members' safety and the country's policy of not negotiating with terrorists.

"These particular individuals are hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands," Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said in a statement. He added that he's "eager to learn" what steps are being taken to ensure that these "violent Taliban extremists" won't cause any harm to the United States in the future.

CNN learned that the detainees will be under a travel ban for one year, and Rice added that "there are restrictions on their movement and behavior" in Qatar, but said she was not at liberty to go into further detail.

"Suffice it to say that we are satisfied that it substantially mitigates the risk to the United States and to our national security, and we feel confident that the assurances given to us will be upheld," she told CNN's chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.

Some critics were perturbed by the lack of communication with Congress about the negotiations. The Obama administration is required by law to notify Congress 30 days before any terrorists are transferred from Guantanamo Bay.

Rice said the administration began telling members of Congress once Bergdahl had been recovered and before the prisoners left the Guantanamo Bay facility.

"This was held closely within the administration. We could not take any risk with ... losing the opportunity to bring him back safely," she said, adding the Department of Defense had consulted with the Department of Justice before making the decision.

“Given the acute urgency of the health condition of Sgt. Bergdahl, and given the President’s constitutional responsibilities, it was determined that it was necessary and appropriate not to adhere to the 30-day notification requirement, because it would have potentially meant that the opportunity to get Sgt. Bergdahl would have been lost.”

Pressed further on concerns that the deal violated U.S. policy against negotiating with terrorists, Rice said Obama's hopes to close Guantanamo Bay will help prevent similar situations in the future.

"I think the terrorists are intent on doing what they're going to do, but … we have a commitment to close Guantanamo Bay," she said. "The existence of Guantanamo Bay is itself a detriment to our national security, which is why the President has prioritized closing it and why we intend to get that done."

CNN's Conor Finnegan and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

soundoff (78 Responses)
  1. Jac

    Commitment to close gitmo.... BAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    That comes right after 'Recovery Summer' right?

    June 1, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  2. Dennis Freeman

    The Senator from AZ needs to stick a sock in it.

    June 1, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  3. tony

    good job on bringing this soldier home

    June 1, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  4. bart

    Are you serious? I certainly hope people are ignorant enough to see this was a ploy to distract us from the actions of this administration in terms of the VA. It was "acute urgency" not to leave our troops in the battlefield in Bengahzi too Ms. Rice. Why does that apply now????

    June 1, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  5. tom

    My 13-year old son have the same thinking as those politicians who relish the release of the soldier but worry about the ramification of negotiations with terrorists. Similarly to them he can not come up with any practical solutions. LOL.

    June 1, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  6. Super Tex

    I'm glad the young man is being returned, that said.....................I thought the US Govt. had a policy that we don't cut deals with terrorists ? We have this incredible "Black budget" for the Seals, Delta, Rangers and so on......Not to mention the CIA and the NSA. We couldn't locate this soldier ? At the very least it's time for a complete house cleaning at these covert agencies. Poor....Poor return for American tax dollars.

    June 1, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  7. ali

    And the lies just keep coming.

    June 1, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  8. Oliver Orlando

    Same Susan Rice who claimed "It was only a spontaneous group of protestors who were upset about a YouTube movie." and not a heavily armed and highly organized group of militia that assassinated a US Ambassador.

    June 1, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  9. Rick McDaniel

    Rice is a demonstrated liar........no one should believe a word she says.

    June 1, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  10. susan rice ...key words that will come back to bite obama

    His life wasn't in danger..susan rice just said he is walking and in good health. GOOD HEALTH....that is a direct quote and I saw her say it on Stephanopolous. That doesn't just happen in 48 hrs that you go from life threatening health to good health. THEY ARE LYING TO USE BERGDAHL to change the bad domestic politics at home for Obama and to deflect from the fact that obama broke the law by not advising congress 30 days in advance of any trade. This will demand a special prosecutor.

    June 1, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  11. djanson

    Assurances by the taliban and they danced around the maypole and sang of their great accomplishments. Since when will people take anything susan rice speaks of in a serious manner.

    This kiddy core of progressives needs to go back to their playground of progressive utopia and out of the business of failure after failure of deeds. Beware Americans of walking in foreign lands the precedent has been set by progressive fools.

    June 1, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  12. Chris-E...al

    I would give a 100000000 terrorist for one american hero ! They will probably be killed or are being tracked by device . ummmm

    June 1, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  13. Jim Jimson

    'We could not take any risk with ... losing the opportunity to bring him back safely," she said'
    The 'we' she refers to is meant to be America as a whole (with all its checks and balances) not just the whim of a grandstanding President looking for another OBL moment at any cost...

    June 1, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  14. The HAM

    We now trade with terrorists.... will be interesting to see if an increase in captives happens in the future... I hope not

    June 1, 2014 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  15. carl

    Blame it on a video

    June 1, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  16. Cheapster505

    OMG Susan Rice speaks ? Congress will hold hearings

    June 1, 2014 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  17. don in albuquerque

    Chris-E
    We agree on something.

    June 1, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  18. Cheapster505

    I'm disappointed "no weapons and parts for hostages"? Let's hang oops shot oops well hold hearings on the President actions so he leaves office in disgrace , you know like ST Ronald Reagan

    June 1, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  19. apetra

    Laws were broken. Congressional notification of at least 30 days required, by law.

    Who in the administration will Eric Holder bring up on charges?

    June 1, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  20. Bill

    My understanding is that we offered to trade 6 politicians of their choice, they declined.

    June 1, 2014 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  21. Tampa Tim

    Does anyone have actual evidence that a republican told the truth at any time?

    June 1, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  22. Smitty

    Just another terrible decision by the Obumbles admin, Rice was already caught lying, cant believe one thing from this admin. Bad health >>> B.S. politics as usual.

    June 1, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  23. What's in that Tea Anyway?

    HA....Love these "tea pot head" post. I..e. Susan Rice is a liar, not trustworthy. Blow it out your fannies. I guess Susan Rice's predecessor saying "....a mushroom cloud blah, blah, blah because Saddam had WMDs" sent you folks straight to your basements and now that you've come out from the dark all you can do is blame the current administration for every death since. I'm so glad the genius of your thinking is not nationally held. I could imagine this country being under a McThang or Robme presidency. Now go lay down, take a nap until the Dems can fix the mess your party of non-thinkers created.

    June 1, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  24. WeAllBeHostages

    This may be a 'feel good' now, and distract from the VA failures, but we've just created an incentive to take Americans hostage.

    Another 'politics before country' 'the good of the few outweighs the good of the many' decision by Obama.

    June 1, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  25. just asking

    so the obama administration parades out their most blatant benghazi liar (besides obama and clinton), to try and get her back on good terms. of course she refused to appear on fox news to handle the really tough questions.

    and it was interesting that obama used his parents as props with the announcement. so all this was really about trying to change the subject off of the obama administration va disaster.

    June 1, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
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