June 8th, 2014
04:33 PM ET
3 months ago

Political Chatter: Kerry defends prisoner transfer, but lawmakers remain skeptical

In an interview that aired Sunday on CNN, Secretary of State John Kerry defended the transfer of five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, but even a leading Democratic senator raised questions about the administration’s handling of the case.

Nearly five years after he disappeared in Afghanistan, Bergdahl has ignited a political controversy, with some members of Congress in an uproar over the terms of his release by the Taliban and the secrecy surrounding it.

We’ll get you up to speed on the latest in Washington with a roundup of all things political:


Kerry responds: In an interview with CNN’s Elise Labott from a seaside French village near Normandy, Kerry stood by the release of the five members of the Taliban, which some lawmakers say puts Americans overseas at risk and legitimizes the group.

Kerry said the United States has received assurances that the released detainees, who are staying in Qatar and have been given a one-year travel ban, will be closely monitored.

CNN’s Flipboard Magazine on everything Bergdahl

The United States will have the “ability to be able to do things” to ensure the former Guantanamo Bay prisoners are kept at bay, said Kerry, not elaborating on what those options may be.

But his assurances weren’t enough to placate senior members of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

Lawmakers appear doubtful: “We’ll see” was Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s skeptical response to Kerry on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

“You can’t help but worry about them in Doha,” said the California Democrat, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Kerry insisted that the United States would act if the freed Taliban members attempted to endanger American lives.

“I’m not telling you that they don’t have some ability at some point to go back and get involved (in fighting), but they also have an ability to get killed doing that,” he said, adding that the former detainees put themselves at “enormous risk” should they rejoin the battlefield.

When asked if the United States would kill them, Kerry deflected, saying simply, “No one should doubt the capacity of America to protect Americans.”

McCain: ‘At what cost:’ Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, agreed the United States has an “obligation” to bring captured soldiers home. “But the question is at what cost,” the Arizona Republican said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

McCain said the Obama administration should have released different detainees.

“What we’re doing here is reconstituting the Taliban government, the same guys that are mass murderers,” he said.

Feinstein said she is also worried about the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, especially as the U.S. presence winds down and the country undergoes a transfer of power with President Hamid Karzai stepping down.

“Some of us worry very much that when we pull out, the Taliban finds its way back into power, and that would be tragic,” she said.

Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that after the one-year travel ban expires for former detainees, he is “absolutely convinced” that at least four of the five Taliban will “join the fight against what Americans are left in Afghanistan.”

Kerry dismissed that concern, saying that the U.S. combat mission is coming to an end and pronouncements by the Taliban vowing to rejoin the fight are nothing but “propaganda.”
But Rogers said that “hostilities haven’t stopped.”

“This was the wrong message at the wrong time, and we are going to pay for this decision for years,” the Alabama Republican said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Obama: 'I make absolutely no apologies' for Bergdahl swap

Left in the dark?: Some lawmakers are miffed that they weren’t consulted or notified about the prisoner exchange. Legislators from both parties accuse the administration of failing to provide 30 days' advance notice to Congress of a transfer of Guantanamo detainees.

In response to Kerry’s remarks that the released detainees will be monitored, Feinstein said, “It’s hard to be comfortable when you really haven’t been briefed on the intricacies of carrying out this agreement.”

“I think this whole sort of deal has been one that the administration has kept very close, and in the eyes of many of us, too close,” she said.

The administration originally said time was of the essence with Bergdahl’s health quickly deteriorating, but the latest reason for sidestepping Congress is concern that details would be leaked.

Celebrated at first, Bergdahl's release raises questions

Also on “Face the Nation,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the administration’s fear of leaks odd. He said he and Feinstein were briefed for months about the mission on Osama bin Laden.

“Those types of things are briefed to us on a regular basis,” said Chambliss, a Georgia Republican.

“This administration has acted very strangely about this,” he said.

Also Sunday, Rogers pointed to Hillary Clinton, citing her briefing to Congress in 2011 about a possible prisoner swap on Bergdahl: “The Secretary of State at that time, Hillary Clinton, said that if all of our conditions aren't met, then none of them will be met.”

In book, Clinton raised concern about any Taliban talks for Bergdahl

“We got none of that,” Rogers said.

Clinton's hard choice: Meanwhile, Clinton’s book “Hard Choices” is officially set to be released this week - even though some members of the media have already obtained copies – and she has begun a round of interviews in which she will inevitably face questions about whether she has made up her mind about a presidential run in 2016.

ABC’s Diane Sawyer asked Clinton several different ways if she will jump in the race.

“I’m going to decide when it feels right for me to decide,” Clinton said in an excerpt that aired on ABC’s “This Week.”

What Clinton’s book may tell us about 2016

“I just want to kind of get through this year, travel around the country, sign books, help in the midterm elections in the fall and then take a deep breath and kind of go through my pluses and minuses about what I will and will not be thinking about as I make the decision,” Clinton said.

Republicans have raised questions about Clinton’s health and age should she be a presidential candidate.

Clinton called her concussion in late 2012 “serious” but insists she is in good health and would release her medical records as “other candidates have done” should she chose to run in 2016.

Clinton was noncommittal about appearing before a special House committee on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, if she asked, saying it depends on “how they conduct themselves.”

CNN’s Jason Seher contributed to this report.

soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. rs

    Republicans will be forever skeptical of anything that might be scored as a success by this duly elected President- doesn't matter what it is (like getting 11 million Americans affordable health care for example). It doesn't matter that the GOP has nothing to show for their past 6 years....Remember- it isn't about making things better, for the GOP it's all about the points.

    June 9, 2014 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  2. Anonymous

    You right-wing Haters are such political freaks. Ranting constantly about Obama, Clinton, Pelosi ETC ETC ETC. I've never seen so many hysterical, immature, whining Election Losers in my life. Go home to Mommy and get yourself a little huggie-pooh. If you can't stand the pain of defeat, get out of the election battle, Sonny.

    June 9, 2014 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  3. Raven

    “No one should doubt the capacity of America to protect Americans.” They are not even able to secure our southern border. Unbelievable.

    June 9, 2014 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  4. Iamnotfooled

    I have no doubt that our military can handle these guys. We are going to watch their every move. They start gathering and we drone them.

    June 9, 2014 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  5. king

    I don't understand, why are we calling these folks terrorist. I knows of one that was fighting against us when we invaded their country, but can somebody please tell me what planes theyblew up to be lablabelled as terrorist. Yes I knew their sheira laws were harsh, but that's their way of life and their culture, and their culture requires them to help other fellow Muslims who seek their help against none Muslims. Why fox news intentionally, waving the flames of its ignorant followers. This is why they refuse to hire a single dem host, because they cannot afford for their rabid followers to be enlightened with the truth.

    June 9, 2014 04:04 am at 4:04 am |
  6. ronvan

    Well, does this not settle the argument over GITMO? IF these 5 were "the worst of the worst" then why not go ahead and get rid of the rest of these sub humans? Then you could close & destroy GITMO?

    June 9, 2014 05:36 am at 5:36 am |
  7. Michael MN

    @ Stu – if that american serviceman was killed by the taliban in some online video the GOP would be wetting there pants telling us how Obama hates the military and likes to see them killed

    June 9, 2014 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  8. @RI_Roger

    The secretary spouted a lot of words but I didn't hear very much substance. This political double talk needs to stop..... If a journalist is going to interview these politicians, they need to hold them accountable by asking them the next question..... what do you mean by that? America is tired of the "spin" and the incompetent journalism being conducted.

    June 9, 2014 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  9. Anonymous

    trade Mccain for a prisoner..

    June 9, 2014 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  10. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Dave nailed it. Guns Over People teatard lies are coming home to roost.

    June 9, 2014 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  11. Marie MD

    The teaklans must STOP calling themselves "lawmakers" because they have done absolutely NOTHING in the last six years.
    @Stu, do you really think that these five guys who have been in Gitmo for the last 10 years (thanks to the teaklans NOT the President) are going to do whatever it is that is already being planned or has been planned against the US and they are going to be the ones who push the red button?
    I see that the Hillary attack continues. But it doesn't matter. She's a better woman than their male car of clowns!

    June 9, 2014 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  12. Jerry

    He makes no apologies because he's more interested in his political career than the safeguard of this country. Kerry is just too stupid to know any better. Do you really think Hillary will be any better?!?

    June 9, 2014 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  13. rosethornne

    It is very revolting to watch Whiney McOldypants blather on about how terrible it is to make every effort to recover an American POW.

    .....especially in light of the indisputable fact that McGrumble was, himself, extremely thankful when his country did not leave HIM to rot as a POW.

    June 9, 2014 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  14. MMECitizen

    When Mz Feinstein says she is worried and we shall see when asked about the statements of Kerry and Obama it makes you stop and think. These two people have stood in lock step with the Prez and now she is taking a step outside the box. I can't think why Obama thinks letting these terriorists go now is ok when it wasn't ok 5 years ago. I do not see a slow down in any of the killing, bombings, etc, etc that is happening everyday somewhere in the middle east. Just because Americans are being told to stand down in Afganistan doesn't mean the war is over. O just released 5 more leaders to help them out....and just because they are in Qatar doesn't mean they can't oversee or command activities.

    June 9, 2014 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  15. salty dog

    Its 3 a.m.,answer the phone, too funny, your a real gem... benghazi!!! Ha Ha. Horse dead, move on. How much weight does that carry, and how much will it matter in two more years? Only a fool believes the gop cares about any thing but money, the gig is up, your on your death throes.

    June 9, 2014 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  16. J. Foster Dulles

    I too defend the POW swap. Does anyone here know about the needless suffering this caused during the Civil War (1861-65) when Gen. Grant put an end to the POW exchange between the North and South? This is led to the Andersonville disaster in Georgia and the one at Ft. Stephen Douglas in Chicago.

    June 9, 2014 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  17. salty dog

    What the gop needs is to run a well known, moderate establishment Republican, and put a firebrand woman on the ticket, that's sure to work, right? Lmao, you guys just don't get it, your not going to win with nothing but hatred to offer. The only thing worse would be to tell us again your economic plan, you know, trickle down economics, the only ones you know. And how more money to the wealthiest will ease inequality, by eliminating taxes on the rich, and of course to be fiscally responsible, they will cut social security, and Medicaid, and snap, and tax your 401k,, healthcare costs, now that's a plan we can all agree with .

    June 9, 2014 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  18. harvty

    The incompetence of this administration is breathtaking. this is what happens when folks vote for style over substance. He talks a good game, but delivers on nothing. Transparent? someone should define that word for him. Someone also should school him in foreign policy and economics.

    June 9, 2014 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  19. HopeAndChange

    At what bar did Obama make this decision?

    June 9, 2014 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  20. Kendall

    Kerry said the United States has received assurances that the released detainees, who are staying in Qatar and have been given a one-year travel ban, will be closely monitored.
    ***************************************
    And the checks in the mail.............................................really Kerry?

    June 9, 2014 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  21. ST

    I can't understand why the Media is using these old pictures of 5 detainees who have been released from GITMO. They do not look the same now as the pictures show. They are all old. Is the media trying to scare people intentionally?

    June 9, 2014 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  22. Phyllis G Williams

    These Men are Children of the King Who "is not willing that any should perish" (2nd Peter 3: 9). Are there no Isaiah's or Jeremiah's in America to witness to them??"I wept much, because no Man was found worthy" (Revelation 5: 4)

    June 9, 2014 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  23. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    Yea, the GOP incompetent lawmakers with NO CREDIBILITY on ANY ISSUE and a 9% approval ratting and no more then 25% APPROVAL in the ENTIRE COUNTRY??????

    June 9, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  24. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    Who cares WHAT these GOP INCOMPETENT CLOWNS SAY, we will show them what we think of them in NOVEMBER !!!!!

    June 9, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  25. Anonymous

    Dave

    Republicans are going to regret ever targeting Bowe Bergdahl or his family with their slimy, mob-stirring fake news channel.
    June 8, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
    ------------------------------------

    Dianne Feinstein, Dutch Ruppersberger, Jay Rockefeller, Republicans?

    June 9, 2014 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
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