June 1st, 2014
10:01 AM ET
9 years 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."

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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. it must be said

    FIVE very high level terrorists for one lowly sargeant. I guess a Colonel would get them everybody in Gitmo. Every soldier in Afghanistan has been further endangered by this. Obama simply doesn't give a damn about anything but what gets him a temporary reprieve fro his numerous disasters.

    So how many people, how many Americans, are going to be killed by these five terrorists, the worse of the worse? The price of this guys release will not be known for years and it will mostly likely be far more than one life.

    June 1, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  2. ru serious

    Susan Rice front and center again in transparent effort to distract the masses from the disgrace that is the VA mess. The sooner this Admin goes away, the better. Political hacks not ready for primetime.

    June 1, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  3. sly

    Most of us Americans are starting to think Republicans are working for the Russians or Al Queda.

    Everything a Republican does seems to be to shut down or destroy or criticize America.

    America: Love it or LEAVE IT. There's only about 10% Republicans left – leave OUR country now!

    June 1, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  4. Redeye Dog

    The fact that Susan Rice "defends the action" tells me it should be suspect.

    June 1, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  5. JT

    I hear the GOP plans to blame the solider for Benghazi ! hearings will start next Tuesday !

    June 1, 2014 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |

    There are good reasons why the Taliban has long wanted the five freed from Gitmo. All five are among the Taliban’s top commanders in U.S. custody and are still revered in jihadist circles.
    Another victory for Comrade Obama!

    June 1, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  7. Jodo

    I jus done gots to lhie for barak a cuz a he done looka like me

    June 1, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  8. N86RM

    I thought we do not negotiate with terrorists?

    Did this guy leave his post and walk into the Taliban camp?

    How much is the next American going to cost us?

    Seems we may have got the raw deal again.

    June 1, 2014 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  9. August

    Has everyone forgotten that he's also a deserter? He's coming back to a (liberal) hero's welcome, gonna make scads of $$$ from this and it's a slap in the face to service members everywhere. What a travesty.

    June 1, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  10. August

    Chris-E & Don...he's NOT a hero. He's a lousy deserter who needs to be tried and sent home dishonorably.

    June 1, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  11. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    Every time Obama accomplishes SOMETHING , the GOP COMPLAINS, while THEY accomplish NOTHING. The GOP IS a NATIONAL JOKE!!!!!

    June 1, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  12. August

    SLY, while I'm not thrilled with everything that repubs do...this president is the one destroying America and ignoring it's laws. He's the traitor. No 30 day notice, he's using rice to falsely claim that he's not negotiating with terrorists (playing the semantics word game) and it's just a continuation of his maneuvers for so many years. SHameful state of affairs for our country.

    June 1, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  13. August

    I wonder if this whole obummer presidency started out as a college sociology thesis (experiment) that has just gotten out of control.

    June 1, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  14. mrsnj20

    The only way I would have given them back in exchange for a soldier is if I was sure I had turned turned them into US agents. Anything other than that is severe stupidity on the administration's part. The first thing they will do when they get back is plan attacks on the US.

    June 1, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  15. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©


    I thought we do not negotiate with terrorists?
    Maybe you've forgotten Reagan's arms deal.

    Funny how the right-wing memory works.

    June 1, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  16. Thomas

    We should have traded him for Dick" Cheney , if fare was fare !

    June 1, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  17. Smitty

    Just another epic failure from the left. Wimps come to mind, as usual nothing but excuses and deverting from the Obumbles supporters

    June 1, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  18. Larry L

    @it must be said

    "FIVE very high level terrorists for one lowly sargeant."
    Based your spelling of military ranks I'll assume you know nothing of the traditions and honor of Service. Your low-life comment says the rest.

    June 1, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  19. Tommy G

    Most of us Americans are starting to think Republicans are working for the Russians or Al Queda.

    Highly unlikely as their is much footage of Obama slapping Russians on the knee and heard promising them he could be more flexible after the election. I guess that flexibility was giving the Russians Crimea and maybe all of the Ukraine. And of course, there was the total freebie of the cancelled missile defense in eastern Europe.

    And now we have Obama releasing five very high level terrorists for one low level soldier who may have willingly got himself captured (facts are not completely know but highly suspect).

    Given all this, a VERY good case can be made for Obama and the Democrats working for the Russians and AQ.

    June 1, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  20. Shedevil

    You'd think after the Benghazi lies, they wouldn't be sending Susan Rice out again. Can you say ZERO Credibility !

    June 1, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  21. rla

    How many lives will be lost in the future because we have a do gooder Leader not one who has a since of his responsibility nor America....

    June 1, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  22. Susan

    She doesn't seem to have a clue of what she is talking about.

    June 1, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  23. it must be said

    Larry L
    @it must be said
    "FIVE very high level terrorists for one lowly sargeant."
    Based your spelling of military ranks I'll assume you know nothing of the traditions and honor of Service. Your low-life comment says the rest.

    I'm shocked you can take time to attack spelling and yet offer no opinion on the real issues. The usual BS leftist response we are used to seeing.

    This country's national interests are far more important than one person. Obama has openly violated law and negotiate with terrorists, further endangering ALL OF US, especially those serving in the military.

    June 1, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  24. jag

    Blame game is always going to be there Republicans will never be happy! One of our soldier is worth a 1000 of the AH taliban and hope they put a chip in them if they cannot track them we can blow them away with a drone!!!

    June 1, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  25. Tony D

    Why would they parade out this known liar to discuss this? Is this lieing machine the best they got at this point? Everything that comes out of her mouth is suspect and not to be believed. Obama is truly clueless.

    June 1, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
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