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. don in albuquerque

    After reading your comments I refreshed my memory by reading several news stories on his capture. It appears there is a great deal of uncertainty as to what did happen. So far though your label that he was a deserter has not been proven by anyone. It is a controversy which will have to play itself out. However, calling him a deserter (and who knows, I wasn't there), because very clearly you don't like the president is disingenuous. You destroy your own point. But what I see is since you are so ready to malign this soldier you should be able to answer the following question....."were you there?" Supposition, rumor, and opinion don't count for anything.

    June 1, 2014 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  2. don in albuquerque

    Larry L

    June 1, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |

    Susan Rice is CLEARLY and OBVIOUSLY a puppet to this administration in the truest sense of the form.

    June 1, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  4. barryinlasvegas

    Obama always has an excuse why he can't obey the law – then sends the liar Susan Rice out to cover his behind.

    June 1, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  5. don in albuquerque

    Do you think we should give this POW back then? Would that be the "John Wayne" thing to do?

    June 1, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  6. Mike in Texas


    When you refer to the President as obummer you clearly show that you can't to objective to anything he does. He is 100% wrong in your book all the time even when you agree with him. At least you don't have to worry about a 3rd term, but I'm sure you think he will try to get one. Just like the NRA. They said Obama didn't your guns in his first term because he was going to take em in his 2nd term.

    ODS lives on.

    June 1, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  7. Dan5404

    If a Republican had been notified 30 days in advance, do you think he would have held the information secret, or told his right-wing colleagues and expect them to hold off on beginning the "blame Obama for everything" Mitch MConnell syndrome publicly? That would have killed the deal and possibly he soldier, too. The GOP doesn't mind if lives are lost if they can make an attack on Obama. If I were the soldier's parents, I would be highly pissed if the extremists risked my son's life for political gain. One "lowly Sergeant's as one headline read) )" American's life is certainly worth five of those extremists. The Israelis have also released multiple prisoners for a captured Israeli soldier. Lives are far more important than GOP partisan politics.

    June 1, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  8. Dan5404

    It's so funny how the saving of an American life by Obama's administration automatically turns on the filth and garbage spigot of the right-wing. It's obvious when you read the lies and distortions from the many vicious right-wingers here that they really don't consider lives as important as partisan politics. If Jesus came back, they'd blame Obama for staging it for political gain. Just as the GOP governors are costing thousands of lives and billions in revenue for their states by not expanding Medicaid, solely because they hate Obama. Hate is he key operating word for these people.

    June 1, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  9. MuchoReverbo

    I wonder if this guy signed a confession saying the United States was guilty of war crimes like John McCain did when he was captured in Vietnam?

    June 1, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  10. drake mallard

    the Reagan administration’s talks with Iran aimed at winning the release of U.S. hostages held in Lebanon. in the Iran case, the United States was negotiating with a sovereign government. So it was OK.

    How about in 2007, when the U.S. negotiated with Sunni insurgent leaders in Iraq to get them to stop bombing U.S. troops and join the fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq? We bribed them. We paid them off. And if you Google the statements of various U.S. officials back in 2005-2006, they were insulted when the U.S. media referred to the Sunnis as insurgents. No, those officials insisted, they’re terrorists!

    What about the Taliban in Afghanistan? We have negotiated in the past with them, and we will do it in the future. We will do it whether a Republican or a Democrat occupies the White House. Why? Because once you acknowledge (as we have) that you cannot win a war militarily, there are only two other ways to end it: surrender or negotiate with your enemy. The United States might be capable of winning the war in Afghanistan militarily, but the sacrifice and cost in civilian lives would be too unpalatable to contemplate. This was the conclusion reached by civilian and military leaders years ago.

    June 1, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  11. sherry gomarez

    And we should believe this woman for what reason? crickets........................................................................................

    June 1, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  12. labman57

    Not all Muslims are terrorists, and not all terrorists are Muslims.

    The Taliban was the reigning (albeit tyrannical, Islamic extremist) government when we invaded Afghanistan.
    To call them "terrorists" is a over-simplification of the political dynamic in that country - but it gets right wing minions all worked up and shaking their fists at Obama, so what the hell, eh?

    June 1, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  13. NC

    Glad I went to church today and prayed for you haters.

    June 1, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  14. Michigan patriot

    Susan Rice lied before, why should we believe her?

    June 1, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  15. LO

    1. Are we really suppose to believe anything that comes out of Susan Rice's mouth?
    2. What about the men and women who fought and died to capture these terrorist? What about their sacrifice?

    June 1, 2014 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  16. Wallace Rice

    I am so very pleased that Sgt Beegdahl is home. However, King Obama proves once again there is but one branch of government and prior US policy has no application to his royal court.

    June 1, 2014 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  17. king

    Ahhh these rabid repubs and their ever lasting fake scandals and conspiracy theories, when does it ends. Obama tricked the hell out of them and showed them for the true lyre they are. They were running around with pitch forks shouting Obama cares nothing for our warriors. Now Obama have them running around shouting Obama cares too dan much for our warriors. Does this repubs whip lash ever ends.

    June 1, 2014 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  18. Eric Richardson

    Tony D, In fact Obama is the President, and you are whatever you are; but it is your turn to cry, suck it up.

    June 1, 2014 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  19. MH

    This Administration "rescued" (negotiated) with the enemy for Bergdahl, yet did little or nothing to save the Ambassador and those four military men in Benghazi.....and then shut everybody up...especially those on the ground. He sits idly by allowing a woman who just gave birth in a prison in Sudan to be ignored...or the young women (about 300) who were kidnapped in slavery.

    And he let five Taliban Terrorists go....God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit save this nation for distinction.

    June 1, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  20. Hugo

    Dan 5404...Everything Obama does is for political gain...everything. This guy was held by tribesman in Pakistan, not in Afghanistan. If they could kill Osama Bin Laden (which Barry has let us know he did numerous times when politically profitable), then they could have gotten him out if they wanted at any time. This exchange was not a good thing, one US life now for how many down the road as these FIVE hardened terrorists re-engage in their Jihad? Obama is an idiot, an interloper and hopefully soon an impeached President, the US can't take another three years. If he had wanted to do it properly, he should have informed Congress for their approval, if not given then blame the Republicans if you wanted to politicize it. One thing is for sure with the left progressives, you can't fix stupid!

    June 1, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  21. Wayne Stacey

    I am a VN vet, and j Kerry is a traitor so he does not need to talk, I will wait until this Sgts story comes out until I pass judgement. I know what I want to say. But he needs justice to play out.

    June 1, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  22. tony

    Because his health problem, the president didnt have time to notify with the congress. What is an idiot? She is a national security adviser. We are in deep trouble as a nation

    June 1, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  23. The Republican Party Is Dead To Me

    Iran, contra. Enough said.

    June 1, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  24. Lizzie

    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.
    Then she said he was well enough to travel, so which is it, gravely ill or well.

    June 1, 2014 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  25. Mike

    we can't wait

    June 2, 2014 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
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