June 8th, 2014
04:33 PM ET
9 years 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:

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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. Hillary Clinton: Butcher of Benghazi - BAD CHOICE

    When she was in the administration she opposed the deal, now she says she agrees with it. Sh eclaimed she was qualified for that 3am phone call, yet when it came from Benghazi, she was NOT prepared and botched it, then concocted a story about a video and lied to the American people, and even to the families of the dead.

    This woman is a snake that cannot be trusted, alone with the power of the Presidency. If your goal is to destroy thios country, then vote for Hillary. She will complete the job Obama has started and made great progress with.

    June 8, 2014 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  2. Cassandrina

    Obama makes no apologies now, but he may be forced to do so in the future.
    I find it very difficult to believe that these five very senior Taliban terrorists will remain in Doha for one year or that they will not join the battlefield.

    June 8, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  3. Stu

    And who will take responsibility when one the those released terrorist kills another American. Will it be you Obama, or you Kerry. or maybe pelosi or Clinton? And they will try to kill more Americans.

    June 8, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  4. 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 |
  5. Tommy G

    Obama makes no apologies because he is so incompetent and out of touch with America and especially the military, that he has no idea how much people oppose this for very obvious reasons. Obama is really going to do a number on the Democrats come November. He is the best thing Republicans have going for them. Unfortunately, the damage he is doing to the country is very severe.

    June 8, 2014 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  6. xmatman

    Remember how skeptical we all were when the captured sons of several U.S. Lawmakers were traded for an equal number of terrorists? I don't either. O_o

    June 8, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  7. just asking

    will hillary's book signing tour take her through libya, egypt, syria, ukraine, etc. you know, all of the countries she helped destabilize and throw into turmoil.

    June 8, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  8. rep

    "Obama makes no apologies now, but he may be forced to do so in the future.
    I find it very difficult to believe that these five very senior Taliban terrorists will remain in Doha for one year or that they will not join the battlefield."

    Is this were we are with this, really? We have almost ZERO information about what intelligence or security assets the country uses or can use to protect us in the future. It is for that reason that your fears/concerns are at the whim of your unconstrained imagination. All we know is what we're told. They say they have measures in place and that taking these guys out (if they resurface as threats) is always an option. We've done it plenty before so I don't know why folks are so skeptical now....aside from the usual partisan politics, that is. Not only that, it's likely they'd ave been released in a year or so anyway–for nothing.

    People are making these guys out to be superhuman; we didn't even know they existed until a week or so ago. If Bergdahl died over there because we'd passed on this deal, the same folks would've been calling these five guys worthless nobodies not worth holding for another year (tops) at the cost of losing one more American soldier's life.

    June 8, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  9. Matt Mattson

    Actually, this is finally a case where it is Bush's fault. He had all of them trapped (on the plains before Tora Bora), could have dropped a nuke and wiped all of them out (ALL OF THEM) and under the circumstances at the time the whole world (practically) would have shrugged and said: Good Riddance. Unfortunately, someone (or he himself) convinced George Bush that "they're just like us" and what they really want is a nation where they have Wal Marts every few blocks and other such nonsense. And here we are.

    June 8, 2014 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  10. Jeb Jebson

    The Pentagon is still investigating the issue and they don't even know all the details yet.

    Why do right wing wackos pretend to know more than the Pentagon?

    Why are they so determined to swift-boat an American soldier before he's even allowed to tell his side of the story?

    Why do you they hate America?

    June 8, 2014 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  11. hkirwin


    Republicans are going to regret ever targeting Bowe Bergdahl or his family with their slimy, mob-stirring fake news channel.


    June 8, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  12. Frank

    We have no real border security and there are shoot outs going on in Wallmart.
    Get priorities straight people. The money needs to be spent on security here in the USA.

    June 8, 2014 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  13. Name. willard

    Keep out of democratic

    June 8, 2014 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  14. cal

    GOP hates vets.There is a GOP litmus test before a prisoner can be rescued.

    June 8, 2014 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  15. Cd

    Maybe if you libs pinch your noses and swallow quickly you won't be able to taste the sugar coated ca-ca bonbons the Obama administration is trying to feed us all!

    June 8, 2014 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  16. gonzo

    The Repubs don't have to smear him! His former mates in the military are sliming him!! He walked away from his base, idiot!!

    June 8, 2014 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |

    I can see only one way this works out for this administration and that's that they RFID chipped or something like it to these guys for future reference.

    June 8, 2014 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  18. ED1

    As he would just like himself.

    June 8, 2014 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  19. Leftcoastrocky

    "Fox News contributor Juan Williams on Sunday criticized conservative pundits and Republican politicians for the "craven" exploitation of Bowe Bergdahl's release.

    While Williams acknowledged that the Rose Garden ceremony orchestrated by President Barack Obama's administration to commemorate Bergdahl's return was inappropriate, he said the stream of heavy criticism targeting Bergdahl's release and the circumstances surrounding his 2009 departure from a U.S. military base in Afghanistan is out of line."

    June 8, 2014 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  20. b

    Obama made another blockbuster trade while he was in France the other day. He traded back to France the Statue Of Liberty for a shoebox full of used white flags.

    June 8, 2014 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  21. Gurgyl

    Any one with brain defends this. I think GOP better quit this idiotic rant. Nothing wrong with getting Berdahl home safely.

    June 8, 2014 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  22. Larry of MASSACHUSETTS

    If you take Kerry at face value this is what one would conclude.

    1. Afghan is winding down so the US is ok freeing the top Taliban leaders. If true, then Obama should release all remaining Gitmo prisoners and shut the prison down.... otherwise bring the remaining POW's ( Kerry and Obama now describe them as such) to trial or release

    2. The new US policy is that is there is an American held by terrorists, the US will negotiate and do just about anything

    3. If you believe what Kerry said, go immediately to your primary care doctor and tell him/her you are suffering from acute dillusional syndrome

    June 8, 2014 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  23. America1st

    Just as a reminder to all the frothing Talibaners here at home called the tea party, you DO know Bush already released 500 talibaners back to Afghanistan while he was president – right? Bunch of arm chair false patriots here. Disgusting, half of these mouth frothed armchair patriots never served a single day promoting this nation, but spent countless days TEARING IT DOWN. They hate America.

    June 8, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  24. Norma jean

    Hillary Clinton......Calling her names,,,,a very nasty policy cosidering that she was a very small part of this whole operation which if one botherd to read,, turns out to be quite different than the early reports......I notice that while""You"" are branding her,,,,,you don't leave YOUR name!!!!!!!

    June 8, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  25. Disappointed

    Yesterday morning around 0930 EST noticed the CNN news commentator apologize for the loss of a life of a serviceman to his parents. This displayed a complete lack of understanding that those who gave their lives in defense of our country are not looking for an apology for giving their lives. They volunteer to stand on the wall of freedom and simply ask that those who continue to enjoy the freedoms and liberties that they gave their lives for would protect them and keep them strong. An apology is disrespectful to those who selflessly gave their lives. Isn't it horrible that we now have negotiated with terrorists in this recent exchange of terrorists for an American soldier. Beware as this is an incredibly important precedent that has just been set as now our long held stance of not negotiating with terrorists is no longer valid. This puts Americans worldwide at risk and someone who understands this needs to be advising our executive branch against such poor decision making.

    June 8, 2014 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
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