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. Janet Nappylotto

    Dems/Libs: "Bergdahl is a hero! So what if we disowned the Army and abandoned his post, he is a real liberal American hero.
    Forget that US Marine imprisoned in Mexico or those Seals who died trying to protect a US Ambassador! Bergdahl! Bergdahl!"

    Hypocritical drones that will do anything to protect this lawless Administration.

    June 8, 2014 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  2. tony

    like what rand paul said if obama loves trade alot just trade 5top democrats to mexico to get our marine back. he can put himself included no problem what so ever

    June 8, 2014 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  3. Johnny

    Kerry may not have deserted, but he was always a coward. His stance is not surprising here.

    June 8, 2014 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  4. alf564

    Hey Dave, Have you heard what Bowe's fellow soldiers said what happened or are you a close cousin of the fool john kerry and the idiot chuckie hagel ...??

    June 8, 2014 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  5. Thomas

    @ 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.

    Dear GOP right wing conservative neocon tea freak .

    We know where they live , where there children are , where there wives and relatives shop .

    You don't need to think too hard , keep watching Fox and listening to Limboo .

    Suck back a few big gulps and relax !

    June 8, 2014 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  6. Bubba

    Republicans are very pro America, until it actually costs something. We got one American back on this deal, and one American is worth a thousand Taliban and more.

    June 8, 2014 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  7. Gurgyl

    --you are counting these five, can you say how many of these still in Yemen? GOP is just trash. Glad Berdahl is home safely.

    June 8, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  8. Mike

    Republicans lost the presidential election. They keep pretending they won. Obama is the commander in chief. Republicans do not rule America.

    June 8, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  9. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    "I" have a pen

    IF the Taliban Generals return to the fight to kill americans

    "I" can send a strong letter to the UN

    "That" is how things are done in the 21st Century

    Code Pink

    June 8, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  10. Amaza

    Obama should not be condem even if those framed stories turn out to be true. Becouse he has done what Bush W could not done.

    June 8, 2014 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  11. charmaigne

    The Taliban commanders that were released probably had some direct hand in high fiving and cheering when the towers went down in a fiery inferno. Negotiating with them for the release of one man who went AWOl hurts me deeply. I would never have let my country negotiate for my release under those circumstances especialy if I wasn't a true POW and I willingly walked off my base and got captured.

    June 8, 2014 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  12. Al

    Even the few patriotic Democrats are questioning the exchange. Again, the key word is patriotic, pets like Harry and Nancy will say whatever Obama wants them to say to safe face.

    June 8, 2014 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  13. Brhino

    I feel terrible for the people of Afghanistan. As we pull out, we are assisting the Taliban reformation, and the people who will pay the price are those we leave behind who voted for freedom and human rights. Make no mistake, all those girls who are currently attending school, all those folks who have joined the police to help clean up their towns, all those families who believed they could live free from an oppressive extremist regime; will all pay the price of obamas arrogance.

    June 8, 2014 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  14. Steve

    Senator McCain, stop complaining. Most likely the peace loving men released will attack Boston where Kerry is from, SF where Nancy is from or similar Democratic stronghold. If the id1ots in their own party do not want to protect their citizens why should anyone else care?

    June 8, 2014 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  15. CryBabies

    Dave....Why....because it does not fit your narrative? You might be irrational there Dave. Sounds like BIAS.

    June 8, 2014 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  16. kenman14

    Who cares what Kerry has to say about this, he is just another administration hack.

    June 8, 2014 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  17. Winston Smith

    Some time in the not to distant future, we're going to be amazed at the reactionary remarks and actions of the republican party. At this time, we'll get a first hand look at their bitter hatred for any and all people that they believe to be different than themselves. Also, we'll get information on just how determined the republicans and their party are to take the entire country back 50 years or so, just to try to relive what they consider the good old days.

    June 8, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  18. m123

    I would have traded Kerry to the Taliban
    for free

    June 8, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  19. paul

    If the american goverment feels those five detainees are so trust worthy , and truthfull, Why were they in incarceration in the first place. Thats like giveing a young kid a book of matches and telling him you can carry them but don,t light them,
    I expect it is a olive branch, the american goverment haveing brought peace to viet nam, afghanistan, iraq, libya, and syria, LOOK AT THEM NOW, i believe they suspect with a new administeration in afghanistan friendly to russia , india and china, the americans will try wooing them back to fight for them, america is looking to instigate another world war and they do not like russia supplying china , the two koreas with natural gas and water, The EU is about to commit suicide joining america against russia , a neucular war will break out, one neucular war head hitting each of those EU country, s capitals will slaughter billions of civilians, the people of the public in all europe and americas need to take to the streets and demand the americans to stop there war theatrics ,politicians , legislators and all in authority need to be held accountable, People with capability to lead need to take to the air waves and tell the public to take to the streets,

    June 8, 2014 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  20. noneyogetit0011232

    Anyone passing judgement on this prisoner exchange is being absurd. Not merely dumb or simpleminded... flat out absurd.

    There are ALWAYS pros and cons to prisoner exchange involving what people have done/might-do, the manner in which the terms are presented, treatment of prisoners on both sides to date etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

    It is a prisoner exchange. It happens after every war. GET OVER IT.

    June 8, 2014 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  21. John

    No big surprise here.....the real question is will even one GOP member of congress compliment Obama for even one thing, no matter how small, before he leaves office, or will they continue the string of making a "scandal' out of every single thing he does, no matter how small or significant........The public is starting to catch on.....GOP pseudo-outrage is 100% totally fabricated....

    June 8, 2014 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  22. J.V.Hodgson

    Clinton = " butcher of Benghazi" even D Issa does not claim that and the butchers were proven to be " terrorists"
    Aha predicting the future they wont stay in Qatar for 1 year. Brilliant, are you a licensed fortune teller/ soothsayer And if they are a senior as you say just like generals they aren't on the battlefield front itself, in modern war... too risky to be captured again!!
    Responsibility for another hypothetical outcome at this time... they personally will try to kill more Americans. Face reality in war people on both sides get killed is the field Lt, the Sergeants the top general of the chiefs of staff the CIC responsible for an inevitability of war people get killed and maimed, imprisoned and sometimes as POW's tortured. If so the primary responsibility and accountability is GW bush and Cheney!!

    June 8, 2014 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  23. Steve

    Sadly none of the m0r0ns who made this stupid decision will be around when the repercussions occur. I suspect the next Administration will not fall for the David (GD ignorant) Axelrod and blame the prior administration.

    June 8, 2014 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  24. StealthNinja

    It is hard to believe the lack of leadership displayed by members of the current administration. It now appears "Failure IS an option.

    June 9, 2014 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  25. Wes

    kerry is a disaster.

    June 9, 2014 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
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