House Speaker John Boehner predicted today that the release of five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay will cost U.S. lives, as criticism rises over the prisoner swap involving Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
“We’re going to pay for this. There is not any doubt in my mind there are going to be costs, lost lives associated with what came out of this,” Boehner said at a news conference.
The Ohio Republican added that he was never briefed on a potential exchange of five Guantanamo detainees for Bergdahl.
Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee today received a classified briefing on the Bergdahl prisoner exchange from Pentagon officials. After the briefing, Republican lawmakers continued to criticize the administration for agreeing to release five Taliban detainees without notifying Congress ahead of time.
“I have every reason to believe if they [the released prisoners] want to go back to the fight, they will. And judging from their background, I think they will go back to the fight,” Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, added, “Nobody can look at this deal without being troubled that the safety and security of American citizens has been jeopardized and the safety and security of our soldiers has been jeopardized.”
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said the Pentagon officials offered no information in the briefing to indicate Bergdahl’s life was in danger.
And it wasn’t just Republicans expressing skepticism about the prisoner swap. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., told reporters he’s convinced it was a “bad deal” to turn over the five Taliban detainees.
“My main concern is these five released prisoners,” he said. “Was it a good deal or a bad deal? In my mind, it’s still a bad deal. I can’t explain it back home to my fellow west Virginians.”
Today’s Senate briefing comes one day before Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will testify on the Bergdahl exchange before the House Armed Services Committee.
The White House reached a deal on the prisoner exchange one day before it occurred and nailed down the exact location just one hour before the swap, the Senate’s second-highest ranking Democrat said Tuesday.
“They knew a day ahead of time that the transfer was going to take place,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told a small group of reporters in the Capitol Tuesday. “They knew an hour ahead of time where it was going to take place.”
Durbin argued the short timeframe gave the administration little opportunity to notify Congress.
“Are you saying that once we decided to do the prisoner transfer, we had to wait 30 days to notify Congress and wait 30 days? The president couldn’t do that. It was impossible, and it could have endangered the man’s life by waiting 30 days,” he said.
Fellow Democrat Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, offered a slightly longer timeline for the exchange agreement, saying the deal came together days before it actually occurred.
Levin said Pentagon officials continue to defend their decision to secure Bergdahl’s release despite questions about his captivity.
“It is critically important that the American people know that the chairman of the joint chiefs and the vice chairman of the joint chiefs strongly recommended this agreement knowing full well that Bergdahl had left his unit and knowing full well how bad these Taliban people were,” Levin said. “Nothing has changed the firm determination that this was the right thing to do.”