The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office recently notified congressional leaders that the Pentagon broke the law by swapping Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders without giving Congress 30 days notice.
“In our view, the meaning of the [law] is clear and unambiguous,” the GAO wrote to nine Republican senators, National Public Radio reported. USA Today reported Tuesday that the GAO report was requested by Republican senators on July 13.
Five senior Taliban leaders who had been detained at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for 10 years were exchanged for Bergdahl on May 31. Bergdahl, a Hailey native who disappeared from his post in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan in 2009, had been held captive for five years by the Taliban.
The five Taliban are to remain in Qatar for a year. Bergdahl has returned to active duty at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.
The GAO said the relevant [congressional] committees received phone calls from May 31—the day of the transfer—to June 1, with written notification coming on June 2, NPR reported last week.
The GAO also stated in its seven-page letter that $988,400 spent to complete the transfer violated a second, more general statute that prohibits the spending of funds beyond those available through appropriations.
“He’s ready to move on to the next chapter of his life.”
Attorney for Bowe Bergdahl
Rear Adm. John Kirby defended the Pentagon’s actions, saying that as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stated in his congressional testimony earlier this year, the Defense Department “acted lawfully in the operation to recover Sgt. Bergdahl, a judgment that was supported by the Justice Department,” NPR reported.
Military investigators last week extended the time for their investigation into Bergdahl’s disappearance to determine whether he broke any military regulations or laws.
Major Gen. Kenneth Dahl, who is leading the investigation into Bergdahl’s disappearance, said to the press last week that Bergdahl answered every question posed to him during an eight-hour interview.
Based on the investigation’s findings, Dahl could recommend no punishment for Bergdahl, an administrative punishment or court martial on criminal charges, the military has stated.
Bergdahl’s attorney, Eugene Fidell, said last week that the soldier is ready to leave the military and return to civilian life.
“He is ready to move on to the next chapter of his life,” Fidell told Reuters. “He would like to get a college education.”
Tony Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org