Rep. Kline, defense secretary tangle over Taliban prisoner swap
June 12, 2014 — 3:24am
The risks to Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl were growing as officials negotiated his release from Taliban captivity, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress on Wednesday in a public defense of the Obama administration's controversial prisoner swap.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Hagel faced tough questioning from lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. John Kline, who remain skeptical of the prisoner exchange.
“The United States did set a precedent, did break the policy of negotiating with terrorists,” Kline told Hagel during the hearing.
The decision to trade five Taliban leaders for the release of Bergdahl, who was held for five years, has come under intense criticism on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers were not notified of the deal in advance.
“Who specifically selected the particular detainees that were transferred?” Kline asked Hagel.
“We've had some tortuous legal responses to questions we're trying to get at ... we're just trying to find out the basics,” Kline later said.. “I hope you can see why there’s a lot of confusion here.”
Hagel described the negotiations for Bergdahl’s release as “imperfect” and “imprecise.”
“I know there are differences and I know there are questions and I get it,” Hagel said in response to Kline's questioning. “But we did get him back.”
Fifteen prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center were sent to the United Arab Emirates in the single largest release of detainees during the Obama administration, the Pentagon announced Monday.
Defying a White House veto threat, the Senate voted decisively Tuesday to approve a defense policy bill that authorizes $602 billion in military spending, bars shuttering the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and denies the Pentagon's bid to start a new round of military base closings.
American embassies, military units and other U.S. interests are bracing for possible security threats related to Tuesday's planned release of a report on the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques, the White House says.