President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he consulted with Congress for “quite some time” about potentially trading detainees from the Guantanamo Bay facility for a U.S. soldier captured in Afghanistan.
“We have consulted with Congress for quite some time about the possibility that we might need to execute a prisoner exchange in order to recover Sgt. [Bowe] Bergdahl,” Obama said in a press conference in Warsaw, Poland. “We saw an opportunity. We were concerned about Sgt. Bergdahl’s health. We had the cooperation of the Qataris to execute and exchange, and we seized that opportunity. And the process was truncated because we did not want to miss that window.”
Some Republicans have accused Obama of breaking the law for failing to notify Congress of the detainee transfer 30 days in advance. Others have criticized the prisoner swap over speculation that Bergdahl was captured because he walked off his post.
“Let me just make a very simple point here. And that is regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity,” Obama said of Bergdahl. “Period. Full stop. We don’t condition that.”
The President also addressed the potential threats that the release of the five detainees could pose to national security. He acknowledged that there is a certain recidivism rate for former prisoners, but said that monitoring of the detainees was a condition of the exchange.
“I wouldn’t be doing it if I thought it was contrary to American national security,” he said.
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Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.