Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., on Tuesday defended President Obama's decision to exchange Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, saying President Obama provided the proper notice to Congress.
Levin said, “Relative to the requirement that the notification be provided 30 days in advance of the transfer of detainees, the President put Congress on notice on Dec. 23, 2013, that he intended to exercise his powers as commander in chief, if necessary, ‘to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers.’”
Republicans have accused Obama of breaking the law when he released the Guantanamo detainees. They accuse him of failing to notify Congress within 30 days.
Lawmakers will receive a classified briefing about the prisoner exchange next week.
Here is Levin’s statement:
A number of questions have been raised about the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange and the congressional notification requirement.
We received a detailed classified notification from the Secretary of Defense that satisfies the many substantive certification requirements of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014.
Relative to the requirement that the notification be provided 30 days in advance of the transfer of detainees, the President put Congress on notice on Dec. 23, 2013, that he intended to exercise his powers as commander in chief, if necessary, "to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers."
While the President cannot change the law with a signing statement, given that notice, members of Congress should not be surprised that he acted as he did in the circumstances that existed.
I give serious weight to the views of our top military leader, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey, who has stated that "it is our ethos that we never leave a fallen comrade," and that "the questions about this particular soldier’s conduct are separate from our effort to recover ANY U.S. service member in enemy captivity. This was likely the last, best opportunity to free him."
When the Armed Services Committee is briefed on this matter next Tuesday, I intend to ask what risks we would have incurred if the Secretary of Defense had decided to wait 30 days after completing negotiations and providing the required notice to Congress rather than acting immediately.