Detention & Guantanamo

It's Bowe Bergdahl Day: HASC Report and NPR's Serial Released

By Cody M. Poplin
Thursday, December 10, 2015, 11:14 AM

The House Armed Services Committee has released its report on the inquiry into "The Department of Defense's May 2014 Transfer to Qatar of five law-of-war detainees in connection with the recovery of a captive U.S. soldier." The report has four key findings:

Finding I: The transfer of the Taliban five violated several laws, including the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014. The constitutional arguments offered to justify the Department of Defense's failure to provide the legally-required notification to the Committee 03 days in advance are incomplete and unconvincing. The violation of law also threatens constitutional separation of powers.

Finding II: The Committee was misled about the extent and scope of efforts to arrange the Taliban Five transfer before it took place. The Department of Defense's failure to communicate complete and accurate information severely harmed its relationship with the Committee, and threatens to upend a longstanding history and tradition of cooperation and comity.

Finding III: Senior officials within the Department of Defense best equipped to assess national security risks associated with the detainee transfer were largely excluded from the Taliban Five efforts. This greatly increased the chance that the transfer would have dangerous consequences.

Finding IV: The Department of Defense has failed to tke sufficient precautions to ensure the ongoing national security risks posed by the Taliban 5 are mitigated, consistent with the Memorandum of Understanding with Qatar.

The report concludes that the transfer was part of the Obama administration's effort to close Guantanamo:

The Taliban Five transfer became cloaked as a component of an otherwise salutary prisoner recovery effort. Doing so allowed the Administration to rid itself of five of the most dangerous and problematic detainees (other than the 9/11 conspirators who are subject to criminal proceedings) who the Administration would otherwise have great difficulty relocating because of the Administration's own prior recommendation to keep them in detention.

The Washington Post has more on the committee's findings, including that as of February 2014, the Obama administration had already asked for a proof-of-life video from the Taliban and started conversations with their Qatari counterparts.

Coincidentaly, on the same day, the award winning NPR show and podcast Serial has released its second season, which covers the Bowe Bergdahl case. In the first episode, Bergdahl recounts his experience and explains why he left the base in June 2009.

From the show notes:

This story—it spins out in so many unexpected directions. Because, yes, it’s about Bowe Bergdahl and about one strange decision he made, to leave his post. (And Bergdahl, by the way, is such an interesting and unusual guy, not like anyone I’ve encountered before.) But it’s also about all of the people affected by that decision, and the choices they made. Unlike our story in Season One, this one extends far out into the world. It reaches into swaths of the military, the peace talks to end the war, attempts to rescue other hostages, our Guantanamo policy. What Bergdahl did made me wrestle with things I’d thought I more or less understood, but really didn’t: what it means to be loyal, to be resilient, to be used, to be punished.

You can read the HASC full report below: