Senator: Bergdahl deal sealed day before swap

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 23:15

Washington: The Obama administration only finalised the exchange of the last remaining US prisoner of war in Afghanistan for five Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a day before the June 1 swap, a top Democratic lawmaker said today.

He said American officials didn`t learn the pickup location for Sgt Bowe Bergdahl until an hour ahead of time. Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2-ranked Democrat, presented the timeline as an explanation for why President Barack Obama did not inform Congress 30 days before the deal.

Republicans and some Democrats have sharply criticised the president for failing to notify them and claim he broke the law. Obama says he acted legally.

"They knew a day ahead of time the transfer was going to take place," Durbin told reporters in the Capitol, where military officials briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee behind closed doors. "They knew an hour ahead of time where it was going to take place."

His remarks came as a House panel overwhelmingly backed a measure barring US funds for the transfer of detainees from the prison at Guantanamo amid the congressional outcry over the swap.

On a bipartisan 33-13 vote, the Appropriations Committee added the provision to a USD 570 billion defence spending bill that blocks money if the administration fails to notify Congress within 30 days of a transfer from Guantanamo as required by law.

The administration exchanged Bergdahl, who had been held captive by the Taliban for five years, for five Taliban officials who had been at Guantanamo for more than a decade.

The five were sent to Qatar where they are to remain for a year.

"The violation of trust between the department and Congress to use funds in violation of current law cannot be easily overlooked," Rep Rodney Frelinghuysen, the Republican chairman of the defence subcommittee, said in a description of the amendment.

The measure also bars 85 per cent of the money in the account for overseas conflicts until the defence secretary reassures Congress that no money will be spent to violate current law requiring congressional notification.

AP

First Published: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 23:15

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