The White House said freed Taliban prisoners have "limitations placed on their activities" in response to comments by Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, who charged that the Bowe Bergdahl deal allowed "five of the most heinous terrorists out of Guantanamo to kill more Americans."
The "important thing for Sen. Inhofe and your readers to understand is that these Gitmo detainees were transferred to the custody of Qatar, and that there have been limitations placed on their activities," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Tuesday, responding to a question from Newsmax.
Earnest's response to the comments by Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, came on the same day that several House Republicans rallied to the senator and his call to "forget about Bergdahl" and focus on "the real issue, freeing terrorists."
Earnest emphasized that "the president, the secretary of defense, and uniformed military personnel like retired Gen. Paul Eaton and retired Gen. James Mattis have indicated that the risk posed to our national security by the release has been sufficiently mitigated — that we have capabilities that will be used to protect our national security from threats posed by these released detainees.
"There were specific consultations by administration officials with relevant members of Congress — I do not know whether or not that includes Sen. Inhofe — but with relevant members of Congress about our efforts to secure the release of Sgt. Bergdahl," Earnest said. "And those consultations included the idea that Sgt. Bergdahl's release would be predicated on a prisoner swap and the release of five Taliban detainees who had previously been detained in Guantanamo."
Earnest summarized the president's words at his news conference in Poland that "in terms of potential threats, the release of the Taliban who are being held in Guantanamo was conditioned on the Qataris keeping eyes on them and creating a structure in which we can monitor their activities."
"We will be keeping eyes on them. Is there the possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely. That's been true of all the prisoners that were released from Guantanamo," Earnest said.
Shortly before the White House press briefing, several Republican House members voiced support for Inhofe's position during the regular "Conversations With Conservatives" forum on Capitol Hill, moderated by the Heritage Foundation's Genevieve Wood.
"I completely agree with Sen. Inhofe," said Republican Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho, who has been "careful in my statements" because he knows Bergdahl's parents in Idaho. "We should concentrate on the exchange and leave the family alone."
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio told Newsmax, "Sen. Inhofe is correct in pointing this out" and added that Obama's failure to give Congress notice on the prisoner exchange before it occurred risks "changing a long-standing precedent."
Rep. Matt Salmon, an Arizona Republican and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, voiced his fear that the exchange of the "Taliban Five" is going to "re-energize" terrorists and could "make it open season on Americans. If [terrorists] capture Americans, they might get 5-for-1 in exchanges."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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