Hoekstra: Taliban Treated Better Than Congress in Bergdahl Deal

Wednesday, 04 Jun 2014 04:51 PM

By Sean Piccoli

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With a controversial prisoner swap for a captive Army sergeant, the Taliban got just about everything they wanted from President Barack Obama while Congress got the back of his hand, former House Intelligence Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.

The secretive deal for Bowe Bergdahl's release was — apart from any debate over its legality — a break with longtime Washington protocol of giving key lawmakers a heads-up on high-level developments overseas, Hoekstra told "America's Forum" in his regular intelligence roundup with host J.D. Hayworth and Newsmax contributor Francesca Page.

By seeking forgiveness, not permission — or even feedback — the White House effectively said that "the leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees are now considered an oversight when there's a major foreign policy decision being made," said Hoekstra.

He contrasted the information blackout on Bergdahl with advance handling of an Israeli airstrike on a Syrian nuclear plant in 2007, when Hoekstra ran House intelligence oversight.

"The Gang of Eight was notified," said Hoekstra, meaning the four ranking intelligence overseers and the four senior party leaders in Congress. "The eight of us were informed and told, 'There's going to be something that's going to happen over the next two or three weeks. We need to advise you and we'd like to have your input.'

"There's a protocol for these things," said Hoekstra.

As for the administration's blanket apology to Hill leaders and the intelligence committees, "I don't think it's going to sell at all," he said.

"And now they're getting this huge backlash," he said, "with . . . Republicans and Democrats saying that this is a terrible deal and that this jeopardizes the very security of American men and women who are still on the ground in Afghanistan."

Story continues below video.

The Taliban got five of its own released from long-term U.S. detention in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Bergdahl, a rumored deserter in 2009 who comes home with baggage including a possible court-martial.

The administration said the ex-detainees will spend 12 months held in the Middle Eastern kingdom of Qatar and face no restrictions after that.

Hoekstra described the final deal as the outcome of a sequence of events in which Bergdahl's captors seemed to have the edge.

The Taliban issued a video in December that appeared to show Bergdahl in declining health, but Hoekstra said that clip may have "exaggerated" his condition in order to pressure the U.S. to make a deal.

The Taliban-made video accompanying Bergdahl's actual release, by contrast, shows him walking on his own.

"So maybe it's one more step in a successful propaganda ploy by the Taliban to get the kind of result they wanted," said Hoekstra. "They got exactly what they wanted out of this deal: five of their senior leadership released from Gitmo for an American that, you know, they were ready to give back to the United States."

While the former U.S. prisoners enjoy "freedom of movement" within Qatar, "a government that's going to be more sympathetic to them," he said, Bergdahl returns to the United States to face a potentially devastating inquiry into his conduct.

"There's going to be a tremendous amount of pressure . . . for an investigation," said Hoekstra. "We've lost a lot of men and women who gave their lives — who didn't leave their post. We owe it to all of the men and women that served in Afghanistan to make sure that the right thing happens here and we get to the bottom of it, absolutely."

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