Only NBC Nightly News Highlights Obama’s Failure to Notify Congress Prior to Releasing Prisoners from Gitmo

The United States negotiated the release of five Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for the Taliban freeing an American sergeant from captivity yet President Obama may have violated U.S. law by failing to notify Congress of his actions. 

Despite the potential legal problems with releasing prisoners without notifying Congress, NBC Nightly News was the only evening news program on Saturday, May 31 to mention the controversy or the GOP's criticism. [See video below.] 

On Saturday, NBC’s Lester Holt noted how “The deal it took to make it happen has a lot of people wondering whether the administration reversed a longstanding U.S. policy on terrorism” before reporter Kristen Welker outlined the GOP’s concerns surrounding the prisoner swap. 

Welker began her report by highlighting criticism from Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI): 

So news the Obama administration secured the release of Sergeant Bergdahl in exchange for the freedom of five Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo has drown sharp criticism. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers writes “This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages.” 

The NBC reporter continued by suggesting the Obama Administration may have ignored U.S law following the release: 

Some Republicans are criticizing the administration for failing to comply with a law that requires the administration notify Congress 30 days before releasing prisoners from Guantanamo. The ranking members of the House Armed Services committee writing “We must carefully examine the means by which we secured his freedom. America has maintained a prohibition on negotiating with terrorists for a good reason.” 

While NBC was the only evening news program to mention the Obama Administration’s potential violation of U.S. law, tCBS Evening News and ABC World News with David Muir ignored the controversy altogether.

CBS’s Jim Axelrod mentioned that “However welcome the news, word that Bergdahl's freedom was through a negotiated swap from men with ties to Al-Qaeda is already raising questions from several Republican Senators including John McCain.”

ABC’s Muhammad Lila briefly mentioned the controversy but failed to include Obama’s failure to inform Congress: “Even if all five detainees stay in Qatar for a year under the deal, critics in Congress and beyond are sure to pounce, asking if the price was just too high. Releasing terrorists who could some day once again put more American lives at risk.” 

See relevant transcript below. 


NBC

NBC Nightly News

June 1, 2014

6:35 p.m. Eastern 

LESTER HOLT: As joyous as the news of Sergeant Bergdahl safe release is, the deal it took to make it happen has a lot of people wondering whether the administration reversed a longstanding U.S. policy on terrorism. NBC’s Kristen Welker has been looking into that and has some of the reaction. 

KRISTEN WELKER: t's been a long-standing government policy, the U.S. doesn't negotiate with terrorists. 

RONALD REAGAN: America will never make concessions to terrorists. 

GEORGE BUSH: No nation can negotiate with terrorists. 

WELKER: So news the Obama administration secured the release of Sergeant Bergdahl in exchange for the freedom of five Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo has drown sharp criticism. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers writes “This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages.” The White House is pushing back saying there were no direct talks between the U.S. and the Taliban, instead the Qataries acted as intermediaries. 

UNKNOWN PERSON 1: We do negotiate, quietly, diplomatically behind closed doors with third parties. 

WELKER: Some foreign policy note Ronald Reagan swapped arms with Iran for hostages held in Beirut. 

UNKNOWN PERSON 1: The United States policy should be we'll always negotiate, we're willing to negotiate, but we'll never compromise the national security of the United States. 

WELKER: Meanwhile some Republicans are criticizing the administration for failing to comply with a law that requires the administration notify Congress 30 days before releasing prisoners from Guantanamo. The ranking members of the House Armed Services committee writing “We must carefully examine the means by which we secured his freedom. America has maintained a prohibition on negotiating with terrorists for a good reason.” The White House says “Due to a near term opportunity to save Sergeant Bergdahl's life we moved quickly as possible.” Still experts say with so much bipartisan support for the release, there likely won't be much pushback. 

UNKNOWN PERSON 1: Ultimately, the White House risked they could break this rule, break this law with little to consequences and that’s likely to be the effect. 

WELKER: Now several lawmakers are also demanding to know what steps the U.S. is taking to make sure the detainees described as Taliban leadership don't return to the fight against the United States and its allies. At this point The White House is saying they will be held in Qatar for a year. Lester? 

 

CBS 

CBS Evening News 

June 1, 2014 

6:35 p.m. Eastern 

JIM AXELROD: However welcome the news, word that Bergdahl's freedom was through a negotiated swap from men with ties to Al-Qaeda is already raising questions from several Republican Senators including John McCain. Let's bring in our State Department correspondent Margaret Brennan. Margaret, the U.S. has a clear policy not negotiating with terrorists so what happened here? 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that's the policy but in this case the president directed U.S. diplomats to deal through a third party, in this case the country of Qatar which has relations with the Taliban. So when President Obama and Secretary Kerry said today Qatar’s help was vital that’s what they meant. Before going through with this swap President Obama spoke with the ruler of Qatar and got his  personal assurances that this deal was legitimate. It was very risky because a past try by Qatar to broker a peace deal between Taliban and the Afghan government  fell apart because of some basic missteps but this time Qatar delivered. 

AXELROD: Now Secretary Kerry that Afghan president Karzai was only informed of the swap after it had happened. What does that tell us about the state of relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan? 

BRENNAN: Well remember Karzai is about to be replaced by a newly elected president so the U.S. Is making plans without him. So basically Kerry told Karzai today we’we're going to work with your successor and Qatar to try to broker a peace with Taliban and their goal is basically to have a deal in place before the U.S. exists Afghanistan fully  by 2016. 

 

ABC

ABC World News with David Muir

June 1. 2014 

MUHAMMAD LILA: Even if all five detainees stay in Qatar for a year under the deal, critics in Congress and beyond are sure to pounce, asking if the price was just too high. Releasing terrorists who could some day once again put more American lives at risk. Muhammad Lila ABC News, Islamabad, Pakistan. 

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.