WASHINGTON, DC -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement today about the bipartisan concerns outlined to the administration more than two years ago about the prospect of the prisoner exchange facilitated last week:
“I join every American in welcoming Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl home. It is hard to imagine, let alone fully understand, the fear and torment our fellow citizen and his family have endured, and I am grateful his personal suffering is ending, although his healing is just beginning. And we must all respect that as one family is being reunited, scars have been re-opened for other families and friends of the fallen who sought to recover their comrade.
“And while we all rejoice for Sergeant Bergdahl and his family, it is important that we get clarity in the days and weeks ahead about not only how this exchange came about but what steps the President has taken to guarantee this exchange is not a signal that it is open season on our fellow citizens, both military and civilian personnel, serving our country abroad so faithfully. While the safety of our deployed civilian and military personnel in Afghanistan is paramount in our minds, we all must be mindful that the United States has diplomatic, civilian, and military personnel deployed in other countries with both challenging security environments and active terrorist networks interested in targeting not just our facilities but our people. One of their greatest protections – knowing that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists – has been compromised.
“More than two years ago, Members of Congress were briefed on the possibility of such an exchange, and the chairmen at the time and I raised serious questions to the administration. Unfortunately, the questions and concerns we had were never satisfactorily answered and they remain today. At the time, the administration deferred further engagement because the prospects of the exchange had diminished. The administration provided assurances, publicly reiterated by the White House in June 2013, that its engagement with Congress would resume if the prospects for an exchange became credible again. The briefings in late 2011 and January 2012 were highly compartmented to ensure the safety of Sergeant Bergdahl and to preserve space for diplomatic negotiations. While press reports at the time citing administration sources revealed that the White House was considering this prisoner exchange, Congress kept the serious ongoing policy and ethical discussion with the administration private. There was every expectation that the administration would re-engage with Congress, as it did before, and the only reason it did not is because the administration knew it faced serious and sober bipartisan concern and opposition.
“The administration has invited serious questions into how this exchange went down and the calculations the White House and relevant agencies made in moving forward without consulting Congress despite assurances it would re-engage with members on both sides of the aisle. I support Chairman McKeon’s call for hearings on this matter.”