WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A political storm over the trade of five Taliban inmates for a captured American soldier intensified yesterday when Obama administration officials told US lawmakers that up to 90 people within the administration – but no members of Congress – were told in advance about the swap.
“It strikes me as unfortunate that they could have 80 to 90 people in the administration aware of what was happening and not be able to trust a single Republican or Democrat in the House or the Senate,” Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, a member of the House of Representatives Republican leadership, told reporters after leaving a briefing on the exchange.
The White House has been trying to appease angry lawmakers since President Barack Obama announced on May 31 that Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl had been exchanged for the five inmates from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
House Republicans said they planned an investigation of the exchange deal.
Lawmakers and human rights activists said they expected the furor would make it more difficult to win Congress’ backing for Obama’s avowed intention to close the detention camp, long criticized by human rights groups and others.
“Congress does not like to be left out of the loop,” Texas Representative Gene Green, a Democrat, told Reuters. If the White House had called at least the leaders of national security committees, “that would have been much better and maybe we would not have had this controversy,” he said.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said in a Senate speech yesterday he would introduce a bill this week that would bar any federal funding for Guantanamo transfers for six months.