A News Politics — 12 August 2014

President Obama and the Taliban 5 
Emergencies Image TalibanWhen the Obama administration recently released five Taliban members held in Guantanamo Bay in exchange for the release of the last American prisoner of war, Bowe Bergdahl, they broke the law, but stated that their actions were OK because it was an “emergency” situation.

The law requires that notice be given to Congress 30 days prior to releasing prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. The intent of the law is to allow debate to discuss the merits of release.

No debate occurred because no one in Congress, or even members of the House or Senate intelligence committees were informed until they learned of the exchange after-the-fact.  And, that has many people questioning about why the law was skirted and how that may affect our civil liberties.

Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, said, “They knew a day ahead of time the transfer was going to take place,” suggesting there was no time to inform Congress and it was an emergency situation.

When members of Congress asked about the length of time that was spent planning with Qatar – the country that received the released prisoners – the administration pivoted from an emergency of “time” to a health emergency.

They said Bergdahl’s health was so bad, his death was imminent, and therefore, the exchange had to happen immediately.  Members of Congress were later shown a “proof of life” video (behind closed doors) to prove that the administration was right about his near-death health situation, and, thus, needed to act urgently.

After viewing the video, Sen. John McCain told CNN, “I think he looked a little strange to me. I don’t expect anybody who’s being held in prison to look like they’re in great shape, to tell you the truth.”
BergdahlAfter the story of Bergdahl’s life-threatening health didn’t go over well in the public, or among many in Congress, the administration went back to saying there was no time to inform Congress – it was an emergency – and that they also believed Bergdahl would be killed by his captors if the exchange for the five high ranking Taliban members did not go through.

The threat of death was then the focal point of the administration’s argument – that if they informed Congress, Congress might leak the information and Bergdahl would be executed.

White House spokesman, Josh Earnest said, “This is a secret military mission in which disclosure of the mission could put into jeopardy not just the life of Sergeant Bergdahl but also the lives of the American servicemen who were involved in the mission. So discretion on this matter was important. And that’s why the number of people who are aware of this military operation in advance was even smaller than 80 to 90.”

Democrat Sen., Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, “It comes to us with some surprise and dismay that the transfers went ahead with no consultation, totally not following law.” She added, “And in an issue with this kind of concern to a committee that bears the oversight responsibility, I think you can see that we’re very dismayed about it.”

Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas said, “They couldn’t brief a single member of Congress because they didn’t trust us, yet the Qataris knew about it.”

Invented emergencies give politicians a feeling that if they are “doing what’s right,” it’s OK regardless of law.

“I make absolutely no apologies for making sure we get a young man back to his parents,” Obama told reporters.

“We had a prisoner of war whose health had deteriorated and… we saw an opportunity and we seized it, and I make no apologies for that,” Obama added.

Giving an answer to the backlash from both sides of the aisle, Obama said, “I’m never surprised by controversies that are whipped up in Washington,” as if the fact that he broke the law was moot.

That has many Americans worrying about their basic civil rights and if they are giving them up at the risk of their safety because of politically whipped up emergencies.

Is your safety in jeopardy because the administration let five of the highest ranking Taliban members from GITMO go?  Soon after the exchange occurred, the President promised Americans that the US would be “keeping eyes on them” and that Qatar would watch their every move.

When a top Qatari official said that Qatar would do little to hinder the terrorists, the President conceded but highlighted that these top five were no different than others (from Guantanamo Bay) who had been released.

“Is there a possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely,” Obama said in a news conference in Warsaw.

“That’s been true of all the prisoners that were released from Guantanamo. There’s a certain recidivism rate that takes place.”

The President accurately concedes that these highly trained terrorists may return to their former work, which was to harm and kill Americans and others who do not follow their beliefs. As such, it’s fair to say that Americans are less safe than before the exchange.

American’s civil liberties have been stripped and stripped in both real emergencies and phony ones.  This ramped up in the aftermath of 9/11 when the Bush administration enacted the Patriot Act, and began to spy on Americans.

The National Coalition to Protect Civil Liberties says, “The so-called War on Terror has seriously compromised the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights of citizens and non-citizens alike. From the USA PATRIOT Act’s over-broad definition of domestic terrorism, to the FBI’s new powers of search and surveillance, to the indefinite detention of both citizens and non-citizens without formal charges, the principles of free speech, due process, and equal protection under the law have been seriously undermined.”

With the recent leaks of mass government documents from both Snowden and Manning, Americans are learning a great deal more about what the government is really doing, and it frightens some.

There are differing opinions on whether the prisoner swap was the right thing to do or not. But, there is no debate that doing so violated the law. And, THAT is what is causing a huge stir in the electorate because due process and Americans’ safety are eroding.

What’s a citizen to do?

Vote.  The solution is not necessarily a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Independent answer. It’s voting for the individuals who follow the law.  Possibly a good sniff test is to ask if the person you are voting for creates “emergencies” in order to do what they want regardless of what others or the law says.

 

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