White House Apologizes for ‘Oversight’ in Prisoner Swap

J.H. Owen-Pool/Getty Images

White House Apologizes for ‘Oversight’ in Prisoner Swap

The White House has apologized for not notifying members of Congress about the recent, highly controversial prisoner exchange.

“I had a call from the White House last night [Monday], from Tony Blinken, apologizing for it,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters. “He apologized and said it was an oversight.”

According to Dictionary.com, the definition of oversight is “1) an omission or error due to carelessness; 2) unintentional failure to notice or consider; lack of proper attention.”

It’s hard to understand how the White House could accidentally “fail to notice” or be “careless” about consulting Congress before carrying out the exchange. President Obama explains what happened:

We saw an opportunity. We were concerned about Sergeant Bergdahl’s health. We had the cooperation of the Qataris to execute an exchange, and we seized that opportunity, and the process was truncated because we wanted to make sure that we did not miss that window.

It is unclear how long the White House has been coordinating with Qatar, but if a situation requires quick response, and Qatar is in the loop (a nation over 6,500 miles from the United States), how much harder would it be to at least let Congress know?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee (John D. Rockefeller IV/Flickr)

“The notification to us is important and I think that it would have been a much better thing to do because you do try to work together,” Senator Feinstein said.

According to law, Congress must be alerted 30 days prior to the release of any Guantanamo prisoners. This is another example of the president selectively enforcing the law. The president disagrees, however.

“We have consulted with Congress for quite some time about the possibility that we might need to execute a prisoner exchange in order to recover Sergeant Bergdahl,” President Obama said.

That is true. He did discuss the possibility of an exchange with Congress—in 2011. At that time, “[t]here were very strong views and they were virtually unanimous against the trade,” recounts Feinstein.

Three years ago, President Obama knew he wouldn’t get congressional approval. Rather than taking the time to go through the laborious process again, he ignored it, using the excuse that they couldn’t afford to miss this “window.”

So will a simple apology make up for this?

If you were truly sorry for doing something, you would work to stop doing it. But this isn’t the first time the Obama administration has circumvented Congress. It is an established trend.

Read “Controversy Surrounds Bergdahl Swap” and watch Stephen Flurry’s recent video “Illegal Prisoner Swap Endangers More American Lives” to learn more about this issue.