The law authorizes the secretary of defense to transfer a Guantanamo detainee to a foreign country if the secretary determines that the transfer is in the national security interest of the U.S. and also notifies the appropriate committees of Congress at least 30 days before the transfer or release.
President Barack Obama defended the decision to trade five Taliban prisoners to free Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan without notifying Congress, a move that’s angered many lawmakers.
Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said the Obama administration “left a lot to be desired on engagement with the Senate and House over time” after making a decision that “wasn’t made in a couple of days.” Casey spoke with Bloomberg reporters and editors at a breakfast yesterday.
Obama administration officials have said they needed to take urgent action to save Bergdahl, saying his health was failing after five years in captivity.
“We have a basic principle: we do not leave anybody wearing the American uniform behind,” Obama said yesterday at a news conference in Brussels, Bloomberg News reported.
“We saw an opportunity and we seized it and I make no apologies for that,” the president said.
Obama signed the defense measure into law on Dec. 26, 2013, and said in an accompanying statement that Section 1035 of the defense law didn’t eliminate “all of the unwarranted limitations on foreign transfers and, in certain circumstances, would violate constitutional separation of powers principles.”
“The executive branch must have the flexibility, among other things, to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers,” Obama said in the statement. The president has sought to close the Guantanamo facility.
Here’s a copy of the defense law, including Section 1035.