tv U.S.- Taliban Prisoner Exchange CSPAN August 20, 2014 2:02pm-3:32pm EDT
and that breaks through and becomes a global phenomenon and has a back end video attached to it. the other side of the coin is the most pirated show. it's mike and i believing in david and dan listening to the vision. the quintessential love the product and i think for george whose whole life is built around the box to have been trusted
interest in these proceedings. we intend to conduct the hearing in an efficient manner to ensure we have an opportunity to ask questions and the witnesses have an opportunity to be heard. to that end please be advised i will operate disturbances of these proceedings including verbal descriptions, photograp photography, standing or holding signs. thank you for your cooperation. i think you for the may 31 transfer of high senior taliban detainees from detention at guantánamo bay to the governme government. the matter before us is deeply troubling. the committee has begun a full investigation into the administration's decision. it's unprecedented negotiations with terrorists, financial security implications of releasing these dangerous individuals from u.s. custody and the violation of national
security law. we hope for and expect the departments for cooperation. let me be clear up front on the focus of today's hearing. it's not to dive into the disappearance of the sergeant from his base in 2009. there will be a time and a process for that. i do also do not intend to use the sharing to the return of the american soldier to the united states to read every one who wears the uniform should be returned home. however the detainee transfer raises numerous national security policy and legal questions but explanations we've received from the white house officials at the briefing earlier this week for misleading and at times blatantly false. this transfers at a dangerous precedent in negotiating with terrorists and reverses long-standing u.s. policy and
code incentivize other terrorist organizations including al qaeda to increase their use of kidnappings of u.s. personnel. it increases risk to the military and civilian personnel serving in afghanistan and elsewhere. as the president, your self and other administration officials have acknowledged, these terrorists still pose a threat to americans and afghans alike and in one year they will be free to return to afghanistan or anywhere else. what's more although there will be fewer u.s. personnel in afghanistan in 2015 the return of these taliban leaders directly threatens the game gaif the men and women who fought and died. the transfer is a violation of section 1035 of the national defense authorization act of 2014. there is no compelling reason why the department couldn't provide a notification to congress 30 days before the
transfer especially when it has complied with the notification requirement for all previous detainee transfers since the enactment of the law. the statute is more than a notification. it requires detailed national security information including detailed consideration of risk and risk mitigation that the congress and american people would expect any administration to consider before the decisions made to transfer gitmo detaine detainees. it do to thdue to the concerns t terrorists were being released in a manner that allowed them onto the battlefield. we also see the consequences of the president afghanistan withdrawal strategy. afghanistan is at a critical juncture. at the same time we are focused on the first democratic transition of government and a supporting security and
stability within the country this negotiation has legitimized the taliban. the organization is safeguarded the 9/11 perpetrators and ruled afghanistan through atrocities. lastly the transfer sets dangerous precedent for how the president intends to enact gitmo. the detainees by the obama administration and analysis included the most dangerous against u.s. forces and national security interests. our other deals in the works to release the dangerous individuals? mr. secretary i. don't envy the position that you've been put in. we understand the responsibility for signing the chance for agreement. so they can claim victory for closing gitmo. nevertheless we expect the department to abide by the law
and its candid assessment of national security impacts of the president's decisions. this is a bipartisan committee. last month we test our authorization act out of the committee unanimously and off the floor with well over 300 votes. that kind of bipartisanship is based on trust. members on the committee trust each other to live up to our word and when we work with the department and the white house to pass legislation the president will sign we have to trust that he will follow those laws. the president has broken a bipartisan wal law and put our troops at a greater risk and i'm eager to find out why. >> thank you to the witnesses for being here this is a very appropriate issue to exercise oversight and there are questions we need to be answered and i'm pleased the administration is here to attempt to answer those questions and i want to agree
with the chairman one thing we should talshouldn't talk about e circumstances of bergdahl's capture. i'm happy about that and at the briefing we had monday that issue did come up and there is no proof or evidence. i think the way that mr. bergdahl has been slandered has been scandalous. i hope we will take a step back and do what the admiral said which is bring him home and get him healthy and the due process will be exercised so that shouldn't be discussed today. what should be discussed are the circumstances of the deal and the chairman and raised a number of appropriate questions and i have enormous sympathy for the president and for you mr. secretary. it was a difficult decision in terms of figuring out whether or not this was an exchange that was in the best interest of the united states. ultimately i looked for you i think it was. we do our best to bring our servicemen and women home if we
possibly can not under any circumstances. the issue was raised what we have traded colleague shaikh mohammed? totally different situation but when you are talking about the five members of the caliban it is a different equation and that raises the issues the chair and came up with. who are we negotiating with? he said we were negotiating with terrorists but he was captured on the battlefield in a war zone. the caliban were until a few months before that the legitimate government of afghanistan. the current afghan government has said over and over again they want to negotiate with the cameraman. any sensible person that looks at the situation in afghanistan understands there is no ultimate peaceful so bush and if it's something you don't negotiate with the caliban which ones, we don't know. to simply dismiss this as one
terrorist group negotiating i think totally misstate the situation. this was on the battlefield in a war zone a soldier that was captured by a group of people that were german to government afghanistan on this before. i don't know the implications and i completely agree with the chairman we need to be very careful about setting the precedent we would negotiate i think this raises an entirely different set of questions that need to be answered and addressed and i would be interested in your viewpoint on that. what does that mean going forward? but understand the idea that under no circumstances will we negotiate with the taliban is one that has been rejected by virtually everyone. we, the afghan government if we are going to get any sort of peaceful solution have to negotiate with at least some elements. which one's? we don't know but that has been the position of the government said this is a different situation than saying we simply negotiated with terrorists.
the second question this raises is the situation in guantánamo and i will disagree on one point. the president isn't pursuing this out of some political goal that he wants to close guantánamo because politically he would like to that isn't the situation. we have people many of them in very murky status. without charge and without trial what would that do to the values to the precedence that we set anyway. any effort to try to close guantánamo overlooks the fact we are in a very difficult situation. in large part because a lot of the people were captured in the first place without an understanding of how or why without a plan to try again and now we have them.
we will hold them without charge and process. one of the interesting questions that raised is that it's been argued that these five that were captured would have to have been released in the hostilities in afghanistan. it's not my understanding that is actually the status we have given them. they are not being treated clearly as prisoners of war. it was unlawful enemy combatants is the phrase used to them so if they were not being held as prisoners of war is that the administration position that at the end of our full involvement in afghanistan we would have to release them? i don't delete it is. that really needs to be clarified first of all with regard to the size and the second of all how many more inmates are there in afghanistan that might be put into that category but at the end of 2014 we would feel like we have to release. it's my understanding that it's
none of them and we didn't put them in that category prisoner of war category they would have to be released at the end of the hostilities at the category they are in is very confusing if we are going to live up to our own constitutional values. the final issue worth exploring and where i am in more substantial agreement is on the congressional consultation. it's important to engage. you didn't take the top leadership to talk about it. they are trusted including the location of osama bin laden. it's the 30 day requirement.
i know the presiden president ig statements when he signed the law that had the 30 day requirement saying that he was concerned that the constitutionality about it but the law is the law. you figure out whether or not the courts say that it's constitutional or not and until they rule on that it is the law. they were put out there as a way to simply avoid the law. it's an argument why the 30 day argument was in place and i will come back to the fact there was no reason it couldn't have been given to the leadership of congress. we can keep a secret order we are no worse than the administration if you go back to history in terms of how things get out so that her consultation
is something we would need going forward. >> i ask unanimous consent that they be allowed to participate in today's hearing and they've had an opportunity to ask questions. is there objection? the non- committee members will be recognized at the appropriate time. the time is yours. i appreciate an opportunity to discuss the recovery of search and delete sergeant bowe bergdahl. and i appreciate having the department of defense general counsel steve preston with me this morning. he was one of our negotiators
throughout this process and signed on behalf of the united states the memorandum of understanding between the governments of cutter and the united states. also here representing the joint chiefs of staff sitting behind me is that brigadier general pat white who is a director of the joint staff pakistan afghanistan coordination. he helped coordinate the recovery on behalf of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the vice chair of the joint chiefs who the chairman has noted will join us later this morning in the classified close portions. they played critical roles in the meetings of the national city council leading up to the surgeon's release and supported the decision to move forward with this prisoner exchange. in my statement today i will address the issues of the
chairman, mr. smith the issues they raised when the chairman asks me to testify and explain why it was so urgent to pursue the release and why we decided to move forward. i want to make a fundamental point. i would never sign any document or make any agreement. i didn't feel that was in the best interest of this country nor would the president of the united states who made the final decision with the full support of his national security team. i recognize that the speed with which we moved in this case has
caused a great frustration, legitimate questions and concerns. we could have done a better job of keeping you informed but i urge you to remember two things. this was an extraordinary situation. first, we were not certain that we would transfer those detainees out of want, until we had sergeant bergdahl in hand and a second copy had sergeant bergdahl only in hand a few hours after making the final arrangements. there are legitimate questions about this prisoner exchange and congress obviously has an important constitutional role and right and responsibility to play in all of our military and intelligence matters. as a former member, mr. chairman of the select committee on intelligence and council on foreign relations, i appreciate
the vital role for congress place in the national security and i will present to the committee within the limits of an open on classified hearing and in more detail than the classified hearing everything i can to answer your questions and to assure you this committee, the american people that this prisoner exchange was done legally and was a substantial mitigation of risk to the country and in the national interest of this country. let's start with sergeant bergdahl's status in the united states army. he was held captive by the taliban and the haqqani network for almost five years. he was officially listed as missing captured. no charges were ever brought against sergeant bergdahl and there are no charges pending now. our entire apparatus, the military commando t command wits community and state department person would agree avenue to
recover the sergeant just as the american people and this congress and the congress before you expected us to do. in fact this committee knows there were a number of congressional resolutions introduced and referred to directing th the president of te united states to do everything he could to get sergeant bergdahl released from activity. we never stopped trying to get him back as the congress knows that because he is a soldier in the united states army. questions about the sergeant's capture are as mr. smith noted and you are separate from the effort to recover because we do whatever it takes to recover any and every u.s. service member held in captivity. this is woven into the fabric of the nation and the military. as former central commander general recently put it about online quote is we don't leave people behind.
that is the beginning and that is the end of what we stand for. we keep faith with those that sign on and that is all there is to it. in the circumstances surrounding the activity as the secretary of the army and the army chief of staff odierno will review later, and they've said clearly last week the army will review this exchange of circumstance captivity of sergeant bergdahl l and the confidence of a coordinated effort that will include speaking with sergeant bergdahl and i think i need not remind anyone on this committee like any american sergeant bergdahl has rights and his conduct will be judged on the facts not political hearsay' charges were innuendo. we do that to any american and especially those who are members of our military and their
families. like most americans i've been offended and disappointed in how the family has been treated by some in this country. no family deserves this. i hope there will be some reflection on people's conduct regarding this issue and how it relates to the bergdahl family. in 2011, the obama administration conducted talks with the taliban on the exchange involving the same five caliban detainees that were ultimately transferred after the release of sergeant bergdahl. these talks which congress was briefed on. some of you in the room or in those briefings i understand which the congress was briefed on in november of 2011 and january of 2012 broken off by the caliban in march of 2012. we haven't had a direct talks with the caliban since this time ended september 2013, the
government offered to be too offered to serve as an intermediary and in november of last year we requested that the caliban provide a new proof of life video of sergeant bergdahl. in january of this year we received that video and it was disturbing. some of you may have seen the video. it showed a deterioration in his physical appearance and mental state compared to previous videos. our entire intelligence community carefully analyzed every part of it and concluded that his health was poor and possibly declining. this gave a growing urgency to act. in april of this year after suspending engagement the caliban again signaled interest in the indirect talks. at this point we intensified discussions with the government
about security assistance is and assurances, particularly security assurances. on may 12, we signed a memorandum of understanding. they would be undertaken and enforced by van. they were transferred to their custody. steve preston who i noted earlier signed a memorandum of understanding on behalf of the united states government and was included in those negotiations. "it were specific risk mitigation measures and commitments from the government.
we sent it to the committee this week. that's memorandum of understanding has been sent to the congress and to the leadership to the committees and every member of congress has an opportunity to review a memorandum of understanding in a close setting. we received a warning from the intermediaries that as we proceeded, tim was not on our side and we will go into more detail in the classified hearing on those warnings. we move forward with the negotiations on how to carry out the exchange ended the exchange of five d. cds and agreed to the mechanics of the exchange on the
morning of may 27 following three days of intensive talks. that same day president obama received a personal attachment and personal telephone call to uphold and enforce the arrangements and the final decision was made to move forward with that exchange on that day. as the opportunity to obtain the release became clear we grew increasingly concerned that any delay or any of the code derail the deal and further endanger sergeant bergdahl. we were told that a leak, any kind would end the negotiations for the release. we also know that he would be vulnerable during any movement and the military personnel conducting the hand off would be exposed to the possible ambush
or other deadly scenarios and very dangerous territory that we did not control. and we've been given no information on where the hand off would occur. for all these reasons and more, the exchange needed to take place quickly, efficiently and quietly. we believe this exchange was our last best opportunity to free them. after the exchange was set in motion on the 96 hours passed before sergeant bergdahl was in our hands. throughout this period there was great uncertainty about whether the deal would go forward. we do not know the precise location until one hour before and we didn't know until the
moment sergeant bergdahl was handed to the special operation forces that the caliban would hold up their end of the deal. it wasn't until we've recovered sergeant bergdahl on may 31 that we moved ahead with the transfer of the five guantánamo detainees. the president's decision to move forward with the transfer of these detainees was a tough ca call. i supported it and i stand by it. as the secretary defense i have the authority and the responsibility to determine whether a detaineecan any of us be as specific detainees can be transferred to the custody of another country. i take that responsibility mr. chairman and members of the committee, damn seriously as i do any responsibility i have in this job. they were not under any illusions about these five
detainees. there is much about the territory to america's eighth asian unicode invasion to overthrow the regime. the enemy belligerents detained under the law of the war and taken to guantánamo in late 2001 and 2002. 12, 13 years. but they have not been implicated in any attacks against the united states and they had no basis to prosecute e them and make the court or military commission. it was appropriate to continue to consider them for an exchange as we have been over the last few years as the congress had been told that we were. and if any of these detainees ever tried to rejoin the fight they would be doing so at their own peril.
this is not a risk-free business. we get back. but u.s. governmenthe u.s. goves transferred 620 detainees. 620 detainees from guantánamo since may of 2002. 532 transfers occurring in the bush administration and 88 transfers during the obama administration. in the case of the five detainees the security measures put in place led me as the secretary defense to determine consistent with the national defense authorization act that the risk they pose to the united states are citizens and in the interest substantially mitigat mitigated. they ask them as they review all of the details they reviewed the
draft of the notification letter that specific line by line and word by word of details of that letter. i asked for their complete reviews and the risks associated and i asked either concur or object to the transfer. the secretary of state, the attorney general, secretary of homeland security, director of national intelligence and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. they all put their hands on it. there was complete unanimity in this decision, mr. chairman. the president and i wouldn't have moved forward unless we have a complete confidence that we were acting lawfully and in the best traditions of the country. our operation to save the sergeant's life was fully consistent with u.s. laws and the national security interest in at least five ways.
first we complied with the national defense authorization act of 2014 by determining that the risks of the detainees posed to the united states and citizens in the interest was the substantially mitigated and the transfer was in the interest of the united states. second, we fulfilled the commitment to recover the personnel held captive. we followe follow the precedente prisoner exchanges. a practice in our country that dates back to the revolutionary war and has occurred in most that we thought. for because sergeant bergdahlfol was a detained come back and being held by an enemy force and not a hostage it was fully consistent with our long-standing policy of hostage takers. the caliban is our enemy and we are engaged in an armed conflict
with it. fifth, we did what was consistent with previous congressional hearings into the administration provided as i already noted in 2011 and early 2012 afflicting our intent to conduct the transfer of the nature of these particular by individuals. mr. chairman, i fully understand and appreciate the concerns of the questions about the decision to transfer the five detainees. under these exceptional circumstances, the fleeting opportunity to protect the life of the american service member held captive and endanger for almost five years the national security team and the president of the united states agreed that we needed to act swiftly. this wasn't simply the detainees transfer. but it was very high and complicated risks in a very short window of opportunity that
we didn't want to jeopardize. but for the sake of sergeant bergdahl and operators in the field. in consultation with the department of justice the administration concluded the transfer but the fires could proceed. the options available to us to recover sergeant bergdahl were very few and far from perfect. they have been fighting in had n afghanistan for 13 years. the wars are messy and full of imperfect choices. i saw this firsthand during my service and the lawn in 1968. 1968 committee may recall we sent home nearly 17,000 of the dead in one year. i see it as the secretary
defense. a few of you on this committee have experienced the war and have seen it up close. you know there's always suffering. there is no glory. it's always about human beings. it's not about machines. it's a dirty business. and we all like to deal with those realities, but in reality is, they are and they must deal with them. those of us charged with protecting the national security interests of the country are called upon everyday to make the hard, tough, and perfect and sometimes unpleasant choices based on the best information that we have and within the limits of the law and always based on america's interest. it's not some abstraction with theoretical exercise with the
clearly identified instructions on the how-to manuals. they are part of the brutal and imperfect realities we deal with in the war and in the decision to rescue sergeant bergdahl we complied with the law and we did what we believed was in the best interest of the country, the military and sergeant bergdahl. the president has constitutional responsibilities and authorities to protect american citizens of the forces. that's what he did. america doesn't believe its soldiers behind. we made the right decision and we did it for the right reasons to bring home one of our own people. as you know i valued the partnership. i know that trust has been broken. i know you have questions about it. but i tell you something else.
i've always been straightforward, completely transparent with this committee since i've been secretary defense. i will continue to do that. i will do that always with all of my relationships and associations and responsibilities to the congre congress. that's what i've always demanded of any administration when i was a member of the united states senate. i've been on your side of vacation and i understand it. that's what i've done this morning with the statement i've made and i made the decision i did it, and i've explained that in general term. the circumstances surrounding my decisions for imperfect and the decisions that have to lead to some kind of judgment always are. the president is in the same position. but you have to make a choice.
you have to make a decision. the day after the bergdahl operation at the blogger air force base in afghanistan, i met with a team of special operators is recovered sergeant bergdahl. they are the best of the best. people who doesn't give you couldn'debatecouldn't hesitate t themselves at incredible risk to recover one of their own and i know we all think them into the committee thinks them and we appreciate everything that they do and we thank all of the men and women in afghanistan who made the sacrifices every day for the country. earlier this week we were reminded of the heavy cost of the war and of the servicemen in afghanistan. i know our thoughts and prayers are with their families. we are grateful for their service and we are grateful for the service of all of the men and women in uniform around the
world. as i conclude i want to again thank the committee i want to thank you for what you do everyday to support our men and women around the world. mr. chairman, i appreciate the opportunity to make this statement and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you very much mr. secretary. in your statement, you indicated that the president had made the final decision on this operati operation. we had a briefing a couple of days ago and the last question asked by a member of congress in the briefers was who made the final decision and one of the briefers stated that you had made the final decisions but you understand how this place works and the decision is always made by the commander in chief and i think you clarify that and i
appreciate that. mr. secretary, one of the things that has bothered me the most about this is the fact that we did pass a law last year that stated congress should be notified 30 days before any transfer of detainees from guantánamo. just a little history. we were briefed, some of the leadership on the committee and other pertinent committees in congress. starting in november of 11 dot there were negotiations we were entering into with the taliban looking towards reconciliation at some point. along with that, in tha and notg there was also mentioned about a potential transfer of detainees
as you mentioned for the release of sergeant bergdahl. that was followed up with another briefing in january and then the taliban and set up the headquarters and president karzai learned of that and everything hits the fan and we were briefed again saying that all of those negotiations had come to a halt. if we start those again we will inform you. we never heard another briefing on that matter. when we passed that law, we felt we did it for a good reason. the wall didn't just stated that we would be given a notice it would require that they provided numerous pieces of critical
information including how the risk posed by the detainee had been substantially mitigated, how the transfer is in the national security interest of the united states and an assessment of the capacity, willingness and passed practices of the receiving country along with the notice, along with several other pieces of information had also required that same thing. in fact hour language that we passed in this committee and through this body was by language in the senate that we worked out in conference which was the final language that was passed last year. you know mr. secretary i. feel like you have just made a very strong case for the position taken by the president of the administration. you just left one thing out. these negotiations as we were told in a briefing last week started in january of this year
with the tape and the other things that went forth i've been told in a couple of different briefings now that the final number was somewhere between 80 to 90 people in the department of justice at the state department, the homeland security was onhomelandsecuritye department of defense knew about this 80 to 90 people. we don't know who those 80 or 90 people were. yes in all that time the leadership of the house but has the responsibility according to the constitution of the president with the united states was not informed. not for this if you were
somebody -- i think you have the most credibility but if you had been able to meet with the responsible people in the congress and give them the same story you gave us the law would have been complied with and we didn't need to know the operational details. we didn't know anything other than the things mentioned. yet when the law is ignored and we all feel team to the responsibilities that we have sometimes more than others. this is one of those times where this is a very important principle, and i wish that you were somebody had sat down with the leadership of the congress including the senate and told us
the same things that you just told us in your briefing here. i think it would have been very helpful in reestablishing or establishing or keeping the trust that we should have between the congress, the the president of the unitepresident, the supreme court, all of us trying to work to get her to the satisfaction constitution and the american people that we are all sent here to serve. let me ask one question. will the department fully cooperate with the department's inquiry going forward in the exchange in the recent request that i sent a couple of days ago for the documents?
>> yes. >> thank you for your service in the military and in a uniform and the senate and now into tough job that you hold. >> there are two important parts to this the chairman mentioned i will get to in a minute but first is the notion that we have broken the president of the negotiation to negotiate with the exchange and it went against a long-standing policy and i think that has been the central criticism from the speaker yesterday and i think it is just absolutely wrong given the situation we are in as you described as we went to the war in afghanistan. fighting the first couple of months they were the government. they were knocked out and kept fighting as an insurgent force. can you walk us through you can
sort of get through this how you view this and whether or not this is unprecedented because it doesn't seem to be. there are exchanges you mentioned just about every war that we thought of the prisoners and what every one may think of the tablet and we were fighting a war with them and it was in a battle zone and it was not, you know, diplomat or civilian. it was a member of the forces who was captured in that battle. so do you think that we have some precedent for negotiating with terrorists or is this as it is in my mind in a different legal category? >> congressman smith, thank you. as you even get to some of this in general terms in my stateme statement, the general comments to respond and then i will ask as you suggested his thoughts.
this was an extraordinary situation for the reasons i mentioned i think in the classified briefings that some of you have attended and people get more into the extraordinary dynamics. it was a very unique set of dynamics that we were dealing with comment number one. number two on the precedent cited this i'm not a legal person here, but i do occasionally read, and i don't think that there were any precedent set by this as far as i know from the past war and how we have always gotten our prisoners back or attempted to give them back to the time of the war or after the war. we can get into all of the appropriate categorizations of
who are the combat incident who are you at war with and who are the terrorists and we have legal definitions for all of those. i said something at the beginning of my testimony here. i know it is in perfect but i do think it plays into the larger scope of what we were and are still dealing with and will be dealing with not just in afghanistan but if you look at what's going on all over the world, what is unprecedented today is the fact that what we are up against in the world organized of the sophisticated terrorist groups we declared a war on any of them or how would we do find them some as a terrorist group beat these are different dynamics and unprecedented situations that have never had to deal with before. i will make one last comment and
then ask the president for his legal opinion on the question. you all have major responsibilities. i've got one responsibility and that is of the country. that's what i'm charged with. that's what the president asked me to do and the senate confirmed me to do it. i took an oath of office. we all take the same oath of office. and that is the constitution and the security of the country. that is my prayer area focus every day. you all have your focuses. not dissimilar from mine either on some of these things i just happen to have a narrow gauge in what i do. they have the ultimate responsibility for the security of the country so i just remind us of all of this is in perfect i know it might sound like an excuse.
and i will ask mr. president. >> thank you. there is a good detail what constitutes a pow combat and or a belligerent i don't think we need to get into that answer the question. we had at the detained combatants held by a opposing forces in the same armed conflict and as such this falls in the tradition of the prisoner exchanges between opposing forces in a time of war. it's true the taliban is not the conventional nationstates that has been party to the armed conflict in the past. it's not the character of the holding party. it's the character of the
detainee that inspires and motivates our commitment to the recovery of the servicemembers held abroad. we don't see this as setting a particular precedent because it does fall in the tradition are of the prisoner exchanges and there have been in the past occasions where the united states has dealt with nonstate actors. >> can you give a specific example clicks >> i'm aware of the helicopter pilots michael durant in somalia who was held captive by the warlord and there was a quiet as i understand arrangements whereby the united states regained his freedom and in exchange for individuals that were captured in the same operation.
any characterization is negotiating and misses the fact that we were and are at war and as a member of the military fight in that war. on the gitmo piece is that your opinion that at the end of 2014 we consider that to be the end of hostilities because we will still have 10,000 troops but assuming there was an end of hostilities that it would have been at the end of hostilities is that department opinion or are they undecided or do they feel the opposite? >> we have under the domestic law specifically under the international law of the armed conflict we have the authority to hold these five at guantánamo as the enemy belligerent. >> evebelligerence.
>> even after the war -- >> i will speak to that. there will come a point in time when the armed conflicts were engaged in the taliban and al qaeda and their associates come to an end. and it's at that point that the law of the war rationale for continuing to hold these unprivileged or unless there was another basis for continuing to hold them such as prosecution. >> not just of the war in afghanistan but the broad battle as it is defined. >> the point i would make further as yet that with the cessation of the current combat mission at the end of this year that the armed conflicts are determined to be over such that it would trigger the consequence is that we have been discussing. >> the last thing that i will say and no need to respond to this but i will reemphasize the
point the chair man made in the opening statement, it would be more helpful and let me say the department of defense has been very good about consulting with us and about working with this body. so it's not really about that. the white house on the other hand hasn't been very good about keeping in touch and consulting with us on major policy issues. and if we can do better at that it would make my job a whole lot easier if we could trust congress a little bit. i think it would make this entire town work better than it is right now. i yield back. >> there are two things i need to clarify. did you say that at some point the conflict would end and we would've released these people,
we would have to release them and there would be no reason to hold them? and that is at the end of december this year? >> the point was when the armed conflict ends, the international basis for continuing to hold people who are being held. >> but you have to point out which armed conflict you are talking about. your answer is not the conflict that is defined under the ums. as long as we are fighting those, that is the armed conflict that you were talking about being over. not afghanistan. that is the point of the chair man's question. >> it began with al qaeda at some point the armed conflict with the taliban and ends and at that point the detainees that were being held as enemy
belligerence is against our enemy the taliban unless there is an additional basis for holding them we would no longer have that for holding them. it's been suggesting that the taliban and may also be sold as associates and al qaeda as the conflict and al qaeda continues. >> the point that was made is that this conflict may not end in december just because the majority of the troops are pulled out. is that your understanding? >> that is my understanding. >> we thought the conflict was over in iraq and we see that it is not but it continues to go on. i may have let the wrong impression when i was talking to the secretary.
that would have solved everything. we still have big concerns about the five and i didn't mention that when we were briefed in november of 11 and january of 12 there were concerns that those five would be released and they were told if we entered those negotiations you would be told and then we weren't so those are things that we really need to have clarified and worked through. >> thank you mr. chairman. i would like to begin with a brief observation on the issue. the past several years the committee has worked on a bipartisan basis to establish an oversight for terrorism operations and for sensitive military operations and that
allows the department to have the flexibility that it needs to operate in a volatile rapidly changing world and still give us the ability to exercise our duties under the constitution. the basis for all of those in all threandall three of those at we get timely accurate information from the department and there's failure even if it was ordered by the white house undermines the ability to have that sort of oversight structure. i've been a member of the intelligence committee for ten years and our work depends on getting accurate and timely information from the intelligence community. if the president violated the law and say in this case we are not going to give you the information it undermines the process that we have with the intelligence community. so my point to you is it's not just about this incident rate it's not just about somebody having their feelings hurt.
this decision undermines a lot of the working relationships and all of these areas of the national security. i think it's important that the whole administration understands some of the ramifications of this. this. but we ask a specific question. press reports indicate that sergeant bergdahl was captured by a haqqani network commander and was held. is that true? >> but i would note is in the classifieaclassified session weo the specifics of the commanders evaluation report that was done under circumstances at the time of sergeant bergdahl's capture that was done in august of 2009 and that has been sent up here unredacted and sent up here yesterday and i just assumed to get into that but i would say
this he was in that report that the army did and was classified as missing in captive. to verify as i understand people have said clearly it was the haqqani network that kept it. >> be haqqani network did have him through periods of time. this was another complication or five-year period he was moved around. ..
>> i want to be clear. we engaged them and they engaged the taliban. if the haqqani network was subcontracting to the taliban or whatever the relationship is you know there is a pakistan and the afghan taliban and there is a difference there. so we get back to the definitions of who has responsibility for whom. but i just want to make sure there is clear on the record and we can go into more details. >> i think that you pointed out the difficulty in making categorical statements that we don't negotiate with terrorist when the haqqani network were
the ones that did. let me talk about the five detainees released. you said there is also a risk associated with releasing someone from guantanamo bay but you said they haven't been charged with attacks on the united states. i have unclassified summary of evidence before the stating review tribunals. for example, for one of them it says the detainee engaged in activity against the university or its partners. and another said he participated in military operations against the coalition. so at some point there were evidence they were involved in military operations and hostility against the coalition. were they not? >> they were mid to high ranking members of the taliban. so yes, they were part of planning.
but my point was we have no direct evidence of any direct involvement in their direct attacks on the united states or any of our troops. they were part of the taliban at the time some were given to us. we picked two of them up and captured two but they were combatants. >> so they didn't pull the trigger but they were senior commanders who directed operations against the united states and its coalition partners? >> that is right. i said in my statements they were combatants and we were at war with the taliban and there is no way getting around that and i thought i made the point clearly. >> just like bin laden didn't pull the trigger but we went after him because he caused
9/11. ms. davis. >> thank you mr. chairman and both of you for being here. mr. secretary, i think your presentation did provide us, i think additional ways of really looking at the discussion. i do understand how people feel in terms of notice. but i wanted to have an opportunity to just look at that issue and whether or not the circumstances under which he was captured or the facts that regardless of whether or not his life was in danger would have made any difference in terms of the 30-day notice? it is difficult for me to imagine that members would have included that within the language of that bill.
to what extent were those situations weighing on the decision of whether or not to engage in that discussion during the eminent danger period? >> well, all of those were factors we had to consider as we were thinking through this. his health was declining which was clear to us from the last proof of life video we had. the uncertainty of where he was, who exactly held him, and again, i remind everybody this service member was held in pretty difficult circumstances for almost five years. we don't know the facts of all of that until we are able to get the facts. the urgency of getting him and
the fleeting opportunity made available to us, mr. preston was there through those, all of these were factors. the concerns about leaks we were warned about. everyone of these dimensions had to be thought through. we did believe, as i said, and we had information to support this, that this effort might be the last real effort we had to get him back. there were too many things floating around we didn't control. we didn't know enough about them. so we had to factor in all those. >> did you entertain other approaches to his rescue that you were looking at at that particular time? and why were any of those not followed? >> well, congresswoman, we were
as i said in my statement, since the time he went missing, we were looking at different ways to get him back. our combatant commanders were always looking at plans and possibilities and options and rescue missions and so on. but as i said in my remarks, we had to factor in the risks to the other forces to go get him. if he was in pakistan he was moved in and out across the border and that would effect the different dimensions. we looked at all of the options and possibilities, yes. but up until this last time when we got him, in our opinion, our intelligence community, our military and everyone involved this was the best possibility we had to get him out and we were
concerned we might lose it. for the timeframe, we didn't know where we were going to pick him up even. it was less than an hour. >> and the detainees -- was it always five? were there others? >> it started with six actually as some of you may recall. one of them died. and there had been back and forth and they wanted all of the taliban detainees at one point and we said no. we are not going to do this.
>> it is good to see both of you. mr. secretary on june 1, you were on meet the press and you expressed hope that the release of sergeant bergdahl would lead to direct u.s. talkwise the taliban. mr. secretary, the taliban has stated there will be no peace with afghan government with the united states or any foreign presence as long as troops remain in afghanistan and prisoners are contained at guantanamo bay. they have repeated these statements time and time again and proven they do not desire peace in the united states or its allies. with this known, why did you, at that point, on meet the press, express hope, and we can all have hope, that the release of the sergeant would lead to some
type of direct negotiations with the united states and do you today feel that is still a real possibility and maybe there is something you want to say in the classified setting you cannot say here today. but this to me, your statement, was received by many of the people that i represent in the third district of north carolina that maybe in this negotiation about the sergeant and maybe there was signals sent to you, sir, or to the administration that there might be an opportunity for direct negotiations with the taliban. compo knowing the history of the talibans and how they fought alexander the great, the brits and now the americans, i would hope maybe you know something you can share with us, if nut in
public but private setting. can you comment? >> congressman jones, good to see you again. >> thank you. >> first as you know the position of the united states government regarding the taliban has always been we support a reconciliation between the afghan government and the taliban. that has been a general position as you know. as the the specifics answer i gave on meet the press, it was to a specific question when we talked about sergeant bergdahl's release. i don't recall the question. but if i can piece it together enough to respond, i think the question was setup, could this lead to talks with the taliban and reconcilation and as you quoted me, i said i hope. maybe, whatever.
government and the taliban finding a reconcilation somehow someway but in no way was i intending to imply in the answer there is something else going on. >> my interest was that the taliban's history doesn't seem they want to see a foreign presence that is going to influence the future of their country. and i was hopeful that may marines in camp june are tired of going to afghanistan and getting their legs blown off so
i was hopeful for changes. i yield back. >> thank you mr. chairman, and secretary and i want to thank you for your testimony, today. as we were reminded with the loss of five special operating forces afghanistan remains dangerous and a battlefield for our military. i joined many of colleagues in expressing gratitude at the american prisoner of war and any member from enemy captivity and it should be a priority for his or her. he is an american soldier and we have been grateful he is free. that said, this whole situation raises many troubling concerns
and this committee has significant oversight and there are questions on congressional notification and long-term incentives for the taliban and al-qaeda. certainly, significant personal and other resources have been expended to conduct what could result in a dangerous and disturbing incentives on the battlefield as one taliban commander said and i quote it has encouraged our people and everyone works hard to capture this. how do you think this transfer will impact the incentives and behavior for al-qaeda? are we prepared to counter new behavior? >> congressman, i will answer this way.
question and now he is back and that frees us from that operation and strengthens us if anything. i mentioned this in my comment and those that served in uniform know about this. the military is basic. and i express that in different ways by quoting different seniors of our military and retired that having the men and women in uniform all over the world who some are more at risk than others, to have them be reassured this country will make them or make every effort to go get them. it has to be significant. i was told that by all of our commanders. it can be issues on sergeant bergdahl but that is irrelevant. he was a member of armed forces, we went and got him back after five years. that is significant.
i think it also falls into the category of your question and answer your question. thank you. >> ms. secretary, thank you for that answer, as the chairman and ranking member have mentioned in their opening statements, their questions about sergeant bergdahl's conduct should be addressed with due process at the appropriate time and such but could you setting one conflicting report at least in terms of regarding the number of loss of soldiers who may have been involved in searches for sergeant bergdahl? >> any loss of any soldier is a terrible loss to our country and i think we should note that first. second, your question has been asked a number of times, i
personal have gone back and asked that question inside the pentagon. in the army and all of the reports. i have seen no evidence that directly links any american combat death to the rescue or finding or search of sergeaarge derring ball -- sergeant berg. i asked the question and saw no evidence presented to me when asking that. >> you did say there is nothing new here and the taliban is always out to capture us. but isn't it true there is one thing we made a trade for a hostage? >> he wasn't a hostage.
he was a prisoner of war. >> have we made other trades with the taliban? >> i don't think so. >> mr. forbes. >> thank you for being here. as you talked about the inability to prosecute the individuals released, this administration hasn't had a stellar record on prosecution of people at guantanamo bay. when you look at the lead prosecutor for the 9/11 terrorist said he would have a guilty plea from all of them within six months and this administration came in, shutdown down the prosecution, destroyed all of the pre-trial work and we have not brought them to trial. secondly, i don't think you would argue the conversations in 2011 complied with the law. we are trying to get across we are a nation of laws and you cannot pick and chose because they are convenient or not which ones we enforce and don't.
the third thing is and you said there are limits to trades we would make and somewhere we draw the line. i want to talk about where we draw the line. it was equivalent to realtiesing a deputy secretary of defense, intelligence and governor and commander. when the president was asked if the was a possibility of them returning to activities that were against the united states his answer was absolutely. our deputy director of national intelligence was harsher and said the latest community wide intelligence assessment of the terrorist said he expected 4-5 taliban leaders would return to the battlefield.
we have american lives at risk -- and my question is would we put american lives at risk to go after them if they rejoin the fight? >> well, depending on the threat but let me remind you of the other pieces that you didn't mention in our analysis of the five. intelligence community has said clearly that these fives are not a threat to the homeland. >> would we put american lives at risk to go after them? >> we have american lives at
risk -- >> understand. my question is will we put american's lives at risk to go after these individuals if they rejoin the fight? >> yes. you could use the same argument on yemen or anywhere else. >> but not because of individuals we released. and the second question i asked is two parts. in the calculus you made for releasing these individuals were you asked or make an assessment of the number of american lives that were lost and put at risk. >> i asked about how these five found their way to guantanamo
bay and i have the facts on the five. two of them were detained by united states forceesses -- forces -- >> you didn't make a calculus -- >> i said i did. and you said the answer was you asked for lives were lost in during the capture. >> and you said no. >> did you make an assessment of how many american lives will be put at risk if they have to be recaptured? >> no. but there is risks we have to our country, threats to our country, every day everywhere. and the other point i would make on this is we determine that there was substantiate litigation of risk for this country and our interest and service members when making the decision. and we were satisfied that we could make that determination.
>> it just flies in the face of all of the other evidence and with that i yield back. >> next a hearing looks at the teaching of science and technology. and later the supreme court oral argument against the federal election commitment dealing with campaign finance issues. we talk about "in the kingdom of ike" that recounts the naval expedition to the north pole in 1879. that starts at 7 p.m. eastern. here is a look at some of the prime timing program across the c-span networks. at 8:00, the new york ideas