WASHINGTON — The Obama administration broke the law when it failed to inform Congress of plans to swap five Guantanamo Bay detainees for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the Government Accountability Office has concluded.
In a seven-page letter to senior congressional Republicans, the GAO said the prisoner swap violated two separate laws. One law prohibits use of Defense Department funds “to transfer any individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay unless the Secretary of Defense notifies certain congressional committees at least 30 days before the transfer.”
The other law that was violated, the Antideficiency Act, is a more general statute prohibiting the spending of funds beyond those available through appropriations.
The Pentagon spent a reported $988,400 on the prisoner swap.
On May 31, 2014, the Defense Department transferred five individuals from Guantanamo Bay to the nation of Qatar in exchange for the Taliban’s release of Bergdahl. The department notified congressional leaders starting that same day, by phone and by letter.
Section 8111 of the 2014 Defense Department’s appropriations act is “clear and unambiguous,” the GAO said.
“Because DOD did not provide written notice to the relevant congressional committees until May 31, 2014, the same day as the transfer, DOD violated section 8111,” the GAO concluded.