Hillary Promised: No Release of Gitmo Detainees Without Prior Notice to Congress

June 9, 2014 - 12:08 PM

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) – In a Jan. 13, 2012 letter to leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that Congress would be consulted and all legal requirements would be met before any prisoners were transferred from the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

The 2012 Defense Authorization Act--and subsequent Defense Authorization acts--required that the administration notify Congress 30 days before releasing or transferring any prisoner from Guantanamo.

“I want also to make clear that any transfer from Guantanamo will be undertaken after consultation with Congress and pursuant to all legal requirements for transfers, including those spelled out in the FY2012 Defense Authorization Act,” Clinton wrote in a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee are Chairman Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).  The leaders of the House Intelligence Committee are Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.).

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(Photo courtesy Fox News.com)

The Defense Authorization Act of 2012 says “the Secretary of Defense may not use any amounts authorized to be appropriated or otherwise available to the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2012 to transfer any individual detained at Guantanamo to the custody or control of the individual’s country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity unless the Secretary submits to Congress the certification … not later than 30 days before the transfer of the individual.”

The same provision is included in the Defense Authorization Act passed in 2013.

Clinton’s letter in 2012 came in response to a letter sent by both Feinstein and Chambliss in late 2011, in which both senators expressed concern over a potential prisoner transfer from the Guantanamo Bay facility, or Gitmo. Now, following the release of five Taliban leaders in exchange for U.S. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, Chambliss maintains that the Obama administration broke the law by not notifying Congress in advance of the transfer.

feinstein, chambliss

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., left, and the committee Vice-Chairman Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., listens to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 12, 2013. during the committee's hearing on worldwide threats. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

“The president certainly violated the law,” Chambliss told CNSNews.com on June 4. “The 30-day requirement was contained not just in one law that we passed, but three laws that we passed:  the 2012 Intelligence Authorization Bill, the 2012 Defense Authorization Bill, and the 2014 Defense Authorization Bill. These bills all contained a provision that required the president to give Congress 30 days’ notice before transferring any prisoner. He violated that. There's no question about it.”

Chambliss quoted Clinton’s promise in a letter he sent to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, June 3, in which Chambliss stressed that “this commitment was not honored.”

“Secretary Clinton wrote a letter responding to Senator Feinstein and I, and acknowledged the fact that they had to give us 30 days notice, and yet the president failed to do that,” Chambliss told CNSNews.com.

Current Secretary of State John Kerry has defended the release of the five Taliban.

The certification that must be sent to Congress includes several stipulations to prevent a released prisoner from returning to terrorist activities and posing a continued threat to the United States.

Belgium US Britain Obama

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

While two of these stipulations can be waived – specifically requirements that the country accepting the prisoner must ensure the detainee “cannot take action to threaten the United States, its citizens, or its allies in the future,” no part of the law specifically waives the 30-day notification due to Congress.

During a press conference in Poland on June 3, President Obama defended his decision to release the five Taliban leaders in exchange for Bergdahl, saying the administration "had consulted with Congress for quite some time about the possibility that we might need to execute a prisoner exchange.”

In another speech last Thursday, Obama said he makes “no apologies” for the trade.