By Justin Sink
Americans are split on whether the White House made the right decision to release five Guantanamo Bay prisoners in exchange for freeing Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, according to a new poll released Friday.
According to the online poll conducted by Reuters and Ipsos, 29 percent of people surveyed said the swap was the "right thing to do," while 44 percent said they disagreed. Another 27 percent of respondents said they were not sure.
The exchange has come under fire from lawmakers who say the freed Guantanamo Bay prisoners could pose a threat to the United States, and that the White House did not do enough to inform them the trade would occur.
The White House has insisted that the Taliban militants would not pose a threat because of U.S. military capabilities and security assurances given by the government of Qatar, which facilitated the deal.
“Let's be clear, A, we're winding down the war in Afghanistan, but B, should any end up back in Afghanistan, the United States military is fully capable of handling five Taliban,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in an interview Thursday with Charlie Rose.
“And these are men who have been imprisoned in the custody of the United States for more than a dozen years and we’re confident we have the tools and resources necessary to deal with them if that becomes an issue, and it was absolutely the right thing to do.”
Still, two-thirds of respondents said they agreed with Republican lawmakers who argued the Bergdahl deal could inspire the future kidnapping of American soldiers.
"The fact of the matter is that a very dangerous precedent has been set here by this administration," Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said Tuesday. "These five individuals are not low-level, run of the mill, fighter type terrorists. These are the guys that raised the money that made the plans to develop the IEDs, and in some cases are accused of inciting riots that wound up killing not hundreds but maybe even thousands of people."
Some soldiers who served with Bergdahl have also questioned his service, saying he deliberately walked away from his camp before being captured by the Taliban. The White House has denounced attacks on Bergdahl as "disgraceful," saying the public should wait for the completion of a military investigation into his possible desertion.
“The idea that we are trying Sergeant Bergdahl in the court of public opinion in absentia, without giving him an opportunity to give his story and to tell us what happened, frankly, I find repugnant,” deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken told CNN. “We don't know what happened. We are determined to get to the bottom of it. The military will investigate appropriately. Let's get the facts before we rush to judgment.”
According to the poll, only 22 percent of respondents said they thought Bergdahl was a traitor or deserter. Meanwhile, 13 percent said they viewed the soldier, who was in Taliban captivity for nearly 5 years, as a patriot. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they did not know.