WH apologizes to Senate intel chief for prisoner swap secret

The White House has apologized to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for failing to alert her in advance of a decision to release Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay.

Feinstein told reporters that she received a call from Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken on Monday evening apologizing for what the administration is calling an “oversight.”

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“I had a call from the White House last night, from Tony Blinken, apologizing for it,” she said.

“He apologized and said it was an oversight,” she added.

Feinstein also said leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence panels were almost unanimously against a prisoner trade when it came up in 2011.

She said the chairmen and ranking Republicans of the “connected committees” spent a lot of time in 2011 reviewing the possibility of a prisoner swap and came out firmly opposed to releasing senior militants from the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

“There were very strong views and they were virtually unanimous against the trade,” she said.

“I certainly want to know more about whether this man was a deserter,” she said of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released to American special forces in return for the freedom of five senior Taliban commanders.

Administration officials have said in public that they did not have time to inform Congress of the prisoner swap because Bergdahl’s life was in danger and they did not know how long the Taliban would be willing to wait to finalize the deal.

The National Defense Authorization Act required the administration to alert Congress of the pending release of prisoners from Guantanamo at least 30 days in advance.

“The notification to us is important and I think that it would have been a much better thing to do because you do try to work together,” Feinstein said. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday he was notified by the administration of the prisoner swap immediately before it happened.