President Obama said Friday he would make the trade of five Guantanamo Bay detainees for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl again, despite a flood of criticism from lawmakers over the trade.
“This is something that I would do again, and I will continue to do wherever I have an opportunity, if I have a member of our military who’s in captivity," Obama told NBC News. "We’re gonna try to get ’em out.”
“It’s also important for us to recognize that the transition process of ending a war is gonna involve, on occasion, releasing folks who we may not trust but we can’t convict,” Obama said.
The president also defended the administration's decision not to inform Congress before the exchange, despite a law mandating 30 days' notice.
“We had to act fast in a delicate situation that required no publicity,” Obama said.
In the interview, taped shortly after Obama delivered a speech marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, Obama was asked about NSA leaker Edward Snowden's contention that nobody had been hurt by his disclosure of top-secret government surveillance programs.
“I will say that the disclosures that we’ve seen had a very significant impact on our intelligence operations around the world, had a grave impact on a number of our diplomatic relationships, compromised our ability to gain insight into some of the work that our adversaries do in probing and potentially finding weaknesses in our defenses," Obama said.
The president said that while there were “patriots on both sides” of the debate about the scope of government surveillance programs, he thought Snowden had exaggerated the danger.
“In terms of how our intelligence services operate, it is much more constrained than, I think, both popular images that you see in movies and television would portray — or, frankly, how some of the commentators post-Snowden have, have described it," he said.