OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Bergdahl appears on 'Serial'; ISIS war bill offered

A yearlong investigation by the House Armed Services Committee has concluded that the Obama administration broke the law in swapping five Taliban members for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The report said the administration broke a law requiring it to give members of Congress 30 days' advance notice of any detainee transfers from the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, where the senior Taliban leaders were held. 

It also found that the administration misled lawmakers about a potential prisoner exchange. Congress was notified just hours before the May 2014 transfer took place.

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Bergdahl, who is facing charges of desertion, had left his base in Afghanistan in 2009, and was subsequently captured and held hostage for five years.  

The report was released the same day as the first episode of season two of NPR's acclaimed "Serial" podcast, which featured a 40-minute long interview with Bergdahl.

The controversial soldier told the podcast that he saw himself as a real-life action hero in the mold of movie Jason Bourne.

Bergdahl said his motivations for walking off his base were twofold. He was consumed by a desire to “prove to the world” that he was the “real thing,” and he wanted to cause a “DUSTWUN” — Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown — alert in order to draw attention to reforms he believes are necessary.

“And what I was seeing from my first unit all the way up into Afghanistan, all I was seeing was, basically, leadership failure, to the point that the lives of the guys standing next to me were, literally, from what I could see, in danger of something seriously going wrong and somebody being killed,” he said.

“Serial” will release the next portion of Bergdahl's story on Dec. 17.

SENATE, HOUSE LAWMAKERS INTRODUCE ISIS WAR AUTHORIZATION: Two House lawmakers on Thursday introduced a measure to authorize military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), making it the first bipartisan and bicameral measure to do so. 

Reps. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) and Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Bill would let patients buy cheaper insulin from other countries The Hill's Morning Report - Can Bernie recapture 2016 magic? MORE (D-Vt.) introduced the House bill, which is a companion to a Senate measure offered by Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Overnight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Kaine asks Shanahan if military families would be hurt by moving .6B for border wall MORE (D-Va.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Ariz.). 

It would expire after three years unless reauthorized, repeal the Iraq War authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) and be the sole authorization for the war against ISIS.

The lawmakers on Thursday said it was Congress's responsibility to authorize war and that the authority was long overdue.

“We must not fear ISIS nor should we fear the debate about how to defeat ISIS,” said Rigell, who noted that with a new House Speaker, lawmakers may be more amenable to tackling difficult issues in a bipartisan manner. 

“Congress has been absent,” added Welch. “It's time that Congress did its job.”

SENATE PANEL REBUKES TRUMP'S MUSLIM BAN: The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted 16-4 on a nonbinding amendment by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to oppose using a person's religion as a reason to deny them entry into the country. 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a Republican candidate for president, was one of four senators to vote against the amendment to a nuclear terrorism bill. Though Cruz was not at the meeting, he voted “no” by proxy. 

The vote comes days after GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump caused a political firestorm by calling for a blanket ban on allowing Muslims into the United States. 
 
Cruz said earlier this week that he disagreed with Trump's proposal. But Cruz spokesman Phil Novack said that Leahy's amendment was a “political stunt.”

Nearly six in 10 Americans oppose Donald Trump’s plan to bar Muslim immigration to the U.S. in the wake of terrorist attacks, according to a new WSJ/NBC News poll released on Thursday.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they objected to the proposal, compared to just 25 percent who said they supported it.

But Trump still has a plurality of support among GOP respondents: 42 percent said they supported the Republican presidential front-runner’s plan to halt Islamic immigration temporarily.

ISIS' 'FINANCE MINISTER' KILLED: The finance minister and two other senior leaders of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) were killed in airstrikes in Iraq in late November, the Pentagon confirmed Thursday.

“Their removal will degrade ISIL’s ability to command and control troops, and it disrupts their ability to finance their efforts,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve. “These strikes are an example of how we’re able to decimate networks.”

One of the leaders killed was Abu Saleh, head of ISIS finances. Warren described him as one of the most senior and experienced members of ISIS, as well as a former al Qaeda member.

Also killed were a senior ISIS enforcer and extortionist and a senior leader who coordinated the transfer of people, information and weapons for ISIS.

All three were killed in airstrikes in the Iraqi city of Tal Afar, Warren said.  

 

ICYMI: 

— Cruz pitches tough foreign policy

— Lawmakers push for more scrutiny of foreign visitors

— House rejects effort to vote on keeping guns from terror suspects

— House unanimously passes bill boosting resources to fight cybercrime

— Dem Senate hopeful: Up to 20 percent of Muslims want caliphate