Carolyn Lochhead

Posted on Tuesday, June 3 at 2:43pm | By Carolyn Lochhead

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters Tuesday that she got a call from the White House apologizing for not letting Congress know about its exchange of Taliban prisoners for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a prisoner of Afghan rebels since 2009.

“It’s very disappointing that there was not a level of trust to justify alerting us to that,” Feinstein said. “I had a call from the White House last night, from (Deputy National Security Adviser) Tony Blinken, apologizing for it.”

The swap is becoming another headache for the Obama administration. Republican lawmakers have faulted the administration for not notifying Congress before releasing five Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for Bergdahl, who was held for five years by the Taliban and is alleged to have been a deserter. Feinstein’s comments give credibility to their complaints, but she also suggested the lack of notice could have been an oversight.

The administration is required under a provision of a defense bill enacted in December to give Congress 30 days’ notice of prisoner releases from Guantanamo. But the president issued a signing statement insisting that the the executive branch should retain the ability “to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers.”

Feinstein said a prisoner swap was last discussed with lawmakers in 2011. She said Republican opposition to a swap may have contributed to the administration’s lack of notice, adding, “The White House is pretty unilateral about what they want to do when they want to do it.”

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