NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – President Barack Obama faced questions Thursday about the growing scandal over the controversial prisoner swap that freed an American soldier.
“I’m never surprised by controversies that are whipped up in Washington,” Obama said.
In Brussels to meet with foreign heads of state at the G-7 summit, President Obama faced continued questions about the deal to free Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five top Taliban officials, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
“I make absolutely no apologies for making sure that we get back a young man to his parents and that the American people understand this is somebody’s child,” Obama said.
With lawmakers concerned about both the lack of congressional notification and the possibility the prisoners will return to the battlefield to attack American interests, the Obama administration, according to published reports, told lawmakers that speed was of the essence because the Taliban had threatened to kill Bergdahl.
“I’m not satisfied that we can insure that they won’t get back into the fight against America and our allies,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said.
Congress passed a law requiring 30 days’ notice before anyone is released from Guantanamo, but the president said he didn’t have 30 days.
“We had a prisoner of war whose health had deteriorated, and (whom) we were deeply concerned about. We saw an opportunity and we seized it and I make no apologies for it,” Obama said.
In Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, city administrators cancelled plans for a homecoming celebration after they were swamped with angry emails and phone calls.
“He is considered AWOL and is a traitor to his country,’ one voicemail said.
Dayle Ohlau is a friend of Bergdahl’s parents, and was helping plan the homecoming.
“It’s just so sad that others across the country have dictated that we can’t have this celebration because it’s not safe,” Ohlau said.
The controversy has even ensnared former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was involved in the original negotiations. Former State Department officials say Clinton was skeptical of the trade and whether there were safeguards to prevent the prisoners from returning to terrorism.
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