The Obama administration broke the law. So concluded a report released last week by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office that reviewed the highly controversial exchange in May of five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
In 2009, then-PFC Bergdahl somehow fell into the hands of the Taliban, the only U.S. solider to be held captive in Afghanistan. A 2010 Pentagon investigation found the evidence "incontrovertible" that the infantryman purposely walked away from his platoon.
Despite the circumstances of Pfc. Bergdahl's captivity, the Obama administration decided that his freedom was worth purchasing by turning out of Guantanamo the five extremely dangerous Taliban militants and flying them to Qatar, where they are free to roam that country as they please.
The GAO concluded that the administration violated several provisions of the 2014 Department of Defense Appropriation Act, which Obama signed into law in December.
The Obama Pentagon failed to "notify relevant congressional committees at least 30 days in advance of the transfer," as required under section 8111 of the law.
It also failed to make a determination, under section 1035(a), that the individuals released from Guantanamo were "no longer a threat to the national security of the United States."
And it similarly failed to determine, as required under section 1035(b), that the release of the five Taliban leaders would "substantially mitigate the risk" of the individuals "engaging or reengaging in any terrorist or other hostile activity that threatens the United States or United States persons or interests."
Finally, GAO found that the Defense Department violated the federal Antideficiency Act by using funds to carry out the transfer "when no money was available for that purpose."
The issue here is not so much whether Sgt. Bergdahl should have been exchanged for five dangerous Taliban leaders. It's whether Obama was right to suspend the rule of law to secure the sergeant's release.
Well, we come down on the side of those who argue that the president's constitutional duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" trumps the understandable desire to rescue American personnel who fall into enemy hands - be it Sgt. Bergdahl or a bona fide hero captured under less-questionable circumstances.