The Edmond Sun

Nation & World

June 5, 2014

Obama puts Americans at risk with prisoner swap

EDMOND — Congressman James Lankford on Thursday sharply criticized President Obama’s decision to swap former Taliban prisoner Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with five high-profile Taliban prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay for their connections with Taliban terrorist activities.

“I think his assumption was that everyone is going to rejoice,” Lankford said. “And what happens is everyone is freaked out about it.”

Lankford spoke Thursday at Oak Tree Country Club to Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce members concerning issues facing the United States.

The prisoners of war release with the Taliban terrorist organization sends a message to the world that America will negotiate with terrorists. His office has received messages from U.S. contractors and missionaries around the world saying the prisoner exchange places their lives at risk.

Americans overseas are at a heightened level of alert, Lankford said.

President Barack Obama said from Poland this week, “We don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind.”

Bergdahl spent five years as a prisoner of the Taliban. Obama’s method of seeking Bergdahl’s release may bring harm to Americans, Lankford said.

A Pentagon report stated that Bergdahl spent five years in the hands of the Taliban. The report stated that Bergdahl most likely chose to walk away from his unit in Afghanistan when he disappeared, The New York Times  reported.

“Americans are innocent until proven guilty,” Lankford said. “And there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that causes me consternation.”

Obama tried to make this same deal in 2011 before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Republicans and Democrats told Obama the prisoner swap is a bad idea, Lankford said. Then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told Obama that he did not approve of the prisoner swap.

“The law is very clear,” Lankford said. “Congress has to have 30 days of advanced notice before people are actually moved out of Guantánamo,” Lankford said. “He knew he was violating the law. He followed the law two years ago and decided it was difficult,” Lankford continued.

The President of the United States has taken an oath to protect Americans from foreign and domestic enemies.

The five terrorists released from Guantánamo are to be detained for a year in Qatar. Detainment means the former Taliban prisoners can make phone calls and be free to go where they please without leaving Qatar.

“Is that comforting?” Lankford said.

One of the prisoners is a major opium dealer in Afghanistan. Another released prisoner was personally responsible for organizing the slaughter and genocide of Sunni Muslims in the area, Lankford said.

“One was the deputy minister of intelligence for the Taliban,” said Lankford, a candidate for U.S. Senate. “One was the deputy minister of defense for the Taliban. These are no local level individuals. These are leaders and this is serious to put them back on the street.”

As a result, Lankford said a high-level message must be sent to the world that the U.S. will not negotiate with terrorists again.

Democrats competing for the unexpired term of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn include state Sen. Connie Johnson, 61, of Oklahoma City; Patrick Hayes, 39, of Anadarko; and Jim Rogers, 79, of Midwest City.

The Republican ticket includes Jason Weger, 31, of Norman; Kevin Crow, 46, of Chickasha; Eric McCray, 33, of Tulsa; former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, 36, of Lawton; former state Sen. Randy Brogdon, 60, of Owasso; Congressman James Lankford, 46, of Edmond; and Andy Craig, 41, of Broken Arrow.

One Independent candidate, Mark Beard, 54, of Oklahoma City is also vying to represent the Congressional 5th District.

Voters will nominate their party’s candidates June 24 for the statewide primary election. A run-off primary election is set for Aug. 26 if a candidate does not receive 50 percent plus one of the primary election vote. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 4. | 341-2121

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