White House Explains Why It Swapped 5 Taliban for Bergdahl But Wouldn't Consider Foley Ransom
White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz was asked at today's press briefing why the administration was unwilling to negotiate with terrorists in James Foley's case, yet traded five Taliban for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
"I think, again, what the president made clear at the time of the Guantanamo transfer was that his commitment to the men and women that serve overseas is a bedrock one, that we will leave no man or woman behind. That's what he was keeping faith with, and that's something that's unshakeable for him," Schultz said.
"As we've made previously clear, the administration determined that it was lawful to proceed with a transfer in order to protect the life of a U.S. servicemember held captive and in danger for almost five years, notwithstanding that Congress did not receive the 30 days' notice. Again, we disagree with GAO's conclusion and we reject the implication that the administration acted unlawfully."
A brother and sister of the slain journalist told Katie Couric that the U.S. could have done more to free Foley, including considering a $100 million ransom demand made by ISIS before his death. But Michael Foley also appeared to reference the Bergdahl swap.
"We are sitting on prisoners for example in Guantanamo. It doesn’t have to be financial," he said. "There’s ways to do it... I just feel strongly that more can be done, moving forward."
Before Schultz delivered the regular briefing, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes delivered probably the strongest administration assessment of Foley's beheading, calling it a "terrorist attack."
"When you see somebody killed in such a horrific way, that represents a terrorist attack. That represents a terrorist attack against our country and against an American citizen, and I think all of us have the Foley family in our thoughts and prayers," Rhodes said.
"The fact of the matter is, we've actually seen, you know, ISIL seek to advance too close to our facilities, certainly for our own comfort. And so the president's decision to take military action a number of weeks ago was out of direct concern that if they were able to get into Erbil, that they could pose a threat to our personnel and our consulate there. So, we have seen them posing a threat to our interests in the region, to our personnel and facilities in the region, and clearly, the brutal execution of Jim Foley represented an affront, an attack, not just on him, but he's an American and we see that as an attack on our country when one of our own is killed like that."