Hagel defends Bergdahl swap before Congress

Chuck Hagel
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on the steps of the Pentagon in Washington, Thursday, May 2, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is telling Congress that Qatar officials negotiating the release of captured Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl told the U.S. that “time was not on our side” and a leak about the exchange would end the deal.

Hagel says the decision to transfer five Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees into Qatar’s hands in exchange for Bergdahl was a tough call for President Barack Obama. He says the five were “enemy belligerents” but had not been implicated in any attacks against the U.S.

He says Qatar has committed to adequate security measures that led him to decide the risks of the transfer were substantially mitigated.

Hagel is testifying before the House Armed Services Committee. Members of Congress from both parties have blasted the administration for not giving lawmakers advance notice of the detainee transfer.

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