Private First Class(Pfc) Bowe Bergdahl, before his capture by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Bergdahl was freed May 31, 2014 in exchange for five Taliban inmates held at the Guantanamo prison. /AFP/Getty Images (Photo by U.S. Army via Getty Images)
The Defense Department violated the Antideficiency Act — which prevents an agency from spending money not appropriated by Congress — when it arranged a prisoner exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, according to the Government Accountability Office.
The GAO said in an Aug. 21 report that the Defense Department violated the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014 when it transferred five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl’s release without consulting Congress.
The Defense Department is supposed to notify congress 30 days before such a release of prisoners and provide detailed information for the purpose behind the transfer or release, according to the GAO.
DoD argued that the appropriations bill that set the limitation is itself unconstitutional, and the GAO did not address the issue of constitutionality in the report.
Because Congress authorized no money for any release or transfer without prior notification any amount in excess of zero – in this case $988,400, according to the GAO – it is a violation of the law.
“DOD should report its Antideficiency Act violation as required by law,” GAO general counsel Susan Poling said in an Aug. 21 letter to congress accompanying the report.