Charles Adside III
Political Science 320
December 1, 2014
Constitutionality of President Obama’s Taliban Prisoner Exchange
Section I: Introduction May 31st, 2014, what should have been a victorious day for the American government and people turned sour after politicians and citizens realized how we recovered Prisoner of War Bowe Bergdahl. After being held prisoner by the Taliban for nearly five years, Bergdahl’s health appeared to be deteriorating – as seen in Taliban propaganda videos. Throughout the five years, several attempts to get congress to enter into negotiations with the Taliban were made, yielding no action. With the authorization of President Obama, five senior Taliban officials, who were being held at Guantanamo Bay, were traded in an effort for the release of Bergdahl, a five-year prisoner – which ended in a successful and smooth transfer until the investigation of legality into these actions began. After the exchange, many members of Congress and the Senate were outraged at the President, and believed that he overstepped his Article II powers, rendering Congress’ actions moot while he overstepped the law. As a result of the unclear wording of Article 1033 of the National Defense Authorization Act, in addition to the Authorization for Use of Military Force and the Third Geneva Convention, President Obama acted within his presidential powers when he authorized the prisoner exchange. After a vote of 269 to 163, the House of Representatives condemned President Obama for failing to give 30 days notice to Congress about the exchange. President Obama argued that he was within his executive power to authorize the transfer. In addition to examining the above stated statutes, this paper will additionally examine the President’s constitutionality of this exchange through the investigation into Article I and Article II powers of the Constitution of the United States. Section II of my argument will discuss the history of the treatment for prisoners of war, looking specifically into the Third Geneva Convention. Most importantly, I will be looking at the history and purpose of the ratification of the Authorization for Use of Military Force. Section III will explore the refutation of any counter arguments to the exchange, and further the constitutionality of the act. Section IV will look at the implications of these actions, Congressional and Presidential, exploring Justice Jackson’s opinion in the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. vs. Sawyer case. With this case, I will be exploring the power the President used to make this transfer. Section V will conclude my legal argument, exploring how this decision can effect future situations.
Section II: AUMF and the Third Geneva Convention – History and Purpose September 11th, 2001 was the deadliest act of terrorism ever experienced by the United States of America. Several months after the attacks, no terrorist organizations had taken ownership of the destruction, but on the day of the attacks, both the National Security Agency, other German Intelligence agencies confirming as well, intercepted communications that pointed the blame to Osama bin Laden. British and United States authorities also received bank transfers, which indicated involvement of Mohammad Atef, a bin Laden deputy. With this news, investigators were easily able to link the 19 men involved in the attack to be in the terrorist organization al-Qaeda. Three days after the heinous acts of violence, Congress passed the AUMF, and President Bush signed it September 18th, 2001. The authorization states:
“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations,