Some of President Obama’s first term cabinet members may have opposed releasing Taliban leaders in exchange for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, but the new team was “unanimous” in supporting the deal, according to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Hagel said he signed off on the exchange, along with Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Eric Holder, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, and James Clapper, the director of national intelligence. “We all came to the same conclusion, that we didn’t want to take any chances here,” Hagel told the BBC. “Can you imagine if we would have waited or taken the chance of leaks over a 30 day period? I will tell you what I know, and I made a judgment on this, too: that would have seriously imperiled us ever getting him out.”
Leon Panetta, Hagel’s predecessor, opposed the deal when it was floated during his tenure. “I said, ‘Wait, I have an obligation under the law,’” Panetta recalled Wednesday, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “If I send prisoners from Guantanamo, they have to guarantee they don’t go back to the battlefield. I had serious concerns.”
The Washington Post reported that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also opposed the deal, along with Clapper and Robert Gates, who served as defense secretary before Panetta.