Rogers said administration had “other means” to recover Bergdahl

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On Sunday, 18 Taliban members turned over Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American soldier held prisoner in the war in Afghanistan, to a Navy SEAL team near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border at about 10:30 a.m. ET.

top Obama administration officials praised the diplomatic and military efforts to recover Bergdahl, saying it was an “extraordinary” and “life-saving” mission while disagreeing with the arguments that officials negotiated with terrorists and failed to inform Congress.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice made their comments roughly 24 hours after Americans learned that Bergdahl was recovered in exchange for the release of five Taliban detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Rice and Hagel repeatedly disagreed with the argument that U.S. officials negotiated with terrorists to get back Bergdahl.

“He wasn’t simply a hostage,” Rice said. “He was a prisoner of war.”

Hagel told NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We didn’t negotiate with terrorists. Sergeant Bergdahl is a prisoner of war. That’s a natural process.”

Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told CNN that administration officials had “other means” to recover Bergdahl.

“You send a message to every Al Qaeda group in the world that there is some value in a hostage that it didn’t have before,” he said.

On the issue of not informing Congress, Hagel said he informed the leaders of the appropriate congressional intelligence and military committees, but defended the administration’s actions by saying officials had to move swiftly.

“This was essential to save the life of Sergeant Bergdahl,” he said.

Hagel and Rice sidestepped questions about whether officials will investigate how and why the 28-year-old Bergdahl apparently wandered off base in Afghanistan before he was captured on June 30, 2009.

The Taliban detainees were released Saturday after Bergdahl was in American hands and flown by U.S. military plane to Qatar, whose government helped broker the deal and where the former U.S. prisoners will remain in some form of limited confinement.

Hagel said earlier Sunday that the swap was backed by the unanimous consensus of the National Security Council and added that the president has the authority to order such a release under Article 2 of the Constitution.

The names of the detainees are Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa, and Abdul Haq Wasiq.

He also said he was hopeful the exchange could lead to a breakthrough with the Taliban.

The U.S. has long argued that the best way to a successful outcome in Afghanistan included reconciliation with the Taliban insurgents.

U.S. officials said Saturday the deal was reached after a week of intense negotiations mediated by the government of Qatar.

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