President Barack Obama's decision to release five terror detainees in exchange for the return of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban custody is a multifaceted controversy. But these two ominous questions capture the most compelling concerns about that trade:
What will those enemies of our nation do now that they're free?
What message has President Obama sent to other enemies of our nation about the value of Americans in the hostage marketplace?
Among the distractions from those crucial puzzles:
Federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are rankled because the president didn't give them 30 days' notice before releasing those prisoners from Guantan-amo, as required by legislation he reluctantly signed last year.
They know President Obama has long wanted to close Gitmo, and now has defied legislative will to advance that cause.
Many members of Congress are now even more irate about the prisoners-for-prisoner exchange after Monday's revealingly White House briefing.
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., told reporters of what he heard during that session: "It strikes me as unfortunate that they could have 80 to 90 people in the administration aware of what was happening and not be able to trust a single Republican or Democrat in the House or the Senate."
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., echoed that bipartisan discontent, telling CNN: "It didn't sit very well with those of us who were listening at the briefing."
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will have to answer questions about that failure to communicate with Congress when he testifies today before the House Armed Services Committee. And he is bound to be asked whether he, as that Monday briefing indicated, made the final call on the prisoner swap.
As House Armed Services Chairman Buck McCeon, R-Calif., asked Monday on ABC: "It was the president of the United States that came out [in the Rose Garden] with the Bergdahls and took all the credit, and now that there's been a little pushback he's moving away from it and it's Secretary Hagel?"
The administration also has moved away from its initially glowing descriptions of Sgt. Bergdahl. On June 1, National Security Advisor Susan Rice hailed him for serving "with honor and distinction" in Afghanistan before being captured "on the battlefield."
Several soldiers from his unit have disputed that version of events, saying he willfully walked away from his post.
Again, though, the most crucial element of this story overrides the issues of timely congressional notification and the still-murky circumstances regarding Sgt. Bergdahl before, during and after his departure from his unit.
Simply put, freeing five Taliban big shots in a hostage trade is a sucker's deal.
And that's not because any president who makes such a misguided swap is likely to suffer justified political consequences.
It's because Americans are at heightened risk when we give terrorists fresh evidence that they can benefit from taking our soldiers - and citizens - hostage.
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