By Brian Bennett
11:45 AM CST, February 2, 2012
Reporting from Washington
The Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee took aim Thursday at an Obama administration plan to transfer five prisoners out of U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay as part of a package of negotiations with the Taliban.
With four of the country's top intelligence officials in front of him, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said the path the Obama administration had taken in the negotiations "crosses a pretty dangerous line" in U.S. policy.
Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, made the comments at the opening of an annual congressional hearing about threats facing the United States.
"It sends a horrible message to the world's bad actors that soldiers, prisoners, citizens are now to be treated like commodities," said Rogers.
Members of Congress were briefed Tuesday by the National Security Council on the status of early negotiations with the Taliban that include a proposal to transfer five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to a prison in a third country, said two congressional sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the briefings were classified.
Rogers commended the administration for keeping Congress fully informed about the negotiations but said Republican and Democratic members of Congress have expressed their opposition to the terms of negotiations in "very strong conversations."
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, CIA Director David H. Petraeus, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Roland L. Burgess Jr. were called to testify before the House intelligence committee Thursday.
At a Senate hearing Tuesday, Clapper said the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners would be a "form of confidence-building measures with the Taliban." Clapper emphasized no final decision had been made about the transfer, and he described the discussions as "very, very preliminary."