Morning Security Brief: POW Release Debate, Massachusetts Plane Crash, DHS Funding, and Nigeria Bombing

By Mark Tarallo

► Republicans questioned whether the deal that freed U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban militants amounted to a negotiation with terrorists that would ultimately hurt U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The debate continued as Army Sergeant Bergdahl was flown out of Afghanistan to a military hospital in Germany on Sunday, Reuters reported. Bergdahl, held for nearly five years in Afghanistan, was freed Saturday in a deal with the Taliban brokered by the Qatari government. In exchange, five Taliban militants were released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and flown to Qatar. While Bergdahl's release was celebrated by his family and his hometown, Republicans questioned whether the administration had acted properly in releasing the militants. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) said that the White House made a mistake by deciding to “negotiate with terrorists” for the release of prisoners. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) said his panel will hold hearings on the prisoner exchange. Obama Administration officials defended the action, saying that it did not negotiate with the Taliban, but dealt only with the Qatari government.

► Seven were killed on Saturday when a private plane crashed on takeoff in Massachusetts. The plane hurtled 2,000 feet off the end of the runway, plunged into a watery gully, and burst into flames, investigators said Sunday. "There were no survivors," said Matthew Brelis, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Hanscom Field in Bedford, where the Gulfstream IV crashed as it was taking off at about 9:40 p.m. en route to Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey. Among those killed was Lewis Katz, co-owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper and former owner of the New Jersey Devils and New Jersey Nets. National Transportation Safety Board senior investigator Luke Schiada said there were two pilots, a cabin attendant, and four passengers on the plane, NBC News reported.

► The Fiscal Year 2015 funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is moving through the House of Representatives. Last week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security approved the $39.2 billion spending bill. The $39.2 billion funding level is a slight decrease from the Fiscal Year 2014 level, but an $888 million increase above the White House's request for the department. The bill is expected to go before the full House Appropriations Committee for consideration soon. The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to take up a companion bill in the coming weeks.

► A bombing at a football match in Nigeria's restive northeast killed at least 40 people on Sunday in an area previously attacked by Boko Haram Islamists, the Times of India reported. While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, Boko Haram is a prime suspect, local authorities said. The blast hit the town of Mubi in Adamawa state, one of three in the northeast that has been under a state of emergency for more than a year as Nigeria's military has tried to crush Boko Haram's five-year extremist uprising. The group is still holding more than 200 girls that it abducted on April 14.


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