PunditFact checks gov't policy on dealing with terrorists

St. Petersburg, Florida -- Over the weekend, President Obama appeared at the White House Rose Garden with the parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergahl to announce that Bergdahl -- America's only prisoner of war -- had been freed by his Taliban captors after five years. His freedom came with a price -- the release of five Taliban officials being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The issue was a hot topic on the Sunday news shows. On ABC's "This Week," White House national security adviser Susan Rice said the president was justified in the swap because the U.S. was at war with Bergdahl's captors, although in a non-traditional sense.

Later, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, took exception to that characterization:

"Ambassador Rice basically said to you, 'Yes, U.S. policy has changed. Now we make deals with terrorists.'"

Later he added:

"The reason why the U.S. has had the policy for decades of not negotiating with terrorists is because once you start doing it, every other terrorist has an incentive to capture more soldiers."

PunditFact decided to look back at the government's dealings with terrorist organizations. They found the United States has a long history of negotiating prisoner trades in time of war, and even dealing with terrorists and rogue regimes that support terrorist activities. Even the founding fathers made agreements with their terrorists: pirates.

But PunditFact editor Aaron Sharockman found more recent examples of negotiations:

"During the Iranian hostage crisis from 1979 to 1981, Jimmy Carter unfroze $8 billion in Iranian assets to try and get those hostages free," said Sharockman. "Later, Ronald Reagan famously traded arms to Iran to try and free eight hostages who were being held in Beirut. That became the Iran-Contra affair. President Clinton actually negotiated with the Taliban to try and locate and capture Osama bin Laden."

Cruz said Obama changed "decades" policy of not negotiating with terrorists when he brokered the deal to free Bergdahl. Even though presidents and officials often say "we do not negotiate with terrorists," it is not a hard-and-fast rule. President Obama's actions aren't a change in policy, but the latest in a long line of exceptions presidents have made throughout history.

PunditFact rated Cruz's statement MOSTLY FALSE.


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