OUT OF THE LOOP -- Obama Bypassed Intel Officials on Taliban-for-Bergdahl Swap

(Fox News) -- The Obama administration largely bypassed the intelligence community to green-light the risky swap of five Taliban leaders for American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, officials tell Fox News, as new details emerge about concerns with the deal at the highest levels of President Obama's team. 

A military intelligence source also confirmed to Fox News that a second option -- involving the payment of a cash ransom for Bergdahl's freedom -- was pursued as late as December 2013. 

The source said the goal was to reach out to Pakistan leadership with direct ties to the Taliban, and float the possibility of trading cash, instead of prisoners, for Bergdahl. That option, though, was put "on hold" in December when it was made clear the administration intended to pursue a prisoner swap. 

Intelligence officials confirmed to Fox News that the Bergdahl prisoner swap was then on an accelerated track, and no formal assessment of the entire intelligence community was conducted. This made the opportunity to push back against the transfer extremely limited. 

Further, top officials including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta were firmly against the proposed transfer in 2012 after it was first floated. 

The details add to concerns that the White House and others involved in the decision did not adequately assess the risks before springing five senior Taliban leaders from Guantanamo over the weekend. 

"I think he bypassed the intelligence community," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told Fox News. "I believe he bypassed Congress because this was done for political reasons. There was no policy justification for this." 

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