Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testified before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday about the prisoner exchange involving Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and five Guantanamo detainees (see also Marty Lederman’s coverage).

One of the most important pieces of information that came out of the hearings included Mr. Hagel’s revelation of the threat assessment he received from the US intelligence community on the impact to US national security were the five Taliban members to return to Afghanistan or Pakistan. The Secretary read directly from the document he received from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Mr Hagel first looked over his left shoulder to check that the document was unclassified.

Clapper’s document stated that even if the released detainees returned to Afghanistan or Pakistan, “a few new Taliban leaders, no matter how senior” their position in the Taliban forces, “will not appreciably change the threat” to the people of Afghanistan, the Afghan army, or to US forces. Clapper also stated, on the basis of the intelligence community’s assessment, if these particular individuals returned and reintegrated with Taliban forces, “their focus would almost certainly be on Taliban efforts inside Afghanistan, not the [US] homeland.”

According to earlier media reports, a classified assessment by American intelligence officials “predicted that two of the men would return to senior positions with the militant group” and “two others of the five were likely to assume active roles within the Taliban.”