At a hearing this morning conducted by the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Tom Cotton, a war veteran, chided the Obama administration's justification to close the detention facility that has housed terrorism suspects since 2002. The administration's witness was Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Brian McKeon, who defended President Obama's policy that the facility needs to be closed because it is a national security risk.
In response to the administration's view that the mere existence of the detention facility is a threat to national security, Cotton questioned McKeon on the number of detainees held at Guantanamo at the time of each major terror attack against the United States dating back 30-plus years before the facility opened. McKeon's answer remained the same: "zero."
Cotton responded by calling the (yet incomplete) plan to close it "political decision" and not a "security decision." "To say that it is a security decision based on propaganda value that our enemies get from it is a pretext to justify a political decision" and that "[the terrorists] attack us for who we are."
Cotton concluded: "The only problem of Guantanamo Bay is there are too many empty beds and cells there right now. We should be sending more terrorists there for interrogation to keep this country safe. As far as I’m concerned, every last one of them can rot in hell, but since they don’t do that, they can rot in Guantanamo Bay.”
One of the five senior Taliban leaders transferred to Qatar in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl played a key role in al Qaeda’s plans leading up to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Mohammad Fazl, who served as the Taliban’s army chief of staff and deputy defense minister prior to his detention at Guantánamo, did not have a hand in planning the actual 9/11 hijackings. Along with a notorious al Qaeda leader, however, Fazl did help coordinate a military offensive against the enemies of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan the day before.
A spokeswoman for the State Department referred to the Taliban operatives released from Guantanamo Bay as part of the deal to retrieve Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl as "gentlemen." In a Monday afternoon appearance with Andrew Mitchell on MSNBC, Marie Harf, the deputy spokesperson at State and an alumna of the Obama campaign, argued with Mitchell over the question of whether or not Congress should have ben notified about the exchange before it occured.
While some top Obama administration officials are downplaying threats posed the five senior Taliban officials released from Guantanamo in the prisoner exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, not long ago the administration went to court to prevent one of those men from going free.
Several men who served with Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan say Bergdahl deserted in 2009 before being captured by the Taliban. Bergdahl's release this weekend as part of an exchange with the U.S. for five top Taliban operatives who were being held in Guantanamo Bay has prompted those servicemen to speak out. Jake Tapper at CNN reports: