Hagel: White House pressured me to approve more Gitmo releases

Chuck Hagel has only about a week to go on his tenure as Secretary of Defense, and CNN’s Barbara Starr finds out that a man on the verge of retirement doesn’t have a lot of reason to keep his mouth shut. Hagel makes it clear, although still with some caution, that the Obama administration put pressure on him to increase the frequency of releases from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. In doing so, Hagel has handed the new Republican majority on the Senate Armed Services Committee a perfect opening to demand answers on Barack Obama’s efforts to empty Gitmo during Thursday’s confirmation hearing for Ashton Carter, Hagel’s replacement (via BizPacReview):

White House officials pressured Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to increase the pace of detainee transfers from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, the outgoing secretary acknowledged to CNN’s Barbara Starr in an interview Friday.

Those comments come just one day after reports surfaced that a Guantanamo detainee released as part of the deal that freed American POW Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl may have sought to return to militant activity.

“Not everyone at the White House has agreed with me,” said Hagel of his methodology for deciding on detainee releases.

Hagel seems at least interested in this conversation, if not entirely enthusiastic. One has to wonder what will appear in his memoirs, and the White House might be worried about the same thing. With this ringing in the ears of John McCain and the rest of the Republicans on Armed Services, bet on this being a big point of contention in the Carter hearings this week. Carter may have some insight on this process too, having been the #2 man at the Pentagon for two years, ending in December 2013, right before the threat of ISIS began to be noticed in Congress and at the DIA — but not at the White House, where they were dismissed as “jayvees.” In fact, the Senate confirmation hearings will have the potential for lots of interesting moments, and Gitmo is just one among them.

On the most embarrassing release yet from Gitmo, though, Hagel continued to defend the Bergdahl swap with the Taliban 5, the high-ranking commanders who now live openly in Qatar — and at least one of whom is now working with the Taliban again. The legal status of Bergdahl is immaterial, Hagel tells Starr. The US does not leave men behind, Hagel argued, and this was a “prisoner of war exchange … It was the right decision.” At the same time, of course, the US is clucking its tongue at Jordan for exactly the same kind of deal with ISIS, while the White House tries dancing on the head of a pin to cast the Taliban as an “armed insurgency” but ISIS as a terrorist group.

Investors Business Daily’s Michael Ramirez provided this handy guide to Obama administration nomenclature in the war on terror:


Also, be sure to check out Ramirez’ terrific collection of his works: Everyone Has the Right to My Opinion, which covers the entire breadth of Ramirez’ career, and it gives fascinating look at political history.  Read my review here, and watch my interviews with Ramirez here and here.  And don’t forget to check out the entire Investors.com site, which has now incorporated all of the former IBD Editorials, while individual investors still exist.

Update: Secretary of Defense, not State. Ugh. Sorry about that.

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