Harry Reid: 'Glad' to Get 5 Taliban Out of Gitmo and Into Qatar

Image: Harry Reid: 'Glad' to Get 5 Taliban Out of Gitmo and Into Qatar

Tuesday, 03 Jun 2014 09:03 PM

By Greg Richter

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Republicans and some Democrats have criticized President Barack Obama for releasing five Taliban leaders from the Guantanamo Bay military prison in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he's happy they've been freed and sent to Qatar.

"Guantanamo has been there far too long, and I think that we should get them out of there as quickly as we can," he said of the remaining 150 prisoners still classified as "enemy combatants" and held without charges.

"We've been held up from doing that by the Republicans, not wanting any of them to be tried here in the United States even though our record here is really quite good," Reid said on Tuesday. "So I'm glad to get rid of these five people, send them back to Qatar."

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South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Reid is "disconnected from reality."

"I wish they would've died in jail," Graham said Tuesday on Fox News Channel's "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren."

"There is not one shred of evidence that letting them go was based on the fact they're no longer dangerous," he said. "These people were let go for political reasons."

The five, whom Graham has dubbed the "Taliban Dream Team," were released on Saturday in a trade for Bergdahl, who had been held captive in Afghanistan for five years.

But members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have been critical of what they say was essentially negotiating with terrorists for Bergdahl's release.

"The likelihood of an American citizen being kidnapped in the future by a terrorist organization in light of this decision goes through the roof," Graham said. Further, he said, "There's no evidence . . . that these people have renounced terrorism. Quite the opposite. They're now heroes."

The Senate plans classified hearings on Wednesday into why Congress wasn't given the legally required 30-day notice before prisoners are released from Guantanamo.

Graham said he would prefer public hearings, but Senate Democrats don't want an open hearing. That is the opposite of what they demanded when they heard testimony about detainee abuse at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

"We had an open hearing. We put all our dirty laundry out there for people to see," Graham said. "Now, when it comes time to this release, they want to do it behind closed doors. That will not stand."

The White House has said the 30-day requirement had to be waived because Bergdahl's life was in danger. Reid told Politico on Tuesday that he was told about the trade either just before it happened or right afterward.

Other leaders in both parties said they got no advance word. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declined to say when she was told.

Graham said he thinks the release was part of a coordinated plan by the White House to have what it thought would be two pieces of good news in one week about Afghanistan.

On May 25, Obama made a surprise visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, then made a commencement speech the same week at the U.S. Military Academy in which he discussed the pullout of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Then, at the end of the week, Obama intended to have Bergdahl, the only U.S. soldier held captive in Iraq or Afghanistan, released.

"He thought everybody would be cheering," Graham said. Instead, people are seeing the five men's image on TV and it reminds them that radical Islam is our enemy and Obama has let terrorists go free, Graham said.

NBC's Chuck Todd said the White House had expected public "euphoria" over Bergdahl's release.

"They consciously put these two things together," Graham said. "It's blowing up in their face."

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