The Obama administration considers the military prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station a relic of the George W. Bush era that should be closed — but it is essential the controversial detention camp for Middle East terrorists remain open, Bush's former press secretary Ari Fleischer says.
"The reason Guantanamo needs to remain open is because there's no place else to put them. No other nation wants them because they're the worst of the worst, the most dangerous," Fleischer told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"It's a perfectly fine prison. It works perfectly well [and] nobody's ever escaped.''
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Since 2002, the U.S. has housed alleged terrorists captured in Afghanistan and Iraq at Guantanamo, in Cuba. The prison came under fire when photos of prisoners being tortured and humiliated were leaked. In addition, critics say prisoners are denied their rights of protection under the Geneva Conventions.
President Barack Obama tried to shut the prison, nicknamed Gitmo, in 2009 — a failed attempt met by widespread, bipartisan opposition in a Democrat-controlled House and Senate.
"Guantanamo has taken on more or less for the left as one of the last relics of the Bush administration," Fleischer said.
"It's almost as if they could just bury their head in the sand and say, 'if we close Guantanamo, we're no longer dealing with those things that the Bush people did to fight terrorists.'
"It's perfectly working well, and I'm sorry that the people are in there, but the reason they're in there is because they fought the United States of America.''
Fleischer said he is "uneasy" with Obama's authorization of the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban prisoners.
"Members of the U.S. government and our military are told that when you go into high-risk environments that our government will not negotiate for us in case we're taken," he said.
"We know that and enemies know that and it's one of the reasons we're not taken very often . . . That now is in jeopardy. It's a price on everybody abroad. It just went that much higher.''
Fleischer is also concerned by the caliber of the five prisoners who were freed — all military commanders.
"[They're] the worst of the Taliban. They are high-ranking and they're deemed by the joint task force Guantanamo as high security risks,'' he said.
"When we give them up where they're supposed to stay in another country for one year, does anybody really think that's what's going to happen? We just returned five top-level commanders to go back to planning, to killing, to take more Americans."
Fleischer, now president of Ari Fleischer Sports Communications, said the swap of prisoners should have been non-negotiable.
"Negotiating is one thing for ending a conflict, ending a state of war, ending a terrorist regime. If the Taliban came to negotiations with the United States and the legitimate government of Afghanistan, that might be one thing," he said.
"And then as a result of all of that in the end, if a peace agreement was negotiated, then you would negotiate a prisoner exchange. But to do this now?"
The notion of talking to the Taliban doesn't offend me. The notion of releasing five high-level commanders who are going to inflict more hardship on our country and our people, that does.''
Fleischer is also concerned about allegations that Bergdahl may have been a deserter, because of an email he wrote about being ashamed to be an American before he allegedly went AWOL. Eighteen people were killed in the search for him.
"Many people do believe he's a deserter, so the question is, why if there was significant doubt would the president of the United States go to such extraordinary step on behalf of a cause that may not be so clear?'' he said.
Fleischer had kind words for Obama's press secretary Jay Carney, who resigned from the job last Friday.
"I suffer some Swedish Stockholm syndrome. I was taken prisoner by those reporters. I have a lot of sympathy for whoever the White House press secretary is, and I wish Jay well," Fleischer said.
"He's got a hard job, it's a wonderful job. I don't particularly like how he's done it, on behalf of who he's done it, but nevertheless the press secretary job is really a grueling, grinding, wonderful, pressure-filled job."
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