The exchange of five Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was a "good deal," says retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis, the former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, noting that there was never enough solid proof to prosecute the five individuals for terrorism activities or war crimes in the 12 years since their capture.
"We prosecuted Osama bin Laden's driver, and we couldn't even bring charges against these guys," Davis told MSNBC's Alex Witt Saturday morning.
In fact, Davis said that he did not even initially recognize the prisoners' names.
"My role as chief prosecutor was to review the information we had on the detainees to determine which ones we could potentially bring war crimes charges against," said Davis.
"When I saw the names of the five individuals, when they were reported last weekend, my first reaction was who are they," he said. "I never saw the names before, which means there was not enough information to even make it on our list of potential prosecution.
Davis went on to deny claims about how the five being released are the "hardest of the hard core."
"We were told everyone at Guantanamo Bay was the worst of the worst," said Davis. "But of the 779 men we took there, more than 80 percent have gone home; more than 500 of those during the [George W.] Bush administration."
And while there are still some very bad terrorists at Guantanamo, including confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Morris said, many of those still being held there are not on that same level.
"To trade five of them for a U.S. service member, in my estimation, and I'm often critical of President [Barack] Obama, I think they struck a pretty good deal," said Davis.
Further, he noted that the time is right for such deals.
"The president has made it clear, this conflict is coming to an end by December," said Davis of the war in Afghanistan. The United States has been holding the inmates under the justification of their being enemy combatants, he said, but with the war about to end, "our legal justification to hold them is, in the eyes of many, about to expire."
He admitted that there is always a possibility that one or more of the five being released could one day retaliate against the United States.
"About a quarter of those released have returned to do bad things, so playing the odds, it is probably one or more of them could do something bad," Davis said. "But if we wait until the risk returns to zero, they could be doing life sentences."
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