Dick Morris: No Guantanamo for Khattala a 'Ridiculous Constraint'

Thursday, 19 Jun 2014 06:54 PM

By Sean Piccoli

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President Obama's political agenda is colliding with national security reality as his pledge to leave Iraq is undercut by renewed bloodshed there — and his promise to close the Guantanamo prison handicaps the interrogation of the captured Benghazi attack suspect, political analyst Dick Morris told Newsmax TV on Thursday.

Newsmax contributor Morris joined "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner to discuss issues as varied as Middle East turmoil, missing IRS emails, NSA snooping and "horrific" insurance premium hikes under Obamacare.

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But Morris said the most pressing stories of the day are out of Iraq — and on the ship carrying captured terror suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala to the United States for trial.

Morris said both situations pose "a clear conflict between national security and Obama's political interest."

With a violent Islamist group, ISIS, bent on establishing its own nation-state in Iraqi territory, "national security probably militates for a very vigorous involvement to stop this caliphate from being formed," said Morris.

Obama said Thursday he will send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq, but he ruled out a return to combat for U.S. troops.

"What's holding him up," Morris said of the president, "is his campaign pledge to pull out of Iraq."

The other conflict point, said Morris, is Khattala, who "is steaming around the Atlantic Ocean right now" on a slow boat to America, being interrogated after Special Forces captured him as the alleged ringleader of the deadly 2012 assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

While allowing that Khattala's voyage is "probably the least luxurious cruise you've ever seen," Morris said, "the reason we're steaming him around on a ship rather than putting him in a prison is that Obama won't let him into Gitmo because he's promised not to put any new inmates in."

The Obama administration has rebuffed calls for Khattala to be sent to the U.S. military detention facility established by his predecessor in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, insisting that the civilian justice system can adequately handle Khattala's trial.

"So instead of a long-term interrogation where he knows this is his home, and he's got to get along with these people and his life depends upon it, now he's going to be on a boat where we hope he spills the beans in a week or two weeks while the ship cruise lasts — a ridiculous constraint to put on such an important intelligence move for only one reason:  [Obama] pledged not to put him in Gitmo."

Turning to events closer to home, Morris called the growing momentum behind a House bill to limit email surveillance by the National Security Agency "an enormously important story."

The E-Mail Privacy Act already has 218 sponsors from both parties — more than half the House — despite the refusal of Majority Leader John Boehner, a Republican, to bring it to the floor for a vote. A similar Senate bill, approved 13-5 by the Judiciary Committee in April, is likewise bottled up by Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat.

Each would require the NSA to get a warrant to open emails. The Obama administration dislikes both bills.

"So Reid and Boehner, who oppose each other on everything, are collaborating with Obama to squelch this issue and to let the NSA do whatever it wants," said Morris. "But Democrats and Republicans have formed a coalition in each house to demand that their leaders put these bills up for a floor vote.

"Eventually, they're going to have to do it," said Morris.

If the House bill's supporters can round up 290 members — a two-thirds majority — they can force the bill to the floor over Boehner's objections. Morris said that maneuver, called a "discharge petition," would represent such a grave challenge to Boehner's leadership he would effectively be finished as Speaker.

Morris predicted Boehner will permit a vote on the E-mail Privacy Act before allowing himself to be neutered by a discharge petition.

"Boehner will cave first, and then Reid will have to cave, " said Morris. "And then Obama may veto it, and you may see the first override of a presidential veto in the Obama administration."

Morris took up another email dispute between the White House and Congress: the missing Internal Revenue Service correspondence.

House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa had demanded back copies of IRS emails as part of his committee's probe into alleged IRS targeting of conservative political groups, only to learn that a hard drive belonging to Lois Lerner, the tax official at the center of the controversy, was destroyed after being diagnosed as broken beyond repair.

The IRS has said it was observing "standard protocol" when it got rid of the supposedly damaged hard drive.

Morris said tartly that sounds about right: "With this administration, destruction of evidence is standard operating procedure."

But Morris said Lerner's lost hard drive wouldn't be the only repository of her emails.

"Somebody else got them and they're scattered all over" various government agencies that Lerner would have emailed, he said. "What's needed now is subpoenas to each of those agencies."

Morris also commented on reports of staggering premium hikes this year, and more coming in 2015, for individuals who bought health insurance under Obamacare.

Morris said the administration is mulling a de-facto subsidy for insurers — to the tune of $1 trillion — to avert premium increases before the next presidential election. Morris called it a case of Obamacare's enforcers "trying to bribe their way out of 2015 increases."


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