Pete Hoekstra, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Tuesday that the five Guantanamo Bay prisoners exchanged by the Obama administration for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are serious candidates to take up arms against the United States.
Hoekstra, appearing on "America's Forum," told Newsmax TV's J.D. Hayworth that recent history is not encouraging. Other terror suspects classified as low-risk resumed, or initiated, hostilities against the U.S., after being allowed to leave Guantanamo.
"The percentage is, after 12 to 18 months, about 30 percent of them find their way back onto the battlefield," he said, adding, "it doesn't mean that 70 percent haven't returned to the battlefield; it just means that we really don't know where those 70 percent are."
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Of the high-level Taliban captives sent to Qatar as a condition of Bergdahl's release, Hoekstra said, "With these five there is a high probability that they will go back to the battlefield."
The U.S. has ordered that the five remain in Qatar for 12 months under scrutiny of the host government. But Hoekstra said compliance with the deal is easier requested than guaranteed.
"It's a very, very intensive operation," he said of any assignment to monitor former detainees. "These folks had to check in, you know, once a week or something like that. But most governments can't track them 24/7. We're not going to be able to track them 24/7."
"The other thing is, these guys are going to be in a very favorable environment" in the Middle Eastern kingdom of Qatar, said Hoekstra. "If they want to talk to the Taliban leadership, or the Taliban leadership wants to come meet with them, they'll have the opportunity to do that."
And after 12 months, "They can go wherever they want," said Hoekstra. "That's when we lose total control of them."
Asked whether the U.S. miscalculated by swapping five known adversaries for a soldier accused of desertion
by his Army buddies, Hoekstra said, "Well, for many of us it doesn't add up."
"That's why this thing has been so very, very messy," he said, alluding to the uproar caused by the deal in official Washington and among troops. "This is not someone who was shot down flying support missions for the military.... This was a guy who it appears — that all the information seems to indicate — left his post and put himself in a position
where capture was going to be very, very likely."
But Hoekstra endorsed Bergdahl going through "a legal process, through the military," such as a court-martial.
"I expect that now the military will hold him accountable," said Hoekstra.
Hoekstra also revisited a legal opinion
he had volunteered on "America's Forum" on Monday. Asked then if the administration had broken the law by failing to notify Congress in advance of the prisoner swap, Hoekstra said, "I don't think so."
On Tuesday, he clarified, aligning himself with remarks from another "America's Forum" Monday guest, LIGNET intelligence analyst Fred Fleitz, who said the president violated the law, but the law in this case is unconstitutional.
"Congress cannot put those kinds of limitations onto the president— that might be a clearer interpretation of how I feel," said Hokestra.
Hoekstra addressed some of the scuttlebutt connecting the Bergdahl release to last week's outing of a CIA station chief, which the White House has insisted was an accident.
Hoekstra, who said he was "only speculating," floated what he called a "possible scenario."
"I'm assuming that the station chief knew about the [Bergdahl] negotiations, knew that this release — that this transfer of prisoners — was going to take place," said Hoekstra. "My guess is that he would've been very, very opposed to the release. He would've known the background of the five folks — the Taliban five. He may have even helped to put them into Gitmo … and so, you know, he was probably very, very opposed to the release.
"And to make it a little bit cleaner for the president … when he's in Afghanistan, rather than having this guy around protesting and voicing his opposition to this, the easiest way to make sure that he's kind of kept quiet or he's moved out of Afghanistan is to leak his name," said Hoekstra.
"It has happened in the past, where an administration has used somewhat similar means to quiet critics," said Hoekstra. "So it's a possibility.... At this point in time you and I are only speculating, we don't know."
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