Alberto Gonzales: Closing Gitmo Linked to Bergdahl Release

Image: Alberto Gonzales: Closing Gitmo Linked to Bergdahl Release

Thursday, 05 Jun 2014 05:37 PM

By Lisa Degnen

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Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says President Barack Obama's misconstrued plan to close Guantanamo Bay has come under increased scrutiny in the aftermath of the prisoner exchange with the Taliban for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

NBC News reports that the five Taliban prisoners who were released in exchange for Bergdahl were unlikely to ever be prosecuted if they stayed in the Cuban-based military prison and were likely to be released regardless of what happened to Bergdahl.

"There are three buckets of people in Guantanamo that remain," the network quotes State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf as saying. "There are those who are approved for transfer. That's 78. There are about 30 who have been referred for prosecution in some way. These five are in that middle bucket and were unlikely — might have been, but unlikely — to be added to the group that was going to be referred for prosecution. So it is quite likely that eventually, in line with our commitment to close Guantanamo Bay, they would be transferred. We should get something for them."

In an interview on Fox News' "America's Newsroom" Thursday, Gonzales said a plan to close Gitmo is likely linked Bergdahl's release. "I think he wants to see it closed and I'm afraid that may be part of the motivation for this transfer," he stated.

"There is a legitimate question whether this was a good deal for the United States. I have a great deal of concern about the people we hold in Guantanamo Bay. We hold them there for a reason. And we release them with assurances they are not going come back and fight against the United States."

Gonzales, who served under George W. Bush, says the White House is probably surprised by the negative response over the prisoner trade. "I think he (Obama) miscalculated the reaction to the way he did it," he told Fox. "The reaction from Congress and the American people. I think he miscalculated the reaction from Bergdahl's former comrades in the field."

Gonzales also said it would be a mistake for the Obama administration to put the remaining detainees on trial in American courtrooms.

"I believe military commissions exist for a reason," he told the network. "They are helpful and bring people to justice. They are consistent with the rule of law. They allow us to bring people to justice without the risk to a civic population like in New York City would present. I think that's a viable option for the United States in bringing terrorists to justice. I disagree with the president [trying] to take this option off the table."

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