Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in June 2014 said that the five Taliban leaders released from Guantanamo days earlier posed no threat to the United States.
On Thursday, CNN reported
that one of the men is believed to have returned to terrorism.
In a "Today" show interview on June 11, less than two weeks after the so-called Taliban 5 were released in exchange for captured U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Clinton said that she had been involved in talks during her tenure to release the five, and that Bergdahl's release had been part of the equation.
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Despite criticism at the time that the five high-ranking Taliban commanders could return to the battlefield with hero status and spur more attempts at prisoner swaps, Clinton downplayed any threat the men posed to Americans.
"These five guys are not a threat to the United States," she said. "They are a threat to the safety and security of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's up to those two countries to make the decision once and for all that these are threats to them."
The "bigger picture," Clinton said, was rescuing an American.
"We want to get an American home, whether they fell off the ship because they were drunk or they were pushed or they jumped, we try to rescue everybody," Clinton said.
Ed Morrissey of Hot Air
blasted Clinton at the time for that statement.
"Five guys? Yes, these are just five dudes we found hanging around Kabul, and not high-ranking Taliban commanders wanted by the UN for crimes against humanity," Morrissey wrote.
He noted that just a week earlier, "a senior intelligence official briefed the Senate on the threat of these five guys, telling them that four of the five are likely to return to the battlefield — where tens of thousands of American troops remain in combat deployment."
The Daily Beast reported
that Clinton was far more skeptical of the deal during negotiations with Taliban leaders in 2011 and 2012, and, in fact, may not have signed off on the swap even if a deal had been successfully hammered out.
Other Obama administration leaders were opposed to the trade, too, the Daily Beast reported.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper unequivocally rejected the deal at the time, saying the leaders were too high risk, and then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta refused to guarantee that the United States was able to mitigate the risk of releasing them.
Idaho Sen. Jim Risch told CNN on Thursday that his fellow Republicans warned at the time that all five were candidates to return to battle.
"This shouldn't surprise anyone," the member of the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees told CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."
"The people that were released, these were five very, very bad people. It wasn't just run-of-the-mill out of Gitmo," Risch said. "It was some of the worst that they have there. Most everyone who deals with terrorism said these people were going to go back."
President Barack Obama is continuing his program to release prisoners from Guantanamo in an effort to eventually close down the facility holding suspects in the war on terror.
The latest news of one of those high-value detainees returning to terrorism could hurt Obama's efforts, as well be a Republican campaign talking point against Clinton, who is the presumed Democrat presidential frontrunner for 2016.
"It's a real problem and could be a future political problem," Risch told CNN.
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