Tags: Barack Obama | War on Terrorism | chuck hagel | white house | pressure | guantanamo bay | prisoners

Chuck Hagel: White House Pressured Me on Gitmo Prisoner Releases

By    |   Friday, 30 January 2015 09:18 PM

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says he was under pressure from the White House to quicken the pace of releases of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

In a startling and blunt interview with CNN correspondent Barbara Starr, aired Friday on "The Situation Room," Hagel said despite the heat, he held his ground.

"Not everyone at the White House agreed with me … on the pace of the releases," Hagel said, adding that it didn't bother him.

"Because I have the responsibility and I play my own game here," he said. "And that is because, by law, I am the one official in government charged with certification of release of detainees. I take that responsibility very seriously."

Pressed by Starr whether he was under pressure, Hagel replied: "We've had a lot of conversations."

"With the White House?" Starr asked.

"Yes," said Hagel. "And Congress. And the press."

"If you're not prepared to deal with pressure, every day, in the job you're in, coming from a lot of different directions, then you shouldn't be in the job," he told CNN. "It's just part of the process, part of any job I think."

Still, Hagel told CNN, he was confident the swap of five Taliban detainees at Gitmo in return for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl last May was the right move.

"Absolutely it was the right decision," he told CNN. "It was the right decision ... because we don't leave our troops behind."

"It was a prisoner of war exchange and I'm absolutely as committed to that decision today as when the decision was made." he added. "It was the right decision."

The remarks come amid reports one of the five Taliban terrorists is trying to get back onto the battlefield, making contact with suspected Taliban associates in Afghanistan, CNN reports. The Obama administration has quickened the pace of prisoner releases to eventually close Guantanamo.

The White House said the released terrorist isn't back on the battlefield.

"What I can say with confidence is this individual has not returned to the battlefield, this individual is not allowed to travel outside Qatar, and this individual has not engaged in any physical violence," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday, The Blaze reports.

Sen. Lindsey Graham confirmed the freed Taliban detainees have been in touch with members of the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network, even though all five still are being monitored in Qatar.

The South Carolina Republican, who recently visited Qatar, told the Associated Press he was concerned one of the detainees had left, but was assured during his visit all five senior Taliban officials remain in the tiny nation on the Arabian Peninsula.

Nevertheless, Graham said, the swap was a "dangerous decision."

"The likelihood of these five going back to the battle is almost as certain as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west," Graham declared, however, adding "the leaders of the Taliban, collaborated with al-Qaida to plan attacks on our homeland and [President Barack Obama] is looking for any reason he can find to release people from Guantanamo Bay to fulfill his campaign promise to close the place.

"I think it's unjustified and quite frankly, it's going to come back to haunt us."

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Outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says he was under pressure from the White House to quicken the pace of releases of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
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Friday, 30 January 2015 09:18 PM
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