OTR Interviews

McCain: Eagnerness of Obama administration to close Gitmo has overridden good sense, concern for safety of our military

Veteran senator sounds off on report of several released Guantanamo detainees teaming up with ISIS and other militant groups in Syria


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 30, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, disturbing news. U.S. intelligence and defense officials suspect as many as 20 to 30 detainees released from Gitmo in just the last two to three years have joined ISIS, al Qaeda and other militants groups inside Syria. That means they are gunning for us.

Senator John McCain joins us. Good evening, sir.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Good evening, Gretchen -- Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Whatever it is. We will go with either one.


Anyway, two to 30 have joined ISIS?

MCCAIN: That's been pretty much the number, Greta, that we have seen throughout these releases. And by the way, the five that were released, Taliban higher ups that were released in exchange for Bergdahl, I guarantee you they entered the fight because they were judged as too dangerous to release.

VAN SUSTEREN: Qatar was supposed to babysit them. What happened to that? That was the whole deal. Do we have any idea where they are? Any reports to you or any other committee on the Hill that, yes, we are tracking them? We would do that if someone got probation. We would make them go into the probation office every five weeks here in D.C.

MCCAIN: It just hasn't worked out that way. Qatar, in many ways, is not the most reliable custodian of these people, as you know. The eagerness with which this administration wants to get these people out of Guantanamo has clearly overridden good sense and a real concern for the lives of American men and women who are serving, because when you have about 30 percent going back into the fight. They not only go back into the fight, Greta, they also are in positions of leadership. It's a red badge of courage. It's really a big deal that you were once in Guantanamo. That gives them leadership positions.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. There were -- I mean, there were about, in Gitmo, about 779 inmates at one time, or detainees. Then we have released 620 with 180 supposedly to the fight. 20 to 30 to ISIS. 149 still there. What's the plan for the 149?

MCCAIN: The president wants to close Guantanamo. There were many of us who would agree with that if they had a plan, if they had a plan where to put these people. Basically, what his plan is, is to send them back to countries that in the Middle East. In one case, there are many Yemenis, he wants to send them back there. So rather than to have a place it to incarcerate them where they belong, particularly there's many who have been judged too dangerous to be released. The president wants to get rid of them in order to close Guantanamo. That's the overriding factor in his calculations and it's disgraceful, because in the long run, it puts the lives of American men and women serving in the military in danger. It's a fact.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you. Always nice to see you, sir. Thank you.

MCCAIN: Well, thank you, Greta. It's great to be with you again.

I was in Iowa. We're going to win there.

VAN SUSTEREN: We'll be watching to see what happens there. Thank you, sir.