Rep. McSally rejects idea that Gitmo is used for recruiting

Congresswoman discusses the administration's suggestion


This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," February 5, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: With President Obama making a push to release the last terror suspects and close Guantanamo Bay, we saw anger boil over in Washington today. Senator Tom Cotton cross-examining the Defense Department official responsible for Gitmo policy in a blistering point by point exchange about the administration's argument that Gitmo serves as a recruiting tool.


REP. TOM COTTON, R-ARK.: Now, let's look at the propaganda value. How many detainees were at Guantanamo Bay September 11, 2001?


COTTON: How many were there in October 2000 when Al Qaeda bombed the USS Cole?


COTTON: Or 1998 when they bombed our embassies?

MCKEON: The facility was not open before 2002, senator.

COTTON: 1993 and the first World Trade Center bombing?

MCKEON: The same answer.

COTTON: 1979 when Iran took over our embassy? 1993 when Hezbollah bombed our embassy and our Marine barracks in Lebanon? The answer is zero.

MCKEON: Correct.

COTTON: Islamic terrorists don't need an excuse to attack the United States. They don't attack us for what they do. They attack us for how we are. It is not a secure decision. It is a political decision based on promise the president made on his campaign. To say that it is a security decision based on propaganda value that our enemies get from it is a pretext to justify a political decision.

In my opinion, the only problem with Guantanamo Bay is there are too many empty beds and cells there right now. We should be sending more terrorists there for further interrogation to keep this country safe. As far as I'm concerned, every last one of them can rot in hell, but as long as they don't do that then can rot in Guantanamo Bay.


KELLY: Senator Tom Cotton, a veteran himself, and joining me now the first woman to ever fly a combat mission for the U.S. Air Force, the first to command a Fighter Squadron and a former leader of counterterrorism operations in Africa, newly elected Congresswoman Martha McSally.

Congressman, good to see here tonight. Thank you for being here.

And so Tom Cotton, you could see it was personal for him the idea of closing Guantanamo Bay, and I know that many including those who have fought abroad say, "Why would we be releasing our enemies while the battle is still ongoing?" Your thoughts on it.

REP. MARTHA MCSALLY, R-ARIZ.: Absolutely. Megyn. I -- thanks for having me on, and I agree. When I deployed my squadron to Afghanistan and working with special ops there, squadron of A-10s, we were often seeing those on the battlefield that had been released and returned to fighting. Same thing when Iran Counterterrorism Operations at U.S.- Africa command.

So, on the House side this week we had several classified and unclassified briefings. I'm on the Armed Services Committee and I'm on the Homeland Security Committee. And, look, we've got thousands and thousands of foreign fighters that are flowing through to help out in ISIS, in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The majority of those at Gitmo right now are from Yemen, and Yemen's instability put us in a position where we don't even know if we're going to have a partnership to be able to address that terrorist threat there.

KELLY: Well, the administration is talking about bringing them here, talking about bringing them here to the United States.


KELLY: -- and you know, that would change their -- their zip code or something domestic.

MCSALLY: Look, we are in a generational fight with radical Islamist extremists. And I can say that, I guess the president won't. But it's a generational fight. We have enemy combatants, and it seems like, again, even this week, you know, the king of Jordan was more emboldened and showed more resolve than our own commander in chief is in dealing with this very serious threat.

So the last thing we need to be doing is returning any of these to the battlefield. They are enemy combatants. So, let's focus on fighting the fight with a real strategy that addresses this threat that is more serious than I've seen in my whole lifetime. Not these campaign promises.

KELLY: But they believe -- they see, you know, the critics of Gitmo seemed to believe that it is used as a recruiting tool for -- by terrorists. And -- and just today the Defense official who testified pointed out that the Jordanian pilot who was burned alive by ISIS, the journalist -- American journalists who were executed by ISIS by beheading were dressed in -- in orange jumpsuits, which he points out were worn by the prisoners at Abu Ghraib and there was an exchange -- hold on, we've got it teed up I believe on that, listen.


MCKEON: It is no coincidence that the recent ISI videos showing the barbaric burning of a Jordanian pilot and the savage execution of a Japanese hostage each showed the victims clothed in an orange jumpsuit.


KELLY: Does he have a point? I mean, he's talking about what -- how we dress the prisoners down at Gitmo?

MCSALLY: No, he doesn't. This is all part of the propaganda, again, of these Islamist extremists, and they're trying to use an excuse to say, this is why we need to attack America and why we're against them. And as Senator Cotton pointed out, they didn't have Gitmo in the 1998 embassy bombings or 2000 USS Cole or on 9/11.

Look, this is propaganda and it seems like our own administration is actually buying that propaganda. So, that is a flawed argument. We have an -- we have an organization here who has -- is a serious capability, is a threat to our national security, a threat to our way of life and our national interests, and this administration is failing to even call it what it is and have a strategy to address it.

KELLY: What about on the topic of -- of Jordan now and the assistance.


KELLY: -- we're providing them? As a former pilot yourself, they needed.


KELLY: -- more help. They said they're -- they're going to unleash hell on ISIS now.


KELLY: And we had General McInerney on a program the other day saying, what we're doing now from the air is he called "pinprick strikes," which he said is not enough.


KELLY: The UAE just bailed from our coalition saying, "We don't think that the search and rescue situation set up for pilots is adequate for us to participate in this any longer."


KELLY: What's your take on it?

MCSALLY: Yeah, absolutely. Look this is -- I agree that these are pinprick strikes. I -- I believe we're doing very anemic response. We're not allowing the military to use its full force to actually address the threat and go after the targets. We're -- we're, you know, the Obama administration is telling the enemy what we're not going to do. You know, we're not going to do this and we're not going to do that and this is when we're pulling out. We have got to let the military do what it can to address this at the military level and use all elements of national power, obviously, to defeat and destroy this threat.

I also ran our Combat Search and Rescue in the Middle East when I was deployed over there once. And, boy, when we send men and women into harm's way, our pilots and single-engine aircraft like the F-16, we've got to make sure we have a very robust capability so if they get shot down, we can immediately protect them overhead and provide that protection, locate the -- the survivor and protect them until we can get assets in there to get them out. That's a covenant that we have with those who fly in -- into combat, and we need to be.

KELLY: Yeah.

MCSALLY: -- supporting our allies as well. And so look, this is very anemic response. We need to step it up.

KELLY: Got it.

MCSALLY: We've had a lack of a strategy and we need to use all elements of power to destroy this threat.

KELLY: May I just say on behalf of women everywhere, you really -- you sound like a bad ass. Can we say that on TV?


I mean, she's like a -- it's so impressive. I loved -- loved hearing that a strong powerful woman doing things like, you know, "when I ran counterterrorism over the Middle East" -- anyway, it's great to see you. Thank you for being here.

MCSALLY: Thanks, Megyn. I appreciate it.

KELLY: It's empowering! Yeah!

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