Did White House issue misleading assurances about risk posed by Gitmo detainees?

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 15, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JOHN MAHAMA, GHANA PRESIDENT: Al Dhuby and Bin Atef were considered to be the most compliant detainees in Guantanamo and put in the lowest risk category in Guantanamo.

THOMAS JOSCELYN, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Bin Atef is someone who was classified high risk by Joint Task Force Guantanamo. Now, what this means is they believe he is someone who is likely to pose a threat to the U.S., its interest, and allies around the world. JTF Gitmo split the detainee population into three different categories ranging from low risk to medium risk to high risk. And he was put in that high risk category.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Talking there about two detainees released from Guantanamo Bay this last week, transferred to Ghana because they were low risk. But they weren't low risk. And, in fact, the information minister at Ghana telling our own Steve Hayes here, the information minister at the Ghana embassy in Washington, D.C. told to us the U.S. government provided assurances that Mr. Bin Atef was never involved in terrorism and presented little risk. If that assurance is not he said there is no way his government would have taken the detainees. And now it's a big deal in Ghana.

We're back with the panel. Steve, it's a great piece posting tonight on the Wall Street Journal.

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Thank you. Well, it's a big deal in Ghana, and it should be a big deal here. What I think is most important for people to understand about this case is this isn't a single case. This is representative of the kinds of transfers and releases that we have seen from the Obama administration and to a certain extent from the Bush administration before it.

But this particular detainee, Mohammed bin Atef, was a very bad guy. You just heard from the president of Ghana that the administration assured them he was never involved in terrorism, said there was little risk in them accepting him. But you went over in your package you went over his resume, as it were. The last time that military intelligence officials reviewed his -- at JTF Gitmo, reviewed his background, they said he was assessed to be a fighter in Usama bin Laden's 55th air brigade. He was an admitted member of the Taliban. He participated in hostility against the United States, continued to demonstrate his support for extremism and Usama bin Laden, recruited by Al Qaeda, stayed at Al Qaeda guest houses, trained at the famous Al Qaeda training camp, name found on Al Qaeda documents. He has threatened to kill U.S. citizens, and, as you pointed out, slit their throats.

As a result JTF Gitmo when they did their assessment said he was high risk detainee, both high risk to the guards at Guantanamo and certainly if he were released. They said he is likely to pose a threat to the United States, its interests and its allies.

BAIER: Amy, it's interesting that this story doesn't register. This is just happening and suddenly we get a release 34 more are gone. And everybody says, well, there they go.

AMY WALTER, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Part of it is that Congress has made itself pretty clear about -- it says we are not going to bring any of these to the U.S. This is also happening in the backdrop of a lot of bad stuff going on in the world and it's not raising it to that level. If we do see one of those people who have been released either up either dead because of a drone strike or some sort of attack somewhere else, absolutely this will become a bigger story.

BAIER: Quickly before I come to you, Charles, al Qosi is this guy that was released from Gitmo is now the head of the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula arm.

HAYES: One of the leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released in July of 2012.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, this reminds me of the administration's argument on the Iran deal and pretending for every violation of the Iranians, the administration would explain it away, often lying. This is ends and means for Obama. He has an objective. He wants to empty Guantanamo. He pretends it's because it's a recruiting tool. Everybody knows that's a farce.

And then they give us and they gave the Ghanaians I assume false information about the nature of these guys. I think the reason it hasn't registered in press and public opinion is because nobody can find Ghana on the map. But when they try to send one of these miscreants into the U.S., it will be a huge story. And that's why they are trying to send them abroad first.

BAIER: Very quickly, the NSC says they will let the Ghana statement stand and they're not comment on documents released by WikiLeaks. I don't know if that's going to stand.

HAYES: But they are U.S. government documents. This is the frustrating thing. You go to the White House. You go to the NSC, and you say how do you square what the Ghana government is saying publicly with what we have seen in these assessments? This is a formerly top secret risk assessment produced by top military and intelligence experts at Gitmo. Either it's right or it's wrong, but the administration won't say it.

Last thing quickly on the news media, it's not that the news media isn't covering it. It's that they are covering for the administration. The New York Times in describing a release just yesterday sending 10 detainees to Obama described them as lower level detainees. They are not. Five of them were high risk, five of them are medium risk. And even medium risk means a possibility of taking action against the United States.

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