Hagel Admits Disagreement with WH Over Pressure for Swifter Release of Gitmo Detainees

In an interview with CNN that aired during Friday’s “The Situation Room,” former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel admitted there was some disagreement between he and the Obama White House over the pace of the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees during his tenure.

In her line of questioning to Hagel involving the prisoner swap of five Taliban Guantanamo detainees for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr got Hagel to admit there had been some pressure from within the White House.

Partial transcript as follows:

HAGEL: [I] think I’ve got a pretty clear record on this. In fact, not everyone at the White House agreed with how I handled some of this. I have made it clear that I will not certify, sign anything to release a detainee as long as I’m secretary of defense unless I am convinced it’s in the best interest of the country and the substantial mitigation of risk can be verified as closely as we can verify.

STARR: You just brought up — you said it, not everyone at White House agrees with you. Tell us what you mean.

HAGEL: Well, I think the press has been pretty clear on that.

STARR: Let’s hear it in your own words, let’s have you…

HAGEL: What I have said is what I just said. Not everyone at the White House has agreed with me.

STARR: On what part of this?

HAGEL: Probably on the pace of releases.

STARR: Because you have been cautious?

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

STARR: Have you had pressure?

HAGEL: We have had a lot of conversations.

STARR: With the White House?

HAGEL: Yes, and Congress and the press.

STARR: You don’t seem too fussed by the notion that maybe there has been pressure from the White House.

HAGEL: Barbara, I have been in this town a long time. And there is pressure all the time in every job that come from a lot of different directions. And if you are not prepared to deal with pressure every day in the job you are in coming from a lot of different directions, then you shouldn’t be in the job.

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor


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