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CNN's Amanpour Mocks 'Roughty-Toughty' Rumsfeld, Calls Gitmo 'Not American'

CNN's Christiane Amanpour and Jeffrey Toobin continued to push for Guantanamo Bay to be closed on Thursday's 10 p.m. ET hour of Anderson Cooper 360. "It's just not American," Amanpour insisted.

Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent, knocked the "roughty-toughty Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld decided no Geneva Conventions" for the detainees. Toobin, CNN's senior legal analyst, challenged the law passed by Congress mandating that Guantanamo be kept open. "That doesn't mean it was right," he said of its bipartisan passage.

[Video below. Audio here.]

The dispute over Guantanamo also featured former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, The Blaze TV's Amy Holmes, and Colonel Morris Davis who was the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo for two years and now calls for its closure. The topic was the current hunger strikes at the center where prisoners are protesting being held without trial.

Fleischer and Amanpour scuffled over the very opening of Guantanamo and its accordance with the Geneva Conventions:

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: You wanted to have this whole thing about enemy combatants. The roughty-toughty Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld decided no Geneva Conventions.

ANDERSON COOPER: Roughty-toughty?

AMANPOUR: Let's just put these guys in there.

ARI FLEISCHER: No, they were treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, even though they did not qualify because they didn't wear uniforms per –

AMANPOUR: It is such a legal limbo. And this started –

FLEISCHER: The law is the law. It ought to be followed.

AMANPOUR: No, it's violation of international law.

FLEISCHER: It's not.

AMANPOUR: And do you know what? Force-feeding is also a violation of international medical ethics.

(Crosstalk)

AMANPOUR: The UN is saying that right now!

And when the idea surfaced of sending Yemeni prisoners back to Yemen, Fleischer noted "There have been people who were released to Yemen who returned to the battlefield." Host Anderson Cooper followed that "There was also a huge jail break in Yemen a while back." Amanpour disagreed.

"Yeah. But that was then," she insisted of the 2006 escape of 23 suspected al Qaeda members from a Yemeni prison. In 2011, Yemen saw two prison breaks in one year involving al Qaeda militants.

Toobin also claimed that civilian trials of terrorists have been "100 percent successful." Holmes brought up that "Ahmed Ghailani was a complete debacle. He was acquitted on over 280 charges."

And for the second straight day, Holmes and Amanpour faced off against each other. Holmes began claiming that "no countries" will accept the 86 detainees who have been cleared for transfer. "No, that's not true! We've just been talking about that," Amanpour challenged.

"That to me is no solution," Holmes insisted. "No, no. Come on, Amy," Amanpour responded.

Homes cited a "recidivism rate of 16-27 percent" of detainees returning to terrorist activity, or being suspected of having done so. And the office of the Director of National Intelligence attested to a recidivism rate of 27.9 percent in 2012. Amanpour wouldn't have it, though, sticking with CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen's estimate of "at best or at worst about 6 percent right now. That's one in 17."

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on May 2 on Anderson Cooper 360 at 10:17 p.m. EDT:

CNN
ANDERSON COOPER 360
5/2/13
[10:17 p.m. EDT]

ANDERSON COOPER: It's safe to say no single story has generated the kind of heat on this program than what's going on right now at Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Inmates on a hunger strike there, medical officers force-feeding some of them. Now, whatever you think of the place or the people in it, what's happening there raises a lot of questions.

Back with our panel. In the fifth chair tonight, someone who was present at the creation of the Gitmo detention center, former George W. Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. Good to have you here. You say Gitmo should remain open. And what do you think about the force-feeding?

ARI FLEISCHER, former George W. Bush White House press secretary: Well, one, I say I would love to be able to close it. I think all of us want it closed. The problem is, how do you accomplish that? And that's what we've run into. Somebody I know very well is in charge of trying to negotiate with other nations for them to take the Gitmo prisoners, one of the best diplomats we have. He worked in the Bush administration, worked previously. He's a career Foreign Service officer. He works for President Obama now, trying to find places. No one wants them.

AMANPOUR: Well, except the Yemenis do want them back now, particularly those 56 of the 86 who have been cleared to go.

FLEISCHER: That's right. There's a certain number that Yemen wants.

AMANPOUR: The Yemeni president does want them back.

AMY HOLMES: But do we trust sending them to Yemen, a country that's practically a failed state?

AMANPOUR: Well, no.

FLEISCHER: There have been people who were released to Yemen who returned to the battlefield.

COOPER: There was also a huge jail break in Yemen a while back.

AMANPOUR: Yeah. But that was then. Listen, again, Senator Feinstein, who is the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, specifically addressed this issue that, yes, after the underwear bomber, she and others in Congress suggested to President Obama that they do not allow people to go back to Yemen. But now she wants to reconsider that. The president of Yemen, who is a strong U.S. ally and a strong fighter against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, wants these people to come back. And the momentum is building now.

HOLMES: So it's the former president now.

FLEISCHER: Christiane, you're talking about half the population. There still is a remaining population. You have got 80 people.

AMANPOUR: We're talking about now 86 people. 56 of them are Yemenis.

FLEISCHER: There's another 80 who would still be at Guantanamo. No one knows what to do with them.

(Crosstalk)

AMANPOUR: – start the process on the 86 who have been cleared.

FLEISCHER: But of those who are still there, this is why we need Guantanamo, because we're not ready to deal with that.

HOLMES: 166 detainees.

FLEISCHER: The fact of matter is if we did try to bring them to trial in the American court system, because they're terrorists, because there's not exactly a crime scene with yellow tape around it and people with gloves walking a crime scene, chances are they're going to get off on a technicality in an American court. So, then do we just release them?

(Crosstalk)

TOOBIN: The trials -- the trials in American courtrooms of terrorists, people accused of terrorism, have been 100 percent successful.

HOLMES: Ahmed Ghailani was a complete debacle. He was acquitted on over 280 charges.

COOPER: Let's bring in someone actually who was very involved in this, retired Air Force Colonel Morris Davis. In September of 2005 -- actually, can you move out of the way? Sorry. In 2005, he was the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo's Office of Military Commissions. He resigned in protest two years later. Colonel Morris Davis, good to have you on the program.
You have done a 180. And you resigned really in protest. Why? What kind of impact do you think Gitmo staying open is having right now?

MORRIS DAVIS, former federal prosecutor: I just don't see any upside to it. As the President laid out on Tuesday, it costs a fortune. It strains our credibility around the world. As Jeff can tell you, the law that's come out of Guantanamo, Hamdan, Boumediene, Rasul, has all been adverse to the U.S. There's just no upside to keeping it open, other than right-wing talking points to say that the President is going to be weak on terrorism.

COOPER: So, what would you do with the people who are there?

DAVIS: Well, I think one way to end the hunger strike is to land a plane at Guantanamo, put the 56 Yemenis on it, and fly them home. And I think if the detainees saw that there was some forward progress, the hunger strike would be over. And you would end this having to force-feed people or let them die. For the others, I think we have got to make a decision. As the President said on Tuesday, leaving people in jail forever without trial is just fundamentally wrong, and it's got to stop.

So, we need to act like Americans again. We used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. And we have been the constrained and the cowardly for the last 11 years. So, we either release them and send them home, or we give them a trial.

AMANPOUR: Colonel, for all of those who are wondering about what do you do with the rest, okay, you're talking about the 56 Yemenis. You have got in total 86 people who have been cleared for transfer. But what about the others? I have talked to many defense lawyers who say, look, the reason they can't be processed is because there's no evidence that has been put against them. They can't go to trial. They're in this like legal limbo. And some of them are really accidental prisoners. These people have been bought off and sort of tipped off for various bribes. Yeah, it's true, Amy.

HOLMES: The administration in May of 2009 did a review of the Gitmo detainees at that point, 240 people. And almost all of them were connected to either al Qaeda or Taliban –

(Crosstalk)

COOPER: What do you think should happen to those people?

DAVIS: Well, I think what we ought to do is, there's a group of the 86 that have been cleared for transfer. And these are people -- I don't think the American public understands that these are people that the FBI, CIA, Department of Justice, Department of Defense said we're not going to charge with a crime, they're not an imminent threat, and we don't want to keep them. And we're spending $800,000 a year per person to keep them at Guantanamo.

This would qualify for the Golden Fleece Award back in the old days. So, we get rid of those, send them home. There's a group of about 30 the administration wants to prosecute. And that's really a forum choice. And I think the forum ought to be federal court, where, as Jeff said, we have been extraordinarily successful. It's been fast. Been severe sentences, where at Guantanamo, in 11 years, we have had seven convictions.

Six of the seven are now free men back in their home country. And six of the seven, their convictions have been overturned on appeal. And then there's that group of 50 indefinite detainees that we hold them because we argue that we're at war. We have the right to detain them. But when we bring the troops out of Afghanistan next year, that legal basis goes away. So we need to be thinking about how to solve this.

FLEISCHER: But that's the key issue. For those 50, what do we do? And this is where I think the President has to be consistent. If he really thinks it's in the America's interest to close Guantanamo, then close it. Bring them to court. Bring whatever evidence we have.

HOLMES: Military tribunal is an option.

(Crosstalk)

FLEISCHER: And the President, then, should take a stand. And if they're found not guilty, let them go on the streets. If they're found guilty, fine. But chances are most of those 50 will not be found guilty. And then the only consistent thing is to do is either leave Guantanamo open and keep them there or acknowledge they're going to be freed and walking the streets.

COOPER: What do you do about forced feeding? What do you do about this hunger strike right now?

TOOBIN: Let's ask Colonel Davis. What is the more humane thing to do? Do you force-feed someone or let them die of starvation?

DAVIS: Yeah, it's really a damned if you do, damned if you don't. Because either way you –

TOOBIN: Well, that's what I asked you. Because I don't know.

DAVIS: I think the way to do it is to solve the hunger strike. I think if you began sending some people home that have been cleared, it would show there's some light at the end of the tunnel. I mean, that's what the detainees have done. They have given up.

HOLMES: But the point is that the 86 who have been cleared, there are no countries that will take them.

AMANPOUR: No, that's not true! We've just been talking about that.

HOLMES: That to me is no solution.

AMANPOUR: No, no. Come on, Amy.

HOLMES: Bermuda took the Chinese Uyghurs. Bermuda won't take these people.

AMANPOUR: Oh, come on! How can it be to you no solution?

COOPER: You're saying that Yemen is not a solution? Don't send them?

HOLMES: No, I don't think that Yemen is a secure enough country that we could trust that these people being taken by the Yemenis –

(Crosstalk)

AMANPOUR: The Senate Intelligence Committee does. Would you respect the Senate Intelligence –

HOLMES: We have a recidivism rate of 16-27 percent.

AMANPOUR: No, that's  not true, either. I have done the homework on that. Our good friend Peter Bergen, let's give him a shout-out, "Manhunt," his documentary, on HBO tonight, has written copious articles, has made all sorts and so many others have as well, of comparisons of recidivism -- recidivism in various years. It's basically at best or at worst about 6 percent right now. That's one in 17.

HOLMES: 16-27 is reported by The Washington Post.

AMANPOUR: No, no. No. It's not the figure right now.

COOPER: Beyond sending them away in order to kind of end this logjam, this hunger strike, is force-feeding, is that humane, or is it more humane to let them – to people go on a hunger strike?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think there's merit to what the Colonel said about, if progress is made, that people see that there is a way that they will eventually be released or dealt with, it might deal with the hunger strike.

COOPER: Because that's what – that's what at the core of this, that hopelessness.

FLEISCHER: You do want to have – every prison has to be humanitarian. And if there is that solution, I would be for it.

(Crosstalk)

FLEISCHER: But wait a minute, wait a minute. I want to broaden this for a second about why we have Guantanamo in the first place.

AMANPOUR: No, we have it because of your administration.

FLEISCHER: We have it because these people did not even follow the rule of war, let alone the rule of law. It's not a question of whether or not we should be trying people in a civil court or million commissions, both which are legal and within the Constitution, congressionally passed. These people didn't even wear a military uniform. They engaged in battle against America as terrorists, a violation of the laws of war. That's why Guantanamo got invented.

TOOBIN: This country fought Adolf Hitler. And I don't really believe that the – that Osama bin Laden and his group are worse or more dangerous than Adolf Hitler. And we managed to defeat Adolf Hitler by following the rule of law. And I don't see why –

(Crosstalk)

FLEISCHER: And so did Hitler's armies. They followed the law of war. They wore uniforms and they fought us on battlefields. These people are fundamentally, totally by design different. And they need to be treated in a different extrajudicial system.

TOOBIN: I don't believe that for a second.

(Crosstalk)

AMANPOUR: You wanted to have this whole thing about enemy combatants. The roughty-toughty Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld decided no Geneva Conventions.

COOPER: Rough-ty tough-ty?

AMANPOUR: Let's just put these guys in there.

FLEISCHER: No, they were treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, even though they did not qualify because they didn't wear uniforms per –

AMANPOUR: It is such a legal limbo. And this started –

FLEISCHER: The law is the law. It ought to be followed.

AMANPOUR: No, it's violation of international law.

FLEISCHER: It's not.

AMANPOUR: And do you know what? Force-feeding is also a violation of international medical ethics.

(Crosstalk)

AMANPOUR: The UN is saying that right now!

(Crosstalk)

HOLMES: Christiane, in the short term, then, if you oppose the force-feeding – and we're not closing Gitmo in the next week, and yet they could die of starvation in the next week – what do you think is the solution?

AMANPOUR: I think the solution is written in many, many instances. There are ways to get rid of these people. You have just discovered, discussed some of them here. Try them in proper courts, if you can. The problem, of course, is also that Gitmo was set up so you could enhancely interrogate these people. And a lot of that evidence, you can't use, you can't use in courts.

AMANPOUR: But, look, there are those who have been accused who have gone through the court system and have been convicted and have been sentenced to life imprisonment. I don't know why people don't have faith in the American people and a justice and a jury system.

HOLMES: But it's not a right-wing talking point when President Obama himself hasn't released these people. President Obama himself has not put them on a military tribunal.

(Crosstalk)

TOOBIN: It's not just that Obama decided not to do it.

HOLMES: Nor has he put them on trial in military tribunals.

AMANPOUR: Because everybody jumps up and down and gets hysterical about it.

TOOBIN: What happened was, when he said he was going to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed here to Manhattan to try the case, Congress passed a law that said he couldn't close Guantanamo. So he doesn't have that option available to him.

FLEISCHER: Overwhelmingly bipartisan, though. Overwhelmingly bipartisan.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. That doesn't mean it was right.

COOPER: We have got to end it.

AMANPOUR: It's just not American.

-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center