Hannity falsely claimed NI director plans to "release ... enemy combatants on American soil"

››› ››› NATHAN TABAK

Sean Hannity falsely claimed DNI Dennis Blair plans to "release ... enemy combatants on American soil." In fact, Blair has outlined a "process" to determine whether and how to release detainees who are not "too dangerous to let out" and have not "committed offenses that merit punishment."

On the March 27 edition of his Fox News program, Sean Hannity stated that "[t]he director of national intelligence says Gitmo detainees will be released right here in the U.S.," and later alleged: "So we're going to release these enemy combatants on American soil, OK?" Hannity also referred to the detainees that "we're going to release" as "Gitmo combatants." In fact, in the comments to which Hannity referred, National Intelligence director Dennis Blair was not proposing that the United States release "enemy combatants on American soil"; rather, during a March 26 press conference, Blair outlined the "process" by which the government would determine whether and how to release detainees into the United States who are not "too dangerous to let out" and have not "committed offenses that merit punishment."

Indeed, Blair was answering a specific question about detainees belonging to the Uighur ethnic group from western China. As Media Matters for America has noted, the Bush administration told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in September 2008 that the 17 Uighur detainees "will be treated as if they are no longer enemy combatants."

As Media Matters noted, Hannity also falsely claimed during the same Fox News segment that "we actually have from the Pentagon 61 people that we released from Gitmo. Sixty-one have gone back to the battlefield."

From Blair's March 26 press conference:

QUESTION: On the disposition of the prisoners at Gitmo, you've got some options, and none of them are really great. You give them to governments overseas who may jail them or release them, and we've seen some of what's happened there. There's some talk about releasing, or putting some in U.S. jails.

BLAIR: Right.

QUESTION: Possibly releasing some inside the United States, the Justice Department talked a little bit about perhaps releasing the Uighurs in the U.S., or at least some of them. What criteria are you using to make those determinations, and what -- if anyone is released into the U.S., what kind of follow-up will you do with them for security and what kind of assistance would you give them to sort of get them started in our country?

BLAIR: I probably couldn't describe the process any better than you just did. We are building dossiers on each of the detainees in Guantanamo that puts together all of the information we have about them. We're developing a process to make an evaluation of what can be done with them, given the options that we have.

And in the case of each of those -- each of the, those options, we are in fact thinking through the additional measures that have to be taken, some of which you cited. If they are sent to another country, we have to be sure that that country will treat them in a humane fashion. So that's part of the -- that's part of the consideration. If they are to be detained in the United States after some sort of process that determines that they are too dangerous to let out, or have committed offenses that merit punishment, we have to worry about where they're put and what the effect is on the -- what that effect might be on the place where they're placed.

If we are to release them in the United States, you can't just sort of, as you said, put them on the street and there, but we need some sort of assistance to them to start a new life and not return to some of the conditions that may have inspired them in the first place. So all that is a work in progress. It's under intense timeline because a year is not a very long time to go through that complexity. So all that's in process.

From the March 27 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: The director of national intelligence says Gitmo detainees will be released right here in the U.S. And guess what? Given federal assistance to start a new life. You've got to be kidding me. What's next? Straight ahead.

[...]

HANNITY: All right. So I'm going to start with you, considering we were battling this morning.

JAY THOMAS (radio host): Sure.

HANNITY: We'll pick it right up where we left it.

THOMAS: I don't know if we were battling, but --

HANNITY: Nah, I'm just teasing. It was fun -- you were fun. So we're going to release these enemy combatants on American soil, OK?

THOMAS: Yeah.

HANNITY: You know, I don't know if it includes Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9-11, but we're going to release these guys --

THOMAS: There's only 20 of them we're releasing, though.

HANNITY: All right, but they're going to be released.

THOMAS: But aren't they Chinese guys? Aren't they, like --

BETSY McCAUGHEY (former New York lieutenant governor): Twenty? One could do deadly damage.

THOMAS: I understand. They could --

HANNITY: She's -- I think he was kidding at this point.

THOMAS: You make me want to have a handy wipe. I know you're into the -- whatever.

But it's 20 guys. Seventeen are Chinese. And if they go back to China -- they're from a Muslim section or whatever -- they may be killed. And who's -- and they've proven or said that they weren't enemy combatants.

Wouldn't you love them just to open the gate at Guantánamo and let them just stay in Cuba?

HANNITY: Just go -- in Cuba.

THOMAS: And do the -- what is it, the Mariel -- the boat lift that we hated so much? But I have to tell you, I'm pro-choice on this. I think you give them a choice. They either go back to their country of origin -- they go into -- they can go into Cuba if they want, or we release them into any number of Chinatowns in the United States. I mean, what else --

HANNITY: Where -- where you think they would be --

THOMAS: They would be welcome. They would be welcome. They --

HANNITY: Well, look --

THOMAS: But they didn't do anything. Now, remember now --

HANNITY: But here's -- but here's the other side of this.

THOMAS: -- it's a democracy. We said they didn't do anything.

HANNITY: But we're going to release them, Betsy, and then we're going to give them money. I mean --

McCAUGHEY: This is --

HANNITY: -- we're going to bail out --

THOMAS: Well --

HANNITY: -- we're going to bail out the Gitmo combatants. This is, you know --

McCAUGHEY: Right. This is -- the president's action toward these military tribunals has been an outrage, especially to the families who lost someone on 9-11 or with the attack of the USS Cole.

THOMAS: But these people didn't kill anybody in 9-11.

McCAUGHEY: But --

SOPHIA NELSON (attorney): Let her finish.

THOMAS: They were in China.

McCAUGHEY: The -- the standard of proof is --

HANNITY: Some -- some. We don't know exactly who specifically --

THOMAS: Seventeen are Chinese and three --

McCAUGHEY: -- is too high.

THOMAS: -- are Middle Eastern.

McCAUGHEY: We know that -- we know that one of the Gitmo detainees who was released because he said that he wanted to go back to his family and farm his land --

HANNITY: Yeah.

McCAUGHEY: -- is now leading the Taliban effort in southern Afghanistan.

HANNITY: No, that's true. But as a matter of fact --

McCAUGHEY: So --

HANNITY: No, we actually have from the Pentagon 61 people that we released from Gitmo. Sixty-one have gone back to the battlefield. So, I'm not -- I don't even know if I necessarily have the confidence that the government is releasing people that are truly and completely innocent.

McCAUGHEY: Our major obligation --

NELSON: I think we're -- look --

McCAUGHEY: -- is to the safety of our citizens --

HANNITY: And I agree with you.

MCCAUGHEY: -- not to these Gitmo detainees.

HANNITY: And this is a war.

NELSON: Picking up on Betsy's point -- and it's very important. This is a serious issue. This isn't something we ought to be joking about. We're setting a very dangerous precedent here, releasing people -- terrorists -- and I really get annoyed when people talk about democracy. They're not in a democracy. This is a democracy for American citizens, not terrorists who come here to harm us or do our people harm. I don't think they have any rights.

THOMAS: If you held me for seven years --

NELSON: I think that --

THOMAS: -- and I didn't do anything --

NELSON: Too bad. Well, you know what?

THOMAS: -- I would be really mad.

NELSON: The bottom line is --

THOMAS: Well, I'm sorry. They --

NELSON: -- those rights of due process --

THOMAS: They have said that --

NELSON: -- apply to American citizens --

THOMAS: -- they didn't do anything.

NELSON: -- I don't think they ought to apply to terrorist citizens.

HANNITY: You know, I gotta tell you --

THOMAS: There's only 20 that they say they didn't do anything.

HANNITY: There's a hard -- this is a hard question, because, you know what? I'm sort of leaning -- I've been so pro-death penalty my whole life -- but the Innocence Project, you know, by Barry Scheck, has kind of made me question, as a pro-life guy, that maybe that's not a good idea. We've made too many mistakes.

THOMAS: What about the money it costs to put someone to death? It's much more expensive.

HANNITY: I don't care how expensive it is. If you rape a child or kill somebody, and it's on video -- now, my standard is increasing. If you're on video, and we've got, you know, 1,000 percent proof, I have no problem. You go.

But the only point is, is if we make mistakes, these are people that are going to go out there, they think God is inspiring them with 72 virgins in heaven to kill Americans. And I -- this is a time of war. They declared war on us. Some of them were picked up on the battlefield. I'm just -- I'm worried we make a mistake, and America pays the price.

THOMAS: Why do you think that these 20 are guilty, if we say they're not guilty? Why do you think these 20 -- there's 246. Twenty may be released into the United States.

McCAUGHEY: You're confusing the standard of proof.

NELSON: Exactly.

McCAUGHEY: They may not be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but we cannot afford to expose our nation to the risk that they may be -- mal-intended.

THOMAS: Then send them home to wherever they came from, and that's it.

HANNITY: Don't release them in the U.S., and certainly don't give them --

McCAUGHEY: That's right.

THOMAS: Send them home.

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