MSNBC host Chris Matthews had a heated exchange with Col. Morris Davis, a former chief Gitmo prosecutor, Tuesday over the threat posed by the five Taliban commanders freed by the Obama administration to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Other mainstream media members also have questioned the deal.
Davis said the legal basis to keep the five who were freed was about to run out, so the deal made sense to get Bergdahl back.
"Why are they no longer a danger to the United States in terms of that war front?" Matthews asked.
Davis said the U.S. had no evidence against them, but Matthews cut him off, asking him whether they qualified as enemies of the United States, leading to this testy exchange.
DAVIS: If we had any evidence they had committed any offense, we would have preferred charges against them, and in 12 years we couldn't do them.
MATTHEWS: That's why we keep them in Gitmo. Of course, because they're dangerous.
DAVIS: Our legal justification has been we're at war. The president has said by the end of the year, that war is coming to an end. So, you know, we've got to come up with a new legal fiction —
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MATTHEWS: Do you think the war against the United States from the Taliban point of view is going to be over when we check out of there? Do you honestly believe they're going to stop attacking us and our interests?
DAVIS: I don't think we measure our behavior by what the Taliban thinks. Legally the war is coming to an end, and that's what we've cited to the courts for a decade now.
MATTHEWS: You're making these legal points which I question, because I don't think they cease to be hostiles. But my question is this, if those guys get back in there and start killing American GIs who are stationed at our embassy or anywhere else, whose head is that on? Yours or the president's? But it's somebody's, because the person who lets them go is responsible for them now! Right now.
Matthews asked Davis whether it was plausible the Taliban commanders freed would "retire" from the war. When Davis said he didn't know, Matthews retorted, "You don't think so. Say you don't think so. That means something."