O'Reilly said no Afghans held at Guantánamo; Pentagon says otherwise


In discussions of suspected terrorists detained at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, FOX News Channel host and radio host Bill O'Reilly has repeatedly supported the Bush administration's position that it's dangerous and unnecessary to allow the detainees to challenge their detention in federal court. He claimed that since those captured in Afghanistan and held at Guantánamo are "foreigners" -- i.e., non-Afghans who traveled to Afghanistan to fight the U.S. invasion -- they are unlikely to be innocent people captured by mistake. O'Reilly is wrong: While many Guantánamo detainees are non-Afghan, a significant plurality is, in fact, from Afghanistan.

From the June 29 broadcast of the nationally syndicated radio program The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

CALLER: [W]hat percentage of people who were captured [in Afghanistan and sent to Guantánamo] do you feel -- because I think that's the problem that most people have with these techniques is, you have to assume that there's innocent people there --

O'REILLY: I don't assume that in Guantánamo Bay. All of those people were captured on the battlefield. All of them were vetted very, very carefully before they were shipped out of that country. All of them are foreigners, that is, not Afghans. And as I said many times, Antonio [the caller's name], you can't get to that battlefield in a cab.

O'Reilly made a similar statement on the June 28 Radio Factor:

CALLER: I agree with the Supreme Court decision [that Guantánamo detainees have the right to challenge their detention in court], and I also agree that we screwed up when we didn't declacrate [sic] -- declare war. However, I don't want to spend a dime of my money trying to convict these guys. So, let's have our military handle it by -- but why can't we handle it by transferring these guys to the respectal [sic] countries, Afghan, hand them over to their government --

O'REILLY: There aren't any Afghans. They [U.S. authorities] wouldn't take Afghans [to Guantánamo], because they were legitimate battlefield combatants, see?

But a February 4 analysis of Pentagon data by United Press International (UPI) revealed that "Afghans are the fourth largest nationality with 80 detainees" out of a total of 650 detainees at Guantánamo. According to UPI, the top three nationalities are Saudi (160 detainees), Yemeni (85), and Pakistani (82). Since February 4, the Pentagon has announced the release of 40 detainees from Guantánamo, including 23 Afghans. That leaves a total of 57 Afghan detainees remaining at Guantánamo.

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National Security & Foreign Policy
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