The "Taliban Five," prisoners who were released from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, have been cooling their heels under the Qatari government for the past year, but that arrangement is set to run out shortly unless a new deal can be reached with Qatar. The White House has said that talks are currently underway, and that the current travel restrictions will remain in place until those talks conclude, but as there was when the swap was first made, there is trepidation in some quarters about the five returning to the battlefield.
Fox News Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry may have single-handedly taken care of that worry on Friday, as he planted what could become a deadly seed of doubt about the Taliban Five's current loyalties:
Ed Henry: "Taliban Five, did the U.S. government try to turn the Taliban Five into intelligence assets?"
Josh Earnest: "Ed, I have to admit, I'm surprised you asked. because intelligence matters are not matters that I frequently discuss from here, and so there's obviously very little I can say about that."
As Earnest noted, there was little hope of getting an answer to that question, but what it did accomplish was to put the idea out there that the Taliban Five might just be rats, and returning them to any battlefield might not be the best idea. In fact, it might be healthier for everyone if the Taliban just shot these guys on sight and incinerated their likely-GPS-equipped bodies.
In fact, about a year ago, another White House reporter asked a question with the similarly mischievous aim of putting some stink on these guys back home:
As I noted at the time, my question wasn't just a matter of journalistic psy-ops, but also the product of close observation of the Obama administration's handling of these concerns. Then, as now, if the administration is at all concerned about these guys returning to the battlefield, they have done absolutely no expectation-setting to cushion the potential blowback of that possibility. Maybe the Taliban Five ought to think about another line of work. I hear TLC has a timeslot opening up.