Recidivism rises among released Guantanamo detainees

Mon Mar 5, 2012 7:15pm EST

Related Topics

(Reuters) - The proportion of militants released from detention at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay who subsequently were believed to have returned to the battlefield rose slightly over the last year, according to official figures released on Monday.

In a summary report, the office of the Director of National Intelligence said that 27.9 percent of the 599 former detainees released from Guantanamo were either confirmed or suspected of later engaging in militant activity.

The figures represent a 2.9 percent rise over a 25 percent aggregate recidivism rate reported by the intelligence czar's office in December 2010.

The increase in the apparent recidivism rate, while not large, comes at a delicate time for President Barack Obama, and could further complicate his attempts to negotiate a peace deal with Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

As a "confidence building" measure, the Taliban have insisted on the release of five specific Taliban leaders currently held at Guantanamo. The Obama administration has been working on a plan under which the detainees could be transferred to the Persian Gulf state of Qatar but still held in detention.

Lawmakers, mostly Republicans, have indicated they will try to block the release of senior Taliban detainees, and the latest recidivism statistics could add fuel to their efforts.

They will also bolster criticisms from Republican legislators that Obama's unsuccessful effort to close the Guantanamo facility have increased the likelihood of future militant attacks on U.S. targets.

Releases from Guantanamo have slowed considerably recently; the last took place over a year ago.

Not all of the cases of former detainees joining the fight against U.S. and allied troops might constitute recidivism. News reports have revealed that the original Guantanamo detainee population included individuals who posed no threat to the United States. Some may have been radicalized by their experiences there.

As presented by the DNI, the figures appear to show that the rate of recidivism among detainees has dropped since Obama took office, compared to the rate under former President George W. Bush.

According to a breakdown released with the latest raw figures, 92 of the 532 Guantanamo detainees released before January 22, 2009 - two days after Bush left office - were confirmed to have returned to the battlefield and 70 were suspected of having done so - an aggregate recidivism rate of 30.5 percent.

RECIDIVISM DOWN UNDER OBAMA

By contrast, the new statistics show, only three of the 67 detainees released from Guantanamo since Obama took office are confirmed to have rejoined militants, with another two suspected of having done so - an aggregate recidivism rate of 7.5 percent.

Overall, the statistics showed that, of the 599 detainees who were released as of December 29, 2011, 95 were confirmed to have re-engaged in militant activity or to have been in contact with militants. This comprises 15.9 percent of the total released.

Another 72 militants are "suspected of re-engaging" in militant activity after they were freed from Guantanamo. This constitutes an additional 12 percent of all released detainees.

Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale, a Defense Department spokesman, said the distinction made in the statistics between militants whose recidivism is "Confirmed" versus "Suspected" was particularly relevant "because there was confusion in some early media reports conflating the two."

"To be sure, 'Confirmed' is more consistent with our actual intelligence data and 'Suspected' is a much lower bar, triggering an additional review that is really more akin to a sort of 'early watch' system. Someone on the 'Suspected' list could very possibly not be engaged in activities that are counter to our national security interests," Breasseale said.

He added that a total of 171 detainees are still being held at Guantanamo.

A U.S. intelligence official familiar with the process by which the statistics are put together added that the evidentiary standards for listing a detainee as "suspected" of having returned to the battlefield are vague.

But another official noted that there is often a lengthy lag between the time that a detainee is released and the time that U.S. agencies receive information indicating that the individual is confirmed or suspected of having returned to the battlefield. Hence, the official said, the latest statistics might not provide an accurate picture of the consequences of the Obama administration policy on Guantanamo releases.

(Additional reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Warren Strobel and Eric Walsh)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
bill1942 wrote:
And, this would be a surprise to anyone because………………..?

Mar 05, 2012 8:07pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Trojan_Horace wrote:
I suspect it depends on what your definition of recidivism is… Some of those defined as recidivists made perfectly respectable documentaries and films critical of US breaches of international law at GITMO… that doesn’t make then terrorists or anything like it

Mar 05, 2012 8:31pm EST  --  Report as abuse
I admonish the writer, Mr Hosenfeld, who missed the very most important aspect of this story.

The DIA claims have been exposed as a pack of lies. Scholars at Seton hall University methodically tracked the claims of recidivism. They found them riddled with inconsistencies — and worse — outright fraud.

In some of these shamefully dishonest press releases the DIA published some of the names of the former captives they classed as recidivists. One man moved back and forth from the confirmed to suspected list.

The three men who were the subject of the film “Road to Guantanamo” and the first five Uyghurs — the ones who were cleared of all suspicion in 2004, and were formally declared to not have been “enemy combatants” after all, also made the list.

This highlights the deceit of the DIA claims in characterizing these men as “returning” to supporting terrorism. These eight men were cleared of any suspicion they had ever supported terrorism prior to being sent to Guantanamo. So even if, for the sake of argument, they were supporting terrorism NOW — it is not a RETURN to supporting terrorism. Further, I have followed press accounts of these men, following their release. They have done nothing, following their release, to justify this claim — unless you accepted that merely answering reporters questions about conditions at the camp constitutes “supporting terrorism”.

That tribal leader I mentioned above, who the DIA reported moved back and forth from confirmed to suspected — he had also been cleared of suspicion prior to his release. What does the public record suggest put him under suspicion. When he returned to Afghanistan he returned to a leadership position. His region was one not under firm control of Afghanistan’s central government. US forces sought his cooperation. understandably, after several years of abuse in US custody, he declined. From the public record this is all that was necessary for the DIA to characterize him as “returning to support of terrorism”. As with the other claims above, this is deceitful claim, when you remember he was cleared of suspicion of supporting terrorism prior to his release.

What i suspect lies at the heart of these deceitful claims is a contract camp authorities try to make captives about to be released sign. Of course, as even schoolchildren know, a contract one is forced to sign under duress is legally worthless. But the DIA seems prepared to treat these contracts as if they are legally enforceable.

Captives about to be released are pushed to sign a commitment not to take up arms. Of course any captive who does take up arms against the USA or Afghanistan’s central government has become a combatant again. But the contract goes much further. This contract captives are forced to sign also contains a gag promise — they are made to promise not to talk about camp conditions.

From the public record, from the way this deceitful DIA list keeps growing, from their refusal to offer substantiation for these claims I suggest we have to assume many of the other captives made the list solely due to offering candid descriptions of conditions of their custody.

I think we have to wonder how many of these captives made the list solely due to candidly describing Koran desecration.

Mar 06, 2012 8:54am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.