Greg Sargent thinks that the Obama administration makes a great point in their response to criticism over plans to send Yemenis in Gitmo back to a nation that practices catch-and-release with terrorists, either by choice or by default. The White House says that the terrorists that have gone back into AQ were all released by the Bush administration, which is undeniable, since the only ones released to Yemen have only just gone out the door:
One of the big stories of the morning — echoed widely by the news orgs and on the right — is that new government stats show that 20 percent of Gitmo detainees who have been released are thought to have returned to terrorist activity. The story is expected to complicate the politics of closing Gitmo.
But what if all those detainees were released under Bush, and not under Obama?
That’s the case that was made to me by a senior Obama administration official. He claimed that the administration doesn’t believe that any of the detainees released under Obama have returned to terror — because the Obama administration has a better screening process in place to determine which detainees pose a threat. …
To be sure, it’s hard to evaluate this claim. Much of the info involving these detainees remains classified. It might also be more compelling if the administration made it on the record. But it’s an angle on this story worth digging into. It could shed light on how much this recidivism story should actually matter when it comes to evaluating the Obama administration’s current approach.
Er, how much does it matter when Obama has determined to release all of the remaining Yemenis anyway? The administration isn’t being choosy at all. They only began releasing Yemenis a few weeks ago, and stopped after getting embarrassed when the EunuchBomber attack made the situation in Yemen impossible to dismiss. Until then, though, the White House had insisted publicly that they would eventually turn over all of the Yemenis except any involved in chargeable “crimes” back to the nearly-failed state of Yemen.
The fact that the recidivism applies to Bush-era releases is both undeniable and irrelevant. Obama has only been in office a year, and has only released a handful of Chinese Uighurs and the half-dozen Yemenis, along with a smattering of releases to Europe and Afghanistan. They haven’t been out long enough to track. It took a couple of years to see the terrorists claim their return to AQ operations.
The better question is whether the Obama administration will learn anything from the recidivism that we’ve confirmed (and the larger recidivism we should assume). I’m willing to stipulate that Obama shouldn’t get blamed for the earlier recidivism if he takes the obvious lesson and stops releasing terrorists from Gitmo as a result of the new data. If the administration thinks that the releases of those considered a safer bet in the early stages of emptying Gitmo means that releasing everyone else will get better results, then that certainly is an angle worth pursuing for media outlets — mainly for its insanity.