Number of former Gitmo detainees suspected of returning to terrorism is up

posted at 1:31 pm on March 8, 2016 by John Sexton

The number of former Gitmo prisoners suspected of re-engaging in terrorism against the United States has gone up in the past year. The new data released by the Obama administration Monday is broken down into two categories: those confirmed to have returned to terrorism and those suspected of having done so. Fox News reports on the increase shown in this year’s report:

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said that seven of the 144 detainees who have been freed since President Barack Obama took office in 2009 have been confirmed to have returned to fighting as of Jan. 15. The ODNI’s previous report, from this past July, said six detainees had gone back to battle.

The number of suspected recidivist detainees was double the number in this past July’s report. The increase is likely to spark new protests by Republicans opposed to President Obama’s plan to shut down the facility and transfer dozens of detainees to prisons in the U.S.

To be clear, the 2015 report said six former detainees were suspected of returning to terrorism and the report issued yesterday says 12 are now suspected of doing so, i.e. exactly double. Overall that brings the known recidivism rate to 4.9% and the rate of suspected recidivism to 8.3%. Both of those figures are still lower than the rates recorded under former President Bush. Combining the recidivism rate under both presidents, the rate of known recidivism is 17.5% and the rate of suspected recidivism is 12.7%. That would bring the total rate (known and suspected) to 30.2 percent of all released detainees.

The report makes clear that suspected recidivism does not include things like “engagement in anti-U.S. statements or propaganda.” To be on the list of suspected recidivists means there is at least one credible report of engagement in the following types of behavior:

Planning terrorist operations, conducting a terrorist or insurgent attack against Coalition or host-nation forces or civilians, conducting a suicide bombing, financing terrorist operations, recruiting others for terrorist operations, and arranging for movement of individuals involved in terrorist operations.

Last month Secretary of State John Kerry was asked about the recidivism rate of former detainees and specifically about Ibrahim al Qosi who was released from Gitmo in 2012 and became a recruiter for al Qaeda (AQAP). Senator Mark Kirk asked Kerry whether al Qosi’s recidivism would lead to an end of the “policy of issuing terrorists to terrorist nations.” Secretary Kerry replied, “Well, Senator, he’s not supposed to be doing that.”

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