DNI report shows recidivism of released Gitmo detainees increasing

Maybe this explains why the push to close Guantanamo Bay has slowed to a mere memory.  The Obama administration waited until the last minute to publish a report from the Director of National Intelligence on recidivism among Gitmo alumni, and one can see why they wanted to keep it confidential as long as possible.  While Barack Obama played Let’s Make a Deal with Europe to get the terrorists behind Door Number Three, more and more of those released previously have returned to terrorism — with dozens no longer able to be located:

A de-classified summary of a report about detainees formerly held at Guantanamo Bay, written by the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, reported that of the 66 former Guantanamo detainees transferred since President Obama took office, “2 are confirmed and 3 are suspected of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities.”

The Bush administration freed many more so-called recidivists, the report stated, having transferred 79 confirmed and 66 suspected of subsequently “reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities after transfer.”

As of October 1, 2010, the report stated, 598 detainees have been transferred by the Pentagon from Gitmo into the custody of other countries. “The Intelligence Community assesses that 81 (13.5 percent) are confirmed and 69 (11.5 percent) are suspected of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities after transfer. Of the 150 former GTMO detainees assessed as confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities, the Intelligence Community assesses that 13 are dead, 54 are in custody, and 83 remain at large.”

Thomas Joscelyn at the Weekly Standard wrote that the rate has “soared” in his first piece yesterday:

The DNI’s latest assessment is a significant increase over previous estimates. In June 2008, the Department of Defense reported that 37 former detainees were “confirmed or suspected” of returning to terrorism. On January 13, 2009 — seven months later — Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said that number had climbed to 61. As of April 2009, the DoD found that same metric had risen further to 74 — exactly double the Pentagon’s estimate just 11 months before.

In February 2010, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, confirmed that the estimated number of recidivists had increased to 20 percent. At that recidivism rate, and based on the total number of detainee transfers at that time, between 110 and 120 former Guantanamo detainees were on the U.S. government’s recidivist list in early 2010.

Thus, the DNI’s latest assessment of the Gitmo recidivism rate is higher than all previous estimates by an appreciable margin.

The White House apparently complained to Sam Stein of the Huffington Post, noting that their parolees have a lower recidivism rate, slightly above 10%.  Joscelyn responds:

It is odd that anyone in the Obama administration thought it was necessary to reply in the first place because I hardly flogged the administration for the increasing recidivism rate.

I made it clear that the “overwhelming majority” of confirmed and suspected recidivists on the DNI’s list – 145 of the 150 – were transferred during the Bush years. The news that 5 of the former detainees on the DNI’s recidivist list were transferred by the Obama administration is actually somewhat downplayed in my piece.

Moreover, how can anyone dispute that the number of estimated recidivists has “soared”? It is a straightforward matter. The previous assessments concluded that there were 37 confirmed and suspected recidivists as of June 2008, 61 as of January 2009, 74 as of April 2009, and between 110 and 120 as of February 2010. There are now 150 confirmed and suspected recidivists.

There are a couple of problems with comparing the rates.  First, Bush started with a wide number of people captured, with a significant number of those detentions resting on less-complete evidence of terrorism.  They were the first detainees released by the tribunals and the Bush administration, basically because they didn’t have enough evidence to keep them.  Those that were left were considered the worst of the worst, with the most evidence supporting their continued detention.  Those released now will be known to be more dangerous and more likely to return to terrorism.

Next, there is also the matter of time.  The recidivism rate is higher for those released earlier in part because they have had more time to reconnect to the networks.  Those released under Obama’s watch have had less time to do so.  The actual rate for these parolees won’t be known for a few more years — and to an extent that’s also true of most of the Bush parolees as well.  That’s one reason why the rate of recidivism increases even while the number of releases declines.

The Obama administration’s argument that “only” five released terrorists have returned to their terrorism is hardly comforting, nor is their pledge to eventually “bring them to justice.”  We already did that, and then we let them go.  That hardly bodes well for “justice” down the road.  Instead of bargaining with allies to give safe havens to known terrorists, we should be adjudicating their cases in the military commissions Congress has repeatedly ordered and setting their detentions in concrete terms at Gitmo.