Policy & Strategy

US intelligence finds Gitmo prisoners returning to fight

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A new report predicts a number of detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba prison will return to terrorism if they are transferred. 

The report could hurt President Obama’s hopes of closing Guantanamo by the end of his presidency, which would fulfill a campaign pledge

{mosads}The report said transfers to countries with ongoing conflicts and internal instability as well as active recruitment by insurgent and terrorist organizations “pose particular problems.” 

“Based on trends identified during the past eleven years, we assess that some detainees currently at GTMO will seek to reengage in terrorist or insurgent activities after they are transferred,” the bi-annual report released Wednesday by the Director of National Intelligence concludes.

The report said that while there are some ways to deter and delay reengagement, some detainees “who are determined to reengage will do so regardless of any transfer conditions.” 

The rate of those confirmed to have “reengaged” in terrorist activities after their release has increased slightly. Twelve more former detainees are confirmed to have returned to the fight in the last year, according to the report. 

Half of those were released by the Bush administration, while the other half were released by the Obama administration. Of the six released by the Obama administration, one is dead and five are at large. 

The number of those who are are just “suspected” of returning to the fight has gone down by five over the last year. The report does not say why names were dropped from the list.

Overall, the number of those confirmed and suspected of reengaging in terrorism has dropped to 28.6 percent from 29 percent. 

However, the ratio could be down partly due to the 33 prisoners released by the Obama administration within the last year, which is a relatively large number.

There are 122 detainees left at the facility, after Obama begun a major push late last year to transfer more detainees from the facility. 

White House officials are seeking to get the number to below 100, which would bolster their argument that the facility is too expensive to keep open. They also argue that the military facility prompts anti-American sentiment around the world and is used by terrorists as a recruiting tool. 

The president has argued the detainees could be held at a super maximum security prison within the U.S.   

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said in a statement, “At a time when Islamist extremists are surging worldwide, President Obama’s policy of releasing hardened terrorists from the Guantanamo Bay facility is replenishing their ranks.”

“This adminstration must reassess its reckless detainee policies and stop freeing terrorists,” he said. “Overall, nearly 1 in 3 released detainees are known or suspected to have rejoined the fight.”

While the defense secretary has the final-say in transferring detainees, last month Republican lawmakers introduced legislation that would make those releases more difficult. The bill, introduced by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) was passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.  

The bill would extend for two years a prohibition on any transfers to the U.S., prohibit transfers to Yemen — where a majority of the remaining detainees are from, and would suspend any transfer of detainees who were designated as medium- or high-risk, among other provisions.

Ayotte said in a statement Thursday that the report “confirms what history and common sense suggest — if we release hardened terrorists, especially to unstable countries, some of them will return to terrorism.” 

“Especially when most of the remaining Guantanamo detainees are the worst of the worst terrorists who pose a high risk for reengagement in terrorist activities, the DNI’s assessment further demonstrates the danger posed by the administration’s rush to empty and close Guantanamo,” she added.

“I am hopeful that the full Senate will consider this bill as soon as possible.”

— Updated at 5:33 p.m.

Tags detainees Director of National Intelligence DNI GTMO Guantánamo Bay Obama Terrorism

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