New Guantanamo “Recidivism” Numbers Are Encouraging

Yesterday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released the latest numbers on the “reengagement” of former Guantanamo detainees. They show that the Obama Administration’s beefed up review process is likely working.

The percentage of former detainees released under President Obama and “confirmed of reengaging” has decreased to less than five percent. Opponents of closing the prison will likely tout the increase in former detainees “suspected of reengaging” (10 detainees since March) as proof that no more should be released. But that category is based on what the ODNI says is “plausible but unverified or single-source reporting.” That’s a thin basis, especially given the decrease of those “confirmed of reengaging.”

Moreover, most of the detainees were picked up not by U.S. forces, but rather by foreign military, intelligence agencies, or local warlords. They were previously assessed for risk using outdated, unreliable intelligence (sometimes gleaned through torture). More than 85 percent have been imprisoned for more than 10 years, and all but a handful have never been accused of a crime.

These factors—plus the high standards for clearing detainees and the more favorable “reengagement” rate—belie the claim that Guantanamo detainees are too dangerous to release.

President Obama has revamped the review process, making sure that before approving release, all the relevant government agencies (including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense, State, and Homeland Security Departments) agree that a detainee is either not a threat to the United States or that the threat can be mitigated. The Obama Administration has also instituted the Periodic Review Board (PRB) process to review cases of those detainees originally slated for indefinite detention or possible trial.

Now the administration should pick up the pace of the PRB detainee reviews and move to release of the 52 detainees who have been cleared unanimously by all relevant agencies.

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Published on September 4, 2015

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