New Guantanamo Recidivism Numbers Show Review Process Working

This week, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released its latest numbers on the “recidivism” of Guantanamo detainees released by the Bush and Obama Administrations. In the past, these numbers have been used by opponents of closing the prison to argue that detainees should not be released.

But the new statistics show the number of former detainees released in the six years since President Obama came to office engaging in the fight is extremely low. In fact, not a single one of the 27 detainees released since last September’s report is either suspected or confirmed of reengaging.

President Obama instituted a rigorous process for evaluating detainee release. This process requires all relevant government departments to engage in an interagency review of each detainee before release. Clearly, it’s working.

The percentage of those released during the Bush Administration who are “confirmed of reengaging” is 20.7. For those released by President Obama since 2009, this has been reduced to 5.2 percent. In terms of pure numbers, only six detainees transferred after 2009 are in this category. For those suspected of engaging in terrorist or insurgent activities after release, the numbers tell a similar story, with 12.8 percent of those detainees released by Bush suspected compared to only 0.9 percent under Obama.

Opponents of shuttering the prison at Guantanamo will most likely continue to use these numbers erroneously, claiming that Guantanamo detainees have a 28 percent recidivism rate. But this conflates confirmed terrorist or insurgent activities with suspected, and ignores the reforms to the vetting process made by the Obama Administration. The numbers tell a different story, one that needs to be addressed honestly.


Published on March 5, 2015


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