Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wire: 61 Ex-Guantanamo Inmates Return to Terrorism

News in Balance
Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2009 -- Reuters news service reported Tuesday that 61 former detainees from the military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, appear to have returned to terrorism since their release from custody.

However, this verbiage is somewhat inaccurate as only 18 former detainees are confirmed as "returning to the fight" and 43 are suspected of having done so in a report issued late in December by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The Pentagon did not provide details such as the identity of the former detainees, why and where they were released or what actions they have taken since leaving U.S. custody.

From the official transcript of today's news briefing on the subject with spokesman Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon:
I can disclose with you the fact that we have a new -- we have updated recidivism numbers of people who have been at Guantanamo, and these are the latest numbers we have as of the end of December. And it shows a pretty substantial increase in recidivism. I think prior to this report, I think the rate had been about 7 percent of those who had been held at Guantanamo and released who have been confirmed or suspected of returning to the fight. At that time we suspected that 30 -- confirmed or suspected that 37 former detainees had returned to the fight. We now believe that that number has increased and that the overall known terrorist re-engagement rate has increased to 11 percent. The new numbers are, we believe, 18 confirmed and 43 suspected of returning to the fight. So 61 in all former Guantanamo detainees are confirmed or suspected of returning to the fight.
Writing for Reuters, reporter David Morgan flushed out the rest of the story quoting statements attributed to named and unnamed rights activists accusing the Pentagon of several human rights violations without citing specific evidence to back up the claims.
Rights advocates contend that many Guantanamo detainees have never taken up arms against the United States and say the Defense Department in the past has described former detainees as rejoining "the fight" because they spoke out against the U.S. government.

"The Defense Department sees that the Guantanamo detention operation has failed and they are trying to launch another fear mongering campaign to justify the indefinite detention of detainees there," said Jamil Dakwar, human rights director at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Reuters' reporting on the story follows an establishment media template that paints the detainees as victims who just happened to be minding their own business when they were captured as combatants within the battlespace. The narrative focuses on political elements of the story in order to create a specific public impression favorable to closing the camp.

Approximately 255 men are still held at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba.

Pentagon officials say that about 110 detainees should never be released because of the potential danger they pose to U.S. interests.

Washington has cleared 50 of the detainees for release but cannot return them to their home countries because of the risk they would be tortured or persecuted there.

The Pentagon said it considers a former detainee's return to terrorism "confirmed" when evidence shows direct involvement in terrorist activities. U.S. officials see a "suspected" terrorism links when intelligence shows a plausible link with terrorist activities.

(Report from commercial media and Pentagon sources.)

DoD News Briefing with Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon
Pentagon: 61 ex-Guantanamo inmates return to terrorism

Related: Pentagon: Gates Requests Plan to Close Guantanamo

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