About 1 in 4 detainees released from the Guantanamo Bay military prison are either confirmed or suspected to have resumed terrorist activities, according to a new report from the director of national intelligence. The report will provide new ammunition to opponents of the Obama administration's flagging effort to close the prison.
The report finds that 598 detainees had been transferred by the Pentagon from Guantanamo Bay into the custody of other countries as of October 1. Of those, 150 former detainees have been “confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities.”
Of those 150, according to the report, the intelligence community has determined that 13 are dead, 54 are in custody, and 83 remain at large.
President Obama signed an executive order two days after his inauguration in 2009 ordering an assessment of all prisoners at the facility. Of the 66 individuals transferred since the new assessment, only two are confirmed to have returned to “terrorist or insurgent activities” and three are suspected of doing so. But the report cautions that the rate could go up, noting that a review of recidivism this February "shows about 2.5 years between leaving [Guantanamo Bay] and the first identified reengagement reports."
Obama has made closing the infamous prison a priority for his administration since his election, yet after the release of the report to Congress, the issue of recidivism has the potential to become even more politically contentious.
“Unfortunately, these latest numbers make clear that fulfilling a campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay is overriding what should be the administration’s first priority—protecting Americans from terrorists. It is unacceptable to continue transferring these dangerous detainees when we know that one in four are confirmed or suspected of returning to the fight,” Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Christopher (Kit) Bond, R-Mo., said in a statement on his website Tuesday.
“If one of these dangerous detainees attacks our troops or civilians, I don’t know how the administration will explain to the American people that we had him in custody, knew the risk he could return to the fight, and let him go anyway,” Bond said.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said Tuesday that shutting down Guantanamo remains a “national security imperative in the war against al-Qaida” for the administration.
"We take any incidence of recidivism very seriously,” Rhodes said in a statement. “We will deal with recidivists the way we deal with any individual who threatens our national security: by working to bring them to justice.”
Some communication between former detainees and terrorist groups is to be expected, the DNI report said, for reasons ranging "from the mundane (reminiscing about shared experiences) to the nefarious (planning future terrorist operations)."