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What the Latest Guantanamo “Reengagement” Figures Tell Us

Adam Jacobson argues that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s latest figures on former Guantanamo detainees who have engaged in terrorist activities are “encouraging, and reflect the more robust detainee evaluation process instituted by the Obama administration upon entering office in 2009.”  

“The most recent numbers cover the period between January 15 and July 15, 2015, and include the release of six more detainees. They show that the percentage of former detainees released under President Obama and ‘confirmed of reengaging’ has decreased to less than five percent (down from 5.2 percent). Compared to the percentage of those detainees released under President Bush (around 20 percent), it also shows a dramatic improvement. The total percentage of former detainees ‘confirmed of reengaging’ has also remained at a steady 17.9 percent since the last evaluation.”  

“ODNI’s definition of a ‘suspected’ recidivist is based on ‘plausible but unverified or single-source reporting indicating a specific former GTMO detainee is directly involved in terrorist or insurgent activities.’ According to one Pentagon official, individuals in this category ‘could very possibly not be engaged in activities that are counter to our national security interests.’ This seems like pretty thin sourcing for policymakers to base a definitive claim of recidivism on.”  

“Moreover, the separation of the numbers by date reflects an important distinction. When entering office, the Obama administration instituted a revamped evaluation process for the risk posed by detainees, streamlining it and ensuring that all relevant agencies (including the Defense, State, and Homeland Security Departments, the CIA, FBI, and ODNI) would have input and make decisions unanimously on whether or not to approve a detainee for transfer. This process — along with the Periodic Review Board (PRB) process started in 2013 to reevaluate the threat posed by detainees slated for indefinite detention — is more deliberative and rigorous than the Bush administration’s criteria for evaluating the risk of release.”

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