A few years back, Congress decided that they wanted to know how many Guantanamo detainees went back to the fight after their release or transfer. So they passed Section 307 of the Fiscal Year 2012 Intelligence Authorization Act, which requires the director of national intelligence to publish an unclassified summary of the recidivism rate of Gitmo detainees. The summary is required to be released every six months.
The latest official report shows that there has been an increase—not surprisingly—in the number of detainees suspected of re-engaging in the fight against the United States in the last six months. Of that 10-detainee increase, five were released by the Obama administration and five by the Bush administration.
Of the 790 total detainees ever held at Gitmo, 653 have been transferred or released. The Bush administration was responsible for 532 transfers and the Obama administration responsible for 121 transfers.
The Obama administration brags that its transfer review process is “better” than the Bush process, and that the detainees it transferred don’t re-engage at the percentage the Bush detainees have. On its face, that appears to be true, as 20.9 percent of Bush detainees are confirmed recidivists, compared to only 4.9 percent of Obama’s transfers. And 14.1 percent of Bush detainee transfers are suspected of re-engaging, compared to 4.9 percent for Obama.
But over time, those numbers will shift, as it takes time for us to get enough information to suspect or confirm re-engagement by any Guantanamo transferee. And we will never know the true number, as it is inevitably higher than those reported by the director of national intelligence. We cannot know if someone re-engages unless and until we get the evidence, and sometimes we won’t get the evidence.
These increases in the recidivism rate will certainly be a factor in the upcoming debate on the Guantanamo closure plan to be submitted by the administration to Congress.