The Magazine

Catch and Release

The Guantanamo Recidivism Problem.

Dec 28, 2009, Vol. 15, No. 15 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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The Bush administration released the first recidivism study in June 2008. President Obama has promised to run "the most transparent administration in history." But when it comes to the DIA recidivist study, it is not even as transparent as its predecessor. Many of the recidivists, moreover, are already known--there is no reason that the government should classify those details that can be sourced to newspaper accounts.

In February, for example, the Saudi Kingdom published a list of its 85 most-wanted terrorists. At least 11 of them were once detained at Gitmo. Said al Shihri was held at Guantánamo. He is now the deputy leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an al Qaeda affiliate that the Obama administration has told us is one of the strongest in the world. Ibrahim Rubaish was held at Gitmo, too. He is now the chief ideologist for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and is responsible for providing the theological justifications for al Qaeda's terror. Two other members of the Saudi 11 have been killed in shootouts.

Every month, it seems, we learn about more Gitmo detainees who have returned to jihad. In June 2008, the DoD reported that 37 former detainees were "confirmed or suspected" of returning to terrorism. On January 13, 2009--seven months later--Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said that number had climbed to 61. In May 2009, when the last report was leaked to the New York Times, the DoD had found that same metric had risen further to 74--exactly double the Pentagon's estimate just 11 months before. At that rate, the Pentagon is identifying on average more than three former Gitmo detainees who are thought to have returned to terrorism each month.

If ex-Guantánamo prisoners are rejoining the fight, just as the administration plans to release more of those prisoners, shouldn't the American public know this?

--Stephen F. Hayes