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The Associated Press’s Gitmo Gotcha

3:11 PM, Mar 6, 2012 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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This is in no small part due to the fact that suspected recidivists have frequently become confirmed recidivists as more intelligence has been collected. A prominent example of this is Mullah Zakir – the Taliban’s top military commander. Zakir, who was once held at Guantanamo and then considered a suspected recidivist on an early Defense Department list, is unquestionably one of the most lethal Taliban commanders on the planet today. Zakir’s recidivism certainly has been “confirmed.” Upwards of a dozen U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, and many more civilians, have fallen victim to Zakir’s terrorist campaign.

Put differently: The number of confirmed recidivists grew more between December 2010 (when there were 81) and December 2011 (95 confirmed cases) than the number of suspected recidivists (69 vs. 72) during that same time. The growth in estimates, in other words, is coming primarily from confirmed instances.   

In addition, sources familiar with the DNI’s recidivism reporting have told me that the intelligence on both confirmed and suspected recidivists is repeatedly scrubbed. Yes, some suspected recidivists are dropped off the list when additional intelligence does not become available, or intelligence analysts no longer believe they belong on the list for whatever reason. Still, the DNI’s analysts work to make sure suspected recidivists really do belong on the list – recognizing that, as with any intelligence estimate, there are vagaries.

Finally, the HASC report’s authors actually disaggregated previous estimates into the suspected and confirmed categories. There is even a handy chart showing the breakdown of confirmed and suspected recidivists in previous estimates. It is easy for the reader to see the proportion of each in the government’s estimates.

Instead of simply reporting on the increase in the number of former Guantanamo detainees turned recidivists, the Associated Press tried to make it seem that the HASC Republicans had pulled a fast one.

Such is the state of reporting on Guantanamo. It has long been this way.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

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