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Inside the Gitmo Task Force's Final Report

President Obama's own task force concluded that 95 percent of the Gitmo detainees had at least some connection to the terror network.

10:55 AM, May 27, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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On January 22, President Obama’s Guantanamo Review Task Force completed its final report, which outlined the administration’s plan for the remaining detainees held at Guantanamo. The Task Force was set up as part of the president’s effort to close Gitmo.

Inside the Gitmo Task Force's Final Report

Gitmo detainees take a walk in the exercise yard.

THE WEEKLY STANDARD has obtained a copy of the report, as well as Attorney General Eric Holder’s transmittal memorandum. As explained below, the Task Force concluded that 95 percent of the detainees held at Gitmo, as of January 2009, had at least some noteworthy connection to the terrorist network.

The Task Force also concluded that the 240 detainees subject to its review, and held at Gitmo on President Obama’s first day in office, should be treated as follows:

126 of the detainees were approved for transfer to either their home nations or third countries. 59 of the 126 detainees had previously been approved for transfer by the Bush administration. As of the date the report was finalized, January 22, 44 of the 126 detainees had already been transferred. Several more detainees have been transferred since then.

36 detainees were referred for active prosecutions, either by a federal court or military commission. Initially, the Task Force recommended 44 detainees be prosecuted, but 8 were taken off the prosecution list for various reasons. 1 of those 8 was granted his habeas corpus petition by a District Court Judge. 

48 detainees will be held indefinitely under Obama’s plan. These detainees “were determined to be too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution.”

30 detainees from Yemen are being held in “conditional” detention “based on the current security environment” of their home country. The Task Force highlighted the difficulties in transferring detainees to Yemen, especially in the wake of the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day 2009. That attack was planned by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is headquartered in Yemen and has many former Gitmo detainees in its ranks. After the attack, President Obama authorized a moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen. According to the Task Force, the 30 Yemeni detainees “are not approved for repatriation to Yemen at this time, but may be transferred to third countries, or repatriated to Yemen in the future if the current moratorium on transfers to Yemen is lifted and other security conditions are met.” 

The Task Force’s report contradicts some popular misconceptions. For example, press accounts frequently note that detainees have been “cleared for release.” The implication is that the detainees are either innocent or no longer a threat. The Task Force’s report makes it clear that neither interpretation is correct.

The Task Force distinguishes between detainee “releases” and “transfers.” Release “is used to mean release from confinement without the need for continuing security measures in the receiving country.” Transfer “is used to mean release from confinement subject to appropriate security measures.” The distinction is an important one.

In fact, other than 17 Uighur detainees held at Gitmo in January 2009, “no detainees were approved for ‘release’ during the course of the [Task Force’s] review.” (The Uighurs were approved for “transfer or release” under a peculiar set of circumstances.) This means that all of the other 109 detainees approved for transfer are subject to release from Gitmo as long as “appropriate security measures” are taken by the receiving country.

The Task Force explained why such security measures are necessary for transferred detainees. “It is important to emphasize that a decision to approve a detainee for transfer does not reflect a decision that the detainee poses no threat or no risk of recidivism,” the Task Force explained. Moreover, “It is also important to emphasize that a decision to approve a detainee for transfer does not equate to a judgment that the government lacked legal authority to hold the detainee.” 

The Task Force also found that the overwhelming majority of the detainees played some role in the terror network. This directly contradicts widespread assertions that many of the detainees are innocent goat herders.

The Task Force created four categories of classification (“threat profiles”) for the detainees held at Gitmo as of January 2009.

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