John Brennan On Gitmo Recidivism
Terrorism is not an ordinary crime.
6:25 PM, Feb 14, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, is once again drawing criticism. This time, Brennan’s remarks concerning the Pentagon’s latest Gitmo recidivism study have come under scrutiny.
The Pentagon’s most recent study on Gitmo recidivism concluded that 20 percent of detainees have either been confirmed as, or are suspected of, returning to terrorism. Brennan cited the 20 percent figure in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders earlier this month. Brennan explained that this figure “includes 9.6 percent of detainees who are confirmed recidivists and 10.4 percent of detainees who the Intelligence Community suspects, but is not certain, may have engaged in recidivist activities.”
While speaking at the Islamic Center at New York University on Saturday, Brennan again cited the 20 percent figure, but downplayed its significance. “People sometimes use that figure, 20 percent, say 'Oh my goodness, one out of five detainees returned to some type of extremist activity,'” Jake Tapper of ABC News quotes Brennan as saying.
“You know, the American penal system, the recidivism rate is up to something about 50 percent or so, as far as return to crime. Twenty percent isn't that bad,” Brennan added.
As Tapper notes, Brennan’s comments led to more criticism by leading Republicans, including Senator Lindsey Graham.
The problem is that terrorism is not an ordinary crime, so comparing Gitmo recidivist rates to recidivist rates for ordinary criminals is very much like comparing apples and oranges. A serial thief, for instance, is not nearly as threatening as a former Gitmo detainee who blows himself up in Iraq, killing 13 Iraqis and wounding dozens more.
The 20 percent figure cited by the Pentagon and Brennan translates to a current estimated number of recidivists north of 100. A good estimate is 112. Thus, in June 2008 the estimate was just 37 former detainees. Today, less than two years later, the estimate is roughly three times higher.
Kadidal’s comment is absurd on its face, but it does go to show that the detainees’ lawyers will say anything. It doesn’t take much to figure out that the total number of recidivists is well above “less than half a dozen.”
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