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Justice Department Continues to Stonewall

Lack of transparency.

2:01 PM, Jan 6, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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The Obama administration fancies itself as the ‘most transparent’ presidential administration ever. Yet, when it comes to Guantanamo Bay detainees, the White House has consistently been less than forthcoming. Today, Eli Lake picks up a letter that Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee sent the Department of Justice, asking the administration to “outline procedures used in releasing terrorism-suspect detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”

In an effort by the GOP to provide greater oversight of the administration's war on terrorism, seven members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, including the presumed next vice chairman, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican, last month signed letters seeking the documents.

"The transfers of potentially dangerous detainees to countries with questionable capabilities to provide security and monitoring has been a matter of significant concern for the committee," the senators stated in a Dec. 9 letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

"These concerns are bolstered by comments from officials in the Department of Justice and the intelligence community that the only way to completely mitigate the threat posed by the remaining Guantanamo Bay detainees is to keep them in custody."

Congressional aides said the Republicans on the Senate intelligence panel are working on a minority report to be issued this year on the handling of the 60 to 70 detainees from the prison at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who have been transferred to foreign countries since President Obama took office.

The Justice Department declined to comment for Lake’s article – and declined to comment to me – saying that it would first need to see the Republicans’ letter. (It’s unclear why DOJ can’t get the letter from its own legislative department.)

The Republicans seek, according to Lake,

a 2009 memorandum on the detainee review and transfer processes. The senators wrote that they thought the memo recommended that Mr. Obama's Guantanamo Detainee Review Task Force apply a presumption in favor of transfer rather than continued detention.

The letter also requests "the unredacted recommendations contained in the Guantanamo Detainee Review Task Force evaluation worksheets," or the reviews for each detainee on the risk he would pose if released.

The senators also requested a list of the 92 detainees that the task force initially approved to transfer out of the prison. "Although your Office of Legislative Affairs agreed to make this list available, requests for information regarding when the list will be provided have gone unanswered," the letter stated.

It’s not clear whether the Department of Justice will comply with the request.

As Tom Joscelyn first reported here, the Gitmo recidivism rate has soared – and promises to continue to soar unless something changes:

150 former Guantanamo detainees are either “confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities,” according to a new intelligence assessment released by the Director of National Intelligence’s office on Tuesday. In total, 598 detainees have been transferred out of U.S. custody at Guantanamo. 1 out of every 4, or 25 percent, of these former detainees is now considered a confirmed or suspected recidivist by the U.S. government.

Joscelyn is also quoted in Lake’s article, saying,

"It's important to find out what criteria the task force used to evaluate the threat level posed by each individual detainee," said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

"It is also important to find out whether or not President Obama's executive order led the task force to be more aggressive in approving transfers," said Mr. Joscelyn.

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