The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has released new summary statistics on the recidivism of former Guantanamo detainees. 167 ex-Gitmo detainees are now either “confirmed” or “suspected” of reengaging in “terrorist or insurgent activities” after their release, according to the ODNI’s latest estimate.
95 of the 167 former detainees included in the estimate are “confirmed” recidivists, and the remaining 72 are “suspected.” 599 detainees have been either transferred or released from Guantanamo, meaning that the estimated recidivism rate now stands at 27.9 percent – or a little more than 1 out of every 4 ex-detainees.
The ODNI’s latest figures represent a slight increase from the last estimate published by the ODNI in December 2010. The ODNI claimed at the time that 150 former detainees were either “confirmed” or “suspected” recidivists. That figure was more than double estimates given by the Defense Department less than two years earlier.
The ODNI’s statistics, which were filed in compliance with the 2012 Intelligence Authorization Act, breaks down the number of ex-Gitmo detainees killed or recaptured. Most of the confirmed and suspected recidivists remain at large, but 68 of the 167 have been either killed or are in custody. Of these, 14 have been killed, while 54 have been detained abroad. The remaining 99 confirmed or suspected recidivists remain free.
The overwhelming majority of ex-Gitmo detainees included in the summary statistics – 162 out of 167 – were transferred or released during the Bush administration.
According to the ODNI, the number of recidivists transferred during the Obama years has remained the same since its December 2010 report. Just 5 of the confirmed (3) or suspected (2) recidivists were transferred by the Obama administration. The December 2010 estimate included the same overall figure, saying that just 2 confirmed and 3 suspected recidivists were transferred since President Obama was sworn in.
Critics of the U.S. government’s accounting of ex-Gitmo detainees have charged that it overstates the recidivist problem because it includes those who are “suspected” of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities. Suspected cases require only “unverified or single source-reporting,” as opposed to confirmed cases, which rely on a “preponderance of information.”
But U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the ODNI’s recidivism report say that the figures are compiled after rigorous cross-checking. And suspected cases are routinely reevaluated when new intelligence becomes available. They also point out that the number of recidivists is likely understated, as the U.S. government does not have good intelligence on what many former Guantanamo detainees are currently doing.
Recidivists typically do not announce that they have returned to the fight, one senior intelligence official explained. If they did, it would be “easier to kill or recapture them.”
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.