Gitmo is staying open.
We’ve known this for a while. But it is assured with the news today that the recidivism rate among former Guantanamo Bay detainees has spiked to 25 percent and continues to climb. Barack Obama, who promised to close the facility within a year of his inauguration, badly miscalculated the political opposition to closing Gitmo. And, more important, he badly underestimated the threat presented by the 248 detainees who remained at Gitmo when he took office.
The new numbers are stunning: Since January 2009 the number of confirmed or suspected Guantanamo recidivists has doubled. For the first time, there are more confirmed recidivists (81) than suspected recidivists (69). The vast majority of recidivists were released under George W. Bush. But the Obama administration, which not long ago boasted that none of the Gitmo detainees released or transferred under its enhanced review process had returned to the fight, is responsible for five of the new recidivists. And multiple sources tell THE WEEKLY STANDARD that the number of Obama-era recidivists, like Bush-era numbers, will continue to climb quickly.
Back in the first week of the Obama administration, the new president and his advisers worked quickly to close Guantanamo Bay. An Obama-chosen task force had been studying the issue intensely since the election and upon taking office the White House moved with to repatriate or transfer detainees. Stephen Seche, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, a nation home to 100 Guantanamo detainees in January 2009, said that the new administration wanted to repatriate “a majority” of the Yemenis at Gitmo so that they might return to Yemen and “make a future for themselves here.” When THE WEEKLY STANDARD asked a State Department spokesman if Seche was speaking for the administration, he said that Seche’s comments “lay out very well the US government position on the situation of Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo.”
As the WikiLeaks cables related to Guantanamo Bay make clear, U.S. diplomats began a global effort to persuade allies to take detainees and, when that didn’t work, to bribe them to reconsider. But as the administration worked to empty Gitmo, reality was causing problems. The number of recidivists was growing steadily and the threat posed by those remaining at Guantanamo – the worst of the worst – was becoming clear. After the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound Northwest flight on December 25, 2009, the Obama administration stopped sending detainees to Yemen. “Right now, any additional transfers to Yemen is not a good idea,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs explained at a briefing.
All the while, the Obama administration, which had declared itself the most transparent administration in history, actively blocked the release of information on Gitmo recidivists. Congressional Republicans and journalists have been asking for the updated recidivism report for more than a year, only to be repeatedly stonewalled. When THE WEEKLY STANDARD editorialized about the lack of transparency back in December 2009, a Pentagon spokesman told us unapologetically that there were no plans to release an unclassified version of the report. Senator Kid Bond of Missouri, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote to the administration demanding that the information be made public. When CNSNews.com filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the information, the Defense Intelligence Agency responded by providing an outdated version of the report, which had already been substantively made public.
The administration was undeterred and sought to downplay the dangers associated with releasing or transferring individual jihadists. In some cases, sources say, administration officials rewrote threat assessments on the detainees produced by the intelligence community and the U.S. military.
And the only reason the administration is set to release the report now is that Congress, in the 2010 Intelligence Authorization bill, mandated that the office of the Director of National Intelligence make the information public by December 7, 2010.
So despite its efforts to keep the information hidden, it will be made public. And despite the efforts to close Guantanamo Bay, it will remain open.