A State Department spokesman said today that the Obama administration expected that many detainees released or transferred from Guantanamo Bay would return to jihad. The spokesman, P. J. Crowley, made the comments in response to questions about a new report from the Director of National Intelligence that shows the rate of recidivism among former Guantanamo detainees has doubled over the last two years.
Crowley was asked about the numbers this morning in an interview with Martha MacCallum on Fox News:
MACCALLUM: Let me quote the numbers, 13 are dead, 54 are in custody and 83 remain at large. Are we willing to take the chance with those 83, and, more importantly, with the 174, who are still detainees, is it time -- are we in the middle of a war, I guess is the question? Or not?
CROWLEY: Well Martha, I suppose I would be asking the question of you, if a federal court orders the release of a detainee, are you saying that we should defy the wishes of that court and defy the Constitution? We are proceeding under the rule of law. We are working effectively with other governments and we believe we are doing everything we possibly can do to protect American security interests and those around the world. But recognize this: when criminals leave prison after serving a sentence, some of them return to crime. You know, we actually expected this to happen and we are taking appropriate --
MACCALLUM: But the comparison you are making would suggest that we believe this is a sort of a federal law enforcement issue and not a time of war issue and I want to be clear on that.
CROWLEY: Well, Martha, under your logic that would mean we'd never let anybody out of prison.
MACCALLUM: During a time of war, when this person is an enemy combatant, perhaps not.
CROWLEY: We are a nation of laws and we are going to work to protect our interests, and we are going to make sure that going forward, that our detention policies are consistent with U.S. law.
The obvious question: If the Obama administration “actually expected this,” why were officials pushing so hard to transfer these dangerous jihadists out of the facility?
There were, in fact, many people who expected the recidivism rates to climb significantly. The danger of releasing or transferring these committed jihadists – the ones who remained at the end of the Bush administration were the worst of the worst – was well known.
But most Obama administration officials seemed to take the opposite view. They argued that, despite their aggressive efforts to close Guantanamo, the public would be safe because of additional precautions the Obama administration’s Guantanamo Task Force was taking to prevent the release of dangerous individuals and to monitor the detainees that had been released or transferred.
The problem is that the Obama administration has consistently underestimated the threat presented by Guantanamo detainees. So they have transferred several jihadists who admitted training in al Qaeda’s notorious al Farouq training camp. Others volunteered that they had trained at Tora Bora under Abdul Haq, a senior al Qaeda operative who sits on al Qaeda’s shura council and has been designated as a terrorist by the U.S. government. Still others lived in an al Qaeda safe house – something not just any wayward goatherd can do.
Many of the Gitmo recidivists have returned to jihad in positions of leadership. Three of the leaders of al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula, the al Qaeda franchise based in Yemen that is proving far more dangerous than the intelligence community had once thought, are former Gitmo prisoners. The same is true for several high-ranking Taliban officials, who spend much of their time working to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Other former Gitmo prisoners have been killed executing attacks on U.S. interests or allies.
Is P. J. Crowley right? Did the Obama administration expect this? And they transferred them anyway?
If Crowley is telling the truth, and the administration expected this reinvigoration of the anti-American jihad and chose it anyway, that’s an extraordinary admission. If the administration did not expect this, they weren’t paying attention to the many warnings – from the military, from the intelligence community, from outside experts – that foretold this eventuality.
What’s clear is this: If they continue to release and transfer the terrorists who remain at Guantanamo – again, the worst of the worst – they will be strengthening the enemy. And at some point, after one of those former Guantanamo detainees takes part in a major terrorist attack, there is one thing no one in the Obama administration will be willing to say.
“We actually expected this to happen.”