The Public Record, By Andy Worthington, April 14
On Monday, the Center for Policy and Research at Seton Hall University School of Law in New Jersey released a new report, ”œNational Security Deserves Better: ”˜Odd’ Recidivism Numbers Undermine the GuantÃ¡namo Policy Debate” (PDF), which analyzes the fundamental problems with the claims made by the Pentagon and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) regarding the numbers of alleged ”œrecidivists” freed from GuantÃ¡namo ”” in other words, those who, in the words of the DNI, have been involved in ”œplanning terrorist operations, conducting a terrorist or insurgent attack against Coalition or host-nation forces or civilians, conducting a suicide bombing, financing terrorist operations, recruiting others for terrorist operations, and arranging for movement of individuals involved in terrorist operations.”
As I have been explaining since May 2009, when the New York Times published a misleading front-page story claiming that 1 in 7 released prisoners had engaged in recidivism, there have been two main problems with the recidivism claims: firstly, that, over the last three years, little effort has been made to distinguish between ”œconfirmed” and ”œsuspected” cases of recidivism; and secondly that, as the claims became more outrageous in 2010 and 2011, with completely unsubstantiated allegations that 1 in 5 of the released prisoners were recidivists, and then 1 in 4, the mainstream media unquestioningly repeated these claims, even though they were not backed up with even a shred of evidence.
Last month, in my article, ”œGuantÃ¡namo and Recidivism: The Media’s Ongoing Failure to Question Official Statistics,” I challenged the latest claims made by the DNI ”“ that 27.9 percent of the prisoners released from GuantÃ¡namo were recidivists ”” by noting that although the DNI claimed that 95 (15.9%) were described as ”œConfirmed of Reengaging,” and 72 others (12%) were described as ”œSuspected of Reengaging,” the lack of evidence for these claims was deeply troubling.
This was because, as I explained, in January 2011, when the New America Foundation issued its own report (PDF) challenging the DNI’s claims in December 2010 that 81 former prisoners (13.5 percent) were ”œconfirmed” and 69 (11.5 percent) ”œsuspected” of ”œreengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities after transfer,” the authors concluded, based on an assessment of available public documentation, that ”œthe true rate for those who have taken up arms or are suspected of doing so is more like 6 percent, or one in 17,” with another 2.2 percent ”œengaged or suspected to have engaged with insurgent groups that attack or attempt to attack non-US targets”; in other words, 49 men in total, with just 36 ”œengaged or suspected to have engaged with insurgent groups that attack or attempt to attack the United States, US citizens, or US bases abroad.”
Professor Mark Denbeaux, Director of the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research, commented, ”œThe HASC [House Armed Services Committee] spent one year producing a report that is misleading and perpetuates a falsehood. The shreds of justification for GTMO disappear in the harsh truth: Once released, the so called ”˜worst of the worst’ by and large return to the same peaceful lives they lived before their detention.”
Professor Denbeaux’s assessment is accurate, and is important not just to establish the lies that have been told by US officials about released prisoners, but also, more significantly, to pave the way for the release of prisoners still held ”” 89 of the 171 men still in GuantÃ¡namo ”” who have been cleared for release, but who are still held in large part because of the distorted claims about recidivism that have been cynically used over the last three years by those whose ulterior motive is to keep GuantÃ¡namo open forever, and to ensure that no one who is still there will ever be released.