Rate drops for ex Guantanamo detainees labeled terrorists

McClatchy NewspapersApril 13, 2011 

WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that three of the 68 Guantanamo detainees released since Barack Obama became president have engaged in terrorism or insurgency, a senior administration told Congress Wednesday.

U.S. Ambassador Dan Fried, the diplomat who arranged many of the releases, revealed the figure during questioning from members of Congress at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

He declined to say, however, who the men were or where they were sent after Guantanamo. He also wouldn't say when U.S. intelligence crunched its latest figure.

The rate of so-called return-to-battlefield detainees, however, is far less than what the Defense Intelligence Agency determined it was during the George W. Bush administration. In a report released in December, the DIA reported that 79 of 532 detainees released during the Bush administration had engaged in terrorism or insurgency.

Such calculations have been controversial, especially among lawyers seeking to win the release of their detainee clients. Critics point out that neither the Bush nor Obama administrations has provided enough information about the detainees to test the government's assertions.

They also challenge the idea that the detainees have "returned to the battlefield," noting that many of the 779 captives who've been held at Guantanamo over the years were absolved of terrorist ties either by federal courts or the Defense Department itself.

At the hearing, a senior DIA official, Ed Mornston, testified that the agency keeps secret the names of those former detainees on its recidivist list "to protect sources and methods." That's intelligence talk for not wanting to reveal how the United States obtained its information.

The DIA also has a secondary list of ex-captives it suspects may have been so-called recidivists, based on reports it has not been able to verify.

The Obama administration has released 38 people to 16 countries for resettlement. Those countries include Albania, Bermuda, Slovakia and Switzerland.

Another 28 detainees were sent back to their home countries of Afghanistan, Algeria, Britain, Chad, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Somaliland and Yemen. The Obama administration also sent two Tunisians to Italy for trials.

In addition, two men died at Guantanamo since President Obama took office — a Yemeni who the military said committed suicide in the prison camp psychiatric ward and an Afghan man who died of an apparent heart attack after working out on the elliptical machine in a recreation yard.

Congress, particularly the House Armed Service Committee, has increasingly focused on the topic of recidivism as part of its campaign to keep Guantanamo open.

There are currently 172 detainees there. Of those, 59 have been cleared for transfer but cannot leave because of instability in their home countries, inability to get foreign countries to help out with resettlements and Congressional restrictions.

In the committee's public session, Fried testified that the Obama administration had countries to take in the prisoners in about half of the 38 resettlement cases. He declined to say how much was spent on each case in public, but that none of the fees was greater than $100,000 per man.

(Rosenberg reports for The Miami Herald)

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McClatchy Newspapers 2011

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