Rejoining the fight

REJOINING THE FIGHT…. It’s easy to see how this story is going to be misused and misunderstood.

An unreleased Pentagon report concludes that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has returned to terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials.

The conclusion could strengthen the arguments of critics who have warned against the transfer or release of any more detainees as part of President Obama’s plan to shut down the prison by January.

There’s ample room for skepticism on this. It’s practically impossible to verify the Pentagon’s numbers, since officials have “provided no way of authenticating” the recidivists, and “only a few of the 29 people identified by name can be independently verified as having engaged in terrorism since their release. Many of the 29 are simply described as associating with terrorists or training with terrorists, with almost no other details provided.”

For that matter, if the number is accurate, a recidivism rate of about 14% is low by most incarceration standards. Seton Hall University School of Law professor Mark Denbeaux, who has raised credible doubts about these Pentagon reports, told the NYT, “We’ve never said there weren’t some people who would return to the fight. It seems to be unavoidable. Nothing is perfect.”

True, but it’s also worth noting just how far from perfection the Gitmo system was under Bush/Cheney. Indeed, President Obama addressed this point directly in his speech this morning.

“We are currently in the process of reviewing each of the detainee cases at Guantanamo to determine the appropriate policy for dealing with them. As we do so, we are acutely aware that under the last administration, detainees were released only to return to the battlefield. That is why we are doing away with the poorly planned, haphazard approach that let those detainees go in the past. Instead, we are treating these cases with the care and attention that the law requires and our security demands.”

Good thinking. In fact, the unstated truth from the NYT story is that the Bush/Cheney administration was truly awful in figuring out what to do with detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and it’s another one of the inherited messes Obama is working to clean up.