WHAT A DIFFERENCE A REVIEW PROCESS MAKES…. The issue of detainee recidivism has been a fairly contentious one for a while now. The more the administration’s critics can make the case that released terrorist suspects commit acts of violence once they’re no longer in custody, the more they’ll argue against releasing anyone, closing Gitmo, etc.

A couple of weeks after the failed Christmas plot, when the recidivism issue was at the fore again, Obama administration official started quietly making a bold claim: the recidivists exist, but most, if not all, were released by the shockingly incompetent Bush/Cheney administration.

Jake Tapper reports today that officials are now making the claim in more forceful and direct ways.

In a letter to congressional leaders sent Monday night, White House adviser John Brennan, the assistant to President Obama for homeland security and counterterrorism, argued that President Obama had made “significant improvements to the detainee review process” under President Bush and pointed out that all the former detainees released or transferred who have returned to terrorist activities were released or transferred under President Bush.

Brennan met with members of Congress on January 13, and in a follow-up letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., obtained by ABC News, Brennan writes that the “Intelligence Community assesses that 20 percent of detainees transferred from Guantanamo are confirmed or suspected of recidivist activity.”

In his correspondence, Brennan specifically made the claim that “all” of the detainees who returned to terrorist activities were “released during the previous administration.”

The ineffective review process Bush/Cheney relied on has been replaced, Brennan added, by a task force established by President Obama. It consists of “60 career prosecutors, agents, analysts and attorneys from across the government, including civilian, military, and intelligence officials.” Before anyone is transferred or released, the decision must receive the unanimous endorsed of “all agencies involved with the review process after a full assessment of intelligence and threat information.”

I can appreciate why this may seem hard to believe, but it’s really not — the way Bush/Cheney handled this issue was almost comical in its ineptitude. In some cases, the Bush administration released some detainees who turned out to be pretty dangerous. In other cases, the Bush administration refused to release other detainees who weren’t dangerous at all, and were actually U.S. allies. The gang that couldn’t shoot straight just didn’t know what it was doing, and the results of their incompetence put lives in danger.

Fortunately, a year ago, President Grown-Up and his team put a reliable process in place. They effectively had to start from scratch — yes, Bush really was that bad — but it appears to be working extremely well, Republican whining notwithstanding.

If GOP lawmakers and their allies were inclined to send thank-you notes to the Obama White House, I’m sure the president would be gracious about the whole thing.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.