Pentagon Pushes Debunked "Returning To Terror" Hype

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The pro-Gitmo, pro-torture camp are getting all excited about a Pentagon statement that 61 former detainees from the Guantanamo Bay facility "appear to have returned to terrorism since their release from custody." But that bald figure is very misleading.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said 18 former detainees are confirmed as "returning to the fight" and 43 are suspected of having done in a report issued late in December by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Morrell declined to provide details such as the identity of the former detainees, why and where they were released or what actions they have taken since leaving U.S. custody.

"This is acts of terrorism. It could be Iraq, Afghanistan, it could be acts of terrorism around the world," he told reporters.

Morrell said the latest figures, current through December 24, showed an 11 percent recidivism rate, up from 7 percent in a March 2008 report that counted 37 former detainees as suspected or confirmed active militants.

Only "suspects"? That's pretty thin gruel when no details are given. That March figure is itself up from a 2007 claim of 30 "returning to terror" after their release from Gitmo - but that claim was firmly debunked by reports from the hard-working Seton Hall School of Law.

Just as the Government's claims that the Guantanamo detainees "were picked up on the battlefield, fighting American forces, trying to kill American forces," do not comport with the Department of Defense's own data, neither do its claims that former detainees have "returned to the fight." The Department of Defense has publicly insisted that at least thirty (30) former Guantanamo detainees have "returned" to the battlefield, where they have been re-captured or killed. To date, however, the Department has described at most fifteen (15) possible recidivists, and has identified only seven (7) of these individuals by name. More strikingly, data provided by the Department of Defense reveals that:

- at least eight (8) of the fifteen (15) individuals identified alleged by the Government to have "returned to the fight" are accused of nothing more than speaking critically of the Government's detention policies;

- ten (10) of the individuals have neither been re-captured nor killed by anyone;

- and of the five (5) individuals who are alleged to have been re-captured or killed, two (2) of the individuals' names do not appear on the list of individuals who have at any time been detained at Guantanamo, and the remaining three (3) include one (1) individual who was killed in an apartment complex in Russia by local authorities and one (1) who is not listed among former Guantanamo detainees but who, after his death, has been alleged to have been detained under a different name.

It seems clear the people being referred to in this new statement aren't a different set of Gitmo detainess and include that spurious 30 and doubtless a bunch more too.

Moreover, not one of those named in that earlier claim had attacked Americans after his release from Gitmo and all had been released "by political appointees of the Department of Defense, sometimes over the objection of the military" rather than through the tribunals process. Seton Hall's studies also found that a bare 55% of Gitmo detainess had ever taken up arms against the US and only 8% were suspected of being members of Al Qaida. The vast bulk of Gitmo detainees had been turned in by local warlords for bounty payments with no US witnesses to their alleged involvement in terrorism at all. No wonder their recidivist rate is so low, at a Pentagon figure of 11%. That compares with "an estimated 67.5%" in the general prison population.

With Obama seemingly set on closing Gitmo down, and Susan J. Crawford, convening authority of military commissions, coming forward to say that some cases cannot be prosecuted because the evidence is indelibly stained by torture, the timing of this Pentagon "just believe us" statement is a little too pat. It is undoubtably true that some dangerous people will likely be freed because of the Bush administration's arrogant belief in its own ability to re-write law to suit itself, although the number is far lower than the Pentagon is trying to suggest. Even so, any failure to keep the public safe should be blamed on Bush and his coterie.

Crossposted from Newshoggers

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