Refuting the Obama Administration’s Misleading Claims About Recidivism by Former Gitmo Detainees

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Obama administration officials are trying to deflect criticism of their accelerated release of prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention facility by claiming the recidivism rate of former detainees returning to terrorism is only about 6 percent and not the 30 percent figure cited by the administration’s Republican critics. Obama officials and their supporters also claim the recidivism rate has declined during Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Although there are differences on how to legitimately interpret the data on the number of Gitmo detainees who have resumed terrorist activities, I believe the Obama administration is manipulating this data to cite a figure that is highly misleading.

Below is the latest recidivism data released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last September.

gitmo chart 3(1)

Claims by Obama officials of a 6 percent recidivism rate are based on the 6.8 percent figure circled in red of detainees confirmed of reengaging in terrorist activities since January 2009. This number has also been used by Obama officials to claim that the recidivism rate has dropped during the Obama administration.

Republican claims of a 30 percent recidivism rate are based on combining the figures in green on all detainees confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorism.

I believe the actual recidivism rate is probably 30 percent or higher because of the time and difficulty in determining whether released Gitmo detainees have returned to terrorism. Further complicating this determination are very strict definitions set by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to define what “confirmed” and “suspected of” reengaging in terrorist activities mean. Among other things, these definitions require evidence of direct involvement in terrorist activities and exclude communications with terrorist groups or engaging in anti-U.S. propaganda.

I believe the total recidivism figures are far more credible since they reflect a longer time window in which intelligence agencies were able to collect data to determine whether Gitmo detainees returned to terrorist activities. The total recidivism figures may also be more accurate because they are drawn from much larger data sets.

It is time for the mainstream media to examine this data and start objecting when Obama officials throw out the dubious claim of a 6 percent Gitmo recidivism rate. Not only is the actual recidivism rate of President Obama’s Gitmo releases likely to be much higher, since he is releasing far more dangerous prisoners than the Bush administration, the consequences of their return to terrorism is likely to have extremely serious consequences for U.S. and international security.

Fred Fleitz

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