Three key developments over the past 10 days have all but assured that Guantanamo detention facilities will remain open during the Obama administration.
First, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) report to Congress this week on ex-Gitmo detainee recidivism rates shows a jump to 25%, or 150 of 598 men released who now are confirmed or suspected of returning to terrorism.
Though the Obama administration has rarely released such information, the last published figure in Jan. 2010 was significantly lower, at 20%, or 120 ex-detainees.
While Obama officials predictably blame the Bush administration for releasing the “wrong people,” the new report also cites five detainees released under the current administration.
This is not surprising, as the easier cases – generally those who posed less of a threat, left years ago.
The further ones looks into the remaining pool of detainees, now numbering 174 down from a peak of 780, typically the more dangerous they are. With the population at 241 when Team Obama came into office, they should have reasonably expected that the ones left would be of a higher threat level and thus riskier to resettle than those already departed.
The DNI report also lists other interesting revelations:
Of the 150, 81 are “confirmed” and another 69 are “suspected” of returning to terrorism. Though both categories have stringent requirements for inclusion on the list, the “suspected” category is slightly less rigid, relying on “plausible but unverified, or single source reporting."
Participating in direct combat operations against U.S. and coalition forces, financing such activities, building and laying roadside bombs, etc. are all factors which can place ex-Gitmo men on the list. Unlike the urban myth spun by a years-old Seton Hall University student report on Gitmo, and championed by opinion journalists like CNN’s Peter Bergen, merely participating in propaganda efforts does not constitute inclusion in the recidivist numbers.
DNI notably reports that while roughly 70 of the 150 have been killed or recaptured, that still leaves 80 at large.
Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Vice Chairman, Senate Intelligence Committee pointed out that since it only took 19 to carry out the attacks of 9/11, 80 terrorists on the loose is frightening. In a statement he noted:“Unfortunately, these latest numbers make clear that fulfilling a campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay is overriding what should be the administration’s first priority – protecting Americans from terrorists.”
Second, the cringe-worthy stolen U.S. diplomatic cables courtesy of WikiLeaks (and their partners at the New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel) divulged such embarrassing details of detainee resettlement talks with foreign governments that any partner nation will be risk averse to even discussing Gitmo with U.S. diplomats, let alone accepting any of the men still held.
And third, the Congress has continued its reasonable defiance of President Obama’s grand plan for Gitmo, following up on two years of Republican-led resistance designed to block funding for transferring detainees to the U.S. mainland, or purchase a replacement prison.
On Wednesday morning, the Democratic Congress released the omnibus spending bill for next year, which expressly prohibits such appropriations.
The bill, scheduled for a vote next week, notes, “None of the funds provided to the Department of Justice in this or any prior Act shall be available for the acquisition of any facility that is to be used wholly or in part for the incarceration or detention of any individual detained at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as of June 24, 2009."
This 1, 2, 3 knockout combo of Gitmo developments will simply prove overwhelming for the Obama administration.
Perhaps this also shouldn’t come as a big surprise.
While shuttering the detention facilities was Mr. Obama’s #1 stated priority as announced when taking office, his lack of experience on dealing with tough issues like Gitmo as a junior Senator who routinely voted “present,” was a sure-fire recipe for “all hope, no change.”
J.D. Gordon is a communications consultant to four Washington, D.C. think tanks, is a retired Navy Commander who served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005-2009 as the Pentagon spokesman for the Western Hemisphere. For more visit: www.jdgordoncommunications.com.
J.D. Gordon is a retired Navy Commander who served as a Pentagon spokesman in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005-09. He serves as senior adviser to several Washington-based think tanks.