WASHINGTON -- About six dozen people who were being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison when President Barack Obama took office were directly implicated in terrorist attacks against the United States or played significant roles within Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, an administration task force concluded.
The numbers were part of a yearlong review of each of the 240 detainees who were at the Navy-run prison in Cuba when Obama's term began in January 2009. The administration's Guantanamo Review Task Force, made up of officials from six agencies, completed its work in January, but did not share the report with Congress until this week, according to The Washington Post. The newspaper posted the report on its website Friday.
The task force recommended that 126 detainees be sent home or to a third country, 36 be referred for prosecution in either civilian or military courts and 48 continue to be held indefinitely without charge. An additional 30 detainees, all Yemenis, also were approved to be sent home but only once the security situation in Yemen improves, the report said.
The top-tier of terror detainees numbers roughly two dozen and includes purported Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged Sept. 11 plotter Ramzi bin al Shibh, alleged Indonesian terror leader Hambali and Ahmed Ghailani, accused in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa. This group includes "leaders, planners, operatives and facilitators within Al Qaeda or associated groups who are directly implicated in terrorist plots against U.S. interests," the report said.
An additional four dozen men "played significant organizational roles within Al Qaeda or associated terrorist organizations," including serving as bodyguards for Usama bin Laden and providing other logistical support.
The task force was formed as part of Obama's pledge to close the Guantanamo prison within a year of taking office. That plan, which would require transferring dozens of men to the United States to stand trial or for continued detention, has been controversial. The administration wants to buy a state prison in Illinois, but lawmakers in both parties are backing legislation that would prohibit using money to build or modify facilities in the United States for Guantanamo detainees.
Since the Guantanamo prison opened in 2002, 779 detainees have been held there. The Bush administration released 530 men and cleared 59 others for release by the time Obama took office.