Govt Accused of Fuzzy Math in Gitmo Report

A prominent public interest law firm that has defended numerous Guantánamo Bay detainees charged Thursday that a recent government report on a high rate of recidivism among former inmates is loaded with "vague and unsubstantiated claims and misinformation."

The Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement that the report to Congress by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was "the latest in a line of reports that have been repeatedly discredited for using dubious classifications to produce unreliable statistics." 

Leili Kashani, the center’s Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative associate, told IPS, "The problem with the latest government recidivism report, as with the ones that have preceded it, is that it provides no substance that can be assessed, and from experience we know that we cannot just accept it at face value." 

The report said that 150 detainees, or 25 percent of those released, are confirmed or believed to have "reengaged" in the fight against U.S. interests. CCR questioned those figures and called on the DNI to provide more detailed information. 

"If the government thinks individual men released from Guantánamo have ‘returned to the battlefield’, then it should tell us who they are and what they are alleged to have done," Kashani said. 

"These periodic reports that do not provide names or any concrete allegations are useless at best and fear mongering at worst. They function much like those color-coded terror warnings that the government has now had the sense to drop," she added. 

In the last two days, Congress has voted to block the use of any funds to pay for transporting Guantánamo detainees to the mainland U.S. This effectively ends the possibility of Guantánamo detainees being tried in civilian courts. Most members of Congress believe such trials should be before military tribunals. 

CCR noted that Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a senior State Department official who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell during the George W. Bush administration, recently stated in a federal court declaration in support of a former detainee’s claims of wrongful detention that "the Bush administration knew early on that the majority of the men at Guantánamo were wrongfully detained, but did not release them because of political concerns that doing so could harm the government’s push for war." 

CCR also notes that the latest DNI report does not name any actual recidivists or include "information that would enable meaningful scrutiny." 

Earlier reports that did identify individuals by name revealed, for example, that former detainee Moazzem Begg had been classified as a "recidivist" because he participated in a documentary about Guantánamo. 

"As we now know from cables released by WikiLeaks, Mr. Begg has been privately championed by the State Department for his lack of animosity towards the United States since his release and for his valuable work assisting with the resettlement of other detainees," CCR said. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that intelligence officials claimed that five of the 69 detainees transferred to other countries from Guantánamo Bay by the Obama administration are believed to have rejoined terrorist groups. 

The DNI report also said two former detainees were confirmed to be "re-engaging in terrorist or insurgent activities" and three others released in 2009 are suspected of doing so. The former detainees weren’t named. 

Since the prison was opened in 2002, 598 detainees have been released, most of them during the Bush administration. They were sent home or to other countries that agreed to take them in. 

Among the recent diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks are some describing the inducements and pressure U.S. officials proffered to secure host countries for detainees scheduled for release. 

In the past, other organizations have also taken issue with recidivism statistics provided by the Department of Defense and other government agencies. 

Students and faculty of Seton Hall law school have carried out extensive examinations of the claims made in prior reports as well as questioning the methodology used to arrive at those claims, and revealed numerous errors and anomalies. 

On his first day in office, President Barack Obama signed an executive order closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay in one year. But the task has proved more challenging than the administration imagined. 

In addition to the difficulty of finding host countries for prisoners scheduled for release, the issue became highly politicized by widespread rumors to the effect that former detainees "would be allowed to roam the Main Streets of American towns and cities with impunity." 

While this was never the government’s intention, members of Congress were placed under considerable pressure by their frightened constituencies. 

When the government proposed to try the alleged mastermind of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks in a New York federal court, a public outcry forced the Obama administration to put the idea on a back burner – where it remains. 

One Guantánamo inmate has been tried in federal civilian court in New York without incident. He was found guilty and faces a sentence of 20 years to life. 

"Tragically, these [DNI] reports continue to obscure the fact that the vast majority of the men at Guantánamo should never have been detained in the first place and that a great injustice has been done to them," Kashani told IPS. 

"Hundreds of men have now been released and are peacefully rebuilding their lives. Rather than fueling fear, the government should be acknowledging these facts and making sure that the remaining men who have been wrongfully detained are quickly repatriated or resettled."

(Inter Press Service)

Author: William Fisher

William Fisher writes for Inter Press Service.