A leaked Pentagon study claims one in seven Guantánamo detainees returned to jihad upon their release. A New York Times reporter says that the assertion could be used to argue against closing down Guantánamo. But….

-If the numbers are correct, that’s a pretty low recidivism rate. It could either argue for the effectiveness of incarceration there, or it could suggest that a very small percentage of the uncharged prisoners were ever really inclined in that direction. If the latter, then no wonder the government is not enthusiastic about publicly trying these men.

-As for those who returned to jihad, one would like to know whether they were more motivated to do so as a result of their treatment at Guantánamo, or less. In other words, does lengthy incarceration without charge in awful conditions turn people onto the right path, or the wrong one?

-What specifics may we hear about the evidence that the former prisoners truly constituted a danger on their release? What exactly did they do that leads to the conclusion that they returned to terrorism? There are indications that some of these supposed backsliders may have done no more than to be in the company of others who are suspected of similar activities. Given the narrow social circle to which most of these men belonged, we can hardly expect them to suddenly acquire new, more savory friends.

-What’s the real story behind the leaking of the Pentagon study? As the New York Times writes (emphasis added):

Pentagon officials said there had been no pressure from the Obama White House to suppress the report about the Guantánamo detainees who had been transferred abroad under the Bush administration. The officials said they believed that Defense Department employees, some of them holdovers from the Bush administration, were acting to protect their jobs.

Huh? Pentagon officials just release classified information whenever they feel like it, irrespective of laws and national security concerns? Doesn’t this cast real doubts on the notion that this was an unauthorized leak?

The report was made available by an official who said the delay in releasing it was creating unnecessary “conspiracy theories” about the holdup.

A Defense Department official said there was little will at the Pentagon to release the report because it had become politically radioactive under Mr. Obama.

“If we hold it, then everybody claims it’s political and you’re protecting the Obama administration,” said the official, who asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. “And if we let it go, then everybody says you’re undermining Obama.”

Double-huh? Who are all these officials, leaking or talking about other officials leaking? And what is going on here? This article certainly raises more questions—unwittingly, it seems—than it answers.


  • Russ Baker

    Russ Baker is Editor-in-Chief of WhoWhatWhy. He is an award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in exploring power dynamics behind major events.

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