OK. Looks like I'm wrong.
Yesterday, I wrote that closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay wouldn't kill us all. US prisons are just as capable of dealing with foreign terrorists as they are of dealing with serial killers, gangbangers, and domestic terrorists like Eric Rudolph, Timothy McVeigh, and the Unabomber. The fear that al Qaeda guys are too dangerous for American prisons is ridiculous.
But I failed to consider what would happen to those we just up and let go. That's where the New York Times comes in with a Pentagon report showing that releasing detainees from Gitmo means certain death.
An unreleased Pentagon report concludes that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has returned to terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials.
The conclusion could strengthen the arguments of critics who have warned against the transfer or release of any more detainees as part of President Obama's plan to shut down the prison by January. Past Pentagon reports on Guantánamo recidivism have been met with skepticism from civil liberties groups and criticized for their lack of detail.
The Pentagon promised in January that the latest report would be released soon, but Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said this week that the findings were still "under review."
Boy, is my face red.
Or it would be if it weren't for that part about similar Pentagon reports having "been met with skepticism from civil liberties groups and criticized for their lack of detail." The NYT is seriously understating the facts here. The reports weren't just criticized and met with skepticism, they were proven to be BS.
The last time one of these things came out -- this January -- Seton Hall Law School took a look at the evidence and found that it relied on unconfirmable numbers and an absurdly broad definition of "returning to the fight."
"[T]hey’ve failed to identify names, numbers, dates, times, places, or acts upon which their report relies. Every time they have been required to identify the parties, the DOD has been forced to retract their false IDs and their numbers," wrote Seton Hall's Professor Mark Denbeaux at that time. "They have included people who have never even set foot in Guantánamo—much less were they released from there. They have counted people as 'returning to the fight' for their having written an Op-ed piece in the New York Times and for their having appeared in a documentary exhibited at the Cannes Film Festival. The DOD has revised and retracted their internally conflicting definitions, criteria, and their numbers so often that they have ceased to have any meaning -- except as an effort to sway public opinion by painting a false portrait of the supposed dangers of these men."
Denbeaux sees no real difference this time around.
"It's part of a campaign to win the hearts and minds of history for Guantánamo," he told the NYT. "They want to be able to claim there really were bad people there."
Denbeaux concedes that some released detainees do wind up in some sort of terrorist activity. "We’ve never said there weren't some people who would return to the fight," He said. "It seems to be unavoidable. Nothing is perfect."
But how many of these are actually "returning to the fight?" Strong evidence suggests that many of these people would never have become terrorists in the first place if they hadn't been imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay. A detailed study of released detainees was done in 2008 by McClatchy Newspapers. What they found was that Gitmo was making terrorists of detainees who were otherwise innocent of terrorism.
A McClatchy investigation found that instead of confining terrorists, Guantánamo often produced more of them by rounding up common criminals, conscripts, low-level foot soldiers and men with no allegiance to radical Islam -- thus inspiring a deep hatred of the United States in them -- and then housing them in cells next to radical Islamists.
Saying that these detainees are "returning to the fight" is actually an abuse of language -- they were never "in the fight" to begin with. They've been radicalized by Guantánamo and are fighting for the first time. It's been said that the prison is a recruiting tool for terrorists. That's truer than most people realize. Al Qaeda is recruiting from within Guantánamo Bay. The truth is that Gitmo is literally creating terrorists.
"The Taliban and al Qaida leaders in the cells around them were ready to preach their firebrand interpretation of Islam and the need to wage jihad, Islamic holy war, against the West," McClatchy reported. "Guantánamo became a school for jihad, complete with a council of elders who issued fatwas, binding religious instructions, to the other detainees." Including these people among the "Gitmo recidivists" is nothing short of a lie.
This Pentagon report will eventually be shown to be as big a crock as all the other ones. If you sit down and look at all the evidence logically, honestly, and dispassionately, it's hard to come to any conclusion other than "it's done more harm than good." If the idea that it's not justice means nothing to you, then consider the idea that it just doesn't work.
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