Homeland Security

Nearly 30 Percent of Gitmo Transfers Confirmed or Suspected of Returning to Terror

WASHINGTON — Nearly 30 percent of Guantanamo detainees that have been transferred out of the prison are confirmed to have or are suspected of returning to terrorist activities, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in an update Friday.

Per six-month reporting guidelines, ODNI said that as of Jan. 15 of this year 728 detainees have been transferred out of Gitmo. Of these, 123 have been confirmed to have rejoined terrorist groups. Thirty-three of those are now dead, 22 are in foreign custody, and 68 are at large.

Of the 728 released detainees, 94 are suspected of going back to terrorism. Four of those are deceased, 18 are in foreign custody, and 72 are at large.

Sixteen detainees released under the Obama administration are suspected of returning to a life of terror, while 78 of the total number were released under the Bush administration. Of those confirmed to have rejoined terror, nine were released by the Obama administration and 114 were transferred during the Bush era.

Separately, the Defense Intelligence Agency believes one additional detainee has returned to the fight, and two others are suspected of doing so. Those are included as footnotes in the ODNI report instead of in the totals.

“Based on trends identified during the past 15 years, we assess that some detainees currently at GTMO will seek to reengage in terrorist or insurgent activities after they are transferred,” says the unclassified ODNI report. “Transfers to countries with ongoing conflicts and internal instability as well as recruitment by insurgent and terrorist organizations could pose problems. While enforcement of transfer conditions may deter reengagement by many former detainees and delay reengagement by others, some detainees who are determine to reengage will do so regardless of any transfer conditions, albeit probably at a lower rate than if they were transferred without conditions.”

“Former GTMO detainees routinely communicate with each other, families of former detainees, and previous associates who are members of terrorist organizations. The reasons for communication span from the mundane (reminiscing about shared experiences) to the nefarious (planning terrorist operations). We assess that some GTMO detainees to be transferred in the future probably would communicate with other former GTMO detainees and persons in terrorist organizations. We do not consider mere communication with individuals or organizations — including other former GTMO detainees — an indicator of reengagement. Rather, the motives, intentions, and purposes of each communication are taken into account when assessing whether the individual has reengaged.”

Forty-one detainees remain at the detention facility. Negotiations for the first release of a detainee under the Trump administration are still ongoing with the Saudis.

Ahmed al-Darbi, 43, a Saudi citizen, was arrested traveling through Azerbaijan in June 2002 and held for his knowledge of the USS Cole bombing and other al-Qaeda maritime attack plans. Four years ago, al-Darbi pleaded guilty to planning a 2002 attack on a French oil tanker. Under the Obama administration, he struck a deal to be released to a rehabilitation program back home in Saudi Arabia last month. While at Gitmo, he has been enjoying his own PlayStation 3, strawberry Oreos and Netflix re-runs of “Arrested Development.”

Just before his State of the Union speech in January, President Trump signed an order directing Mattis to review the nation’s military detention policies and keep Guantanamo open.

“I am also asking the Congress to ensure that, in the fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda, we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists — wherever we chase them down,” Trump said.

Adm. Kurt Tidd, commander of U.S. Southern Command, told reporters at the Pentagon last week that Guantanamo does “have the ability to receive more detainees, should the decision be made to send them to us.”

“We could accommodate a small number without any additional resources. But then, as the numbers continue to go up, now we would require a larger guard force… it’s less the detention facility, as it would be to support all of the other, the Military Commission’s activities, and the other sorts of things that go on,” he said.

While stressing that “we don’t get in the business of deciding who comes our way,” Tidd said “probably a couple of dozen” more prisoners could be accommodated without additional resources.