The number of ex-Guantanamo detainees who have gone back to terrorism is much larger than the government is letting on.
A senior intelligence official, who has access to some of the country’s top secrets, tells HUMAN EVENTS that some Pentagon analysts actually believe 102 former enemy combatants have returned to terror — not 61 as publicly reported by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
That would mean that of 520 terrorists released from the Guantanamo Bay prison, nearly 20 percent returned to the practice of killing to achieve their radical view of Islam.
The number is gaining importance in light of the fact that President Obama has announced he intends to close the Guantanamo facility. This means scores of additional detainees not deemed releasable by the Pentagon — at least until now — will be sent back to their home countries. It also sends a signal to countries now holding ex-Guantanomo prisoners that it might be OK to release them, too.
Why the discrepancy between 102 and 61?
The DIA has a rigorous standard of evidence before placing a former detainee on the back-to-terrorism list. It wants to avoid any charges from the news media or anti-war Democrats that it is inflating the number to justify holding accused terrorists indefinitely. But some intelligence officials believe there is sufficient evidence to say as many as 41 additional ex-inmates are terrorists again.
"There is evidence, whether it be intercepts or pockets of information we have picked up in interrogations, that these people are back at it," said the senior intelligence source. "I think it’s fair to say from my perspective that the number of people who have returned to the battlefield is in excess of the 61."
There are now about 245 detainees at Guantanamo, down from a peak of nearly 800. Most were captured in the Afganistan-Pakistan region, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the admitted master mind of the September 11 attacks.
The danger of releasing al Qaeda and Taliban combatants is highlighted by recent events.
Saudi Arabia announced that 11 former Guantanamo detainees that went through the kingdom’s rehabilitation program and were released are now on the most wanted list for terrorism.
In January, the U.S. disclosed that Said Ali al-Shihri, who left Guantanamo in 2007, is now the deputy leader of al Qaeda operations in Yemen. Al-Shihri re-commitment to killing was missed by the DIA, or it lacked sufficient evidence to put him on the recidivism terror list.
This week, the Associated Press reported that another former Guantanamo inmate, Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, is now the Taliban operations chief in southern Afghanistan. This is the area where most of the American reinforcements will deploy this year to retake villages controlled by the Taliban. Rasoul, once safely behind American bars, is now free to plot to kill them.
These disclosures come as the Justice Department is looking to release more detainees.
The DIA’s official list includes two categories of renewed terrorists: confirmed and suspected. "Confirmed" requires a preponderance of evidence such as fingerprints, DNA or well-corroborated intelligence reports. "Suspected" is base on "significant reporting" or a reliable single source. The senior intelligence source tells HUMAN EVENTS that the DIA could add 41 more based on that criteria. The source asked not to be named because of the sensitive nature of the information.
Some outside experts oppose closing the prison.
"The release sends a signal that Americans have limited determination and they can be outlasted, which in fact is part of the radical Islam playbook," Bart Bechtel, a former CIA clandestine officer who is assistant chief academic officer at Henley-Putnam University, tells HUMAN EVENTS.
"I have mixed thoughts on the subject," Bechtel added "Part of me wants to keep them permanently incarcerated and another part wants to let them go but track them to kill them the next opportunity. The Gitmo detainees have much better lives where they are than the majority of those they claim to want to defend. They have shelter, nutritious food, freedom to pray and worship, medical care, clean clothes and sanitation. They just do not have the freedom to continue their terrorist or jihadist activities. Perhaps we could move them to Folsom Prison, or our Supermax prisons and put them among the criminal gangs we have there. At Supermax, the isolation would quickly kill many with only one hour daily to exercise outside their cells and never have contact with other prisoners as they currently enjoy. "