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Mini-Update on Guantanamo and Recidivism

(What follows is a letter--or email--we sent to Andrew Sullivan of The Dish following one of his posts. It didn’t get published on The Dish but we thought we’d share it with our readers anyway.)

Andrew and crew,

I love your coverage of terrorism, specifically the emphasis on holding the former administration responsible for the war crimes (torture) it committed (and holding the current administration responsible for punting on the issue). However, I do have a huge issue with a line from your essay last week, “Obama’s Gitmo Disgrace”:

“We also know that some terrorists were captured but with no real proof; and that some have been transferred to other countries. Of those some have taken up arms; some have simply melted back into society.”

Not the case. According to this table released by Director of National Intelligence, of the 603 detainees released from Guantanamo, only 97 are confirmed to have reengaged in terrorism. Another 72 are suspected of reengaging in terrorism. In short, the recidivism rate of Guantanamo is incredible; most U.S. justice systems would love to have over 70% of its convicted criminals never go back to crime. This number is even more incredible when you consider that the bar of “suspected of reengaging in terrorism” is probably exceptionally low, dramatically overstating the case. (The New York Times goes into even greater depth here.)   

So we shouldn’t say “some and some”. We should emphasize that the majority of people kidnapped, tortured and illegally detained at Guantanamo were innocent. We should emphasize the vast majority had nothing to do with terrorism. We tortured innocent people and held them for no reason. We should emphasize that intelligence is much more often wrong than right. We should explain that intelligence thrives off paying people for information, and in dirt poor Afghanistan a lot of people got rich, and settled grudges, by giving Americans bad information.

Americans don’t know that but they should.

Respectfully,

Michael Cummings