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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hard politics on Guantanamo

The NYTimes headlines this piece, 1 in 7 Freed Detainees Rejoins Fight, Report Finds, but the real story is in the politics of the sourcing.
Two administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said the report was being held up by Defense Department employees fearful of upsetting the White House, at a time when even Congressional Democrats have begun to show misgivings over Mr. Obama’s plan to close Guantánamo.

In other words, two people who oppose closing Guantanamo (holdovers?) heard about an as yet unpublished report and decided to use it as a political tool, releasing elements, in their contextual framework, to the NYTimes.

In a technical sense, this report has nothing to do with closing Guantanamo. The story's political application rests on the rather thin assertion that closing Guantanamo means automatically and immediately releasing known terrorists which is not what anyone is talking about.

I have every reason to assume the report is true, but the connection to the argument is false. If anything, it would mean that either 1) the intelligence collected on those in Guantanamo is largely inaccurate which led to the Bush administration "releasing" the guilty or 2) the Guantanamo experience radicalized previously non-dangerous men.

Either way, this report only relates to the "closing Guantanamo" argument if you assume that means the US is going automatically release everyone who is there.

Bad, NYTimes. Bad, bad, NYTimes.


  • It seems to me they've been saying this for a long time. I seen previous reports of this nature and it turns out, even something like hanging at a cafe and saying bad things about America counts as "returning to the fight." I believe the actual number who have actively gone back to terrorist orgs is very tiny. Cernig/Steve Hynd at Newshoggers has done some good analysis on this story in the past.

    By Blogger Libby Spencer, at 8:44 AM  

  • Good point, Libby.

    I'd further say that a 14% recidivism rate is damn better than most state correctional systems. Furthermore, given that the majority of the entire Muslim world is anti-America, isn't it insignificant if 75 or 100 baddies rejoin the jihad?

    By Blogger -epm, at 9:32 AM  

  • Libby, I don't really know. I'll take your word on it.


    EPM, the math on recidivism isn't quite that clean as recidivism rates take into account everyone who has served their term, and the ones released from Guantanamo were released because they were considered non-recidivist. The ones still in custody would likely be those more likely to go back.

    But I do get your point.

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 10:29 AM  

  • In the interim I've read a few more posts and emptywheel has an interesting theory. Apparently they only released 29 names of the 74 alleged recidivists. She's wondering if that's because they've been recruited as spies and/or informants. Not sure I buy that since I've heard stories about how no one really trusts the released detainees, even among their family and friends. But it is an interesting thought.

    By Blogger Libby Spencer, at 12:08 PM  

  • That is interesting. Makes some sense, though.

    Again, I doubt they're releasing the really bad guys.

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 1:03 PM  

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