Sketchy DOD Report Claims 5% Of Freed Gitmo Detainees ‘Reengaged’ In ‘Terrorist Activity’

May 26, 2009 2:23 p.m.

We’ve gotten our hands on the Pentagon report on which the New York Times based its front-pager last week asserting that 1 in 7 Guantanamo detainees “returned” to terrorism.

You can read the document, which the DOD made available to reporters today, here.

The bottom line: Those who have counseled skepticism about the DOD numbers would seem to be vindicated by the actual report.

The report does indeed use the formulation “reengaged” in terrorism. This was the same formulation the Times‘ Elisabeth Bumiller used in her front-page story — until the online version of it was changed.

But the Pentagon report does not attempt to establish the original status of the detainees it claims “reengaged” in terrorism. It seems to simply not consider the possibility that, as has been reported by McClatchy, innocent men ended up in Gitmo, and some were radicalized during their imprisonment.The six-page document says the Defense Intelligence Agency “reported 14 percent as the overall rate of former Guantanamo detainees confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist activities.”

The doc breaks down that number as 27 “confirmed” and 47 “suspected” out of 530 total released detainees, as of mid-March 2009. That’s 5% confirmed and 9% suspected.

It gives capsule summaries of 11 of the “confirmed” cases. The report claims, for example, that one former detainee, Mohammed Ismail, “carried a letter confirming his status as a Taliban member in good standing” at the time of his recapture in Afghanistan in 2004.

A table gives 29 names (including the 11 summarized cases) of “former GTMO detainees who have reengaged in terrorism.” The information provided is scant. A typical entry: “Name: Muhibullah. Nationality: Afghanistan. Repatriated: July 2005. Activity: Association With The Taliban. Status: Suspected.”

A couple points here: As the Times noted at the bottom of its story, the Pentagon doesn’t even name 45 of the supposed “recidivists.” And almost no details are provided for many that are named.

It’s also worth stressing the DOD itself distinguishes between “confirmed” and “suspected” case — a distinction that goes unmentioned in the Times front-pager that was pounced on by the cable channels and the right-wing blogs. The oft-repeated “1 in 7” number is a combination of the confirmed and suspected cases.

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