Several detainees released by the U.S. military from the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have rejoined their former comrades-in-arms and taken part in fresh attacks on American troops, according to Defense Department officials and a senior Republican lawmaker.
“We’ve already had instances where we know that people who have been released from our detention have gone back and have become combatants again,” said Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
“It’s the military Willie Horton,” he said, referring to the murderer who absconded on a furlough granted by then-Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts in 1987. The freed Horton pistol-whipped a Maryland man and raped his fiancee, and the case became an issue when Mr. Dukakis, a Democrat, ran for president in 1988.
“I do in fact have specific cases,” Mr. Goss said in an interview. But when pressed for further details, he declined to say more.
A Defense official independently confirmed that several such cases had involved Afghans released from Guantanamo.
“At least five detainees released from Guantanamo have returned to the [Afghan] battlefield,” the defense official said on the condition of anonymity.
When asked how U.S. authorities could know, the official declined to comment.
“That gets into intel stuff. I can’t go there,” the official said.
The case of the released detainees threatens to become a political issue as Congress returns in the aftermath of June’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Guantanamo Bay detainees have a right to file writs of habeas corpus.
According to Mark Jacobson, a former senior official at the Pentagon who helped put together the handling practices for detainees at Guantanamo, every detainee is fingerprinted and photographed.
“We build up pretty extensive biometrics on these guys,” he said. “There are a lot of different ways we could know that someone we’d captured or killed had already been in our custody.”
The five known individuals represent just under 10 percent of the 57 Afghans released from Guantanamo, leaving open the possibility that more among the other 52 might also be fighting U.S.-led forces.
“I would hope our intel is good enough that we’d know if someone we’d released was back on the battlefield,” said Mr. Jacobson, now a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan.
At least one of the five men known to have rejoined the fight after being released appears to have been a Taliban field commander. Press reports from Afghanistan in April said that Mullah Shahzada, who was released from Guantanamo in spring last year, had been captured or killed.
Shahzada may have become active again almost immediately after his release.