Nearly one in four terrorists released from the detention facility at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, resumed terrorist activities against the United States and the number is expected to rise, according to a report to Congress by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).
The report, made public Tuesday, stated that out of a total of 598 detainees released as of October, 150 were confirmed or suspected of “reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities after transfer,” the two-page unclassified summary said.
The report’s findings prompted a harsh response from Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, who criticized President Obama for ordering the prison in Cuba closed.
“Unfortunately, these latest numbers make clear that fulfilling a campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay is overriding what should be the administration’s first priority — protecting Americans from terrorists,” Mr. Bond said in a statement announcing the release of the report.
“It is unacceptable to continue transferring these dangerous detainees when we know that one in four are confirmed or suspected of returning to the fight,” he said.
Mr. Bond noted that for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, only 19 Islamist terrorists were required and that having 80 terrorists “on the loose is alarming.”
“If one of these dangerous detainees attacks our troops or civilians, I don’t know how the administration will explain to the American people that we had him in custody, knew the risk he could return to the fight, and let him go anyway,” he said.
The report said that “of the 150 former GITMO detainees assessed as confirmed or suspected of re-engaging in terrorist or insurgent activities, the Intelligence Community assesses that 13 are dead, 54 are in custody, and 83 remain at large.”
The report defended prisoner release decisions made under Mr. Obama’s 2009 executive order to review the status of detainees.
“Every decision to transfer a detainee to a foreign country under this review was made after a full assessment of intelligence and threat information,” the report said, noting that 66 of those released since January 2009 include two people confirmed and three suspected of returning to jihad.
“The Intelligence Community assesses that the number of former detainees identified as reengaged in terrorist or insurgent activity will increase,” the report said.
The report said a review in February of detainee release dates compared with first reports of returning to the fight showed that it took 2½ years before those released were suspected of being back in fighting.
According to U.S. officials, several released Guantanamo prisoners are now part of the Yemen-based group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, including key leaders.
The report said it is not unusual for released terrorists to communicate with terrorist groups and people in the groups.
“The reasons for communication span from the mundane (reminiscing about shared experiences) to the nefarious (planning future terrorist operations),” the report said.
“Based on trends identified during the past six years, the Intelligence Community further assesses that if additional detainees are transferred from GITMO, some of them will reengage in terrorist or insurgent activities.”