Obama’s Watch: 20 Ex-Gitmo Detainees Confirmed or Suspected of Returning to Terror

Brennan Linsley/AP
Brennan Linsley/AP

WASHINGTON, D.C. — At least 161 jihadists have been liberated from the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, during President Barack Obama’s tenure, including nine who are known to have reengaged in terrorist activities and 11 suspected of doing so, reveals a report by the Office the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

The total 693 jihadists who have been transferred out of the prison under both Obama and President George W. Bush include 208 terrorists who were either confirmed (122) or suspected (86) of returning to terrorist activities, according to the ODNI report, which is released every six months and covers transfers up until July 15 of this year.

That means that, on average, 30 percent of jihadists who are released from the Guantánamo prison, also known as Gitmo, likely return to terror.

An estimated 12 percent (20) of the 161 terrorists transferred out of Gitmo under Obama are confirmed or suspected of having returned to their old jihadi ways. Two of the 20 are dead while the other 18 remain at large.

Meanwhile, 532 terrorists were released from the prison under the Bush administration, of which 113 are confirmed and 75 suspected of returning to their old habits of terrorism. Of the jihadists released under the Bush administration, more than one third (35 percent) are known or suspected to have reengaged in jihad — including 31 who are dead, 43 back in custody, and 114 still roaming the streets.

A top Pentagon official told lawmakers in March that Americans have died as a direct result of the release of some Guantánamo prisoners. He did not specify whether the incidents occurred before or after Obama took office in January 2009.

In June, current and former Obama administration officials told the Washington Post (WaPo) that at least 12 terrorists released from Gitmo have killed about a half-dozen Americans.

The officials, to no surprise, failed to mention if any Americans have been killed by the terrorists released under Obama’s watch, only noting that the jihadists who carried out the killings were released under Bush. They neither explicitly denied whether those released under Obama killed any Americans nor did they confirm it.

Last month, Obama authorized the largest transfer of prisoners of his tenure as president. 15 Guantánamo detainees were liberated, including two “forever prisoners.”

Twelve Yemeni and three Afghan jihadis were sent to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a move that brought Obama close to reaching his goal of reducing the detainee population to no more than 56 by the end of summer.

Last month, Obama’s multi-agency Periodic Review Board (PRP), charged with deciding whether or not a Gitmo detainee is fit for transfer, approved for release a former al-Qaeda explosives expert and trainer who had been deemed “high risk” by the Pentagon. The PRB even conceded that the terrorist still “presents some level of threat” but argued that the risk could be mitigated.

In keeping with Obama’s promise to shut down Guantánamo, the PRB has been very active this year compared to 2015 and 2014. This year alone, it has made final determinations 34 times, compared to 9 each in 2015 and the previous year.

Close to half of the decisions have been made in favor of the prisoners. The PRB has even cleared for release detainees who had been deemed “forever prisoners,” which the Miami Herald explains refers to “an indefinite detainee considered too dangerous to release but never charged with a crime.”

According to the parole-style board, the threat posed by al-Qaeda-linked “forever prisoner” Sufiyan Barhoumi can be “adequately mitigated,” in part due to “his lack of extremist viewsnow that he is a reformed prisoner. 

More than half of the 61 prisoners currently being held at the detention center have been cleared for transfer. As the end of Obama’s presidency nears, transfer approvals will likely speed up. The number of hearings this year have already quadrupled compared to those that occurred during the last two years, respectively.

Obama has pledged to shut down Gitmo, however, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has prevented him from doing so. Part of the president’s plan to close down the facility would require bringing detainees onto U.S. soil, a move that is prohibited by bipartisan legislation signed into law by Obama himself.


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