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Pentagon Says Former Detainees Continue to Return to Terror

  • Al Pessin

The Pentagon said Wednesday the trend of increasing terrorist activity by former Guantanamo detainees has not been reversed in the latest classified assessment.

The U.S. Defense Department has released about 550 men from the Guantanamo detention center in Cuba since it opened eight years ago, and is in the process of determining the future of the remaining 198 detainees. Some will be prosecuted, and some may be released, but most are expected to be transferred to custody in their home countries.

Among other concerns, U.S. officials want to be as sure as possible that the detainees who leave Guantanamo will not return to terrorist activity. In the past, the percentage of former detainees returning to the fight has been small, but growing. And Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell says that will not change in the new report.

"We've done two reports that we've released publicly," said Geoff Morrell. "One showed it at 11 per cent, another showed it at 14 per cent. I don't think that trend has reversed itself."

The Pentagon numbers include former detainees who have definitely returned to terrorism and those suspected of doing so, but it does not include former detainees who may engage in non-violent activities such as writing, speaking or joining political organizations.

On Tuesday, the United States suspended the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, which is home for more than 90 of the current detainees, because of the growing strength of terrorist groups in that country. The man who tried to blow up an American airliner on Christmas Day allegedly received his training in Yemen.

Geoff Morrell would not comment on that decision, but indicated the remaining detainees tend to be more dangerous than some who were released in past years, making it more difficult to find the right situation into which they can be transferred.

"Some of the initial cases were more obvious than others," he said. "Some of them were deemed to be less of a threat than others. I think as we are getting down to the final couple of hundred that these are clearly very difficult cases."

The U.S. government also seeks assurances the transferred detainees will be treated humanely.

Morrell says the new Pentagon report on the activities of former Guantanamo detainees will be made public as soon as intelligence officials clear the documents that provide details to support the overall numbers and trends.