The United States Department of Defense says the number of former Guantanamo Bay detainees returning to terrorist activities is on the rise.  

Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters on Tuesday that 61 former detainees from the U.S. military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have returned to the fight against the United States and its allies.

Morrell said that a Defense Department report compiled in December found a substantial increase in the number of detainees returning to terrorism.

"Prior to this report, the rate had been about seven percent of those who had been held at Guantanamo and released and those that had been confirmed or suspected of returning to the fight.  At that point, we suspected that 37 former detainees had returned to the fight," said Morrell.  "We now believe that that number has increased and that the overall known terrorist re-engagement rate has increased to 11 percent."

Morrell said that of the former detainees who returned to terrorism, 18 are confirmed and 43 are suspected of participating in terrorist activities.  He says fingerprints, photographs and intelligence materials were used to tie some of the former detainees to terrorist activities.

"There clearly are people who are being held at Guantanamo who are still bent on doing harm to America, Americans and our allies," he said.  "So there will have to be some solution for the likes of them."

But Mark Denbeaux of Seton Hall University Law School has represented some of the detainees and says the Pentagon has failed to produce evidence of early claims that former detainees have returned to the battlefield.
"The numbers are wrong about who has returned to the fight; their numbers and names are wrong about who has been in Guantanamo.  And, of course, the characterization of 'returned to the fight' is far broader than they would like to admit," said Denbeaux.  "What they would like is to be understood to mean as 'return to the battlefield,' but, of course, that hasn't happened.  So what they mean by 'return to the fight' is engaging in propaganda battles and criticisms of the United States at home and abroad."

About 520 detainees have been released from Guantanamo or transferred to other governments since the facility was established in 2002.  About 250 remain there.

President-elect Barack Obama is expected to issue an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, soon after he takes office on January 20.