Star-Telegram propagated claim that "at least" 61 Guantánamo detainees "have returned to terrorism"

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Texas state Rep. Kay Granger's claim that "intelligence indicates at least 61" Guantánamo detainees "have returned to terrorism," without noting that according to the Pentagon, the 61-detainee figure includes 43 former prisoners who are suspected of, but have not been confirmed as, having "return[ed] to the fight." Moreover, even the Pentagon's claim that it has confirmed that 18 former Guantánamo detainees have "return[ed] to the fight" has been questioned by analysts.

A February 12 Fort Worth Star-Telegram article about Texas Republicans' attempts to keep Guantánamo detainees from being transferred to their state reported that state Rep. Kay Granger "said that more than 500 detainees were released under [former President] Bush and that intelligence indicates at least 61 of them have returned to terrorism." However, the Star-Telegram did not note -- as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented -- that according to the Pentagon, the 61-detainee figure includes 43 former prisoners who are suspected of, but have not been confirmed as, having "return[ed] to the fight." Indeed, during a January 13 press conference, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell stated: "The new numbers are, we believe, 18 confirmed and 43 suspected of returning to the fight. So 61 in all former Guantanamo detainees are confirmed or suspected of returning to the fight."

Moreover, even the Pentagon's claim that it has confirmed that 18 former Guantánamo detainees have "return[ed] to the fight" has been questioned by some analysts. CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen stated on the January 23 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 that "returning to the fight, in Pentagon terms, could be engaging in anti-American propaganda, something that's not entirely surprising if you've been locked up in a prison camp for several years without charge." Bergen further stated: "[W]hen you really boil it down, the actual number of people whose names we know are about eight out of the 520 that have been released [from Guantánamo], so a little above 1 percent, that we can actually say with certainty have engaged in anti-American terrorism or insurgence activities since they have been released. ... If the Pentagon releases more information about specific people, I think it would be possible to -- to potentially agree with them. But, right now, that information isn't out there."

Additionally, as Media Matters has noted, Seton Hall Law School professor Mark Denbeaux -- who has written several reports about Guantánamo detainees, including several challenging the Pentagon's definition of "battlefield" capture, and published detainee recidivism rates -- has disputed the Pentagon's figures, asserting: "[The Defense Department's most recent] attempt to enumerate the number of detainees who have returned to the battlefield is false by the Department of Defense's own data and prior reports."

From the February 12 Fort Worth Star-Telegram article:

Officials have said some of the prisoners could be transferred to other countries; the rest would likely be transferred to facilities, probably prisons, in the United States.

Among the places mentioned: Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio; an El Paso-area immigration facility; a disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; and the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig near Charleston, S.C.

Granger said that more than 500 detainees were released under Bush and that intelligence indicates at least 61 of them have returned to terrorism.

"We still don't know how the Obama administration plans to deal with this problem," Granger said. "But there is no chance I will be supportive of any detainees being released or transferred to the state of Texas, or anywhere in the United States for that matter."

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