President Trump attacked former President Barack Obama on Twitter yet again on Tuesday — this time over the Obama administration’s release of detainees from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
“122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield,” Trump tweeted. Just another terrible decision!”
122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2017
Trump’s assertion was quickly challenged by Carol Rosenberg, a Miami Herald reporter who is based at the U.S. detention facility.
According to Rosenberg, the president was correct in referring to the number of detainees “confirmed” of engaging in recidivism, or “reengaging on the battlefield” after their release. But Trump placed the blame on the wrong former president.
A 2016 intelligence report found that 122 of the 693 detainees transferred from Guantánamo by the United States had been “confirmed of reengaging” in terrorist or insurgent activities.
But 113 of those reported recidivists were released during former President George W. Bush’s presidency — roughly 21 percent of the 532 transferred by the Bush administration. Just nine of the 161 released by Obama at the time of the report were confirmed of reengaging, or about 6 percent.
As is often the case with Trump’s tweets, the president apparently got the questionable statistic while watching his favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends.”
Former Gitmo detainee killed by a U.S. airstrike in Yemen; at least 122 former Gitmo detainees have re-engaged in terrorism pic.twitter.com/y9jb420fFZ
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) March 7, 2017
It’s worth noting that the recidivism figures for released Guantánamo detainees historically have been a bit murky in terms of what, exactly, they are measuring.
And the definitions from the director of National Intelligence’s office indicate as much:
Definition of “Terrorist” or “Insurgent” Activities. Activities such as the following indicate involvement in terrorist or insurgent activities: planning terrorist operations, conducting a terrorist or insurgent attack against Coalition or host-nation forces or civilians, conducting a suicide bombing, financing terrorist operations, recruiting others for terrorist operations, and arranging for movement of individuals involved in terrorist operations. It does not include mere communications with individuals or organizations — including other former GTMO detainees — on issues not related to terrorist operations, such as reminiscing about shared experiences at GTMO, communicating with past terrorist associates about non-nefarious activities, writing anti-US books or articles, or making anti-US propaganda statements.
Definition of “Confirmed” Activities. A preponderance of information which identifies a specific former GTMO detainee as directly involved in terrorist or insurgent activities. For the purposes of this definition, engagement in anti-US statements or propaganda does not qualify as terrorist or insurgent activity.
Definition of “Suspected” Activities. Plausible but unverified or single-source reporting indicating a specific former GTMO detainee is directly involved in terrorist or insurgent activities. For the purposes of this definition, engagement in anti-US statements or propaganda does not qualify as terrorist or insurgent activity.
At the White House, press secretary Sean Spicer tried to explain the discrepancy.
“Obviously, the president meant in totality the number that had been released on the battlefield,” Spicer said.
However, the vast majority (532) of the total number of Gitmo detainees released (693) occurred under Bush.
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