Guantánamo

Trump blames wrong president for most Guantánamo ‘back to battlefield’ releases

An unstaffed tower in an abandoned portion of Guantánamo’s Detention Center Zone, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. The military approved release of this photo.
An unstaffed tower in an abandoned portion of Guantánamo’s Detention Center Zone, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. The military approved release of this photo. emichot@miamiherald.com

President Donald Trump broke his White House silence on the topic of Guantánamo Tuesday, incorrectly blaming Barack Obama, not George W. Bush, for the release of more than 100 captives whom U.S. intelligence agencies consider recidivists.

The president’s tweet, just after 7 a.m., correctly referred to an Obama-era report from the Office of the Directorate of National Intelligence as citing 122 former captive as “re-engagers.”

But it failed to note that 113 of the men described by Trump in his tweet as “vicious prisoners” were released by the George W. Bush administration. The report, released in September, said nine captives sent to other countries by the Obama administration were confirmed to re-engage, the term for what is colloquially called having gone back to the fight.

A mid-February media visit to Guantánamo's Detention Center Zone, the last until at least mid April, found commanders thinking about how to handle future captives.

The so-called recidivist rate may have interested the new president because of the Pentagon’s disclosure a day earlier that a U.S. air strike in Yemen had killed a captive repatriated by the Obama administration in December 2009.

MORE NEWS: Pentagon says U.S. airstrike in Yemen killed ex-Guantánamo detainee

Trump’s vow to keep Guantánamo open and add new prisoners was a popular soundbite during his campaign. He had not spoken about the prison since moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; only alleged draft versions of proposed detention policy have leaked.

Congress established the regular reporting mechanism by the intelligence community on what has become of captives released from Guantánamo in 2012.

It breaks down the report between the 532 transferred to other nations’ custody during the Bush administration and those by the Obama administration, which transferred 182. Those release figures don’t include the seven captives who died at Guantánamo and the Tanzanian man serving life in prison after a federal trial in New York.

As it happens, the national intelligence directorate issued an updated report hours after Trump’s tweet. It dropped the confirmed figure of those found to reengage to 121. Of them, 113 were released by the Bush administration and eight during the Obama years.

It also reported that 31 were dead, one more than in the report the president referenced. The report as of Jan. 15 doesn’t identify the dead. But the intelligence community might have added a former British captive who reportedly killed himself in a suicide bombing in Iraq at an undisclosed date. The Bush administration repatriated the British citizen in 2004.

Carol Rosenberg: 305-376-3179, @carolrosenberg

  Comments