[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/05/22/torture.health.effects/art.guantanmo.afp.gi.jpg caption="A U.S. miliary guard stands inside the Camp V area at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba"]
Michael V. Hayden
Special to CNN
I know that the story has moved on, that the outline of the journalistic narrative has been set, and that the "first draft" of history has been just about finalized. Before the ink dries though, I would like to offer at least a footnote.
And this footnote has to do with President Obama's decision in April to release opinions drafted by the Department of Justice that detailed the CIA's interrogation program for high-value al Qaeda detainees.
Specifically, it has to do with the argument made publicly and privately by the administration that its hand was being forced by a pending decision in a Freedom of Information Act case by the American Civil Liberties Union before Judge Alvin Hellerstein in New York.
Indeed, when Obama visited the CIA the Monday after the release of the documents, he specifically cited this argument in his remarks to the work force.
He said that he released "... the Justice Department Office of Legal Council (OLC) memos as a consequence of a court case that was pending and to which it was very difficult for us to mount an effective legal defense. ..."
Interrogation or Torture?
The U.S. Justice Department released former top secret documents that outline interrogration tactics the Bush administration allowed to be used on al Qaeda operatives. Click below to learn about three of the tactics.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney and other members of the Bush Administration might have had a tense weekend. After months of delay and controversy, the Obama Administration is expected on Monday to declassify the 2004 CIA inspector general's report into the agency's interrogation program. Cheney, the most prominent of several Bush-era officials who have vociferously defended the program, faces either vindication or more vilification.
Over the past two days news reports have quoted unnamed officials as saying the IG's findings include instances where CIA interrogators used power drills and even a gun to threaten a detainee; on another occasion, as first reported by Newsweek, they allegedly staged a mock execution. If true, these tactics would go well beyond the coercive techniques permitted by the Bush Administration's legal counsel.
Program Note: Peter Bergen will be on tonight talking about the situation in Afghanistan. Tune in AC360° 10p ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/20/bergen.guantanamo/art.peter.bergen.cnn.jpg caption="Peter Bergen says it's crucial to know how many ex-Guantanamo prisoners have gone back to the fight."]
Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann
Special to CNN
As President Obama awaits formal recommendations this month on issues surrounding the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, it is crucial that policymakers and the public have an accurate picture of the threat to the United States posed by those detainees already released.
Contrary to recent assertions that one in seven, or 14 percent, of the former prisoners had "returned to the battlefield," our analysis of Pentagon reports, news stories and other public records indicates that the number who were confirmed or suspected to be involved in anti-U.S. violence is closer to one in 25, or 4 percent.
During his first week in office, Obama signed an executive order directing that the Guantanamo prison be closed by January 22, 2010, and suspending the system of military commissions that existed to deal with detainees in what the Bush administration termed the war on terror.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/06/11/uighurs.gitmo/art.palau.cnn.jpg caption="The map shows the Pacific island nation of Palau in relation to China. Palau has also agreed to take some Uighurs."]
Jill Dougherty | Bio
Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Four men held at the prison camp in Guantanamo for almost eight years have just been sent to live in Bermuda, land of Bermuda shorts, golf courses and white sandy beaches.
For months the Obama administration has been scouring the world to find a home for the Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority group from western China. The Chinese government considers them terrorists and that is what the U.S. initially thought, since some of them were members of a group allied with Al Qaeda which the U.S. labels a terrorist organization. But in 2008 the Bush administration determined that none of the Uighur detainees were “enemy combatants.”
The U.S. ruled out sending them back to China out of fear they would be tortured. Northern Virginia, which has a sizeable Uighur community, wasn’t possible either because of intense domestic political lobbying against having “terrorists” living down the street from Americans.
“We’re extremely grateful to the Government of Bermuda for its assistance in resettling these detainees,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Thursday.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/05/26/gitmo.recidivism/art.gitmo.bay.afp.gi.jpg caption="A guard talks with a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, earlier this year."]
Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more from Peter Bergen on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann
For The New York Times
Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul and Said Ali al-Shihri may be the two best arguments for why releasing detainees from Guantánamo Bay poses a real risk to America. Mr. Rasoul, who was transferred to Afghanistan in 2007 and then released by the Kabul government, is now the commander of operations for the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. Mr. Shihri, sent back to his native Saudi Arabia in 2007, is now a leader of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen.
Are these two men exceptional cases, or are they emblematic of a much larger problem of dangerous terrorists who, if released, will “return to the battlefield”? To help answer that question, a Pentagon report made public on Tuesday concluded that 74 of the 534 men who have been freed from Guantánamo were “confirmed or suspected of re-engaging in terrorist activities.” This is a recidivism rate of around 14 percent, which was up from the Pentagon’s previous estimate in January of 11 percent.
But are things this bad? While we must of course be careful about who is released, these numbers are very likely inflated. This is in part because the Pentagon includes on the list any released prisoner who is either “confirmed” or just “suspected” to have engaged in terrorism anywhere in the world, whether those actions were directed at the United States or not. And, bizarrely, the Defense Department has in the past even lumped into the recidivist category former prisoners who have done no more than criticize the United States after their release.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/05/21/obama.speech/art.dickcheney.gi.jpg caption="Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been a sharp critic of Obama's national security policies."]
Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
Thursday's competing addresses on national security from President Obama and Vice President Dick Cheney put into sharp focus the contrast between those who think the military prison at Guantanamo Bay makes us safe and those convinced it makes us less so.
Which side are the American people on? Both actually. Polls show the public pretty evenly split on the question of whether Guantanamo is an asset or a liability.
That isn't likely to change as a result of the speeches. Both presentations were first-rate, comprehensive and - to a point - persuasive. More importantly, they showed courage - something missing in Congress, where lawmakers are only making a tough situation even tougher by playing politics with national security because of shortsighted provincialism.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/05/21/gitmo.recidivism/art.gitmo.bay.afp.gi.jpg caption="A guard talks with a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, earlier this year."]
Editor's note: The Defense Department reports that up to 14 percent of detainees suspected of terrorism and held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay turn to terrorism when they get out of custody. The numbers are alarming. But are they accurate?
Peter Bergen says no. The CNN National Security Analyst believes the recidivism rate for suspected terrorists is far lower than the 14 percent estimate from the Pentagon. Together with his colleagues at The New American Foundation, Bergen concludes that less than 3 percent of released detainees engage in attacks or attempted attacks against the U.S. citizens or interests.
And there is more, as Peter tells us in his dispatch below:
CNN National Security Analyst
This is what we have concluded based on analysis of press reports, previous DoD statements and al Qaeda or Taliban statements.
Instead of a 14 percent recidivism rate, we found a TOTAL rate of 8 percent - even if you include people making anit-American statements when they got freed.
When you take out those people and guys who joined insurgencies or terror groups that aren't anti-American-focused, the real number is no more than 3 percent. Here's the raw data:
Of 534 detainees released, 13 have engaged in insurgent groups that attack or attempt to attack the U.S., U.S. citizens or U.S. bases abroad. That's 2.4 percent.
Thirteen more engaged in insurgent groups that attack or attempt to attack non-U.S. targets. That's another 2.4 percent.
And 18 more got involved in anti-American propaganda or criticism of the U.S. government or military - but not in terrorism. That's another 3.4 percent.
CNN Justice Producer
Attorney General Eric Holder's Guantanamo Review Task Force is struggling to sort the prison detainees into five neatly ordered lists, as government lawyers try to somehow fashion a plan which will clear expected legal challenges while satisfying skeptical lawmakers and a nervous public.
Every turn appears more complicated as the weeks pass.
On the immediate heels of a demand by Congress for a clear and specific plan for emptying Guantanamo, one of President Obama's top aides, David Axelrod, promised Thursday Congress would receive such a plan, and declared the President's address represented a "framework for a plan". Administration officials indicate the plan itself is probably months away.
The framework calls for putting the names of the 240 remaining detainees into five piles, then trying to resolve the legal complexities of each.
The first pile, which government sources and defense attorneys estimate at several dozen detainees, would be brought to the U.S. and tried for crimes in civilian courts. But those cases would be limited to instances in which prosecutors believe they can win convictions under criminal procedures and rules of evidence including competent legal representation, defendant's Miranda rights, direct witness testimony absent hearsay, and sharing with the defense "Brady" material– evidence which could help their case.