(Updates with Democrats questioning findings in second paragraph.)
Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- About 27 percent of 600 detainees released from the U.S. Navy’s Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba have been confirmed or suspected of returning to terrorist or insurgent activities, according to Republican lawmakers.
Some former detainees hold leadership positions with the Taliban or al-Qaeda, according to a report released today by Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee. Democrats on the panel dismissed the report as bogus, calling it “smoke and mirrors.”
Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush both “assumed a questionable level of risk in the release of detainees from Guantanamo Bay,” the Republicans said in a statement on the report about released detainees.
Bush began using the detention facility in Cuba to hold suspected and accused terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks. Obama campaigned for president promising to close Guantanamo, saying it attracted international criticism of U.S. detention policies and interrogation practices. Facing congressional opposition, Obama backed away from an executive order to close the prison that he issued on his first day in office.
“The facts indicate that neither the Bush nor Obama administrations sufficiently addressed the problem of reengagement and detainee transfers,” Representative Rob Wittman of Virginia, chairman of the investigations and oversight subcommittee that wrote the report, said in a statement.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said the Obama administration has been weighing the possibility of transferring some Afghan Taliban detainees from Guantanamo to a third nation in an effort to bring the Taliban to peace talks.
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters today that his party has “great reservations” about further releases of Afghan or Pakistani prisoners because of the evidence “that they end up back on the battlefield.”
The Republicans said the 27 percent recidivism rate was an increase from 25 percent in October 2010. At that time, 13.5 percent of detainees released were confirmed to have renewed terrorist or insurgent activities and 11.5 percent were suspected of having done so by the government, according to the Republicans.
Democrats on the panel didn’t sign the report, providing a dissenting view published in its closing pages.
“The report was supposed to be a comprehensive and bipartisan look” at former Guantanamo detainees, “but fails at both objectives,” the Democrats wrote.
“Much of that failure is due to the majority’s insistence on releasing a public report during an election year,” they said. “The majority is well aware that most of the relevant material is classified and politically sensitive.”
Committee Republicans said that the study was based primarily on 19 interviews with current and past policy makers and staff members from the White House, the Defense Department and the State Department as well as hundreds of pages of declassified documents, and some secondary sources. The Republicans said they also evaluated “a large volume of classified information.”
The Republicans urged federal defense and national security agencies to produce a report assessing what is causing released detainees to reengage with terrorism or insurgency.
--With assistance from James Rowley in Washington. Editors: Larry Liebert, Ann Hughey
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