The Pentagon is preparing to declassify portions of a secret report on Guantanamo detainees that could further complicate US President Barack Obama’s move to shut down the detention facility,a media report said on Sunday.
The report,which could be released within the next few days,will provide fresh details about 62 detainees who have been released from Guantanamo and are believed by US intelligence officials to have returned to terrorist activities,Newsweek reported,citing two Pentagon officials.
One such example,involving a Saudi detainee named Said Ali Al-Shihri,who was released in 2007,received widespread attention Friday when Pentagon officials publicly confirmed that he has recently reemerged as a deputy commander of Al Qaeda in Yemen.
Al-Shihri,once known publicly only as Guantanamo detainee No 372,is suspected of involvement in a thwarted attack on the US embassy in Yemen last September,the news magazine said.
The decision to release more case studies through the report is in effect a warning shot to the new president from officials at the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies,who are skeptical about some of his plans,it said.
Some Pentagon officials,including those sympathetic to Obama’s goals,note the political outcry would be deafening should another example like Al-Shihri become public six months from now and turns out be a Guantanamo detainee released under Obama regime rather than by the Bush administration,the magazine said.
“The last thing Obama wants is for one of these guys (at Guantanamo) to get released and return to killing Americans,” one senior Defense Department official was quoted as saying.
Some counter-terrorism experts,the magazine said,have raised questions about the significance of the Pentagon’s figures,noting that the number of so-called recidivist detainees represents only a small portion,about 12 per cent,of the approximately 520 detainees who have been released from Guantanamo since the detention facility was opened in January 2002.
The report,referring to the Justice Department figures,said the recidivism rates is as high as 67 per cent in state prisons in the US.
There have also been concerns that Bush administration holdovers were deliberately playing up the cases in recent weeks in an effort to undercut Obama,the report said quoting a former senior counter-terrorism official that the Pentagon waited until the day after Obama signed his executive order mandating the closure of Guantanamo to confirm Al-Shihri’s renewed Al Qaeda ties.
Still,a few top Obama administration officials,the magazine said,have privately acknowledged that the problem of still dangerous detainees at Guantanamo is more worrisome than some of president’s campaign statements might suggest.
In May 2008,when the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) last prepared a report on released Gitmo detainees who had returned to terrorist activities,it counted the number of recidivists at 37.
The DIA report included example of Mohammed Ismail,one of the juveniles at Guantanamo,who upon his release in 2004 had praised his treatment by Americans,saying at a press conference,”They gave me a good time at Cuba.”
He was recaptured four months later,participating in an attack on US forces near Kandahar,Afghanistan,it said.
As Pentagon press secretary Geoffrey Morrell disclosed two weeks ago,24 new detainees had been added to the DIA recidivist tally by mid-January of this year. The recent confirmation of Al-Shihri bumped the overall number to 62,18 of whom are alleged to have directly participated in terror attacks.
“The easy ones were released first,” a senior Pentagon official was quoted as saying. “As time goes on,the releases become harder and harder. These are increasingly more difficult cases.”
As of now,about 240 detainees remain at Guantanamo.
Human rights groups and defense lawyers insist there is little or no evidence of terrorist involvement against scores of them.
The Obama administration,which has given itself a one-year deadline to shut down the facility,is hoping that European countries,like Portugal,Spain and Germany,will agree to take some of these detainees,Newsweek said.
The administration is also trying to get the government of Yemen to take about 100 of its nationals,the largest single group of prisoners at the facility.
The hardest chunk,the report says,involves a core number,estimated to be 50-60,who are deemed to be highly dangerous and,for a variety of reasons,including the fact that they may have been subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques,may not be tried in any federal or military court.
“The Obama administration is likely to have no choice but to move them to another facility inside the United States,such as the US naval brig in Charleston,SC,or the military prison in Fort Leavenworth,Kan,and hold them indefinitely without trial,thereby risking worldwide criticism that it is simply creating a Guantanamo,South Carolina or a Guantanamo,Kansas,the report added.