Whether by mischievous intent or happy coincidence, mere hours after Obama people announced that he would order the Guantanamo Bay detention facility closed, the Bush administration announced that 61 former detainees had returned to terrorism


Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said 18 former detainees are confirmed and 43 suspected of “returning to the fight.” He said the figures, updated at the end of December, showed a higher rate of recidivism than seen in a previous report showing 37 former detainees as active militants. He provided no details about the detainees or their countries of origin.

“The overall known terrorist re-engagement rate has increased to 11 percent” from about 7 percent, Morrell said. The numbers were generated by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency based on fingerprints, photographs and intelligence reports, he said.

Perhaps this is what Vice President Dick Cheney had in mind this morning when he said the administration had “erred a bit on the side” of “letting the wrong people go on a few occasions.”  Obviously, one doesn’t want to release terrorists back into the wild.

Cheney’s description of the place as “very well-run facility,” on the other hand, is sure to raise some eyebrows.  On one score, at least, he’s right.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the numbers are far worse in the general prison population, where “an estimated 67.5%” of those released “were rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within 3 years.”

UPDATE:  See the follow-up post, “Gitmo ‘Recidivism’ Claims Don’t Stand Scrutiny.”

James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council. Thanks to commenter markm for the tip.

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