Earlier this week, I reported on the U.S. Defense Department’s claims that as many as 61 former Guantanimo detainees had returned to terrorism.  My friend Steve Hynd, who blogs at Newshoggers and elsewhere, passes along a rather convincing rejoinder from Michael J. Ricciardelli of the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy & Research.

Professor Denbeaux of the Center for Policy & Research has said that the Center has determined that “DOD has issued “recidivism” numbers fourty-three times, and each time they have been wrong—this last time the most egregiously so.”

Denbeaux stated: “Once again, they’ve failed to identify names, numbers, dates, times, places, or acts upon which their report relies. Every time they have been required to identify the parties, they have been forced to retract their false ID’s and their numbers. They have included people who have never even set foot in Guantanamo —much less were they released from there. They have counted people as “returning to the fight” for having written an Op-ed piece in the New York Times and for having appeared in a documentary exhibited at the Cannes Film Festival. They have revised and retracted their internally conflicting definitions, criteria, and their numbers so often that they have ceased to have any meaning— except as an effort to sway public opinion by painting a false portrait of the supposed dangers of these men.

Fourty-three times they have given numbers—which conflict with each other—all of which are seriously undercut by the DOD statement that “they do not track” former detainees. Rather than making up numbers “willy-nilly” about post release conduct, America might be better served if our government actually kept track of them.”

That strikes me as a reasonable request.  To be sure, there are national security issues at stake.  “Sources and methods” and all that.  But, surely, if DoD knows that a specific terrorist, once in U.S. custody, is back in action against American soldiers, there’s no harm in telling us that and providing some modicum of evidence.

James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council. 

Related Experts: James Joyner