ABC News' Luis Martinez reports: A new Pentagon analysis shows the number of former Guantanamo detainees that it says have returned to the fight has continued to rise to 20 percent, up from the 14 percent recidivism rate released last spring. The latest increase continues the upward trend from the two previous reports.
Two U.S. officials confirm to ABC News that the number of released detainees suspected of or confirmed to have returned to terrorist activities has risen to 20 percent. They would not provide the raw numbers on which the percentages are based. A U.S. official tells ABC News that the most recent report was completed in late December.
Bloomberg News was first to report the increase.
The first publicly released Pentagon analysis of the recidivism rates of former Guantanamo detainees, released in December 2008, showed the recidivism rate was 11 percent. That number trended upward to 14 percent when the second report was released in May, 2009.
The May report said that of the 530 detainees transferred out of Guantanamo by March, 2009, 18 were confirmed to have reengaged in terrorist activities and another 43 were suspected of having done so.
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell would not release the new figures today, but said the upward trend of the past two reports “has not been reversed.”
Morrell said he could not release the numbers right now because they remain classified. “I can't give you the numbers, other than to say that I do not believe that trend has reversed itself” he said.
Morrell described the 14 percent as “concerning”, but noted that the vast majority of the 550 detainees transferred out of Guantanamo have not returned to the battlefield. “That said, even one is a problem, and so we are taking extraordinary measures to try to mitigate the risk associated with transferring these detainees.” 198 detainees remain at Guantanamo.
Morrell described the release of detainees as an “inexact science” where “subjective calls” are made on judgment and intelligence because there’s no foolproof answer and“that’s what makes this so difficult”, he said. “Some of the initial cases were -- were -- were more obvious than others. Some of them were deemed to be less of a threat than others. I think as we are getting down to the final couple of hundred, that these are clearly very difficult cases.”
A White House official told ABC News, "We have been presented with no information that suggests that any of the detainees transferred by this administration have returned to the fight.
"The President created the Guantanamo Review Task Force to conduct the thorough work that had not been done before: to review the relevant information about each detainee, including the threat they pose, to determine whether they should be prosecuted, detained, or transferred. Decisions about detainees are made on an individual basis only after all of that information is considered by an interagency group that includes the Defense Department, law enforcement, and the intelligence community."
Top Republicans on the Hill have called for the Obama administration to release the Pentagon’s numbers in the past.
Not directly commenting on today’s numbers, Jamal Ware, a spokesman for Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) , the top Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the congressman has repeatedly called for the recidivism rate to be declassified. “He is alarmed at the rate of recidivism and he believes that the figure should be declassified so that the American people can have a greater understanding of the risk posed by releasing Guantanamo detainees,” said Ware. Senator Kit Bond (R-MO), the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has also asked the Obama administration to publicly release the recidivism rates so it can“be honest with the American people to release the report.”
Approximately 90 of the remaining 198 detainees at Guantanamo are from Yemen. President Obama said Tuesday that no more detainees would be returned to that country following recent terror threats there, as well as connections to the recent underwear bomber plot.
Citing the recidivism figures from May, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Bond sent a letter to the President urging him to halt transfers to Yemen because “unfortunately, we cannot rely on assurances that detainees transferred to Yemen for detention will be held securely until they no longer pose a threat.”