When the U.S. has named names in the past, Denbeaux’s research found that information from the Department of Defense was factually incorrect, including even the names of two people who never were detained at Guantanamo at any time.
The working definition of “confirmed” recidivism is a “preponderance of information which identifies a specific former GTMO detainee as directly involved in terrorist or insurgent activities.” Meanwhile, “suspected” activity is based on “plausible but unverified or single-source reporting.” In other words, that information may be based on conjecture, rumor or the political motives of foreign governments or intelligence agencies.
In some cases, former Guantanamo prisoners released by the Obama administration have later faced politically motivated charges. Abdul Aziz Naji, for example, was repatriated forcibly to his home country, Algeria, and sentenced to prison on the basis of the same charges from which the U.S. authorities had cleared him. Adel Fattough Ali al Gazzar, returned to Egypt after he was cleared for release from Guantanamo in 2011. Arriving in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, he hoped to celebrate a new democracy but was arrested on his arrival at the airport. “He was an easy target for the military court, and with no legal defense, the charges against him stuck,” according to the lawyers representing him.
Does the U.S. count people like this as recidivists? It’s impossible to know because the names or specific details are not disclosed.
The U.S. definitions also make no distinction between insurgent activity directed at a government or military force and violent attacks targeting civilians. "DNI’s numbers are unreliable because they combine terrorism and insurgent activity,” David Remes, a veteran Guantanamo defense attorney, told Al Jazeera in an email. “Under DNI’s approach, anyone who fights against the Iraq government is automatically a terrorist. That makes no sense, and it’s not what Congress asked for. The shoe doesn’t fit.”
Some Guantanamo prisoners have been dangerous, including Said Ali al Shiri, a deputy commander of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who was released under the Bush administration and died in Yemen in 2013 as a result of injuries from a U.S. drone strike.
But experts on Guantanamo detention question the indiscriminate use of the data on recidivism, noting that even the word itself is problematic because it assumes that the prisoners were engaged in unlawful activity prior to their detention. The overwhelming majority of men were never convicted of, let alone charged with, any crimes.
Wells Dixon, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, says that the group’s clients released from Guantanamo during the Obama administration have been sent to countries as far and wide as Portugal, Yemen, Palau, Somaliland, Algeria, and Georgia. “Many have gotten married or had children, some are studying for college or postgraduate degrees, and those who couldn’t return to their home countries are learning new languages and adapting to new cultures,” Dixon said. “None is a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer, and none ever was.”