Seven Freed Guantanimo Prisoners Resume Terrorism

Freed from detention, 7 resumed terrorism (Miami Herald – AP)

Despite gaining their freedom by signing pledges to renounce violence, at least seven former prisoners of the United States at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have returned to terrorism, at times with deadly consequences. At least two are believed to have died in fighting in Afghanistan, and a third was recaptured during a raid on a suspected training camp in Afghanistan, Lt. Cmdr. Flex Plexico, a Pentagon spokesman, said last week. Others are at large. Additional former detainees have expressed a desire to rejoin the fight, be it against U.N. peacekeepers in Afghanistan, Americans in Iraq or Russian soldiers in Chechnya.

About 146 detainees have been released from Guantánamo, but only after U.S. officials had determined that they no longer posed threats and had no remaining intelligence value. Pentagon officials acknowledged that the release process is imperfect, but they said most of the 146 Guantánamo detainees released have steered clear of Islamic insurgent groups.

The small number returning to the fight demonstrates the delicate balance the United States must strike between minimizing the appearance of holding people unjustly and keeping those who are legitimate long-term threats, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. Human rights groups frequently criticize the Defense Department for holding the hundreds of prisoners at the naval base, largely without charges or legal counsel. Many have been held for more than two years; only a few have been charged. An additional 57 Guantánamo prisoners have been transferred to the custody of their home governments: 29 to Pakistan; seven to Russia; five each to Morocco and Britain; four each to France and Saudi Arabia; and one each to Spain, Sweden and Denmark, the Pentagon has said.

The Pentagon did not identify the seven detainees believed to have returned to fighting, although a few names have been made public. One released detainee killed a judge leaving a mosque in Afghanistan, Plexico said. The small number who have gone back to fighting come mainly from the upper echelons of suspected militant or terrorist groups, some allegedly linked to al Qaeda, several counterterrorism officials in the Middle East said. They gave no details, but one noted a trend that lower-echelon members tend to get on with their lives after release.

While a five percent recidivism rate is better than we get from our criminal justice system, it’s rather poor for a counter-terrorism program. I seem to have heard somewhere that this is a war, not a law enforcement situation. And we’re letting them out on their own recognizance?!

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Middle East, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. IR says:

    Whether it be pressure from foreign governments, or the continuous whine of the ACLU (and their selective rights division), or merely someone’s misguide premise of “rehabilitation,” the simple fact of the matter is that if we are going to take a penal code approach…I vote for the “one strike” law.

    Since the Turks won’t join us on the playing field…how about annexing one of their fine Istanbul penitentaries…I hear you get water everyday provided it rains the night before…

  2. blaster says:

    Thanks ACLU!

  3. grayson says:

    Somebody has got to figure out a way to put a GPS transmitter in their chest cavities. Radio beacon like whales and migrating cattle?

  4. Patty says:

    How about a GPS chip like the dog has? Cheap and effective.