Advancing a Free Society

Releasing “high risk” detainees

Monday, April 25, 2011

National Public Radio has added its voice to that of the New York Times on the new Wikileaked Guantanamo files. NPR actually has a few stories, along with this database–done in conjunction with the Times. One meme that is prominent both in this discussion on Morning Edition and in this New York Times story is the notion that a great many detainees had been released despite being classified as having a “high risk” of reengagement. As NPR reporter Tom Gjelten breathlessly put it this morning,

What we’ve learned that’s most striking is about how the Guantanamo commanders ranked the detainees by how dangerous they allegedly were. We’ve learned for the first time that the detainees were officially sorted by how likely they were to pose a threat to the United States if released. That was the standard. . . . We now see that more than a third of the detainees who have passed through Guantanamo since it opened are officially assessed as likely to pose a threat to the U.S. But many in that high-risk group were shipped out anyway. . . . At least 160 and maybe more. We’re being conservative here.

I find this meme infuriating, though I suppose it is inevitable. It provokes me to defend the repatriation and resettlement efforts of both the prior and the current one. I worry that this meme will catch on. It will be very damaging if it does.

A few key points:

First, of course the government believed a lot of the detainees to be high risk. That is why they were brought to Guantanamo in the first place. There were, of course, errors in detention, but there were not 600 errors–so it is blindingly obvious that the government was releasing some people it believed to pose some measure of threat.

Continue reading Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare

(photo credit: The U.S. Army)