AP FACT CHECK: Trump's blame off base on Guantanamo

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Posted: Mar 08, 2017 3:52 AM
AP FACT CHECK: Trump's blame off base on Guantanamo

MIAMI (AP) — President Donald Trump targeted the wrong president when he criticized the Obama administration for releasing "122 vicious prisoners" from the Guantanamo Bay detention center who later resumed militant activities.

The latest report from the office of the director of national intelligence shows that 122 men who were held at the U.S. base in Cuba are confirmed to have re-engaged in hostilities after they were released. But more than 90 percent of those were released by President George W. Bush, the report says.

Every six months, the DNI is required by law to publish statistics on the number of former Guantanamo prisoners either confirmed or suspected of recidivism, a response to congressional fears that potentially dangerous terrorists would be released amid efforts to close the detention center.

Trump said during last year's presidential campaign that he wanted the detention center, often referred to as "Gitmo," to be kept open. At one point, he pledged to "load it up with some bad dudes."

On Tuesday, he said on Twitter that "122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!"

But his statement lumped together the prisoners who were released under Bush and Obama and were later determined to have resumed some association with al-Qaida, the Taliban or some other militant group.

The U.S. opened the detention center on the base in January 2002 to hold and interrogate suspected enemy combatants. At its height in July 2003 it held about 680 prisoners. Over time, a total of nearly 800 passed through the facility.

Most of the releases occurred under Bush, who ultimately agreed the detention center should close. His administration freed 540, sometimes dozens at a time, to countries around the world.

The latest DNI report, from September, concludes that 122 detainees re-engaged in fighting but 113 of them had been released before Obama took office in January 2009. It said an additional 86 detainees are "suspected" of militant activities — again, nearly all freed under Bush.

Lawyers and other advocates for prisoners have disputed the description of men "returning" to the battlefield, arguing that at least some may never have been fighting the U.S. in the first place and could have been radicalized at Guantanamo.

As it sought to close the detention center, the Obama administration tried to minimize the recidivism problem through a "rigorous interagency review process" and parole-style hearings. The administration ultimately failed to close the center, though, because it deemed some detainees not releasable and Congress prohibited moving any of them to the U.S. for any reason. Today there are 41 men left.

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