This clip has made the rounds over the last few days -- which is simultaneously understandable and slightly confusing. I'll explain in a moment, but here's the exchange that's garnered significant attention:
Over the course of two minutes, the new director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said that recent recidivism statistics suggest that at least one of the so-called 'Taliban Five' terrorists traded for the release of charged deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will return to jihad. Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart explained that nearly 20 percent detainees released from US custody over the last few years have been confirmed as resuming their violent fight against the West, with even more suspected of doing the same. It stands to reason that in light of the past atrocities and high-ranking status of these five particular men within the Taliban, they're uniquely predisposed to rejoin the fight. Intelligence officials seem to agree. Stewart was also asked what the US military can do to prevent that outcome once the one-year security arrangement with Qatar expires. His answer was not reassuring:
"We continue to look at monitoring the number of sources that will tell us when these individuals have gone back into business," Stewart said. "Directly, though, besides notifying folks that these terrorists have gone back into business, there's very little at this point the DIA could do besides warning of their continued operations."
Oh good. Maybe the military is holding their cards close to the vest, declining to publicly decline that they have predator drones actively tailing these guys. Or maybe not. I said earlier that I was confused by the tone of some of the coverage about Stewart's comments because don't people remember this CNN report from, um, last week?
The U.S. military and intelligence community now suspect that one of the five Taliban detainees released from Guantanamo Bay in return for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in May of last year has attempted to return to militant activity from his current location in Qatar, CNN has learned exclusively...several officials say there is now a debate inside the administration that the intelligence may be stronger than the "suspected" classification. Some elements of the intelligence community believe the information is strong enough to classify the man as "confirmed" for returning to illegal activities.
We had these guys locked up and flat-out let them go, all within the context of negotiating with terrorists in order to free an American hostage/deserter/accused collaborator. The language of suspicion in the above excerpt underscores why I'm not convinced that we're monitoring these guys as closely as one might hope. The single year security agreement hasn't yet expired, and we think that at least one of the jihadists is already strongly suspected of involving himself in terrorism-related activities from his temporary home. Remember, one of the released Taliban commanders has been openly telling relatives that he intends to "fight American forces" again. Andy McCarthy -- who accurately predicted the Obama administration's early release of an Al Qaeda sleeper agent convicted in federal court -- says that the recent furor over cutting terrorists loose is roughly six years late. The White House has been engaged his this reckless business since day one, he argues. Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is starting to tell people that he felt pressured by Obama's political team to fast-track even more terrorists releases, making him the third Obama SecDef who's aired criticism of the president's policies on this front. The man poised to take over his job is vowing to resist similar political pressure moving forward:
I'll leave you with this report on the administration's spitballing regarding ways to empty GITMO (a process Congress has repeatedly refused to authorize):
A DC lobbying firm has been talking to State and Interior about moving "high value detainees" to the Marshall Islands pic.twitter.com/W3fi9Ivnxb— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) February 4, 2015