Guantanamo has been the subject of a heated debate between Republicans and the Obama administration for years. It existence carries with it the risk of former detainees rejoining the fight against the U.S. once they are released.
According to NBC News, U.S. officials stress that the rate of former prisoners participating in terror-related activities again are low and that strict measures are in place to track former detainees for any signs they might rejoin the fight. However, these preventative actions have done little to pacify some Republican senators. Last month, three of them introduced legislation to restrict the transfers of detainees.
One of the group, Sen. John McCain, said last week that 30 percent of former Guantanamo detainees are “either known to, or suspected to have returned” to the battlefields from which they came.
“What signal does this send to our young men and women in uniform, who may feel that they are left with an unsettling choice: whether killing our enemies is preferable to detaining them, watching them released, and having to face them another day on the battlefield?” McCain said at a hearing on the legislation.
McCain came to that figure by adding together “confirmed” and “suspected” rates of re-engagement from data released by the Office for the Director of National Intelligence. The most recent report was released in September 2014. According to the figures, out of 620 detainees transferred out of Guantanamo as July 2014, 107 are confirmed to have re-engaged and an additional 77 former prisoners were “suspected” of re-engagement.
Brian McKeon, Principal Deputy under Secretary of Defense for Policy, said 48 of the 107 ex-detainees confirmed of re-engaging are either dead or in custody.
“We take the possibility of re-engagement very seriously,” he said, calling it a “primary concern” regarding any potential detainee transfers.
President Barack Obama has put greater emphasis on the closure of the detention center. When he took office in 2009, there were 242 detainees in Guantanamo. The number is down to 122 today.
The Obama administration has been quick to point out a decrease in re-engagement since the president took office.
“The rate of re-engagement has been much lower for those transferred since 2009,” McKeon said. “This speaks to the result of the careful scrutiny given to each transfer.”
NBC reported that efforts were “updated” last month after U.S. officials said that at least one of five Taliban militants released from Guantanamo in a controversial exchange for American soldier Bowe Bergdahl had “attempted to re-establish contacts” with the Taliban in Afghanistan..
“We continue to have confidence that there are measures in place to substantially mitigate the threat that they pose to American national security,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.