Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Making Up Numbers"

This came out earlier this week, and has received too little attention. This week the Pentagon again started pushing a story that 61 former detainees from the Guantanamo Bay had "returned to terrorism since their release from custody."

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said 18 former detainees are confirmed as "returning to the fight" and 43 are suspected of having done in a report issued late in December by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Morrell declined to provide details such as the identity of the former detainees, why and where they were released or what actions they have taken since leaving U.S. custody."This is acts of terrorism. It could be Iraq, Afghanistan, it could be acts of
terrorism around the world," he told reporters.

Morrell said the latest figures, current through December 24, showed an 11 percent recidivism rate, up from 7 percent in a March 2008 report that counted 37 former detainees as suspected or confirmed active militants.

Get that, they would not provide any details such as identity, actions taken, or even an actual number as some of the numbers are just "suspected" of being militants. So at a time when there is a lot of discussion about closing Gitmo Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell (who has had a problem with telling the truth in the past) makes a wild claim, but no real details are given. Th March figures that are refrenced in the news release are themselves up from a 2007 Pentagon claim (also by Geoff Morrell) of 30 former detainees "returning to terror" after their release from Gitmo. The trouble is that claim was firmly debunked by reports from the hard-working Seton Hall School of Law.

Just as the Government's claims that the Guantanamo detainees "were picked up on
the battlefield, fighting American forces, trying to kill American forces," do not comport with the Department of Defense's own data, neither do its claims that former detainees have "returned to the fight." The Department of Defense has publicly insisted that at least thirty (30) former Guantanamo detainees have "returned" to the battlefield, where they have been re-captured or killed. To date, however, the Department has described at most fifteen (15) possible recidivists, and has identified only seven (7) of these individuals by name.

More strikingly, data provided by the Department of Defense reveals that:

- at least eight (8) of the fifteen (15) individuals identified alleged by the Government to have "returned to the fight" are accused of nothing more than speaking critically of the Government's detention policies;

- ten (10) of the individuals have neither been re-captured nor killed by anyone;

- and of the five (5) individuals who are alleged to have been re-captured or killed, two (2) of the individuals' names do not appear on the list of individuals who have at
any time been detained at Guantanamo, and the remaining three (3) include one
(1) individual who was killed in an apartment complex in Russia by local authorities and one (1) who is not listed among former Guantanamo detainees but who, after his death, has been alleged to have been detained under a different name.

Seton Hall's studies also found that a bare 55% of Gitmo detainess had ever taken up arms against the US and only 8% were suspected of being members of Al Qaida. The vast bulk of Gitmo detainees had been turned in by local warlords for bounty payments with no US witnesses to their alleged involvement in terrorism at all. No wonder their recidivist rate is so low, at a Pentagon figure of 11%. That compares with "an estimated 67.5%" in the general prison population.

Now Seton Hall has released a new report which examinins the Pentagon's dubious claims and overhyped allegations. The report is entitled Propaganda by the Numbers. Their press release states:

Professor Denbeaux of the Center for Policy & Research has said that the
Center has determined that “DOD has issued “recidivism” numbers 43 times, and
each time they have been wrong—this last time the most egregiously so.”

Denbeaux stated: “Once again, they’ve failed to identify names, numbers, dates, times, places, or acts upon which their report relies. Every time they have been required to identify the parties, they have been forced to retract their false ID’s and their numbers. They have included people who have never even set foot in Guantanamo —much less were they released from there. They have counted people
as “returning to the fight” for having written an Op-ed piece in the New York Times and for having appeared in a documentary exhibited at the Cannes Film Festival. They have revised and retracted their internally conflicting definitions, criteria, and their numbers so often that they have ceased to have any meaning— except as an effort to sway public opinion by painting a false portrait of the supposed dangers of these men.

Fourty-three times they have given numbers—which conflict with each other—all of which are seriously undercut by the DOD statement that “they do not track” former detainees. Rather than making up numbers “willy-nilly” about post release conduct, America might be better served if our government actually kept track of them.”

The study notes that the Pentagon keeps hedging the numbers they use:

Eighty-two percent (82%) of the publicly made claims catalogued in the Appendix
of this report contain qualifying language, including terms such as: “at least”;
“somewhere on the order of”; “approximately”; “around”; “just short of”; “we
believe”; “estimated”; “roughly”; “more than”; “a couple”; “a few”; “some”;
“several”; and “about.”
Why? Because the Department of Defense "does not keep track of released detainees nor does it follow their post release conduct". It makes these claims up from data collected which might show Gitmo detainee involvement but having previously claimed as recidivists men who were never in Gitmo in the first place and someone whose only terrorist act after release was to pen an op-ed for the new York Times it's amazing that the mainstream takes them seriously.

Rachel Maddow interviewed Mark Denbeaux of the Seton Hall School of Law.who has rese about the Torture and Prisoners and this "Returning to the Battle Field" story:

LibertyAir Blog

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