By Paul Richter, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)
The Obama administration on Wednesday accused Republican critics of overstating the number of accused terrorists who have taken up arms after being released from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
A group of GOP lawmakers, seeking to block administration efforts to close the prison, this week proposed legislation to slow the release of inmates. They said about 30 percent of those released have turned to terrorism since the facility began housing militants in 2002.
But the State Department, without naming the critics, said they have conflated “suspected” and “confirmed” cases of recidivism.
In a statement, a senior State Department official said 19 percent of detainees released before President Barack Obama took office in 2009 had been confirmed to have turned to terrorism, and 14.3 percent were suspected of doing so.
The number of confirmed cases among those released since 2009 has fallen to 6.8 percent, with the rate of those suspected at 1.1 percent, according to the official, who declined to be identified under administration ground rules.
The official cited a September 2014 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence saying that nearly half of the confirmed recidivists, and more than one-third of the suspected recidivists, are dead or in custody.
The administration released 28 prisoners from the prison in 2014, and is expected to release more in the coming weeks.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced the legislation on Tuesday. He said the committee would take up the bill.
“We know for a fact that roughly 30 percent of those who have been released have reentered the fight,” McCain said in announcing the legislation.
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