Still Getting Gitmo Wrong

Guantanamo (Joshua Nistas/US Army)

Guantanamo (Joshua Nistas/US Army)

President Barack Obama’s address yesterday on U.S. terror strategies got a lot of attention for supposedly charting a new course in America’s longest war. But some of the facts were mangled along the way. 

On CBS Evening News (5/23/13), reporter Major Garrett stated that

Obama urged Congress to close the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. To that end, he will seek permission to send 86 of the 166 jailed terror suspects already cleared for release to other countries.

Those 86 prisoners have not been, and will not be, charged with any crime whatsoever; they are not “terror suspects.” Garrett’s statement was all the more awkward considering that it came right before CBS played a clip of Obama saying this: 

Imagine a future, 10 years from now, or 20 years from now–when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country.

To refer to “people who have been charged with no crime” as “terror suspects” is simply Orwellian. Garrett went on to say:

 An intelligence report in January, Scott, found that fewer than 5 percent of those detainees released since 2009 have rejoined the fight.

That is indeed the language used in the government’s accounting of former Guantanamo detainees–and the definition of “re-enagaging” has been narrowed considerably since the Bush years. Reporters have taken some of this Pentagon propaganda on this issue at face value in the past, which should be all the more reason to continue to be skeptical. If someone has been imprisoned without charge or trial for a number of years, can one plausibly claim that they have “returned” to committing crimes that they were never charged with in the first place?

It’s not just CBS. In the New York Times (5/24/13), Peter Baker writes:

Mr. Obama said he was lifting a moratorium he imposed on sending detainees to Yemen, where a new president has inspired more faith in the White House that he would not allow recidivism.

Again, these are prisoners cleared for release because they cannot be charged with any crimes. It is bizarre to seriously discuss the threat that they might go back to committing crimes there’s no apparent evidence that they’ve ever taken part in.


About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.