President Trump tweeted this morning about 122 former Guantanamo Bay detainees who U.S. officials said returned to terrorist activity, but he missed a key fact.
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Trump said the former prisoners returned to terrorist activity after being released by the Obama administration.
“122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield,” he wrote. “Just another terrible decision!”
122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2017
But the vast majority of those 122 detainees — about 93 percent — were released before Obama took office.
According to a September 2016 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 113 of those 122 detainees who have been confirmed as re-engaging were released from Guantanamo under George W. Bush's administration.
Only nine of them were released during the Obama administration.
Asked about the claim this afternoon at a news conference, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, "obviously, the president meant in totality," not just under Obama.
The tweet came less than an hour after a segment on "Fox and Friends" about Mohammed Tahar, aka Yasir al-Silmi, a former Guantanamo detainee who was killed by a U.S. airstrike in Yemen last week. Tahar was transferred from Guantanamo to his home country of Yemen on Dec. 17, 2009, during the Obama administration.
The percentage of Obama-released Guantanamo prisoners returning to terrorist activity is lower than those released by Bush. Only 6 percent of Obama-released prisoners returned to terrorism, versus 21 percent of Bush-released prisoners, according to ODNI data.
Not all those 122 former detainees are still free. The data shows 30 of them are dead and 25 are back in custody, leaving 67 of them still on the loose. An additional 86 former detainees are suspected of re-engaging in terrorist activity.
The U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been a controversial site since its formation in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was created for suspected terrorists caught during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. While campaigning for president, Obama promised to shut down the site, but 41 people remained in detention there at the end of his term.
It has been widely criticized by human rights organizations for indefinite detention and alleged torture of its prisoners.
Trump has said he favors keeping the detention center open.