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Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, August 4, 2008


Press Release

August 4, 2008


Janet LeMonnier    973-642-8724 (office) – 973-985-3165 (cell)

Mark Denbeaux     201-214-6785 (cell)
Joshua Denbeaux
  201-664-8855 (office) – 201-970-6534 (cell)

Decision Based on Nationality, Not Level of Danger: Detainees with Strongest Ties to Al-Qaeda and Taliban Released as Quickly as Those with Weakest Connections

Newark, NJ —Today Seton Hall Law delivered a report to the Senate Judiciary Committee that reveals the U.S.government decided to release detainees at GuantánamoBayaccording to their nationality rather than to the strength of their ties to terrorist groups or to the presumed threat they presented to Americans here and abroad.

In his written testimony to the Committee, Professor Mark P. Denbeaux, director of Seton Hall Law’s Center for Policy and Research stated, “…the Center sought to determine how evidence gathered against any given detainee influenced the decision whether to release him. Center researchers expected to find that the detainees who presented the greatest threat would have been released last, or would still be held at Guantánamo. 

Center analysis shows that was not the case. The only significant correlation to one’s being released, the date of his release, and status upon release, is the nationality of the detainee. Those from Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia were more likely to be released, and more quickly.”

Profile of Released Guantánamo Detainees: The Government’s Story Then And Now, the Center’s eleventh Guantánamo Report, is based entirely on the government’s own documents, most of which were procured through Freedom of Information Act suits. The prior Reports have been cited by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Appropriations Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security; and introduced into the Congressional Record.

For this report, the culmination of nearly three years of analysis, Center students employed a painstaking process to identify by name the detainees who were released and their date of release, and then correlated that release date against the Department of Defense’s classification of detainees as “fighters,” “members,” or “associates” of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

By November 2006, 45% of the 759 detainees ever held at Guantánamo Bay

were released. In 2006 the Center issued a report concluding that more than 55% of Guantánamo detainees were never alleged to have committed hostile acts against US or Coalition forces; 60% of all detainees were nothing more than associated with al Qaeda or the Taliban and no more than 8% of those were accused of being fighters.

Current report findings:

Presumed Threat of Released Detainees

The 8% of detainees alleged to be fighters were released at the same rate as the 60% alleged to be merely associated with terrorist groups.

Alleged fighters have been released at a rate greater than that for alleged members and associates.

Fighters were released an average of 43 days earlier than detainees merely associated with a terrorist organization, and 57 days earlier than those who were members of a terrorist organization.

Nationality of Released Detainees

Guantánamo detainees come from 44 countries; however 75% of the detainees are from only six countries:

Afghanistan, Algeria, China Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

Detainees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia

have been released without apparent regard to the evidence alleged against them: 60% of detainees from these countries have been released, constituting over 71% of all detainees released from Guantánamo.

Conversely detainees from Yemen, Algeria, and China

have been held without apparent regard to the strength or weakness of the evidence against them: 9.7% of detainees from these countries have been released, constituting 4.2% of all detainees released.

Detainees from Arabic-speaking nations have been released on average 10 months later than those from post-Soviet nations, and 21 months later than those from nations which are traditional US


Joshua Denbeaux, research fellow and co-author of the report, commented, “The decisions to release Guantánamo detaineespresumably the ‘worst of the worst,’ were political, but it’s hard to understand the politics. Guantánamo was supposed to make Americans safer, but some of the most dangerous detainees were released because of their nationality, regardless of the evidence the Department of Defense supposedly gathered against them. What our report can’t answer is whether that ‘evidence’ was nonexistent to begin with, or whether these releases took place with no regard to our national security.”

Profile of Released Guantánamo Detainees: The Government’s Story Then And Now, may be read at [Mark Godsey]

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