Have the Spooks Finally Admitted to Congress They’ve Been “Exploiting” Gitmo Detainees as Spies?

Something funny happened yesterday.

The House Armed Services Committee had a hearing on Gitmo Detainee Transfer Policy. According to Carol Rosenberg’s tweeting, up to two hours of the hearing was conducted in closed session before the hearing opened to the public and the witnesses explained that the interesting details–like the “recidivists” names and the amount paid to other countries to accept detainees–are secret (meaning they presumably got reported in that secret session).

DIA’s Ed Mornston says names of ex-#Guantanamo captives who “re-engaged” after release are secret “to protect sources and methods.”

Rosenberg’s story on the hearing reports that fewer of the detainees released under Obama are “reengaging” than the detainees released under Bush.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that three of the 68 Guantanamo detainees released since Barack Obama became president have engaged in terrorism or insurgency, a senior administration told Congress Wednesday.


He declined to say, however, who the men were or where they were sent after Guantanamo. He also wouldn’t say when U.S. intelligence crunched its latest figure.

The rate of so-called return-to-battlefield detainees, however, is far less than what the Defense Intelligence Agency determined it was during the George W. Bush administration. In a report released in December, the DIA reported that 79 of 532 detainees released during the Bush administration had engaged in terrorism or insurgency.

All of which makes me wonder whether the spooks have finally stopped counting detainees whom we’ve recruited as spies to infiltrate al Qaeda as “recidivists.”

While no one ever talks about such things, it is safe to assume the government has been releasing some number of Gitmo detainees with the understanding that they’ll infiltrate (or return to, for the small percentage that actually had ties before Gitmo) al Qaeda and report back to the US on its operations. As Jeff Kaye and Jason Leopold has reported, the US abused detainees in order to get them to spy on others within Gitmo. There were quiet reports that the reason we used torture at Abu Ghraib was to recruit spies. And the example of Jabir al Fayfi, who was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007, underwent the Saudi retraining program, and then “fled” to Yemen, only to return and alert the Saudis of the toner cartridge plot last year, is most easily explained by assuming that Fayfi was a spy, either ours or Saudi Arabia’s.

While no one will ever talk about this, we can be sure that some of the Gitmo detainees who appear to “reengage” are doing so on orders from us.

So how are those former detainees counted? DIA would have a really big incentive to label them “recidivists,” because doing so would be important for their cover. They’re not going to stay alive very long if the US isn’t screaming bloody murder about them returning to the battlefield. But of course, so long as they don’t become double agents (which I would imagine happens a lot, if only because it’s a good way to stay alive for these guys), they aren’t really “recidivists;” rather, they are men who were coerced to become spies and are taking great risks to do so.

Which is why I find yesterday’s hush hush–and today’s lower “recidivism” news–so interesting. By not releasing the names of those who have “reengaged,” DIA presumably makes it easy for these men to sustain their cover. But given the lower numbers, it’s just possible that either we’ve run out of men at Gitmo who agree to spy for us (and so are counting fewer of them as “recidivists”), or we’re simply not counting them fraudulently as “recidivists.”

But consider what else has been going on with these “recidivism” claims: a central reason why we can’t close Gitmo, the fearmongers say, is because people keep “returning” to al Qaeda when we release them.

Well, now the Administration has capitulated on a key Gitmo issue, and voila! The recidivism numbers are lower!

You see why Gitmo is important to the government’s “exploitation” goals, not just for recruiting spies, but also for lying to the American people?

    • eCAHNomics says:

      Agree. And after being tortured.

      My thoughts are the U.S. thinks they are spying for the U.S. while in fact they are feeding the U.S. all kinds of garbage, including but not limited to having the U.S. get revenge on their enemies for them.

      Also, how could some one who’s been in U.S. custody possibly infiltrate any group the U.S. wants to know about. Would such groups think that the purporter infiltrators “lost” years were spent on vacation? That doesn’t pass my giggle test.

      The whole scheme just seems ridiculous, and couldn’t have been thought up by anyone other than the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.

      • Jeff Kaye says:

        These are all good questions, and deserve a thoughtful and comprehensive reply. Let me make just a few points here.

        First, we don’t know that all those held prisoner really are known, and how many, for instance, ghost prisoners, returned to their countries as “assets”.

        Second, while it seems counter-intuitive, the breaking down of the personality under torture is meant to foster dependence, and the regressive psychological processes can make people do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do (remember “Tania”?).

        Third, some of these people act under motives that you may not identify with, including greed, fear of harm to loved ones, the excitement of the spying life, etc.

        Fourth, we know from the disaster at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost that al-Balawi was in fact a triple agent. Such cross and double-cross isn’t just the stuff of fiction, but the nightmare of living in the world of counterintelligence. Hence the metaphors about a wilderness of mirrors. Trust is not the coin of that realm. Hence their search for an infallible form of mind control, and their irritable search over ways to ferret out deception.

        • Jeff Kaye says:

          Finally, once they have compromised you in a moment of weakness or psychological regression or fear, they can blackmail you to remain as their asset.

  1. Mary says:

    They drew inspiration from the way their Egyptian pals (who Obama and Clinton wanted to take over after Mubarak) recruited spies. It’s why there was such a focus on the undiscussed, uninvestigated “preliminaries” that OLC/DOJ knew were going on, but wouldn’t put their names to for CIA cover, and why there were so many sexually deviant pictures from Abu Ghraib. Sexual abuse, including sodomizing young boys, was a cornerstone of the Egyptian approach. We fancied it up as a part of the CIA preliminares and the military “softening up” procedures, but it came from the same inspirational pool.

  2. mzchief says:

    Since budgets are all the rage these days, what percentage of the US budget goes to this perversity? What’s the corporate financial component? What about the off-books accounting– government and corporate– regarding this? How much of the US budget is allocated for our BFFs from the Chinese government and around the world to support and engage in this with the US government officials and agents?

  3. lysias says:

    The FBI special agents who abused Gulet Mohamed in Kuwait were pressuring him to agree to serve as an informant to the FBI when he got back to the States. However, he refused.

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      Same thing with Omar Awadh Omar, a Kenyan businessman arrested in Uganda, tortured by Ugandan police, supposedly after he refused to inform for the American FBI. I’ll have a story on that soon.

      Thanks, Marcy, btw, for mentioning the work Jason and I have done on this topic.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I’ve never understood how “fully exploiting” a prison full of uncharged, unconvicted detainees is legally or morally defensible for any purpose.

    It goes without saying that it is a gross violation of human rights to use abused and sometimes tortured uncharged prisoners as a farm team for the CIA, whose white guys from Yale have a hard time passing for Middle Eastern peasants.

  5. donbacon says:

    The whole “recidivism” is bogus anyhow. These people, many of them, were innocents procured under a CIA bounty system, then treated like dogs and worse. What are they supposed to do after that, forgive and forget? Who would?