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CSRT summaries show most Guantanamo detainees pose terror threat: West Point report

[JURIST] The US Military Academy at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) [official website] said Wednesday that US military panels reviewing the status of detainees at Guantanamo Bay determined that most detainees represented a threat to US national security. The CTC report [PDF text; annex, PDF] was based on an analysis of unclassified Combatant Status Review Tribunal summaries [DOD materials]. The new report also criticizes a 2006 study [PDF text; JURIST report] by Seton Hall law professor Mark Denbeaux, who analyzed the same summaries, for making a number of speculative conclusions about the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) [DOD materials]. Denbeaux criticized CSRTs as "show trials" and, as characterized in the CTC report, found "that the DoD is wrongfully holding individuals who, based on the DoD's own data, neither pose a serious threat to America's national security, nor seem to have been involved in conducting or supporting hostile action against the United States."

The new West Point study concluded that 73 percent of detainees represented a "demonstrated threat," and that 53 percent of detainees have "definitively supported or waged hostile activities" against the US or its allies. The study also said that 35 percent of detainees have been identified as fighters for al Qaeda, the Taliban, or an affiliated extremist group, and that 92 percent of all detainees have been determined to constitute "potential threats" due to their affiliation with the groups. According to the report, only 1.16 percent of the CSRT summaries - representing six detainees - showed no evidence of involvement or evidence demonstrating a threat to the United States, although it emphasized that classified materials may indicate otherwise. The Combating Terrorism Center wrote:

a number of the Seton Hall report's findings do not appear to be supported available evidence. This Annex identifies the CTC's comments with the Seton Hall study's methodology, data coding process, interpretation of statistical results and analyses. The CTC has three primary concerns with the Seton Hall report on the 516 CSRT summaries:

1. The Seton Hall study excludes a number of the data fields used in the CTC study from consideration. Disregarding this relevant information limits the explanatory potential of the Seton Hall study and provides a much less robust analysis of the data available on the detainees.

2. In multiple instances the Seton Hall study interprets language contained in the 516 unclassified CSRT summaries in ways that ignore the contextual meaning of the summaries. By doing so, the Seton Hall report mischaracterizes the nature of a number of important variables.

3. In a number of cases, the Seton Hall report makes speculative conclusions about the detainee data that lack factual support.
The study, conducted at the request of the Defense Department, represents the latest effort by the DOD to counter growing criticism against detention [JURIST report] at Guantanamo Bay. Critics have said that CSRTs have not provided detainees adequate opportunity to contest the accusations against them or object to their status as enemy combatants. The Pentagon has also denied [JURIST report] allegations made by a US Army officer involved with the review tribunals that CSRTs are pressured to declare detainees "enemy combatants" [affidavit, PDF; JURIST report] based on vague or incomplete evidence. The New York Times has more.

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