ABC's Gibson repeated myth as fact that "some 60 former [Guantánamo] detainees ... have reappeared on foreign battlefields"

››› ››› ANDREW WALZER

ABC's Charles Gibson baselessly claimed that "some 60 former detainees ... have reappeared on foreign battlefields." In fact, according to the Pentagon, 18 former Guantánamo detainees have been "confirmed" to have "return[ed] to the fight."

On the March 11 broadcast of ABC's World News, anchor Charles Gibson claimed that former Guantánamo prisoner Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul "is among some 60 former detainees who have reappeared on foreign battlefields." Gibson cited no evidence for this claim. In fact, according to the Pentagon, 18 former Guantánamo detainees have been "confirmed" to have "return[ed] to the fight," as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented.

During a January 13 press conference, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell stated: "The new numbers are, we believe, 18 confirmed and 43 suspected of returning to the fight. So 61 in all former Guantanamo detainees are confirmed or suspected of returning to the fight."

Even the Pentagon's claim that it has confirmed that 18 former Guantánamo detainees have "return[ed] to the fight" has been questioned by analysts. For instance, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen stated on the January 23 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360: "[W]hen you really boil it down, the actual number of people whose names we know are about eight out of the 520 that have been released [from Guantánamo], so a little above 1 percent, that we can actually say with certainty have engaged in anti-American terrorism or insurgence activities since they have been released. ... If the Pentagon releases more information about specific people, I think it would be possible to -- to potentially agree with them. But, right now, that information isn't out there."

Additionally, as Media Matters has noted, Seton Hall Law School professor Mark Denbeaux has disputed the Pentagon's figures, asserting that the Defense Department's most recent "attempt to enumerate the number of detainees who have returned to the battlefield is false by the Department of Defense's own data and prior reports." Denbeaux has written several reports about Guantánamo detainees, including reports challenging the Pentagon's definition of "battlefield" capture and the Pentagon's published detainee recidivism rates.

From the March 11 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

GIBSON: A former Guantánamo prisoner has emerged as a leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan. He is apparently in charge of operations against U.S. forces there. Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul was released in 2007 and is among some 60 former detainees who have reappeared on foreign battlefields. President Obama has pledged to close Guantánamo, but has yet to determine what to do with the nearly 250 prisoners who are still there.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Detention
Network/Outlet
ABC News
Person
Charlie Gibson
Show/Publication
World News with Charles Gibson
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.