A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Christie PAC Wrong About Gitmo


A TV ad from a pro-Chris Christie super PAC shows the New Jersey governor at a campaign event saying, “30 percent of the people the president has released from Guantanamo have gone back in the terrorism business.” That’s way off.

Only 4.9 percent of the detainees released from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay under President Barack Obama have been confirmed as returning to terrorist activities, according to government data. Another 4.9 percent are suspected of returning to terrorist activities. That’s a little less than 10 percent.

America Leads, the super PAC supporting Christie’s presidential bid, released the ad in New Hampshire on Jan. 5. It shows the governor at a Dec. 19 town hall (at 39:44 of the video) in Bedford talking about his intention to keep the detention center open if he becomes president. Christie, a former U.S. attorney, has made fighting terrorism a central theme of his campaign since the Paris terrorist attacks.

America Leads TV Ad: “Gitmo”

Christie: Right here in the red scarf.

Town Hall Participant 1: What do you do with Gitmo?

Christie: … Keep every rotten dangerous terrorist who’s there … and never let them go.

Town Hall Participant 2: Good for you.

Christie: … 30 percent of the people that the president has released from Guantanamo have gone back in the terrorism business. …

We better raise our voices. …

Mrs. Clinton … would be just the same as the president.

Any commander-in-chief … who would consider letting any of those people out is betraying the American people.

But Christie was wrong when he said “30 percent of the people the president has released from Guantanamo have gone back in the terrorism business.” In fact, far more prisoners released during the Bush administration have returned to terrorist activities than those released under Obama, as measured by both absolute numbers and by percentages.

A report from the Director of National Intelligence says, as of July 15, 2015, that 17.9 percent, or 117 of all 653 detainees released from Guantanamo since it opened in 2002, have been confirmed of reengaging in terrorist activities. Another 79 detainees, or 12.1 percent, are suspected of having returned to terrorist activities based on “plausible but unverified or single-source reporting.”

That’s 30 percent, as Christie said. But it spans two presidents, not just the current one as the ad implies. Christie is heard in the ad saying “30 percent of the people the president has released from Guantanamo.”

How many of the detainees released under Obama have returned to terrorist activities?

The September 2015 national intelligence report said that 4.9 percent, or six of the 121 detainees released since Jan. 22, 2009, two days after Obama was sworn into office, have been “confirmed of reengaging” in terrorist activities, and another 4.9 percent are “suspected of reengaging.” That’s a total of nearly 10 percent.

On the other hand, almost 35 percent or 184 of the 532 detainees released under President George W. Bush have been confirmed or are suspected of returning to terrorist activities.