Have we ever had a high level national security official who made as many foolish comments as John Brennan, President Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser? I can’t recall one.
Scott compiled an impressive assortment of Brennanisms here. I particularly like Brennan’s statement, in response to a question about what the downside might have been be to treating Umar Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant, that “there are no downsides or upsides in particular cases.” It’s comforting to know that Obama is receiving such thoughtful advice on national security matters.
Brennan’s latest words of wisdom pertain to the issue of recidivism among former terrorist detainees. The Pentagon’s most recent study on the subject concluded that approximately 20 percent of Gitmo detainees have either been confirmed as, or are suspected of, returning to terrorism. Speaking at the Islamic Center at New York University on Saturday, Brennan reportedly downplayed the 20 percent figure, stating:
You know, the American penal system, the recidivism rate is up to something about 50 percent or so, as far as return to crime. Twenty percent isn’t that bad,
Brennan may be agnostic on how to deal with potential “ticking time-bomb” scenarios. But at least he’s clear that there’s no real problem with the large-scale release of terrorists where we can expect one in five of them to engage in future terrorism
As Tom Joscelyn points out, however, terrorism is not an ordinary crime. Thus, it’s ridiculous to compare terrorist recidivist rates to recidivist rates for ordinary criminals. For example, “a serial thief is not nearly as threatening as a former Gitmo detainee who blows himself up in Iraq, killing 13 Iraqis and wounding dozens more.” (Joscelyn also notes that the recidivism rate for terrorists has been rising dramatically as we track their behavior over time, and is likely to continue to rise).
Moreover, ordinary criminals have fixed sentences. They can only be held for so long regardless of how likely we think they are to return to a life of crime. By contrast, most of the terrorists we’ve released coud have been held instead; they were not released because a fixed sentence had come to, or was approaching, an end or because a court ordered that they be freed.
It’s clear that the left, including the Obama administration, considers terrorism to be closely analogous to, if not nearly indistinguishable from, ordinary criminal activity. The surprising thing is that its chief counter-terrorism guy makes no real effort to conceal this belief.
Obama should relieve Brennan of his counter-terrorism duties so that he can devote more time to visiting Islamic centers.