WASHINGTON (CNN) - Preliminary intelligence assessments show more than 14 percent of detainees released from Guantanamo Bay have returned or are suspected of having returned to terrorism activities, an administration official with knowledge of the Defense Department's information told CNN.
That number, which reflects data through the beginning of 2009, has gone up slightly from statistics compiled through the end of 2008, when the recidivism rate was considered to be 11 percent, according to the administration official. It had been at 7 percent in earlier years, but the Pentagon has not disclosed what time frame that encompasses.
The official emphasized the latest data is still being verified within the military intelligence community, but it appears likely to show that the rate of recidivism has now reached more than 14 percent.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Beirut, Lebanon on Friday and meet with local officials during his visit, the White House confirmed Thursday.
Biden will meet with President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri on Friday. The vice president will also talk with Defense Minister Elias Murrmake and make an announcement on military assistance to Lebanon's armed forces.
(CNN) - Hours after President Obama delivered a speech defending his choice to close Guantanamo Bay, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made clear Thursday he thinks the president still needs to provide details on where he plans to relocate detainees of the facility.
"We've received today a broad vision from President Obama and it's important that he did that, said Reid, who on Wednesday supported a Senate measure to strip funding to close the facility until a plan is laid out.
"We're all awaiting the details of his plan and he's going to come up with one."
"Democrats certainly, agree that it should be closed," Reid also said. "And it's going to be closed. I think that the president did today was giving us a broad vision of what he expects. And knowing President Obama like we've all gotten to know him, he doesn't do things half-cocked. He's going to give us a detailed plan and it will be forthcoming soon."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama and his administration are using references to convicted al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui as the would be "20th hijacker" as they try to persuade the public the U.S. civilian court system can put on trial and imprison terror detainees.
"Zaccarias (sic) Moussaoui has been identified as the 20th 9/11 hijacker – he was convicted in our courts, and he too is serving a life sentence in prison," the President said in his speech discussing terrorism.
"The 20th 9/11 hijacker was tried in U.S. courts, and is in a U.S. prison right now," said senior White House adviser David Axelrod in an interview on "CNN Newsroom."
But U.S. officials for some time have not believed he was meant to be part of the actual plot.
In the first years after the 9/11 attacks, some officials did call Moussaoui - who was arrested a month before the attacks - the "20th hijacker."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The White House is quietly expanding its list of Hispanic candidates for the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy, sources close to the selection process tell CNN.
Colorado-based federal District Judge Christine Arguello is among those being vetted by a small senior-level group of White House officials. She told a Colorado newspaper this week she was recently contacted by administration staff and agreed to have her personal and professional records examined in connection with the high court seat being vacated by Justice David Souter.
It was unclear how much serious consideration the 53-year-old former law professor and private attorney is being given, but administration officials say they are considering a diverse group of people for the seat, including judges, politicians and academics.
About a half dozen candidates are believed to be on the short list, sources say, and President Barack Obama this week has already met privately with at least one of them - Chicago-based federal Appeals Court Judge Diane Wood.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Michael Steele blasted President Obama's national security speech Thursday, accusing the president of jeopardizing national security by wanting to shutter the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
"It's astonishing that the day after we learned one in seven terrorists who have been freed returned to terrorism, President Obama gave a speech in which he is still promising to close down GITMO," Steele said in a statement provided to CNN. "Putting these terrorists on American soil is dangerous, naïve and a threat to America's national security."
"President Obama needs to stop repeatedly passing the buck by blaming the Bush administration, which kept America safe for the last eight years," he said. "By continuing to promise the closure of GITMO and allowing terrorists into the United States, President Obama is demonstrating irresponsibility at the highest level."
He didn't watch them.
A source close to Bush said the former president was traveling at the time, enroute to New Mexico where he is the keynote speaker Thursday night at a fund raising dinner for a scholarship program for students at Artesia High School.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new national poll indicates that Americans don't think things are going well for the U.S. in Afghanistan, but they're not calling for a withdrawal of troops from that country.
But the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday,suggests that there's a very different public take on the war in Iraq: a majority thinks things are going well in that country - but two-thirds oppose the war there.
The poll also indicates that Americans would approve sending U.S. forces into Pakistan if the Taliban were poised to take control of that country.
Fifty-two percent of those questioned in the survey say they think things are going well for the U.S. in Iraq, with 47 percent say things are going badly. But opposition to the war remains high, with nearly two out of three opposing the conflict.
"Independents are most likely to oppose the war in Iraq while believing that things are going well in that country," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Only a third of Independents support the war, but 56 percent of them have a positive view of how things are going for the U.S. in that country."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, isn't exactly embracing Dick Cheney's high-profile defense of the Bush administration's national security tactics.
The Minority Leader was asked on Thursday if he thought it "frustrating" that Cheney is now at the forefront of the debate over the use of harsh interrogation techniques, given McConnell's remark in January that the GOP is free of the "political burden" of the Bush years.
"I didn't watch the vice president's speech," McConnell said. "I am here today reacting to the events of yesterday" - the Senate's overwhelming rejection of President Obama's request to fund the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison - "and to the president's speech."
He added: "Everybody's got an opportunity to have their say in this country."
McConnell's Republican counterpart in the House, John Boehner, was more convivial, calling Cheney's opinions "helpful to the debate."
"Dick Cheney is a private citizen and certainly entitled to his opinion," Boehner said at his weekly press conference, adding that he was "glad" to have Cheney as a member of the Republican Party.
"Listen, Dick Cheney has been around this town for the last 35 years, 40 years," Boehner said. "He knows how this town works, and frankly he's very knowledgeable when it comes to the strategies that the administration took with regard to dealing with this terrorist threat."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The same day Dick Cheney delivered a major speech on the battle against terrorism, a new national poll suggests that favorable opinions of the former vice president are on the rise.
But the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, released Wednesday morning, indicates that a majority of Americans still have an unfavorable opinion of Cheney.
Fifty-five percent of people questioned in the poll say they have an unfavorable opinion of the former vice president. Thirty-seven percent say they have a favorable opinion of Cheney, up eight points from January when he left office.
In the past two months the former vice president has become a frequent critic of the new Administration in numerous national media interviews.