Press Release

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Seton Hall Law Report Reveals Rumsfeld Knowingly Misrepresented "Worst of the Worst" at Guantanamo

Rumsfeld Confesses to Joint Chiefs of Staff that Guantanamo is Filled with “Low Level” Detainees in Recently Declassified Memo; Finding Calls into Further Question “Recidivism” Representations

Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy & Research has issued a report: Rumsfeld Knew: DoD's "Worst of the Worst" and Recidivism Claims Refuted by Recently Declassified Memo.  The Seton Hall Center for Policy and Research has discovered a recently declassified memo written by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.   Rumsfeld’s explicitly contradicts his continued public statements that Guantanamo Bay was reserved for the “worst of the worst.” 

Rumsfeld Knew suggests that the misrepresentations of the dangerousness of those sent to Guantanamo is of a piece with the government’s continuing public characterization of those who had been detained at Guantanamo as having “returned to the battlefield” or “reengaged” against the United States. It demonstrates that the Department of Defense’s recent Summary, the latest in a series of statements on this subject, is no better based in fact than earlier efforts to mislead the American people on the dangerousness of those detained in Guantanamo.  

Throughout, the U.S. Government has maintained publicly that detainees incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay are dangerous, “high-value detainees,” the “worst of the worst.”  The Government has also claimed that upon release from GTMO, many of these detainees have “reengaged” in their dangerous activities.  Seton Hall Law discovered a recently declassified Memorandum from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from April 2003. The Memorandum undermines both of these claims, revealing that no later than that date, Secretary Rumsfeld knew that GTMO was “populated. . . with low-level enemy combatants.” Not only does this contradict Government assertions that the prison at GTMO holds the worst of the worst, but it also calls into question the Government’s assertions that the released detainees are dangerous men who have and likely will reengage.

Sean Camoni, a Fellow at the Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy and Research and a co-author of the report said:  “Bob Woodward has said that Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir is ‘a book filled with evasion and deception.’   It now appears that the same thing is true of Guantanamo and this time the proof is in Secretary Rumsfeld’s own words.”

Sparked by the revelation that the Government knew at least as early as spring of 2003 that GTMO was populated with low-level detainees, the Center for Policy & Research reexamined all government claims of detainee recidivism.  This Report is consistent with the Center’s past findings on alleged recidivism –that the Government has not supported its claims, claims that rest on even weaker ground now that it is clear that the men released from GTMO were never the worst of the worst in the first place.

Seton Hall University School of Law, New Jersey’s only private law school, and a leading law school in the New York metropolitan area, is dedicated to preparing students for the practice of law through excellence in scholarship and teaching, with a strong focus on clinical education. Rumsfeld Knew: DoD's "Worst of the Worst" and Recidivism Claims Refuted by Recently Declassified Memo is the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy & Research’s eighteenth Guantánamo Report. Center reports have been introduced into the Congressional Record by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, and as part of a Resolution by the European Parliament. The Guantánamo reports have also been cited by media throughout the world. Rumsfeld Knew and all previous reports may be found at and will be included in the Guantánamo Archives, a joint project between Seton Hall Law School and New York University to document, preserve, and make accessible the legal records and the human stories of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp.


Michael Ricciardelli
Legal Media Officer
Cell: 908-447-3034
Email: [email protected]

Janet Lemonnier
Executive Director of Communications
Office: 973-642-8583
Email: [email protected]

March 62, 2011