Fort Leavenworth The congresswoman who represents Fort Leavenworth said Friday that she opposes bringing any of the Guantanamo Bay detainees to Kansas.
Rep. Nancy Boyda said in a telephone interview that, at the risk of sounding like "a fear monger," she thought Fort Leavenworth wouldn't be a good place to house the detainees from a security standpoint.
"I do not believe bringing terrorist detainees to Leavenworth County is a good idea. I'm not comfortable with this," said Boyda, D-Kan., a member of the House Armed Services Committee. "This isn't a good thing for Leavenworth County."
But despite media coverage and discussions in Washington, the issue has yet to create a buzz in the community about 30 miles northwest of Kansas City.
Michael Garner, owner of Harbor Lights, a cafe and coffee house, said he hadn't given the issue much thought, nor has he heard much discussion from residents.
"With prisons all over this town, it's probably not as big of a deal that it is in other towns," Garner said.
A proposal under discussion within the Bush administration would shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison and transfer some of the most dangerous detainees to one or more military prisons, including Fort Leavenworth. But a meeting about it scheduled for Friday in Washington was canceled after The Associated Press reported the administration was close to making a decision.
Another option is sending detainees to a prison under construction in Afghanistan.
Janet Wray, a spokeswoman for Fort Leavenworth, declined to answer questions regarding the detainees and any proposals to relocate them. She referred all inquiries to Army officials in Washington, D.C.
"It's all speculation at this point," Wray said. "It's still in a discussion stage."
Wray said prisoners at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth are U.S. service members who have been convicted by a military court.
"We refer to the disciplinary barracks as the Department of Defense's only maximum security prison," she said.
Leavenworth interim City Manager Robyn Stewart said she was aware of news articles about the detainees but doubted that many residents were paying attention to the debate.
The Army began housing military inmates at Fort Leavenworth in 1875, when the first prison was built. That facility was closed and the present 500-bed facility opened in 2002 on the north end of the fort, isolated from the main post along the banks of the Missouri River.
Wray said the daily prison census is about 450 inmates. A new regional detention center is in the design phase, which would consolidate corrections operations from elsewhere in the United States.
Boyda said Fort Leavenworth officials haven't asked her to pursue housing the detainees.
"Whatever mission they are given, they are going to do an outstanding job of it. But they haven't been given this mission," Boyda said. "They aren't asking me to advocate for this mission."
Besides the military prison, the area is home to the U.S. Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth and the Lansing state prison.
Kansas saw its share of prisoners of war in the past century.
During World War II, thousands of German and Italian prisoners of war were housed in camps throughout Kansas, including Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth.
Dozens of POWs are buried at the Fort Riley cemetery. The prisoners were sent to Kansas by the military, thinking that the locations were remote enough that the prisoners would pose no serious security threat to the general population.