Washington Kansas lawmakers sought Wednesday to discourage any talk of moving detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., calling the idea dangerous and unacceptable.
Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts - both Republicans - told colleagues in a letter that the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth lacks the space and security to handle the detainees.
"We would be placing Americans in harm's way," Roberts said. "It would be a logistical nightmare, costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars to make Fort Leavenworth even partially compliant with standards at Guantanamo."
Speculation that government officials plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center has grown since the Supreme Court ruled this month that detainees there could challenge their detention in federal court. The ruling adds to pressure that has been building for more than a year to shutter Guantanamo amid reports by human rights groups of abuse.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he would like to close the facility, and some senior administration officials have suggested the detainees be moved to Fort Leavenworth or other military prisons. Both Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain also have pledged to shut Guantanamo if elected president.
Brownback and Roberts argue that only one wing of the disciplinary barracks meets security requirements for housing detainees, but they say it's too small to hold the population now in Guantanamo Bay.
"It would be wholly unacceptable to house detainees with or near incarcerated soldiers," the senators said. They said the Defense Department has nowhere else to transfer the 438 military prisoners now incarcerated there.
Guantanamo's detention facility - opened shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks - currently holds about 270 men suspected of terrorism or of having links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.
While Leavenworth is a military base, the senators said it does not have security equivalent to that of the "supermax" penitentiary in Florence, Colo. The Disciplinary Barracks also is surrounded by the city of Leavenworth and Fort Leavenworth, they say, making it "impossible to house detainees at a sufficient distance from the general public and the intellectual center of the Army."
A recent report issued by the liberal think-tank Center for American Progress argued that Fort Leavenworth should be considered among a few other locations to hold Guantanamo detainees. It is the only maximum security facility in the U.S. military prison system.
But Brownback and Roberts noted the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth lack a 24-hour hospital or an emergency room. The need to move prisoners needing medical care outside the facility through the city of Leavenworth poses "an unacceptable security risk," they said.
A Senate bill introduced last year would require the closure of Guantanamo and designate Fort Leavenworth as the new jail, but the measure has been stuck in committee.