Archive for Monday, August 3, 2009

Leavenworth on short list of possible sites for detainees

August 3, 2009


Guantanamo detainees pray before dawn near a fence of razor-wire, inside Camp 4 detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba, in this May 14 photo. Several senior U.S. officials said the administration is eyeing a soon-to-be-shuttered state maximum security prison in Michigan and the military penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth as possible locations for a heavily guarded site to hold the 229 suspected al-Qaida, Taliban and foreign fighters now jailed at Guantanamo Bay.

Guantanamo detainees pray before dawn near a fence of razor-wire, inside Camp 4 detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba, in this May 14 photo. Several senior U.S. officials said the administration is eyeing a soon-to-be-shuttered state maximum security prison in Michigan and the military penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth as possible locations for a heavily guarded site to hold the 229 suspected al-Qaida, Taliban and foreign fighters now jailed at Guantanamo Bay.

— The Obama administration is looking at creating a courtroom-within-a-prison complex in the U.S. to house suspected terrorists, combining military and civilian detention facilities at a single maximum-security prison.

Several senior U.S. officials said the administration is eyeing a soon-to-be-shuttered state maximum security prison in Michigan and the military penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., as possible locations for a heavily guarded site to hold the 229 suspected al-Qaida, Taliban and foreign fighters now jailed at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.

The officials outlined the plans — the latest effort to comply with President Barack Obama’s order to close the prison camp by Jan. 22, 2010, and satisfy congressional and public fears about incarcerating terror suspects on American soil — on condition of anonymity because the options are under review.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said Friday that no decisions have been made about the proposal. But the White House considers the courtroom-prison complex as the best among a series of bad options, an administration official said.

Opposition in Congress

To the House Republican leader, it’s an “ill-conceived plan” that would bring terrorists into the U.S. despite opposition by Congress and the American people. “The administration is going to face a severe public backlash unless it shelves this plan and goes back to the drawing board,” said Antonia Ferrier, spokeswoman for Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio.

For months, government lawyers and senior officials at the Pentagon, Justice Department and the White House have struggled with how to close the internationally reviled U.S. Navy prison at Guantanamo.

Congress has blocked $80 million intended to bring the detainees to the United States. Lawmakers want the administration to say how it plans to make the moves without putting Americans at risk.

The administration’s plan

The facility would operate as a hybrid prison system jointly operated by the Justice Department, the military and the Department of Homeland Security.

The administration’s plan, according to three government officials, calls for:

• Moving all the Guantanamo detainees to a single U.S. prison. The Justice Department has identified between 60 and 80 who could be prosecuted, either in military or federal criminal courts. The Pentagon would oversee the detainees who would face trial in military tribunals. The Bureau of Prisons, an arm of the Justice Department, would manage defendants in federal courts.

• Building a court facility within the prison site where military or criminal defendants would be tried. Doing so would create a single venue for almost all the criminal defendants, ending the need to transport them elsewhere in the U.S. for trial.

• Providing long-term holding cells for a small but still undetermined number of detainees who will not face trial because intelligence and counterterror officials conclude they are too dangerous to risk being freed.

• Building immigration detention cells for detainees ordered released by courts but still behind bars because countries are unwilling to take them.

Legal uncertainties

Each proposal, according to experts in constitutional and national security law, faces legal and logistic problems.

Scott Silliman, director of Duke University’s Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, called the proposal “totally unprecedented” and said he doubts the plan would work without Congress’ involvement because new laws probably would be needed. Otherwise, “we gain nothing — all we do is create a Guantanamo in Kansas or wherever,” Silliman said.

“You’ve got very strict jurisdictional issues on venue of a federal court. Why would you bring courts from all over the country to one facility, rather than having them prosecuted in the district where the courts sit?”

Legal experts said civilian trials held inside the prison could face jury-selection dilemmas in rural areas because of the limited number of potential jurors available.

One solution, Silliman said, would be to bring jurors from elsewhere. But that step, one official said, could also compromise security by opening up the prison to outsiders.

It is unclear whether victims — particularly survivors of Sept. 11 victims — would be allowed into the courtroom to watch the trials. Victims and family members have no assumed right under current law to attend military commissions, although the Pentagon does allow them to attend hearings at Guantanamo under a random selection process. That right is automatic in civilian federal courthouses.

“They’ll have to sort it out,” said Douglas Beloof, a professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., and expert on crime victims’ rights. He said the new system “could create tension with victims who would protest.”

Choosing a location

The officials said that another uncertainty remains how many Guantanamo detainees would end up housed in the hybrid prison.

As many as an estimated 170 of the detainees now at Guantanamo are unlikely to be prosecuted. Some are being held indefinitely because government officials do not want to take the chance of seeing them acquitted in a trial. The rest are considered candidates for release, but the U.S. cannot find foreign countries willing to take them. Almost all have yet to be charged with crimes.

Two senior U.S. officials said one option for the proposed hybrid prison would be to use the soon-to-be-shuttered Standish maximum-security state prison in northeast Michigan. The facility already has individual cells and ample security for detainees.

Getting the Standish prison ready for the detainees would be costly. One official estimated it would cost over $100 million for security and other building upgrades.

Shaky public support

Several Michigan lawmakers, including Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin and Rep. Bart Stupak, both Democrats, have said they would be open to moving detainees to Michigan as long as there is broad local support.

But the political support is not unanimous. Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor next year, is against the idea.

Administration officials said the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth is under consideration because it is already a hardened high-security facility that could be further protected by the surrounding military base.

It’s not clear what would happen to the military’s inmates already being held there. Nearly half are members of the U.S. armed forces, and, by law, cannot be housed with foreign prisoners.

Kansas’ GOP-dominated congressional delegation is dead set against moving Guantanamo detainees to Leavenworth. Residents told Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., at a town hall meeting in May that 95 percent of the local community opposes it. Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Lynn Jenkins planned a news conference in Leavenworth today to “discuss opposition to any efforts to move detainees to Fort Leavenworth.”

Administration officials say they are determined to keep Obama’s promise of closing Guantanamo in January as a worldwide example of America’s commitment to humane and just treatment of the detainees.

Glenn Sulmasy, an international law professor at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., said the prison-court complex will “be difficult, but it’s logical.”

“This is all based on closing Gitmo by 2010, which seems to be a priority, and if we are going to do it, we have to step up to the plate and find solutions to the conundrum we’re facing,” said Sulmasy, who agrees with the administration’s efforts. “And this seems to be the most pragmatic way ahead.”


labmonkey 8 years, 9 months ago

We have the perfect place to keep them already: Guantanamo Bay. Keep them off American soil.

Steve Jacob 8 years, 9 months ago

Supreme Court says Guantanamo is American soil. This is the ultimate NIMBY, but I don't see the big deal. Everyone deserves a fair trial, we have to show the world how to do things right.

labmonkey 8 years, 9 months ago

Then we can have these trials at Guantanamo Bay.

Bill Griffith 8 years, 9 months ago

  Some of the terrorists from the first WTC attack were housed at Leavenworth.  They have the facilities to accomdate a large influx of prisoners if needed so it doesn't ruffle my feathers very much to have them placed there.

compmd 8 years, 9 months ago

"...public fears about incarcerating terror suspects on American soil..." -the article

“The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” -Winston Churchill

Leavenworth is the best place to put them.

1) If someone gets out, where are they going to go? Have you actually seen the prison? A sniper would pick out someone running from the facility in no time. 2) The general racism and xenophobia exhibited by rural folk will scare the crap out of the prisoners. They will know that the people outside the prison hate them, would like to see them dead, and are considerably well armed. 3) When was the last time someone successfully escaped from Ft. Leavenworth? How often does someone get out?

"Then we can have these trials at Guantanamo Bay." -labmonkey

So in the issue of juries, you're suggesting that we allow the wolves decide the fate of the sheep.

How on earth do people think that these prisoners are a huge danger? Being in a military prison in the US would also mean they would be surrounded by people who hate them, and people whose mission it was to kill them. Outside the prison are a bunch of white people with guns and pickup trucks who hate them. Not happy inside, not happy outside. Leavenworth is the perfect location.

ashmole 8 years, 9 months ago

Bring 'em to Kansas. These guys were low level operatives and thugs, not dangerous plotters. And they've been so beaten down and brutalized by Gitmo that they don't have any fight left in 'em. Let's have those $80 million government bucks in Leavenworth, not Michigan.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 9 months ago

Maybe they could use these guys to operate the call center for the new federal End of Life Counseling Department.

hipper_than_hip 8 years, 9 months ago

It's not the prisoners you have to worry about, it's their buddies that want to break them out. The fort itself is undefensible; you'd need the better part of regiment of troopers to secure it.

Keep in mind who we're dealing with; these guys would have no problem taking over a school in LV and killing everyone just to make a point. We don't need to take the chances on something like that.

Curtis Lange 8 years, 9 months ago

lol @ hip. There are currently ~7 prisons in the Leavenworth/Lansing area. How many school children have been killed by escaped prisoners? AFAIK, none. Adding another 229 prisoners isn't going to change that.

lee66049 8 years, 9 months ago

Leavenworth....anyone aware of an extra 121 maximum security cells at Leavenworth? If you do, would you tell Leavenworth about it?

CHANDLER007 8 years, 9 months ago

I say bring 'em on in and close down Gitmo now!

number1jayhawker 8 years, 9 months ago

I have to laugh at how naive some people are that do not have relatives or friends in the law enforcement or Military.

Who ever said that the terrorists would not think twice about killing innocent bystanders, is 100% correct. And for those of you that do not believe there are Al-Qaeda or Talaban people living in the USA, better think again.

hipper_than_hip 8 years, 9 months ago

KUWeatherman: how many of those prisoners in the 7 jails have supporters that would blow themselves up to get their buddy out of jail? AFAIK none.

exhawktown 8 years, 9 months ago

Wait a sec. . . . I thought Kansas was in tornado alley. . . and if so many folks are against our having that disease research lab (NBAF) here because of the "likelihood" of tornadoes destroying the facility thereby unleashing nasty infectious disease across the countryside. . . what are we doing on a shortlist for housing these prisoners?

Diana Lee 8 years, 9 months ago

I really don't have a problem with this. I'm against Guantanamo, so I feel as though it would be ignorant to then gripe about which US location they chose for relocating and trying these prisoners.

Centerville 8 years, 9 months ago

Hey all you Obots: the only thing that will change is the location. In case you were in a swoon and missed it, Zippy has kept and increased the methods of confinement and information gathering. The love of the left for the purely symbolic is pathetic.

VTHawk 8 years, 9 months ago

The problem is not that they might escape, the problem is that there is no way that the government can grant these inmates a civilian trial. In that case, the classified information that led to their capture would have to be available to the defense, which will not happen. In addition, what civil crime have they committed?

If the inmates are brought to KS (or the USA in general), there is a substantial risk that the US might be forced to release them domestically, irrespective of guilt. They might be "low level thugs" instead of the higher-value targets, but that means that the USGov't will be even less willing to release sensitive information rather than dismissing charges.

Having these..uhm..gentlemen running around Kansas would not be a good thing.

jaywalker 8 years, 9 months ago

For all those spouting "Close Gitmo!"......why?

Doing so is nothing more than symbolic. Gitmo is an incredibly secure facility, built for just this purpose and the best place by far to house such prisoners. The place itself was never the problem, it was the behavior and treatment of the prisoners that got so many up in arms. That's the only thing that needs to change, not location.

President Obama should re-think this particular campaign pledge. It's one of those instances where going back on a promise makes the most sense.

I also think anyone out there that is shrieking about the risk of these prisoner's 'friends' staging a prison break to get a serious grip, you've been watching too many movies and bad TV. First of all, their odds for success are about one in a billion. Secondly, the 'friends' aren't the bravest, most daring individuals on the planet and concern for their brethren is not a high priority. Besides, these guys aren't that vital to the cause. They can strap a bomb on anyone's back.

georgeofwesternkansas 8 years, 9 months ago

House them or let them loose in eastern kansas... Does it really matter?? This is what Lawrence wanted, Gitmo closed...

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