Archive for Monday, August 3, 2009

Lawmakers blast possibility of moving Guantanamo detainees to Kansas

August 3, 2009, 10:40 a.m. Updated August 3, 2009, 3:22 p.m.


The U.S. Disciplinary Barracks borders farmland on the north edge of Fort Leavenworth. The military prison is on the short list to house detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

The U.S. Disciplinary Barracks borders farmland on the north edge of Fort Leavenworth. The military prison is on the short list to house detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

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— Republican members of the Kansas congressional delegation are fighting on two fronts to stop efforts to move suspected terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Fort Leavenworth.

Half of the state’s congressional delegation showed for a Monday morning news conference in Leavenworth to protest Obama administration plans to possibly move suspected terrorist detainees from Guantanamo to a heavily guarded courtroom-prison complex, either at Fort Leavenworth or Standish, Mich., home to a maximum-security state prison slated for closure Oct. 1.

Later in the day, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts raised the ante from his Washington office, threatening to “shut down the Senate” before allowing any detainees from Guantanamo to Kansas.

"What more proof does this administration need that a new detention facility will not make housing terrorists more appealing to the international community or international opinion?" Roberts said in a teleconference with reporters Monday afternoon. "It will just make it less safe for Americans. So I've said it once, I'll say it many more times: Not in my backyard. Not in Kansas. I will shut down the Senate before I let that happen."

Monday morning's news conference featured U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, whose 2nd District includes the fort. Fellow Kansas Republican U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran also was attended the event, which was hastily arranged after news reports Sunday leaked out of Washington about administration plans.

“We don’t want ’em here,” Brownback told the audience of more than 50 people at the Riverfront Community Center in downtown Leavenworth, about 10 miles away from the Army post that also is home to the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks. “They should be treated with dignity and humanely, but it shouldn’t be here.”

President Barack Obama has ordered the detention center at Guantanamo Bay closed by Jan. 22, in part to keep a promise he made during the 2008 presidential campaign.

“This is a bad idea on an artificial, hurry-up timeline,” Brownback said. “It is not supported by the American public and will not change the world’s opinion of us one iota by substituting the name ’Leavenworth’ for the name ’Guantanamo.’”

Jenkins called the plan “ill-conceived, irresponsible and it won’t work.”

“I suppose if you lived in Washington, D.C., it might seem convenient to send your problems to Kansas,” Jenkins said.

But sending detainees to Fort Leavenworth, she said, would put a bull’s-eye on Leavenworth’s school’s hospitals and small businesses.

Leavenworth Mayor Shay Baker went a step further, saying the entire metro area would be a ripe target for terror attacks if the detainees are housed at Fort Leavenworth.

Both Brownback and Jenkins decried the “hundreds of millions of dollars” it would cost U.S. taxpayers to build a new complex capable of housing the terror detainees. Both also noted the possibility that allies from Muslim nations, as a protest to the detentions, would stop sending their junior military officers to Fort Leavenworth’s Command and General Staff College.

Gov. Mark Parkinson weighed in later in the day from Topeka, saying in part that housing foreign combatants was outside the mission parameters of Fort Leavenworth. “To dramatically change its mission now would mean undoing more than a century’s worth of work in teaching and training our military leaders.

“And finally,” Parkinson noted, “the stigma of what Guantanamo Bay has come to represent must not be attached to the Heartland. That stigma would be a weight around the neck of our state’s national image.”

Brownback said he talked Sunday with Army Gen. William Caldwell, commander of Fort Leavenworth. Caldwell said he wasn’t worried about keeping the detainees in, Brownback reported, “I’m concerned about keeping out what group would try to come here to this facility.”

Jenkins, Brownback and Moran vowed to continue fighting in Washington against the transfers. The most likely means, Brownback said, would be through Congress’ oversight of federal appropriations.

Wayne Marek, who identified himself as a Vietnam veteran, said he didn’t believe the outrage expressed by the elected officials and community officials at the news conference was a true reflection of the community.

“I, for one, support them coming through … and I might add, too, that the leadership of the community may not be for it but they are not speaking for the rest of the community,” Marek told Brownback at the news conference.

When Marek said the ratio of community support for bringing detainees to Fort Leavenworth was “about 50:50,” he drew boisterous boos and murmurs of “no way” from others in attendance.

Baker said Marek was off base, putting the ratio of community opposition to bringing detainees to the fort at 99:1.

Bob Ulin, a Lansing resident and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Command and General Staff Foundation, said after the news conference he worried about unintended ramifications to both Army post and the community, should the detainees be brought to Fort Leavenworth.

“If they do this, this will be known as ‘Foreign Prisoner Central’ forever,” Ulin said. “The precedent will be set.”

Once a decision were made to move detainees to the fort, he said, economic development efforts in Lansing and Leavenworth would come to a screeching halt.

“If that announcement is made, a lot of (prospective) businesses will say, ‘Not now. We’ll just wait and see,’” Ulin predicted.

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

This plan, according to Obama administration officials speaking on condition of anonymity, 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.

The plan faces legal and logistical problems.

If a significant number of civilian trials were to be held in the Midwest, the government might have to send in prosecutors and judges experienced in terrorism cases, and lawyers for the detainees could object to the jury pool.

Such a plan would also require an expensive upgrade of the facilities in Kansas or Michigan, and it’s unclear if there is enough time for such work under the president’s deadline.

But trying them on the East Coast could generate more of the kind of public opposition that led Congress earlier this year to yank funding for bringing such detainees to U.S. soil until the administration produces an acceptable plan for shuttering the Guantanamo facility.

The Obama administration has already transferred one detainee to U.S. courts — Ahmed Ghailani was sent to New York in June to face charges he helped blow up U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


RogueThrill 8 years, 7 months ago

So, if our prisons can't hold criminals what do they do?

63BC 8 years, 7 months ago

Leavenworth doesn't just have the DB. It's also home to the Command General and Staff College, th intellectual center of the Army. Many predominantly Islamic countries have already said they'll pull their officers out if the detainees are there, that would compromise Leavenworth's most important and unique mission.

Every member of the Congressional Delegation [except Dennis Moore], both recent Democratic Governors and unanimous bipartisan majorities in each house of the state Legislature are on record against this idea as well as the entire local leadership of the community.

Good for them.

Fugu 8 years, 7 months ago

Not on subject, but... what is up with the media using "blast" in article titles? Is it always used so much? I feel the word is a bit too intense of a descriptor for what actually goes on. Unless, of course, someone literally gets obliterated.

madameX 8 years, 7 months ago


Which countries? (honest question, not trying to start something...)

jimmyjms 8 years, 7 months ago

Brownback and the rest of these idiots ought to be ashamed. Bring 'em, put 'em in there. That's the whole goddamn point.

KEITHMILES05 8 years, 7 months ago

This is a bunch of nothing. Prisoners are prisoners. Stop the dramatic screaming and let it go. Talk about a bunch of headline grabbers.

diegoJayhawk 8 years, 7 months ago

Is there a unique duty to justice, country and the vicitims and families of 9/11 that Kansas can fulfill through the facilities at Leavenworth? While not without risks to the community, to fear the pursuit and completion of justice is to fear the principals of our republic is it not? Could it not be a point of pride for the community to be able to say, "look, look at what we contributed to our country and our freedoms?"

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 7 months ago

The fear expressed by these so called political "leaders" is just breath taking.

They are quaking in their boots, afraid of their own shadow.

Don't move terrorists here, we'll become a target.

Don't move NBAF here, we'll become a target.

Don't do anything of any importance in Kansas, it might make us a target.

Want to know why Kansas is a back water that can't attract decent business and prosperity? This attitude is your answer.

A truly concerned and patriotic Kansan would welcome the chance for a facility in their state to aid in the lawful fight against terrorism.

Instead, we have a bunch of quaking little 'fraidy cats.

Joe Hyde 8 years, 7 months ago

The news article reports that 170 Gitmo prisoners -- repeat, 170 -- have never been officially charged with a crime.

We can reduce the overall number of prisoners (229) to a manageable number, while simultaneously working to heal our world standing, by releasing those 170 prisoners. Send them home. We deliberately denied their habeus corpus right, we've kept them incarcerated for years, we've in some cases tortured these prisoners. Let 'em go, and pray our nation never does this kind of thing again.

Then bring the rest, the 70 or so whom we reportedly do have criminal evidence on, bring the rest to trial ASAP. We've had a very long, leisurely time to prepare cases against them that will result in convictions.

Centerville 8 years, 7 months ago

This is Obama's mess. We don't have to cover for his incompetence.

63BC 8 years, 7 months ago

Madame X,

Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Thanks for asking.

Grundoon Luna 8 years, 7 months ago

Leavenworth is one of the places the military conducts training on terrorism/ists. Sounds like moving the detainees there may actually be pragmatic and be like, ya know, useful. The Republicans sound like a bunch of milk toast woosies and their opposition to this plan is a new level of ridiculousness. This tactic is utterly transparent: If the Obama admin wants to do it then oppose it no matter what.

pace 8 years, 7 months ago

kansas Republicans use to have guts, what yellow traitors. Support the troops as long they don't have to actually do anything. Cowards, cheats, another blow for normal Kansans, we don't believe in evolution, we breed Fred Phelps, we can't let federal prisoners in our federal prison because we are afraid of standing up and against terrorist. Dirty cowards.

average 8 years, 7 months ago

Honestly, releasing the 170 apparently nonchargeable suspects, no matter how bad, back into Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc, would be a small addition to the many thousands currently in those countries who already hate, shoot, and bomb us.

Matt Needham 8 years, 7 months ago

Guantanamo detainees more dangerous than deadly viruses from the proposed National Bio and Agro Defense Facility? Give me a break. Here's a link to some of the wonderful diseases they will be working with They aren't going to tell us about the really scary ones they'll have there.

The Center for Disease Control website explains exactly what kills Americans. Terrorists don't even make the list because they are grouped in with all homicides. Homicides, including war casualties, made up 0.8% of American deaths in 2006. Disease is responsible for 75% of American deaths.

Know your real enemy. Are terrorists really more scary than deadly disease? Ask any parent who's had a child with a serious illness, and they will tell you it's extremely terrifying. The facts clearly show which is more of a threat to my children. Where is the massive funding for a War On Disease? Politicians have no problem spending billions without question chasing international criminals who endanger a few Americans, when the majority of Americans are losing their lives right here at home, and the politicians consistently say it's too expensive to try and save them.

Which way does the wind blow from Manhattan if something gets loose? If a terrorist manages to get loose from Fort Leavenworth what are they going to do? If they made it past the military or prison guards they would face many well armed, angry conservatives whichever direction they ran (the regular LJW commenters could round up a heck of a posse). The terrorists wouldn't have a chance. Disease, on the other hand, doesn't care how many guns you've got stock piled.

If there is a political problem with them being near a military base (where did our politicians think prisoners of war were going to be kept?), then find a different prison. We have a lot of experience with imprisoning people. It's not going to be a problem keeping them locked up.

You know where the perfect place for the terrorists to be imprisoned at would be? How about Crawford, TX. I hear there are some real cowboys down there. W could put them to work clearing brush, and Cheney could stand guard. Mission accomplished!

devobrun 8 years, 7 months ago

What is the point of closing Gitmo and transferring prisoners to anywhere else?

I don't get it.

Clearly Gitmo is the safest place to hold them. So leave them there, or release them. If the idea is that we are holding them illegally, then make it legal (by charging and trying them) or release them.

Again, what is the point of closing Gitmo and sending them here?

puddleglum 8 years, 7 months ago

sounds like NIMBY to me.... way to go, brownblack

frazzled 8 years, 7 months ago

All these guys - Brownback, Roberts, etc. - are just playing politics rather than trying to actually solve a problem. Banging your fist and shouting, "Not in my backyard!" is not showing leadership.

monkeyspunk 8 years, 7 months ago

If this isn't more proof that the current Republican representation in congress is so out of touch, I don't know what else people need.

Using fear, uncertainty and doubt to pass policy should be out of fashion by now, but our eyes still gloss over when politicians start talking. Why do we take these people serioiusly? Why do we keep voting for them?

Knowledge from "Family Guy":

Lois: And I think we all realize the importance of stopping the environmental damage being done to Lake Quahog. Which is why I'm proposing a very modest tax increase that will help us to--

(crowd begins to boo loudly)

Man #1: No, no, no, that's awful, no, no, no, I'm not okay with that.

Man #2: (chanting) No new taxes!

Crowd: No new taxes! No new taxes! No new taxes!

Lois: But... what about the terrorists?

(entire crowd gasps)

Lois: That's right, terrorists. We have intelligence that suggests that... Hitler... is plotting... with, with the Legion of Doom... to assassinate Jesus. Using the lake as a base.

ksdivakat 8 years, 7 months ago

I seen on the news this morning, Topeka news, that 68% of Kansans dont want them moved here, only 32% said ok! SO that tells me that more than half the kansans dont want them here. I bet that 32% is Lawrence!

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