Kansas senators threaten action over moving Guantanamo detainees to Leavenworth

Kansas leaders angry that questions about detainees aren't being answered

U.S. Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts on Thursday sought to block a number of President Obama’s government appointments because of reports that Obama is considering putting Guantanamo Bay detainees in Fort Leavenworth.

The two senators, both Republicans, oppose moving foreign terrorist suspects to Fort Leavenworth, and expressed frustration that the Obama administration will not address their questions.

“It really irritates me,” Brownback said, adding he was tired of rumors about the issue and leaks from the administration without being consulted. “This is no way to run a government,” he said.

In January, Obama signed an executive order, promising to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility by the end of 2009.

Last weekend, reports said plans to bring Guantanamo inmates to the U.S. focused on two sites — Fort Leavenworth, home of the military’s only maximum security prison, and a maximum security prison in Standish, Mich.

Both Roberts and Brownback said such a move could threaten the mission of Fort Leavenworth, which includes the Command and General Staff College.

The college trains military leaders from the U.S. and around the world. Brownback said the governments of Jordan, Pakistan and Egypt have said they would not send trainees to Fort Leavenworth if terrorist suspects were housed there.

Roberts said the fort is the “intellectual center” of the U.S. Army. Incarcerating the “100 worst of the worst” terrorists there would put the fort at risk and possibly the development of future military schools and operations in Leavenworth, he said.

Obama has said Guantanamo needs to be closed because detention of prisoners there for years without trial has been detrimental to U.S. foreign policy.

“There is also no question that Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is America’s strongest currency in the world,” Obama said in a recent speech. “Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al Qaeda that drew upon our deeply held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law. In fact, part of the rationale for establishing Guantanamo in the first place was the misplaced notion that a prison there would be beyond the law — a proposition that the Supreme Court soundly rejected.”

But Brownback and Roberts said Guantanamo Bay should remain in operation. Roberts said prisoners there had access to better health care there than people in many American communities.

The senators said they have put legislative holds on approximately 10 Obama appointees to senior positions in the departments of defense and justice, the two departments that are dealing with the detainee issue.

The senators have called for a face-to-face meeting with top officials in the defense and justice departments and have said the holds, which would delay Senate consideration of those appointees, could last indefinitely.