Topeka Sen. Sam Brownback and a growing number of his colleagues are lining up to oppose efforts by the White House to move suspected terrorism detainees to the United States.
The concern, members of Congress say, is the potential security threat to Americans if the detainees are moved from a military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S.
The U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth is one of several places that has been mentioned as a potential site for prisoners, and the state’s congressional delegation has opposed the idea.
Senators will vote this week on a Pentagon request for $80 million to build any new facilities needed to transfer detainees at Guantanamo. The money is included in a supplemental Department of Defense spending bill that is expected to be debated before Congress leaves Washington for the Memorial Day weekend.
“That’s the fight this week,” said Brownback, a Kansas Republican. “I think the prospects are good to stop it.”
Republicans and Democrats are expected to offer amendments on the floor to strip the money or place restrictions on how it could be spent and require a detailed plan for transferring the detainees from the Pentagon or White House.
Sen. Pat Roberts is hosting a town hall meeting next week in Leavenworth to discuss the detainee operations. He said momentum is building against closing Guantanamo.
“It is a shortsighted and dangerous political maneuver, and judging by public sentiment in recent weeks, a majority of Americans support our efforts,” the Kansas Republican said.
Brownback visited Guantanamo on Friday, along with Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska. Brownback said in a telephone interview Monday that he is convinced President Barack Obama’s effort to move the detainees is ill-advised, given Obama’s decision to restart military tribunals for the detainees.
Brownback said it would be a waste of hundreds of millions of dollars to move detainee operations and create a new system for trying the suspects. He said the fight against terrorists isn’t going to end soon and the last thing the United States wants to do is turn detainees loose, only to see them pick up weapons against troops in Afghanistan or Iraq.
“We don’t want to face these guys in a more robust situation. They want to kill U.S. soldiers and U.S. citizens in large numbers,” Brownback said. “If you move them to the United States, that will attract more terrorists elements.”