Detainees sit in a holding area at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered the prison for accused terrorists be closed this year.
No Gitmo in my backyard - Nova Scotia News - TheChronicleHerald.ca (external - login to view)
WASHINGTON ó Even before President Barack Obama moved to close the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison, several U.S. communities were engaged in a furious game of hot potato over who will inherit the prisoners.
Now, members of Congress are tossing the spuds ó at each other.
A Colorado congressman suggests sending terror detainees to any military prison, rather than his stateís federal penitentiary, where they put the Unabomber. A South Carolina congressman says send them to the already-famous prisons in Kansas. A Missouri Republican says let those who support closing Guantanamo take them.
"We ought to put íem in Alcatraz and let our good friends in San Francisco deal with these deadly combatants," says Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), backing his Kansas colleagues.
The not-in-my-backyard stakes are high, and no wonder: Who wants to be the place that picked up where Guantanamo left off?
"Weíll become like Guantanamo Bay. It was probably a really nice place until we started using it for the purpose itís used. Now itís synonymous with that," said Tim Holverson, executive vice-president of the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce. "We donít want to be a community that is synonymous with that."
Last week, Obama ordered the prison in Cuba shut down in a year. A task force has 30 days to recommend where to put the 245 remaining detainees, including 22-year-old Canadian Omar Khadr.
In an interview aired Monday on NBCís Today show, Obama said he was confident that working with the international community the United States would find a solution to relocating the prisoners without jeopardizing national security.
"We can balance those interests in a way that makes all of us proud but also assures that weíre not attacked," Obama said.
Military officials told Congress that possible U.S. sites for Guantanamo prisoners included Fort Leavenworth, Kan. and the Naval Consolidated Brig near Charleston, S.C. Others mentioned were Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Coloradoís Supermax prison, which has already held Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski and Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.
Legislators filed a handful of bills, now pending in House or Senate committees, aimed at keeping detainees out of their states. They cite various reasons: Insufficient prison space, no on-site medical facilities and close proximity to high-population centres.
Bond and Kansasís two senators filed a bill requiring a 90-day study before transferring "enemy combatants." Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) advocated barring use of federal funds to move detainees to Camp Pendleton or Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, both near San Diego. Rep. Henry Brown (R-S.C.) filed a similar bill for his state. Several House Republicans signed onto a bill that bars U.S. entry or release for a foreigner captured and detained abroad during wartime.
Outside of the flying legislative paperwork, Brown upset his Kansas colleagues last November when he said Fort Leavenworth was better equipped for this duty than his stateís Naval brig. Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.) joined with Republican colleagues to argue that Supermax isnít suitable, even though it is a maximum security prison.
One legislator, Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, welcomed the prospect of housing detainees, saying thereís no reason they couldnít be put in U.S. prisons and treated like normal inmates.
Kansas, however, has hung the "Keep Out" signs with special intensity. Fort Leavenworth is home to the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, the Defence Departmentís only maximum security prison. Leavenworth, a city of about 35,000, also has what locals call "The Big House," a U.S. penitentiary where Prohibition-era gangster Machine Gun Kelly died.
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius gave Defence Secretary Robert Gates several arguments against Fort Leavenworth, including local fears that the government will seize prime private property.
Putting terrorists in U.S. prisons is nothing new. Timothy McVeigh, who was put to death for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was housed at four: Supermax and federal prisons in El Reno, Okla., Englewood, Colo., and Terre Haute, Ind.
Alleged al-Qaida sleeper agent Ali Saleh al-Marri, the only person being held in the U.S. as an "enemy combatant," is in the Naval Brig in South Carolina.
The city of North Charleston, S.C., one of three communities bordering the Charleston Naval Weapons Station, has made clear that it doesnít want Guantanamo detainees, said Ray Anderson, an aide to the mayor.
"Weíve already had some detainees and hopefully they will look at other communities that havenít had the pleasure," Anderson said.
Jim Wood, mayor of Oceanside, Calif., north of San Diego, told his local newspaper that residents may not even know if detainees were nearby at Camp Pendleton or Miramar. City Manager Peter Weiss said the city has a close relationship with Camp Pendleton, but the council hasnít taken an official position on the issue.
Sarah Mendelson, director of the Human Rights and Security Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Guantanamo detainees could go to pretrial detention facilities that held many of the 145 international terrorists who have been convicted in the U.S. since 2001.
The thing is that the greater majority of the US supported having them all tossed into Gitmo.... now most of them are trying to pass the buck and saying those who want them in the US should take them.
Well how about those who wanted them all detained in the first place take them? It's either that or set them free, since nobody else wants them.