Colorado lawmakers are furious about a report that Guantanamo detainees may be sent to their state as the Obama administration scrambles to close the Cuba prison.
According to a report in Defense One, Defense Department officials said that the United States Penitentiary in Florence, Colo., “makes sense” to check out in their quest for a site to house the remaining Gitmo detainees. There are currently 116 prisoners left there; some have been cleared for release but are waiting for a transfer country.
Officials have also been reviewing the U.S. military’s five regional prisons: Leavenworth and Charleston; the Naval Consolidated Brigs in Chesapeake, Va., and Miramar, Calif.; and the Northwest Regional Correctional Facility at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Wash.
“I oppose absolutely any plan to bring terrorists to Colorado,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said. “The Guantanamo facility houses some of the world’s worst international terrorists, and it’s critical that we keep them there.”
“That this reckless and irresponsible idea is being considered at all by officials in the Obama administration shows a careless disregard for the safety and security of Coloradans. I will do everything in my power to ensure it does not happen.”
Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) echoed Gardner’s outrage, stating that “transferring some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists to our backyard places a target on Colorado.”
“Any plan to move terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to Colorado is unacceptable and we will do everything possible to keep it from happening,” Tipton said.
Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas), vice-chair of the House Republican Conference, mentioned yesterday at a press availability on the Hill that the administration had been scoping out Leavenworth in her home state.
“If the administration transfers terrorists to Fort Leavenworth, American allies around the world, particularly those from the Mideast who send their officers to Fort Leavenworth to train, would stop sending their officers,” Jenkins said. “This would have an immediate and substantial impact on the ability of our military to do its job.”
The last Guantanamo release was in mid-June, when a six-pack of detainees got transferred to Oman.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was asked about the future of the naval station in Cuba by a petty officer stationed there in a troop talk earlier this month.
“Guantanamo Bay is a military installation that is strategically located that we have been operating for a long time, and that’s going to stay important, and I don’t see us changing that,” Carter said.
He estimated “roughly half” of the population there is “not safe to release, period.”
“So they need to be detained somewhere,” Carter continued. “If they’re detained at Guantanamo, fine. I would prefer to find a different place for them, and right now, we’re working with the Congress, because the Congress has to agree to this, because there’re laws restricting what we do with — with respect to Guantanamo Bay.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest has said that President Obama is still “eager” to close the prison. Cuba has also demanded that the U.S. give them Gitmo.
A State Department team meets with Cuban officials tomorrow in Havana for the first session of a “bilateral commission” between the two countries.