September 17, 2009

Senators: Leavenworth off detainee relocation list

Kansas Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts said Wednesday they were "confident" that terrorist detainees from Guantánamo would not be relocated to Fort Leavenworth.

WASHINGTON — Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts said Wednesday they were "confident" that terrorist detainees from Guantánamo would not be relocated to Fort Leavenworth.

The Kansas Republicans offered the assessment as they announced their intention to no longer hold hostage the nominations of several key Obama administration appointees, including the secretary of the Army.

Both senators oppose the possibility of relocating terrorist prisoners held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth and have tried to use their senatorial leverage as a bargaining chip.

"We believe that the administration has a good understanding of obstacles and concerns and is giving them proper consideration," Brownback and Roberts said in a joint statement. "We are confident that because of this good faith dialogue, detainees will not be transferred to Fort Leavenworth."

Neither would be more specific about their talks with the administration about Guantánamo or whether any promises had been made concerning Fort Leavenworth, their aides said. The White House had no comment.

Leavenworth officials, meanwhile, welcomed the announcement.

"Their confidence is good news," Mayor Shay Baker said of Roberts and Brownback. "Hopefully, this is the last we hear of this."

If Kansas no longer is on the list, that could leave a soon-to-be closed maximum security prison northwest of Detroit as a possible site for relocating the detainees. Local officials reportedly were eager for the economic boost because the prison had been one of the region’s biggest employers.

Concern over moving detainees from Cuba to Kansas emerged last winter when President Barack Obama pledged to close the detention camp by January 2010. It had become a symbol of international anger toward the United States because of the use of torture and other questionable tactics on the detainees.

The two Kansas lawmakers placed legislative holds on the nominees in early August. They are appointees to the Justice and Defense departments and include a Republican congressman, John McHugh of New York, as Obama's choice for Army secretary.

At the time, a White House spokesman singled out Brownback — but not Roberts — for playing "partisan" politics with McHugh's nomination.

Relocating the detainees to stateside prisons has upset many lawmakers and local officials in Kansas and elsewhere, who argued that the military prison at Fort Leavenworth wasn't suitable. They also worried that the detainees' presence could put the surrounding community at risk.

Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, said in a statement Wednesday: "I am glad that our congressional delegation has come to this conclusion and we can now put this issue behind us."

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Carol Rosenberg


Carol Rosenberg reports on Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the place, policy, people, war court.

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