A detailed blueprint from the Obama administration on closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is, by most accounts, nearly complete. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters a few weeks ago, officials are “in the final stages of drafting a plan.”
And as part of the process, Pentagon officials told NBC News last week that military personnel are “assessing sites on U.S. soil that might serve as facilities for Guantanamo Bay detainees.”
This included, naturally, a trip last month to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, which houses the American military’s only domestic maximum-security prison. As Roll Call reported, this prompted a stern message from some of Kansas’ congressional Republicans: don’t even think about it.
In an Aug. 14 letter to Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, [Sen. Pat Roberts] stressed that Kansas in general – and Leavenworth, in particular – are not ideal for a domestic detention facility.“Fort Leavenworth is neither the ideal nor right location for moving Guantánamo detainees,” Roberts wrote to Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter. “The installation lies right on the Missouri River, providing terrorists with the possibility of covert travel underwater and attempting access to the detention facility.”Additionally, Roberts wrote, the base’s boundary line runs parallel to a public railroad.
Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), whose district includes Leavenworth, called any relocation plan “reckless,” adding that she remains committed to keeping terrorists out of Fort Leavenworth.
I’m afraid I have some bad news for the far-right lawmakers:
Leavenworth is already home to some extraordinarily dangerous people. It’s a maximum-security prison – the United States doesn’t lock up jaywalkers there.
Roberts, a former senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who really should know more about these issues, makes it sound as if terrorists might stroll out of the Leavenworth detention facility, go for a swim, or hop on a train. Even by the standards of GOP lawmakers, this is bonkers: “At Leavenworth, the toughest prisoners are allowed outside their cells only one hour a day when they are moved with their legs shackled and accompanied by three guards.”
How many people have ever escaped the prison at Leavenworth? Zero. It’s never happened.
The Beltway is poised to have an important debate about the future of Guantanamo Bay and its prisoners, but if recent rhetoric from Kansas Republicans is any indication, this debate is going to be deeply foolish.