WASHINGTON — Secure government facilities in Kansas and South Carolina could soon be used to house Guantanamo Bay detainees as part of President Obama’s effort to shutter the Cuban detention complex. Pentagon spokesperson Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told the Associated Press earlier this month that both the Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. and the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C. are being considered as possible transfer sites.
President Obama has long campaigned to close the controversial facility, but has made little headway as both Republicans and some Democrats oppose the plan. At present nearly half of the 116 individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay have been cleared for transfer, but those transfers have been delayed due to concerns over proper monitoring and oversight in the new facilities. The remaining inmates pose a greater security threat and are unlikely to be transferred.
Davis also told the Associated Press that other facilities were also being surveyed, and that the visits were aimed at “getting consistent evaluations and establishing a baseline of information.” Davis said that cost assessments will be conducted on sites that could potentially receive Guantanamo inmates to gauge construction and security improvement costs as well as those related to conducting military commission trials, housing additional security staff, upgrading security systems and providing for secure transportation.
Thomson Correctional Center located near Thomson, Ill. had also been considered as a potential transfer site, but the plan was nixed amid local protest. Now, the government will likely use the facility to house maximum-security federal inmates, which will decrease crowding in other federal facilities.
Elected officials in both Kansas and South Carolina have also been vocal in their opposition to potentially playing host to Guantanamo detainees.
“There is no plan or study that shows transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to South Carolina or any other domestic location will make America safer,” said U.S. Senator Tim Scot, R-S.C., in a statement. “It is unbelievable that the President believes they need to assess whether the Naval Brig, which is right next to an elementary school and a residential neighborhood, as well as just a short drive from one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, is a better option for housing dangerous terrorists than Guantanamo Bay.”
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., expressed his own concerns about Guantanamo detainees being transferred to Fort Leavenworth, citing the facility’s proximity to military personnel and their families as well as individuals studying at the Intellectual Center of the Army.
“I have serious concerns about the latest reports that the Obama Administration is conducting site surveys and continues to consider transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay,” Moran said in a statement. “I have repeatedly been part of efforts in Congress to prevent the facility’s closure and block the transfer of detainees to American soil, not only through legislation but also through the annual defense authorization bill. I will continue to push to prohibit the transfer of prisoners to Kansas or anywhere else in the United States.”