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Kansas Attorney General: Obama Still Wants GITMO Detainees Moved to U.S. Mainland

The U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, one possible site to house suspected terrorists if those detainees are moved from Cuba to the U.S. mainland.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says he's still concerned that the Obama administration plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba and move the detainees to the U.S. mainland, possibly even to Fort Leavenworth. Schmidt says housing the suspected terrorists in Leavenworth could present security issues for the local community outside the prison walls. The attorney general released new documents today (THUR) that he acquired from the U.S. Defense Department. And Schmidt says those documents raise concerns.

Schmidt says the documents he obtained this week are heavily redacted, making it difficult to read all of the information they contain. However, he says it appears that both the military prison at Fort Leavenworth AND the federal, civilian penitentiary at Leavenworth have been considered as possible sites to house the GITMO detainees.


NEWS RELEASE from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt:

Documents Shed Light on Federal Planning to Close Guantanamo and Move Detainees to U.S. Mainland

TOPEKA – (November 17, 2016) – While considering moving terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. mainland, the federal government was aware that housing detainees could present security issues for the local community outside the prison walls, newly released documents show.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today released 732 pages of documents provided to him this week by the U.S. Department of Defense. The documents were provided in response to a federal lawsuit Schmidt filed last July seeking documents about federal planning to relocate detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to sites on the U.S. mainland, potentially including military facilities at Fort Leavenworth.

One document (#133) titled “Comparing Inmate vs. Detainee Costs” states that unlike prisons housing traditional inmates, “[d]etention facilities must guard against inside AND outside threats.” The document states this need to consider threats outside the detention facility “[r]equires hardened exteriors, smart fence, patrols around perimeter.”

The same document also acknowledges risks to security personnel working with detainees and suggests that in comparison to a traditional prison setting, housing terrorist detainees “[r]equires additional guards to escort detainees, minimizing attacks on personnel.”

There is nothing in the documents indicating federal authorities considered the needs of local host communities to address these security issues that relocation would cause outside the prison walls.  

Prior to this week, the federal government had produced only one single-page document that showed spending of $25,909.53 to send survey teams to study potential relocation sites, including Fort Leavenworth. The additional 732 pages of documents released this week are so heavily redacted it often is impossible to determine what information they actually contain.

“The sheer volume of documents produced so far plainly shows federal planning to move terrorist detainees to the mainland has been extensive,” Schmidt said. “Because even now we do not know the full extent of preparations, we must remain intensely vigilant through the final weeks of the current federal administration.”

Notable highlights from the newly released documents include:

*The relocation planning at one point appears to have considered at least eight federal civilian prisons as possible sites for housing detainees, including the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth (#510, #512), although there is no indication in the documents that any of the civilian penitentiary sites except those in Colorado were actually visited and assessed by survey teams. There also is indication that a survey visit to the U.S. Navy Brig in Chesapeake, Virginia, may have been scheduled, although it is unclear whether that survey ever occurred (#483). The only survey visits previously known were to Fort Leavenworth (military facilities), Colorado and South Carolina.
*There was considerable discussion about the needs for specialized courtroom facilities to handle legal matters related to detainees (e.g., #319, #666). At least one document appears to acknowledge that transporting detainees from the detention facility to an off-site courtroom facility could present security concerns. That document, titled “Manning Requirements For Detention and Security Support to Legal/Administrative Proceedings,” was completely redacted except its title (#357).
*After the survey team visit to the Supermax prison at Florence, Colorado, the head of planning for detainee relocation wrote that the facility “does not fit our mission” and that “I don’t see utility in pursuing it for detention operations” (#716). It is unclear whether that is a final determination or whether the Colorado site remains under consideration along with Fort Leavenworth and the South Carolina site that was visited.

*The federal government had developed a plan to handle public relations in connection with closing Guantanamo. A five-page document dated November 4, 2015, describing that communications plan was completely redacted except its title, “Media Plan for Closing the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility” (#31-35). The survey teams themselves were advised to dress casually when visiting potential relocation sites on the mainland because “[w]e’re trying to keep our appearance low key” (#732), underscoring that the planners were mindful of how their visits would be perceived.

*The 10 pages of notes written by the survey team after its visit to Fort Leavenworth were completely redacted except the title “Ft Leavenworth Notes” (#562-571).

All 732 pages of documents produced this week in response to the attorney general’s lawsuit, along with a cover letter transmitting them, are available here.  

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