The Department of Defense wants to move prisoners at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to military installations in Kansas or South Carolina, according to media reports Friday. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons also is identifying potential civilian facilities where detainees could be transferred.
The Leavenworth facility in Kansas and another military installation in Charleston, South Carolina, have been approved for surveying at the direction of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, according to a defense spokesman, Voice of America reported. The U.S. facility will need to hold “about 50 of the detainees,” according to a U.S. defense official. There currently are 116 prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
The defense spokesman said the surveys are part of the “ongoing effort to identify locations within the United States that can possibly facilitate military commissions and can possibly hold detainees currently at GTMO. Only those locations that can hold detainees at a maximum security level will be considered.”
It's unclear whether local officials would support such a move. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he has consistently objected "to the idea of moving these terrorists to the mainland, and more especially to Kansas. I will continue to be a vocal and staunch advocate against closing our current detainment facilities due to the high security risks and economic waste doing so would cost the American public."
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., told the Associated Press: "Terrorists should not be living down the road from Fort Leavenworth -- home to thousands of Army soldiers and their families, as well as military personnel from across the globe who study at the Intellectual Center of the Army."
The move would need approval from Congress. Under U.S. laws, the military and the Department of Justice are not allowed to hold the detainees anywhere in the United States. In recent years, Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress have protested the closure of the facility in Cuba.
President Barack Obama called for the closure of the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay as a candidate during the 2008 presidential race. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said this week the Obama administration was “taking all possible steps to reduce the detainee population at Guantanamo.”
The detention facility in Cuba was opened during the George W. Bush administration after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. At one point, it held nearly 800 enemy combatants captured in the war on terror.