Still no place to go for Gitmo’s de­tainees

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

Pres­i­dent Obama isn’t find­ing any tak­ers in the U.S. to house the ter­ror­ism de­tainees now be­ing held at the mil­i­tary prison in Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mr. Obama is de­ter­mined to close the fa­cil­ity in Jan­uary, re­peat­ing his pledge in his June 4 speech in Cairo on U.S. re­la­tions with the Mus­lim world. But even in states whose se­na­tors say they sup­port clos­ing the prison and bring­ing the de­tainees to the United States, lo­cal of­fi­cials are balk­ing.

“The an­swer to that is no. We are an over­crowded sys­tem,” said Ver­mont Cor­rec­tions Depart­ment Com­mis­sioner An­drew Pal­lito. Both of the state’s U.S. se­na­tors, Demo­crat Pa­trick J. Leahy and in­de­pen­dent Bernard San­ders, sup­port the idea of ship­ping some of the sus­pected ter­ror­ists to max­i­mum-se­cu­rity pris­ons in the United States.

Michi­gan Gov. Jen­nifer M. Gran­holm, a Demo­crat, said bring­ing de­tainees to her state was not on the agenda, de­spite a slew of aban­doned pris­ons. “This is not some­thing that we are pur­su­ing. End of story,” said Liz Boyd, a spokes­woman for Mrs. Gran­holm, an ally of Mr. Obama’s who made the short­list for the re­cent Supreme Court va­cancy.

This re­sis­tance un­der­scores the dif­fi­culty Mr. Obama con­fronts in keep­ing his prom­ise to close Guan­tanamo.

The pres­i­dent al­ready has en­coun­tered a re­volt on Capi­tol Hill. Democrats in both the House and Se­nate balked at his re­quest for $81 mil­lion to close the fa­cil­ity, join­ing Repub­li­cans in vot­ing to with­hold the money un­til Mr. Obama says what he would do with the 240 ter­ror­ism sus­pects in Guan­tanamo.

A Jus­tice Depart­ment task force con­tin­ues to wres­tle with where to send de­tainees — most for­eign gov­ern­ments do not want them — and which de­tainees can be pros­e­cuted in the United States, ei­ther in fed­eral courts or in mil­i­tary tribunals. The task force re­port is due late next month.

Nearly all of the gov­er­nors’ offices con­tacted by The Wash­ing­ton Times took days or in some cases more than a week to re­spond to ques­tions about their will­ing­ness to take in what have been de­scribed as “the most danger­ous ter­ror­ists in the world.” None an­swered yes. Af­ter re­peated in­quiries, Illi­nois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Demo­crat, opted for a “no com­ment” about hous­ing de­tainees.

His state’s se­nior U.S. se­na­tor, Ma­jor­ity Whip Richard J. Durbin, voted last month to ap­prove the money to shut down Guan­tanamo.

Mr. Durbin was among six se­na­tors — all Democrats — to sup­port the fund­ing, which Mr. Obama re­quested as part of a roughly $100 bil­lion sup­ple­men­tal spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now near­ing pas­sage.

Mr. Obama now will have to look for the Guan­tanamo money in the reg­u­lar ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill that Demo­cratic leaders hope to fin­ish by Septem­ber — just four months be­fore his dead­line to shut down the camp.

But a House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions sub­com­mit­tee tak­ing up the fis­cal 2010 spending bill June 4 voted to in­clude re­stric­tions on re­leas­ing or trans­fer­ring Guan­tanamo de­tainees and omit­ted $60 mil­lion that Mr. Obama re­quested.

The other two gov­er­nors whose U.S. se­na­tors voted to fund the pres­i­dent’s plan also gave cool re­cep­tions to the prospect of ac­cept­ing Guan­tanamo de­tainees.

Rhode Is­land Gov. Don­ald L. Carcieri, a Repub­li­can, said he unequiv­o­cally op­posed the idea of bring­ing de­tainees to his state. Both of the state’s U.S. se­na­tors, Democrats Jack Reed and Shel­don Whitehouse, sup­ported the pres­i­dent’s re­quest.

Iowa Gov. Chet Cul­ver, a Demo­crat, did not take a po­si­tion be­cause the state was an un­likely de­tainee des­ti­na­tion, spokesman Troy Price said.

“We have no fed­eral pris­ons, so I’m not sure that it would be pos­si­ble to trans­fer pris­on­ers here,” he said.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has not pub­licly iden­ti­fied where it wants to re­lo­cate the de­tainees, but even spec­u­la­tion about fa­cil­i­ties has been met with swift dis­ap­proval from lo­cal of­fi­cials.

Among the most of­ten men­tioned sites are three in Vir­ginia — the de­ten­tion cen­ter for fed­eral in­mates in Alexan­dria, the Nor­folk Navy Brig and the Marine Corps Base at Quan­tico.

The candidates in the Vir­ginia gov­er­nor’s race sharply crit­i­cized sug­ges­tions of de­tainee re­lo­ca­tion to their state.

Vir­ginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who also is chair­man of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, stopped short of en­dors­ing the pro­posal.

“He sup­ports Obama’s plan to close Guan­tanamo in a timely fash­ion, and has ev­ery con­fi­dence in the Marines and the Navy to han­dle what­ever comes their way,” Kaine spokesman Gor­don Hickey said.

A move to the U.S. Dis­ci­plinary Bar­racks at Fort Leav­en­worth, Kan., also men­tioned as a des­ti­na­tion, got an un­equiv­o­cal “no” from Gov. Mark Parkin­son, a Demo­crat.

Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger, a Repub­li­can, had “no com­ment” when asked about whether he wanted Guan­tanamo Bay pris­on­ers brought to his state, de­spite re­ports that Marine Corps’ Camp Pendle­ton in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia is un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

Sch­warzeneg­ger spokesman Aaron McLear said the gov­er­nor would not stake a po­si­tion un­til the White House presents a detailed plan.

An As­so­ci­ated Press poll re­leased June 3 showed that 47 per­cent of adults ap­prove of clos­ing Guan­tanamo, while 47 per­cent dis­ap­prove. The di­vide fol­lows party lines, with most Democrats ap­prov­ing, most Repub­li­cans dis­ap­prov­ing and in­de­pen­dents evenly split.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Don’t send them to us: Illi­nois Gov. Pat Quinn

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