Senate Minority Office ‘applauds’ mangled quote from Ritter on Gitmo

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter speaks at a press conference on the campaign trail in September. (File Photo/Naomi Zeveloff)

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter speaks at a press conference on the campaign trail in September. (File Photo/Naomi Zeveloff)

ColoradoSenateNews.com is at it again. The partisan communications operation of the Republican Colorado Senate Minority Office issued a gleeful press release Monday applauding “Ritter’s change of tune on Gitmo detainees.” The release includes an audio clip that appears to represent Gov. Bill Ritter suggesting Guantanamo Bay prisoners should be sent to Pakistan rather than housed at the Supermax federal detention facility in Florence. Except that’s not what Ritter said on a radio broadcast Monday morning, and the audio clip included on the ColoradoSenateNews site — while presenting itself as a seamless statement from Ritter — edits out a lengthy discussion that narrows the topic considerably while also criticizing the Bush administration for bungling the cases against many of the Gitmo detainees.

Ritter unleashed a storm of opposition two weeks ago when his spokesman said the governor wouldn’t oppose moving some detainees to Supermax, the federal government’s most secure prison, because it was built to handle the country’s most dangerous prisoners. “If Supermax is chosen,” spokesman Evan Dreyer told the Associated Press, “there’s no reason to take a ‘not in my backyard’ approach.” Through his spokesman, Ritter said at the time it’s more likely Gitmo detainees will be dispersed to military prisons, and he repeated those positions Monday on the Mike Rosen show on Radio 850 KOA.

State Sen. Ken Kester and state Rep. Cory Gardner, two Republican legislators who have led the charge against housing Gitmo detainees at Supermax, chortled over “Ritter’s apparent about-face on the issue” during an appearance on Rosen’s show, according to a ColoradoSenateNews release, missing only that the Democratic governor hadn’t changed his position and had mocked Gardner and others, comparing them to the nursery rhyme character Chicken Little.

“All I said is, the sky is not falling here today,” Ritter told Rosen, “right, that this isn’t a day to be Chicken Little and say, ‘The sky is falling, the sky is falling; we’re going to fill Supermax with people from Guantanamo Bay.’ ” After noting that certain military prisons could be “better suited” to housing Gitmo detainees, Ritter addresses the fears raised by Kester and Gardner, who circulated a petition among legislators asking Ritter to “change his tune” and not establish “a pipeline of terrorism from Kabul to Colorado.”

“People should understand though, that at Supermax we have really some of the most dangerous prisoners ever convicted in America,” Ritter said on the Rosen show. “Some of them are international terrorists — the individual most significantly involved in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, we have the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, and that ilk is down there, so for Cory Gardner and company to say this would be an awful public safety risk for Colorado to entertain that possibility, I think, is just wrong.”

It’s a good question whether Gardner and Kester listened to Ritter’s radio appearance or simply relied on a summary prepared by the partisan communications office. Here’s what they had to say in response to Ritter:

“After asking for RSVPs at Florence, it looks like Ritter has pulled back the invitation and I’m glad he’s seen the light,” Gardner said, according to the Colorado Senate Minority Office.

“I’m glad Ritter seems to now realize the very real threat that bringing these prisoners to Florence would pose to Colorado,” Kester said in the ColoradoSenateNews release. “We never wanted to make this a political dogfight, but we just wished the governor wouldn’t have been so impulsive when the public’s safety is at stake.”

ColoradoSenateNews managed to splice together enough words to make a 23-second audio clip that sounds as though Ritter had capitulated to his critics and was ready to ship Gitmo detainees off to Pakistan.

On the Rosen show this morning, Ritter said he thinks we should find “some other place” to house the Gitmo detainees, observing that some neutral foreign country would be much better suited to handle the suspected terrorists. Ritter nodded to Pakistan as a viable place to send the detainees. [link in original]

Not exactly. The audio distributed by ColoradoSenateNews snips out more than 150 words where Rosen and Ritter discuss a particular group of Gitmo detainees, held “without any basis,” who can’t be returned to their home countries and — Ritter stresses — are too dangerous to release in the United States.

Rosen was the first to narrow the discussion when he asks, “How about those people who will be released? Some of these detainees, as they’re known, are not going to be prosecuted or convicted in American courts or by military tribunals and it turns out there isn’t any nation in the world that really wants these people.”

“If we look at them and we have really no basis for holding them,” Ritter says, “then we have to find some alternative to that.”

After more discussion about difficulties deporting suspects when there’s not enough evidence to hold them, Rosen asks, “So if we’ve got them now, and nobody else wants them, what do we do with them?”

That’s where ColoradoSenateNews jumps in, then jumps back out, then back in again, to find portions of quotes to give Kester and Gardner reason to applaud.

Here’s the Colorado Senate Minority Office site’s audio:

ColoradoSenateNews clip of Ritter and Rosen

And here’s a transcript of the audio, prepared by the Colorado Independent:

Rosen: What do we do with them?

Ritter: Well, I think at some level you have to find some other place that really provides — and there are, I think, neutral places or places at least where they don’t have a hostility to that place where the country would be hopefully willing to accept them. [inaudible edit] There are other countries that I believe would be willing to take them and —

Rosen: Can you think of any such countries?

Ritter: Pakistan. For instance.

Now let’s listen to the unedited audio, which includes the substantial chunk missing from the ColoradoSenateNews version:

Ritter and Rosen discuss Gitmo, unedited

A transcript of what Rosen and Ritter actually said in the exchange takes up some more room. The portions omitted by the Colorado Senate Minority Office are underlined.

Ritter: … But I don’t want people hostile to the United States released into the United States —

Rosen: So if we’ve got them now, and nobody else wants them, what do we do with them?

Ritter: Well, I think at some level you have to find some other place that really provides — and there are, I think, neutral places or places at least where they don’t have a hostility to that place where the country would be hopefully willing to accept them. But I also think it is a problem holding someone without a basis to hold them, to just lock somebody up without a basis to do that is not an American ideal —

Rosen: I agree, and we would never do that to American citizens, or even to visitors here. But when you scoop people up on battlefields who are unlawful combatants, it puts them in a completely different category and the niceties of due process don’t apply.

Ritter: They don’t apply, but that doesn’t mean that this is an issue that can’t be worked out using the kind of diplomatic efforts I think that are available and that I suspect have not been utilized for these individuals. If it’s un-American to hold them without any basis and we don’t want to release anybody that’s even a potential hostile into this country, I believe that there are other alternatives for ways to handle those individuals, and we can employ those other alternatives. There are other countries that I believe would be willing to take them and —

Rosen: Can you think of any such countries?

Ritter: Pakistan. For instance. And it is, you know, it is a country that is a difficult country for us in terms of our international efforts to really get a handle on the aggression in Afghanistan and the aggression in what is the western border of Pakistan.

Here’s Radio 850 KOA’s audio from the second hour of Monday’s Rosen show here. The Guantanamo discussion occurs between 10:27 a.m. and 10:41 a.m.

Like this story? Steal it! Feel free to republish it in part or in full, just please give credit to The Colorado Independent and add a link to the original.

Got a tip? Story pitch? Send us an e-mail. Follow The Colorado Independent on Twitter.



About the Author

Ernest Luning

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>