While civil libertarians and former CIA agents cheered news President Barack Obama plans to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, some Colorado politicians are crying foul at the prospect detainees could be shipped to the federal Supermax prison in Florence.
But Gov. Bill Ritter — unlike governors in other states that could house terrorism suspects moved from Gitmo — said through a spokesman he wouldn’t oppose moving terror suspects to Supermax because those are the kinds of prisoners the facility was built to handle, the Associated Press reports. “If Supermax is chosen, there’s no reason to take a ‘not in my backyard’ approach,” Ritter spokseman Evan Dreyer told the AP. Still, Ritter believes it’s more likely Gitmo detainees will be dispersed to military prisons in other states, and the Obama administration hasn’t contacted the governor about possible transfers.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, the Colorado Springs Republican whose district includes Supermax, thinks it’s a terrible idea to bring any of the Gitmo detainees to Colorado, 9News reports.
“That’s the last thing we should do,” said Lamborn. “I don’t want them in Colorado, there at Supermax, or actually anyplace on American soil.”
Lamborn said he was concerned about terrorists “spreading their perverted way of thinking” to American prisoners. He also said he worried “liberal judges” would free terror detainees after bringing them to Colorado, based on “technicalities” of their battlefield captures.
Newly elected Rep. Mike Coffman agrees, blasting Ritter in a statement issued Friday. A release from Coffman’s congressional office prefaces his remarks with military bona fides, noting the Aurora Republican “is a combat veteran with a combined 21 years of military experience and has served in Iraq twice. He is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.”
“The Governor is wrong to encourage the President to go forward with his campaign promise to close the Guantánamo facility by welcoming the detainees to be incarcerated in Colorado. Guantánamo needs to stay open, not only to protect Americans here at home but to protect our Soldiers and Marines serving in harm’s way. There is no doubt the President has the right to review all of the practices used at Guantánamo to determine which ones are acceptable and which ones are not, but he should not close the facility.”
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, the Democrat who replaced Ken Salazar on Thursday, said in a statement he agrees with Obama’s executive orders but thinks it “premature” to speculate where the Gitmo detainees mind end up:
“I agree with President Obama’s decision to move forward with the closure of the Guantánamo Bay facility. It has tarnished our nation’s reputation abroad and should be permanently closed. We need strong action to combat terrorism and protect the American people, but I know we can accomplish that goal without sacrificing our basic Constitutional principles.”
On prisoner relocation, “The President has called for a review to examine options for the relocation of prisoners at the facility. Considering this review has yet to even begin, speculation on where prisoners will be relocated or what effect their relocation may have on local communities would be premature.”
At the Capitol, Republican state Rep. Cory Gardner and other Republicans are circulating a petition opposing any transfer of Gitmo detainees to Colorado, the Rocky Mountain News legislative blog reported Friday morning. Detainees “pose a serious threat to our national security, as well as the safety and security of the communities in which they will ultimately be housed,” according to the petition, Lynn Bartels reports.
Gardner called the possibility “really dangerous” and said he plans to hold hearings, writes Ed Sealover, the Rocky’s other statehouse reporter. Democrat Buffie McFadyen, whose state house district includes Florence, told Sealover she was concerned about staffing at Supermax and thinks it’s a better idea to send Gitmo detainees to military prisons, including Camp Pendleton in California or Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. “Florence should be an option evaluated after we exhaust military options,” McFadyen told Sealover.
Obama first raised the prospect of sending Gitmo detainees to Supermax in June. Roughly 245 detainees remain at Guantánamo Bay, and some could be sent to other countries, according to executive orders Obama signed Thursday. One of Obama’s orders creates a cabinet-level panel to decide where to send Gitmo detainees and determine “lawful options for the disposition of individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations” in the future, Sepncer Ackerman writes at our sister site, The Washington Independent.
Supermax, opened in 1994 to handle the “worst of the worst” federal prisoners, is one of three federal prisons in the Florence Federal Correctional Complex. Most Supermax prisoners are kept in solitary confinement at least 23 hours a day in 7-by-12-foot cells designed to make it impossible for prisoners to contact or even see each other.
The prison already incarcerates convicted terrorists, including Omar “Blind Sheik” Abdel-Rahman, Ramzi Yousef and Mahmud Abouhalima, convicted for their roles in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted for a part in the Sept. 11 attacks; Jose Padilla, convicted of aiding terrorists; Wadih el-Hage, convicted in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings; Terry Nichols, convicted in the Oklahoma City bombing; Eric Robert Rudolph, convicted in the 1996 Olympic Park bombing; and Theodore “Unabomber” Kaczynski.
For more on Supermax, including background on staffing concerns and last year’s prison yard riot that left two inmates dead and dozens injured, read Erin Rosa’s award-winning Colorado Independent series Inside Supermax.