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Kansas officials worry about Guantanamo reports

Monday, August 3, 2009 | 4:36 p.m. CDT

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — Residents living near Fort Leavenworth were dismayed and frustrated Monday that the Kansas military base is on the short list to possibly take in detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

Transferring the suspected terrorists from Cuba to Kansas could put residents at risk, some said, citing worries about local safety and people's relationship with the military.

"These people are a lot more dangerous than anybody we have here," said resident A.C. Byrd, a retired Army noncommissioned officer. "Their mission is to kill Americans and anyone who disagrees with them."

The Associated Press, citing administration sources, reported Sunday that the military's U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth and a prison in Michigan were the two choices being reviewed to accept Guantanamo prisoners.

In Leavenworth, Gladys Rivard and her husband have hosted international officers studying at the Army post for 20 years. She said officers from the Middle East will stop coming to Kansas if the detainees arrive because of objections to the U.S. policies.

Rivard said there were "soft targets" such as schools and soldier-family housing that would be at risk. She uses the post's facilities frequently, including shopping at the exchange.

"I would be reluctant to go on post," Rivard said.

Fort Leavenworth officials declined to comment, referring inquiries to the Department of Defense and the White House. The prison is the military's only maximum security facility, including those under sentence of death. It has housed military inmates since 1875.

The Michigan prison named as a candidate is in Standish, about 145 miles northwest of Detroit. Built in 1990, it was one of five Michigan prisons set to close, saving the state $120 million. It was kept open to see if California will send some of its inmates there. A spokeswoman for Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said the governor had no immediate comment.

Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, said opposition to the detainees was about safety, security, legality and logistics.

"This isn't a matter of 'not in my backyard' or xenophobic fear of foreign prisoners" Parkinson said in a statement.

He said Fort Leavenworth's facilities don't meet security requirements for separate and isolated space for prisoners. He also said such a move could harm the local economy because it would require increased security along the Missouri River, a railroad line through the post and airport just south of the military prison.

"This is a bad idea on a hurry up, artificial timeline," said Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican. "They should be treated with dignity and humanely, but not here."

Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, said from Washington that moving terrorists makes Americans less safe and that he would "shut down the Senate" before that happens.

Leavenworth has created a Web site posting information about the detainee operations, including gathering signatures from residents for a petition expressing opposition.

Mayor Shay Baker said the primary concern is the security of residents and what happens if supporters of the terrorists come to the area to cause harm to make a statement.

"We are not worried about keeping terrorists in," Baker said.

Brownback and 2nd District Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, both Republicans, have sponsored measures in Congress aimed at keeping the suspected terrorists from coming to Kansas. Congress has passed measures that prohibits the spending of any money to move the detainees without a thorough plan from the White House and Pentagon.

 


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