A U.S. Defense Department team is spending three days this week in Colorado to determine whether two prisons in the state would be suitable for holding dozens of Guantánamo detainees indefinitely. The latest effort by President Barack Obama to close Guantánamo Bay involves inspecting a federal Supermax in Florence and a state penitentiary at Canon City to determine the feasibility of using them to continue the detention of men, currently at Guantánamo, who would not be charged or released by the United States.
The team is led by Pentagon official Alisa Stack, and this summer it has already visited military installations at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and the U.S. Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina. The Miami Herald reportsthat GOP legislators from Kansas and South Carolina have vociferously expressed opposition to moving the Gitmo detainees to their home states. This month, Colorado legislators, including Senator Cory Gardner, saidthey would oppose moving the detainees to Colorado.
The Pentagon said that the survey of the various installations does not indicate that the administration has made a decision on where it prefers to hold Guantánamo detainees.
“These site visits are informational only. No sites have been selected for holding detainees,” said Navy Commander Gary Ross, the Pentagon’s detentions spokesman.
The Obama administration sees the search for a new detention facility as a step toward the closing Guantánamo, but human rights advocates see it as an importation of Guantánamo inside the mainland United States.
They argue that critics of Guantánamo criticize the practice of indefinite detention without charge far from any active battlefield and the use of military tribunals – but these will not change in a U.S. domestic facility, thus belying the claim that moving detainees from one place to another would amount to “closing Guantánamo.”
Human rights advocates described as “Gitmo North” an earlier plan to hold Guantánamo detainees without charge at an Illinois prison.
The Herald notes that fifty-four out of the remaining 114 detainees at Guantánamo have been cleared for release. With the exception of approximately ten detainees currently facing war-crimes tribunals or convictions, the remainder, under the Obama plan, would be held indefinitely at a domestic prison.
Relocating any detainees from Guantánamo to the mainland United States is currently illegal. Obama has said he would veto next year’s defense authorization bill over a provision in it which bars the defense department from using funds from the Pentagon budget to bring Guantánamo detainees into the United States. Obama issued these vetoes threats before, but has still signed four previous defense bills which contained the same provision.