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EXCLUSIVE: U.S. bases eyed as Gitmo alternative
The Pentagon is looking at several military bases in the U.S. as possible sites to hold terrorist suspects now at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, including Camp Pendleton in San Diego and Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican whose state hosts Fort Leavenworth, told The Washington Times that an internal Pentagon study named Fort Leavenworth among other locations.
Fort Leavenworth is the site of a military training program for foreign military officers, and Mr. Brownback said he feared the presence of Guantanamo prisoners would destroy the program.
"You are going to kill our international training program. A lot of Islamic countries come through Leavenworth. We had students from 90 different countries there," he said.
Mr. Brownback said the Pentagon study group was tasked with finding a place that is available to move detainees as soon as the incoming administration of Barack Obama announces its plans.
Mr. Obama has pledged to close the detention facility at Guantanamo, which has become an open sore for the U.S. in its relations with other nations, especially in the Islamic world.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell declined to comment, as did officials from the Obama transition team.
A Pentagon official, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for attribution, warned that there are "so many more questions than answers at this point."
"The devil is going to be in the details," the official said.
Mr. Brownback on Monday invited Mr. Obama to tour the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, with the intention of dissuading Mr. Obama from sending any of the Guantanamo detainees there.
"I would be honored to show him firsthand why Fort Leavenworth is not an acceptable facility to house enemy combatants and he will find that once you see the base up close, it's hard to show why terror suspects should be housed in Kansas," he said.
House Armed Services Committee spokeswoman Lara Battles said there have been growing concerns in Congress over bringing 274 prisoners now being held at Guantanamo.
Newly elected Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, California Republican, whose district includes the Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton, said the prospect of sending detainees there was unacceptable.
Mr. Hunter, son of former Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, sent a letter Tuesday to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates detailing his opposition.
"As representatives of the San Diego community, we believe this decision could seriously endanger the mission at USMC Camp Pendleton and urge that it be taken off the list for consideration," Mr. Hunter said.
Mr. Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he was concerned about the recent announcement that the Obama administration plans to issue an executive order that would close the terrorist prison and transfer these terrorism suspects to the U.S.
Congress and the Pentagon have discussed locations for two years as sites for Guantanamo prisoners.
Locations under discussion have included foreign military bases like Bagram in Afghanistan, in addition to Camp Pendleton and Fort Leavenworth.
Mr. Hunter cited the roughly "8,000 family members" who reside at Camp Pendleton and the thousands of others who access the base for services.
In the letter, Mr. Hunter stated that "we are fighting two wars," adding: "The Marines must not be distracted from their wartime mission."
Concern that "introducing Guantanamo Bay terrorist suspects would certainly negatively impact Camp Pendleton's training and wartime missions," could put Marines in jeopardy, he said.
"For those Marines serving overseas in harm's way, they should now not have to worry about the safety of their families," Mr. Hunter said.
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