- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2009

DENVER | Nuclear waste has nothing on terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

With President Obama’s vow to shutter the military prison in Cuba, the race to block the detainees from a facility near you has erupted, and Republicans are quickly trying to score political points by seizing on the new adminstration’s developing plan for the 245 terrorism suspects.

Colorado Republicans attacked the state’s Democratic governor, Bill Ritter Jr., for statements in support of bringing terrorist detainees to a “supermax” (facility in Florence, Colo., which, by the way, already is home to Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted as a Sept. 11 attack conspirator; Ramzi Yousef, who plotted the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; and Richard Reid, who attempted to use a shoe bomb to blow up a jetliner over the Atlantic Ocean.

But despite the rogue’s list of inmates there, Republican lawmakers pounced on Gov. Bill Ritter Jr.

“It’s clearly irresponsible of Governor Ritter to roll out the welcome mat for enemy combatants to come to Colorado,” said Republican state Rep. Cory Gardner, a leader of the petition drive. “His decision, without consulting the state legislature or local governments, to import terrorists into the state, is obviously a problem.”

Mr. Ritter told KUSA-TV, the local NBC affiliate, that he wouldn’t object to seeing the Guantanamo prisoners moved to supermax, saying the prison was ideally suited to the task.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for somebody like me, first of all, who has supported the president’s decision here, to say now, ‘Not in my backyard, find other places for those individuals to go.’ Particularly when we have a facility that’s so well-suited,” Mr. Ritter said.

It could take up to six months for the Obama administration to figure out what to do with the detainees, yet critics and supporters already agree on one thing: the “not in my back yard” mentality will be in full swing.

“You think Yucca Mountain is a NIMBY problem? Wait till you see this one,” Sen. John McCain said on “Fox News Sunday,” comparing the prison with the would-be nuclear-waste repository in Nevada, which has been held up by intense local opposition.

In Colorado, Republican lawmakers cried foul, saying the governor should have consulted with state legislators and others before making a decision on the terrorism suspects.

Leading the charge was state Sen. Ken Kester, whose district includes the Colorado State Penitentiary supermax facility, which is 90 miles south of Denver. The petition was signed by most Republican members of the state Legislature and even three Democrats.

The petition states that the signees “strongly oppose the relocation of any Guantanamo Bay detainee to any facility inside the state of Colorado,” calling them “dangerous” and saying they “pose a serious threat to our national security, as well as the safety and security of the state in which they will ultimately be housed.”

Republican members of Colorado’s congressional delegation also jumped into the fray. Rep. Doug Lamborn worried that the detainees would spread anti-American propaganda and recruit other prisoners to their cause.

“They want nothing more than to kill Americans,” Mr. Lamborn said. “They pose an unacceptable and unprecedented threat to the men and women who would guard them and to the communities in which they would be placed.”

Rep. Mike Coffman, Colorado Republican, criticized the governor for encouraging Mr. Obama to “go forward with his campaign promise to close the Guantanamo facility by welcoming the detainees to be incarcerated in Colorado.”

“There is no doubt the president has the right to review all of the practices used at Guantanamo to determine which ones are acceptable and which ones are not, but he should not close the facility,” said Mr. Coffman, who served two tours of duty in Iraq.

Indeed, organizers of the petition said they hoped the drive would lead to a national discussion on whether the Cuba-based facility should be closed.

“This is really a first step,” Mr. Gardner said. “Across the nation, Democrats and Republicans alike are saying ‘no’ to terrorists in their state. I’m receiving e-mails from people saying we need to circulate a public petition that would send a strong message to President Obama on keeping the base open.”

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