DENVER — The Defense Department’s plan to consider two Colorado prisons as possible destinations for Guantanamo Bay detainees is meeting with outrage from the state’s Republican congressional delegation, demonstrating the political resistance President Obama faces as he tries to honor his promise to close down the Cuba detainee facility.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, the Colorado Republican who represents the district in which both prisons are located, called it “outrageous and unacceptable for President Obama to waste time and taxpayer dollars on a dangerous fantasy that will go nowhere.”
“The people of Colorado do not want the world’s worst terrorists housed in our own backyard and we will not stand for this,” Mr. Lamborn said in a statement. “I will do everything in my power to resist these unlawful terrorist transfers from taking place.”
The heated reaction came after the Defense Department said in a Friday statement that it will conduct site surveys at two Colorado prisons as part of the administration’s plan to shutter Guantanamo.
One facility under consideration is the Federal Correctional Institution Florence, also known as “Supermax,” a medium-security prison that holds 1,517 inmates, including several notorious terrorists such as 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.
The other option is the Colorado State Penitentiary II near Canon City, also known as Centennial South Correctional Facility, a 948-cell maximum-security prison that is currently vacant.
“As part of ongoing efforts to refine the plan to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, the Department of Defense notified Congress today that it will undertake additional site surveys within the next few weeks at Colorado State Penitentiary II and the FCI at Florence, CO, to assess potential locations for holding a limited number of current Guantanamo detainees in the United States, and to assess the costs associated with doing so,” said the Pentagon statement.
Even though the 2015 National Defense Appropriation Act renews the congressional ban on transferring of Gitmo detainees to U.S. soil, the Defense Department has conducted site surveys at highly secure facilities recently in Kansas and South Carolina, meeting in both instances with staunch opposition from GOP governors.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said in August that his state will not be part of any “illegal ill-advised action by this administration” to transfer the 52 detainees to U.S. soil, while South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said that “we are not going to allow South Carolina to become a magnet for terrorists to come here.”
By comparison, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, was more open-minded. His spokeswoman told The Associated Press that he “wants to have a full understanding of the costs, risk and impacts for Colorado.”
Putting up more resistance was Sen. Michael Bennet, Colorado Democrat, whose spokeswoman told Fox 31 that “the Department of Defense has no authority to transfer these prisoners or make such modifications, and they have made no case that it makes sense to do so.”
Most of the original detainees at Guantanamo, set up by the George W. Bush administration in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks have been moved elsewhere or returned to their home countries. Critics say the facility has outlived its usefulness and serves as a potent recruiting tool for jihadis.
But Colorado Republicans warned that bringing in the detainees would endanger the safety of residents by making the state a target for terrorists.
Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado Republican, said that he will “oppose absolutely any plan to bring terrorists to Colorado.”
“The Guantanamo facility houses some of the world’s worst international terrorists, and it’s critical that we keep them there,” Mr. Gardner said in a Friday statement.
“That this reckless and irresponsible idea is being considered at all by officials in the Obama administration shows a careless disregard for the safety and security of Coloradans. I will do everything in my power to ensure it does not happen,” Mr. Gardner said.
Rep. Scott Tipton, Colorado Republican, said in a statement that, “Transferring some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists to our backyard places a target on Colorado.”
“Any plan to move terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to Colorado is unacceptable and we will do everything possible to keep it from happening,” Mr. Tipton said.