- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

State and local officials opposed to President Obama’s plan to transfer terrorism detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the mainland U.S. will get a platform to air their concerns Thursday during a House hearing.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, is among the witnesses who will testify at the session of the Homeland Security’s oversight subcommittee. South Carolina is one of the states where the administration is considering transferring detainees, a plan that would need to be approved by a deeply skeptical Congress.

Mr. Obama, whose campaign pledge to close the prison is one of his biggest unfulfilled promises, has been steadily reducing the population at Gitmo by transferring detainees to other countries that are willing to accept them. The prison, which once held more than 600 terrorist suspects, how detains about 80.

Subcommittee Chairman Scott Perry, Pennsylvania Republican, said Mr. Obama is ignoring the will of Americans who believe his plan is dangerous.

“Over 30 percent of Guantanamo detainees released to date have returned to the battlefield to possibly kill more Americans,” Mr. Perry said. “The American people rightfully do not want these terrorists transferred to the homeland, plain and simple.”

He said the panel will hear from “state and local officials on the potential impact of transferring these hardened terrorists into the backyards of the communities they have sworn to protect.”

Also testifying will be Todd Thompson, the county attorney in Leavenworth, Kansas, where detainees could be transferred to the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth federal prison.

“The lack of communication from the president and Department of Defense with the Leavenworth community has made it nearly impossible for us to prepare for the possibility of the detainees from Guantanamo Bay coming here,” Mr. Thompson said in a statement. “There are national and international leaders and their families that live in this community. Families have loved ones buried a short distance from where the detainees would be housed. That, coupled with the strain of already-limited resources in our area, would be detrimental to our community.”

Asked whether the administration sees any encouraging signs that Congress will address the president’s plan, White House press secretary Josh Earnest replied, “There is no evidence I can point to.”

But he said national security professionals on both sides believe it is dangerous to keep the prison open due to its recruitment value among extremist groups.

“The proposal that the president put forward is actually one that makes us safer,” he said.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, South Carolina Republican, said he hopes Ms. Haley’s testimony “will expose the short-sightedness of the president’s proposal.”

“It is essential that all levels of government speak out against this foolish and illegal idea,” Mr. Duncan said. “The president is looking to fulfill campaign promises at the expense of national security. … No state deserves to become a terrorist dumping ground.”

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