Yesterday, four Republican Indiana Senators released a statement announcing new legislation to prohibit the relocation of Guantanamo prisoners to the federal prison in Indiana. So much for the Obama honeymoon.
Many Indiana lawmakers oppose any relocation of suspected terrorists held at the Guantanamo Detention Facility in Cuba to Indiana's federal prison in Terre Haute. President Barack Obama recently announced the closure of the detention facility, which houses 243 detainees, within one year. Legislators drafted a resolution to help ensure no suspected terrorists are incarcerated within Indiana's borders.
According to published reports, military officials have reportedly told Congress that possible U.S. sites include Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the Naval brig near Charleston, South Carolina. Camp Pendleton, California, and Colorado's Supermax prison have also been mentioned. No one has even suggested that the detainees would be sent to Indiana, at this point.
Indiana Republicans were planning on holding a press conference at 9:30 this morning to elaborate on the new bill, and I was planning on attending, but then the heavens opened and four inches of snow fell in about 30 minutes and I was so busy digging my car out, that I missed it. If, indeed, it did happen as scheduled.
So far, the only state Senators backing this new legislation in Indiana are all Republicans: Sen. Marlin Stutzman (R-Howe), Sen. Jim Buck (R-Kokomo), Sen. Greg Walker (R-Columbus), and Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury). But they aren't alone in the "not in my backyard" department.
All across the Heartland, as we affectionately know it, Republicans are stepping up to microphones to announce that they don't want the detainees in their states.
An AP story this morning sums up the sentiment quite well. Seems it's all about paying back the liberals who voted for Obama (and, by extension, the closing of Guantanamo itself) — "the detainees should be sent to facilities in the districts of those who support closing Guantanamo..."
As Republican Sen. Kit Bond said, as he suggested Alcatraz as the new home for the detainees, "Let our good friends in San Francisco deal with these deadly combatants."
Update (3 p.m.): The Indiana Senate Republicans have released a follow-up to this morning's press conference. Here's the press release we just received.
State Sen. Marlin Stutzman (R-Howe) today unveiled a resolution urging the Obama administration to keep Guantanamo Bay's terrorist inmates out of Indiana's federal prison in Terre Haute and to keep Hoosiers safe.
Currently, Guantanamo Bay's Detention Center holds non-citizens who are suspected of being involved with terrorism. President Obama recently issued an executive order to close Guantanamo Bay within a year, a decision that has left many speculating some of the 240 detainees could end up in Indiana's federal prison in Terre Haute.
"This measure is gaining support in both the Indiana Senate and House of Representatives as we aim to keep suspected terrorists out of our own back yards," Stutzman said. "We are asking the federal government to help us protect the Terre Haute prison and Hoosier citizens from becoming targets of terrorist acts."
Terre Haute is home to the United States Penitentiary (USP), a high security prison located about 70 miles west of Indianapolis. The USP contains a Special Confinement Unit for those serving federal death sentences, and would be the new holding area for Guantanamo Bay detainees if reassigned to Indiana.
Federal officials have said most detainees will return to Yemen, their home country. However, for the rest of the inmates more than half are considered too much of a threat to be released from U.S. custody.
Records show about 18 former detainees who were released returned to terrorism and 43 are suspected of having done so, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Supporters for the measure include Sens. Jim Buck (R-Kokomo), Greg Walker (R-Columbus), Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury), Reps. Milo Smith (R-Columbus), Jeff Thompson (R-Lizton), Bill Davis (R-Portland), Cindy Noe (R-Indianapolis), Jackie Walorski (R-Jimtown), Rich McClain (R-Logansport), Matt Lehman (R-Berne), David Yarde (R-Garrett) and Wes Culver (R-Goshen).
"The possible repercussions of housing Guantanamo Bay detainees in Indiana are not something the other state lawmakers and I are willing to risk," Buck said. "If ex-terrorists are relocated and tried in America, it is possible that they will be later released here in the U.S."
"My primary concern is the safety and security of every Hoosier and that is why I oppose the transfer of these detainees to our state's federal prison in Terre Haute," Walker said. "Many of these detainees are being held as high-value suspects in connection with an act or knowledge of an act of terrorism against the U.S."
"I want to make it clear that I disapprove of the federal government transferring dangerous criminals to our safe state," Yoder said.
Facilities in South Carolina, Kansas, California and Colorado are possible locations for the reassignment of detainees. Legislation has been drafted by the U.S. House of Representatives that would block transfers to a prison just north of San Diego. U.S. congressmen from South Carolina and Colorado have opposed the idea of bringing detainees to their home states as well.