A Pentagon team tasked with finding potential alternatives inside the United States for Guantánamo captives is resuming its site surveys in Colorado, the Defense Department said Friday.
The White House notified state and congressional politicians that teams would inspect a now-empty state facility, Colorado State Penitentiary II, and a federal prison 10 miles away adjacent to the Florence “supermax” prison.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, whose district has the two prisons, called it “a dangerous fantasy that will go nowhere” and an “outrageous and unacceptable” waste of time and taxpayer dollars.
A dangerous fantasy that will go nowhere
Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn
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The governor, like the Pentagon, wants to have a full understanding of the costs, risk and impacts for Colorado
Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s communications director
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, was less dismissive. He “wants to have a full understanding of the costs, risk and impacts for Colorado,”said Kathy Green, Hickenlooper’s communications director.
Navy Cmdr Gary Ross said the surveys would happen in coming weeks.
Pentagon staff plan to visit an occupied federal prison, not the ‘supermax,’ and an empty state facility
Ross said the team would visit the Federal Correctional Institution at Florence. It has 1,517 inmates in a medium-security setting, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The site is better known for the maximum-security “supermax” now holding 405 inmates, many of them convicted terrorists.
Guantánamo has 114 captives, 53 of them cleared for release to other countries with security assurances. The idea, according to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, is to move to the United States those 114 “who, in the interest of our national security, should remain in law of war detention.”
Carter, like President Barack Obama, says the current detention operation in Cuba costs too much and is “a rallying cry for jihadi propaganda.” More than 2,000 temporary troops and contractors run the sprawling operation at an estimated cost of $3.4 million a year per detainee.
The state facility under consideration is an empty 948-cell solitary confinement prison at Cañon City, about 10 miles northwest of Florence.
Like the federal prison at Florence, it is part of a multi-prison complex.
The team has already visited the Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the Navy brig near Charleston, South Carolina, over the protests of politicians in those states.
At the Pentagon, Ross said the team would “meet with facility staff to discuss ... engineering considerations, force protection, troop housing, security, transportation, information security, contracting, and other operational issues. The facilities also will be assessed for their ability to serve as military commission sites.”
At this point, the effort is theoretical: U.S. law bars Guantánamo’s captives from the United States for any reason and the latest Defense policy bill keeps that embargo.
The governor was notified by the Pentagon today that they would like to assess various Colorado facilities, as they are doing in other states. The governor, like the Pentagon, wants to have a full understanding of the costs, risk and impacts for Colorado. At present, there are no plans, nor is it legal under federal law, to move detainees to the U.S. ▪ Kathy Green, communications director for Colorado’s Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper
Despite House passage of an NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] that strictly prohibits the transfer of terrorists from Guantánamo Bay, the Obama Administration is instructing DOD [Department of Defense] officials to come investigate the Federal Supermax facility in Florence and a Colorado penitentiary facility in Canon City as potential destinations for terrorists. It is 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. I will do everything in my power to resist these unlawful terrorist transfers from taking place. ▪ Rep. Doug Lamborn, Republican whose district has both prisons