AP Interview: Kansas governor wants Guantanamo plans dropped

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback discusses President Barack Obama's efforts to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during an Associated Press interview, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, in the sun room at Cedar Crest, the governor's official residence in Topeka, Kan. Brownback says surveying potential U.S. prison sites is illegal under federal law. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — With a White House report expected soon, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Friday that President Barack Obama should drop efforts to move detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and argued that the administration is already violating federal law by surveying potential prison sites.

Brownback told The Associated Press during an exclusive interview that Guantanamo should continue to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely because the U.S. is in a war with terrorism “for some time to come.” He said moving prisoners from Guantanamo will compromise the nation’s security and harm its troops.

“You really get into a series of problems, none of which work out well for the American people,” Brownback said at Cedar Crest, the governor’s residence.

A U.S. Defense Department team surveyed the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth in August in evaluating potential sites for housing Guantanamo detainees. Brownback said the post isn’t secure enough and that bringing detainees there will damage the international reputation of the Army’s command college there, which trains both American and foreign officers.

The Republican governor said in August that Kansas would consider filing a lawsuit against the federal government if the Democratic president attempts to move detainees to his state.

He said Friday that he’s asked the state’s attorney general to look into litigation. Brownback argues that surveying potential sites violates “well-known and notorious” language in annual defense spending measures against using federal dollars to assist in transferring detainees.

“It is the law of the land,” Brownback said during an interview at Cedar Crest, the governor’s official residence. “I think it’s very strong grounds (for a lawsuit). I think it’s very clear grounds, too.”

Fellow Kansas Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts has blocked Obama’s nominee for Army secretary over the issue.

Obama promised when first running for president in 2008 to close Guantanamo, and he’s argued since that imprisoning suspects indefinitely without a trial is “contrary to who we are” and helps recruit extremists. The administration has transferred some prisoners overseas, dropping the number in Guantanamo from 242 when Obama took office to 112 now.

While liberal groups decry indefinite detentions, some argue that problems with Guantanamo aren’t solved by moving its prisoners and confining them indefinitely in the U.S.

Brownback said that if the detainees are moved, the government will face legal questions about whether they’re entitled to constitutional protections, including public trials that could expose U.S. intelligence-gathering methods — and create the possibility that the suspects will “get back on the battlefield while the battle is still going on.”

“I don’t want to send more terrorist leaders back into the field that can recruit more people and blow up more individuals,” he said.

The Defense Department team surveyed seven sites in Colorado, South Carolina and Kansas, including the Disciplinary Barracks and adjacent Midwest Joint Regional Corrections Facility at Fort Leavenworth. Brownback said the fort is a “completely inappropriate” site.

“It’s not secure,” he said. “It sits next to a river. A railroad runs through it. It’s a small base. It’s next to an urban area.”

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Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann in Washington also contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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