As the Obama Administration scrambles to develop a plan for shuttering Guantanamo Bay, Congressmen from nine states trying to prevent incarceration of detainees from that facility in their home districts.
Virginia joined that list on Monday, when three Republican Representatives introduced legislation to prevent federal funds from being used to “transfer or house” the Guantanamo prisoners in the Old Dominion.
The Virginia measure’s chief architect is Congressman Randy Forbes of Chesapeake, who unveiled his plans at a Washington news conference. Joining him for the announcement were Representatives Frank Wolf of Fairfax County and Eric Cantor of Richmond.
According to the Newport News Daily Press, Mr. Forbes made it clear that terrorist suspects from Guantanamo should not be housed in Virginia:
“If other states want those prisoners, they can make that argument,” said Forbes. “We don’t think they should be anywhere in the United States. We don’t think they should be in Virginia.”
Forbes and his colleagues say that two Virginia military facilities–the Norfolk Naval Brig and the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico–appear on a list of potential detainee facilities in the United States. The list was contained in a House Armed Services Committee briefing paper on Guantanamo Bay, issued in 2007.
While a committee spokesman claimed the document was designed to prepare members for a hearing on the detention facility, Congressman Forbes remains unconvinced. “We are in the dark,” he said, adding that the document provides “the only list we really have.”
Even Democratic Congressman Glenn Nye, whose district includes the naval detention facility, said he opposed “the transfer of any Guantanamo prisoners to Virginia.”
“There is no precedent for holding maximum-security detainees of this kind in Virginia, nor does Virginia have the appropriate facilities available,” he told the Daily Press. However, he stopped short of endorsing the bill introduced by the three Republican Congressmen.
Clearly, no one wants the terrorism suspects in their backyard, and more Congressmen are expected to introduce their own bills before the Obama plan is unveiled. And Mr. Nye is correct is his assessment; there are no military jails in Virginia that offer the same security as Guantanamo.
But the odds of detainees being housed at Norfolk or Quantico are decidedly low. A military security official recently told In From the Cold that the most likely destination for the terror suspects is the Federal Disciplinary Barracks at Ft Leavenworth, Kansas. The official based his assessment on the experience of Leavenworth’s 705th Military Police Battalion in running detention facilities, both at home station and in Iraq.
He also noted that other military police and security forces units lack the training to handle high-risk detainees, like those being held at Guantanamo. However, some of those organizations could receive required instruction before the current facility is closed.
According to the official, Leavenworth could handle the detainees by shifting existing prisoners to other military and civilian prisons. Members of the Kansas Congressional delegation have already voiced their opposition to any terror suspects being held at Leavenworth.