Not In My Backyard: The GOPers Complicating Obama’s Gitmo Closure

Republicans have already settled on a five-letter messaging counter-attack to President Obama’s plan to shutter the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year: NIMBY. Within the past few days, John McCain and Karl Rove have helped reinforce the perception that Guantanamo detainees could not be moved to U.S. soil without a popular backlash.

As McCain told Fox News yesterday:

Where are you going to send [the detainees]? That decision I would have made before I’d announced the closure, because I don’t know of a state in America that wants them in their state. It’s going to — you think Yucca Mountain is a NIMBY problem? Wait till you see this one.

Never mind that McCain seemed to have made that decision in 2007 …

Yes. I would close Guantanamo Bay. And I would move those prisoners to Fort Leavenworth.

Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, is the military’s only maximum-security prison, making it a strong option for the Obama administration during deliberations on the future of Guantanamo’s 240 or so remaining occupants. But not if Sen. Sam Brownback has anything to say about it. He and three House Republicans from the state already have introduced bills in Congress that would bar the government from moving detainees from Cuba to Kansas.

But Brownback isn’t the only Republican taking a pre-emptive cue from Rove and offering bills to close off Obama’s possible Guantanamo alternatives.Lawmakers from South Carolina are promising a similar NIMBY fight over the Charleston Naval Brig, and California Republicans are kicking and screaming over transferring detainees to Camp Pendleton in their state.

Most of the Republicans’ “not in my backyard” talking points rely on ginning up fear that housing detainees in U.S. prisons would make the facilities into magnets for terrorist attacks from outside. GOP rhetoric on the issue also suggests that the most dangerous of Guantanamo’s current occupants, estimated to number between 50 and 60, would pose a significant escape risk if housed in the U.S. — although little to no data has been offered to support that claim.

In fact, the Bush administration had been negotiating the release as many as 100 Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, despite prison security levels there that allowed an estimated 23 “high-level” terrorists to go free in 2006.

If Yemeni jails can be under consideration, one wonders why Republicans are opposed to the very consideration of their local prison facilities. Let’s ask Brownback himself what he thinks the security standards should be for moving Guantanamo detainees …

On the subject of security, we can reasonably expect that Guantanamo Bay detainees should be secured as well as the criminals at the Federal Bureau of Prisons Administrative Maximum Facility in Colorado.

That jail, known in popular parlance as Supermax, already houses convicted terrorists Richard Reid, Zacarias Moussaoui, Ramzi Yousef, and Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber.

Maybe Brownback can have a chat with Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman, since they’re threatening to prevent Guantanamo detainees from being transferred to Supermax. After all, a spokesman for Colorado’s Democratic governor, Bill Ritter, told the AP that “there’s no reason to take a ‘not in my backyard’ approach.”

But let’s not hold our breath. It looks like Republicans are having too much fun planning their obstructionist tactics on Guantanamo.

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