Lawmakers Vow to Block Gitmo Inmates in State

Jan 24, 2009
In The News

WASHINGTON — Members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation vowed Friday to fight any effort to transfer Guantanamo Bay prisoners to the state.

They were reacting to renewed attention to a previously published list of potential sites for the detainees, which includes Fort Sill in southwestern Oklahoma. That list has taken on more urgency in light of President Barack Obama’s order earlier this week to shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

Three of the Oklahomans serve on armed services-related committees, positions they said they would use to try to block such a prisoner transfer.

"President Obama’s decision to shut down Guantanamo Bay could have a devastating impact on our national security and is simply unacceptable," said Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a veteran member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"My constituents in Oklahoma deserve to feel safe, and we will not feel safe with some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world — men who would kill thousands for an extremist ideology — on our soil. I will fight this decision, and Oklahomans will not be subject to this type of insecurity."

Democratic Rep. Dan Boren, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, also opposes transferring Guantanamo detainees to any location in Oklahoma.

"It is absolutely unacceptable to even consider relocating these terrorists to American soil, let alone Oklahoma," Boren said.

Republican Rep. John Sullivan said the listing of Fort Sill as a potential relocation facility represents a direct threat to the safety and security of Oklahoma and the nation.

Republican Rep. Mary Fallin, a new member of the House Armed Services Committee, said she would support legislation to prohibit Guantanamo detainees from being housed in the United States.

"If these terrorists are placed in the federal prison system, there is a very real possibility they would be moved through the Bureau of Prisons’ Federal Transfer Center right here in Oklahoma City," she said.

"Do we really want people like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the kingpin of the 9/11 attacks, cooling their heels a few hundred yards from our airport where some of their al-Qaida friends might try to rescue them?"

She recalled the tragedy of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, adding, "We frankly do not want our soil polluted by these terrorists."

Republican Rep. Frank Lucas said Obama’s poor choice has made the country less safe.

Republican Rep. Tom Cole said such a transfer would undermine the security of U.S. military posts.

Former President George W. Bush had expressed support for closing the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay at some point and transferring the detainees, some of whom have been held for years without charges.

Obama has ordered a suspension of trials for suspects at Guantanamo, a review of those cases and asked for a report on where the detainees should go. His order also calls for the center to be shut down within a year.

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