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Skelton warns putting Gitmo detainees in Leavenworth may upset Muslims
Skelton warns putting Gitmo detainees in Leavenworth may upset Muslims

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Aug. 10, 2009) — House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressing serious concerns regarding the consideration of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as a potential site for detainees transferred from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Skelton, a long-time advocate for Professional Military Education, raised concerns that a number of Muslim countries would stop sending students to the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth if Guantanamo detainees were transferred there. Skelton also noted that the United States Code precludes the proximate detention of American and foreign individuals, so any plan to transfer detainees to Fort Leavenworth would require additional spending on military construction and enhanced security to comply with the law.

Skelton’s letter to Secretary Gates is attached.

_____

August 10, 2009

The Honorable Robert M. Gates
Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Secretary Gates:

This letter follows attempts to reach Jeh Johnson, the Department’s General Counsel, and Michèle Flournoy, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, about several of my serious concerns regarding the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Thank you for the hard work that you and your senior team, along with those from the Department of Justice and elsewhere in our government, are undertaking to implement President Obama’s direction to close this detention facility by early next year. I agree with the President that the detention facility in Guantanamo, in the minds of many around the world, have tarnished the otherwise sterling reputation of our Armed Forces and our country. Guantanamo has also become a recruiting tool for those who would seek to harm us.

I realize the great challenges involved in identifying secure locations to which to transfer detainees currently held at Guantanamo. In that regard, I would like to make you aware of two strong concerns that I have regarding any consideration of transferring detainees to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

First, Fort Leavenworth is home not only to the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, but also to the Army’s Command and General Staff College. As a long-time proponent of professional military education, I want to ensure that Army officers attending this school have the best education possible. In my view, a critical component of that learning experience comes from the interaction that our students have with foreign military officers attending the school. Not only is this a critical way of enhancing the professional excellence of partner militaries, such interactions also serve our officers and this nation well by allowing our officers and their foreign counterparts to form long-term working relationships. I have heard repeatedly from field commanders on down how these relationships often make the difference in successful military operations overseas.

I have strong indications that, if detainees from Guantanamo were to be transferred to Fort Leavenworth, a number of Muslim countries would decline to continue to send their students to the Command and General Staff College. This would have a very negative outcome for our military officers, the school, and the health of our relationships with Muslim nations.

In addition, as you may be aware the United States Code precludes the proximate detention of American and foreign individuals. Although relevant case law interpreting the U.S. Code does not prohibit certain co-location under particular circumstances, plans to transfer Guantanamo detainees to Fort Leavenworth would require additional expenses for military construction and enhanced security so as not to run afoul of the law. I urge you to look carefully at those costs and security requirements in making your recommendations to the President.

Mr. Secretary, I would ask that you keep me apprised of the Department’s thinking about potential locations for the movement of detainees. I feel strongly that Fort Leavenworth is not an appropriate option. I look forward to working with you and the President in achieving his goal of shuttering the detention facility at Guantanamo, while continuing to keep America safe.

Very truly yours,
Ike Skelton, Chairman
House Armed Services Committee

cc:
The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General of the United States

Mr. Gregory B. Craig
White House Counsel

The Honorable Michèle Flournoy
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

The Honorable Jeh Charles Johnson
General Counsel of the Department of Defense

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at http://www.house.gov/skelton.

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