Saturday, January 17, 2009

Terror Targets: New York, D.C....and Kansas?

Several months have passed since the media and political pundits began pondering the ramifications of Obama’s campaign promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and as politicians and media speculated on potential domestic sites for the terrorist prison here in the U.S., it became obvious that the Obama administration was considering the disturbing possibility of placing these dangerous terrorists in Ft. Leavenworth—just minutes from the Kansas City metro area. Fortunately for us, Kansas has two hardworking senators in Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback, who have already introduced legislation in the Senate to block any proposal to house the prisoners at Leavenworth. Additionally, Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, who now represents Leavenworth as part of Kansas’ 2nd district, has also been an outspoken opponent of the idea and has introduced house legislation to block it. Yet Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has remained silent on the matter for months (perhaps due to her friendship and endorsement of Obama and the desire not to impede his election chances). Well, now Sebelius has given an detached statement claiming to oppose the use of Leavenworth to house the prisoners, while reiterating her support for closing Guantanamo. Too little, too late.

The other day, Geraldo was discussing this issue on a panel in a segment of Sean Hannity’s new show on Fox News when one of the panel members who favored keeping Guantanamo open asked Geraldo where he thinks the prisoners should go. Geraldo shot back, “put them in Fort Leavenworth, no one lives there.” Brushing aside Geraldo’s arrogant and elitist reaction for a moment (I doubt he would be so quick to advocate the housing of terror suspects in his own backyard of New York City), Geraldo’s statement displays remarkable ignorance. For Geraldo, like most other media, entertainment, and political elites, Kansas City is just flyover country—the part of your travel where you nap, have that intoxicating in-flight beverage, or snack on airplane food while bouncing back and forth between the east and west coasts. It is doubtful Geraldo has even been to Kansas City, much less Leavenworth, or he would know Leavenworth has a population of 35,000 and is just minutes from one of the major population centers of the Midwest with a metro population of over 2 million.

The new administration’s potential decision to transfer terror suspects to the continental U.S. could be one of its first major missteps and prove to be incredibly unpopular. These suspects are undeniably dangerous---61 of the suspects who were released were recaptured on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. In Guantanamo Bay, the suspects are isolated from civilian populations and other prison populations, ensuring safety for all involved and lessening the risks posed by a prison escape.

If the prisoners are transferred to the U.S., there will be an obvious and eminent security risk for all civilian populations living in a 50 mile radius of the prison, as they would be directly in the path and possible target zone of escaped terrorists. Also, if the terror suspects are not housed in a separate facility completely, but are housed with other prisoners, the risk increases for radical Islam to spread among the general prison population, a disturbing trend already taking place in prisons throughout the country, most notably in California.

Lastly, the most grave and unmentioned threat would be the international impact and attention on any area of the country that houses the prisoners. The prison location and its nearest metropolitan area would immediately become a target for terrorism by Al Qaeda and splinter cells around the world.

These reasons alone should be enough to counter any move to transfer suspects to the continental U.S, but unfortunately, Kansas remains a possible target by the incoming administration, and rather than exert her heavy influence over the administration’s policy, Sebelius has chosen to put her ambitions first. “Change we can believe in” may become way more than we bargained for—a national security risk we cannot afford.

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