Republicans ramp up effort to block Gitmo transfers to their states

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Republican state leaders and lawmakers are pushing back against the Pentagon's potential plans to relocate Guantanamo Bay detainees to prisons in their states.

"Simply put, we do not want them in our states," reads a letter from Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley sent Tuesday to Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

"Please know that we will take any action within our power to make sure no Guantanamo Bay detainees are transferred to South Carolina or Kansas."

On Wednesday, Brownback also announced that he will hold a town hall meeting next Thursday for citizens to air concerns about a possible transfer of detainees to a prison at Fort Leavenworth.

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It is just the latest in a series of efforts by Brownback to block any potential transfers to the state, as the Obama administration accelerates its efforts to close the Cuban detention facility.

"To even discuss bringing these terrorists to the United States is an insult to those who perished in the September 11 attacks, and those who served in America's war on terror," Brownback said in an audio statement Tuesday.

The state leaders have help from Republicans in Washington.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) has also vowed to fight any transfers to Kansas, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has started a petition against such transfers. Both senators co-authored an op-ed on Monday against them.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) has also said he is opposed to any transfers to Fort Leavenworth.

Their efforts have intensified as the Pentagon has begun an assessment on the costs and logistics of housing the detainees at military prisons in the U.S.

Their concerns range from potential security risks, to moral objections to threats to local tourism.

Pentagon teams have so far visited the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and are planning to visit a brig at a naval facility in South Carolina. Defense officials say other facilities are being looked at, although they have not identified those facilities.

The Pentagon hopes to send Congress a plan to close the facility sometime after lawmakers reconvene in September. Earlier this month, the defense officials said the plan was drafted but was being reviewed by other government agencies.

News of the assessment came after The Washington Post reported that a preferred federal prison in Illinois was off-limits, due to former Attorney General Eric Holder pledging to Congress that no detainees would go to that facility.

Congress has banned any detainee transfers to the U.S., but a provision in the Senate's version of the 2016 defense policy bill authored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the Armed Services Committee chairman, would lift those restrictions if the administration submits a plan on closing the facility to Congress that is approved.  

The provision — let alone the bill — is not yet law, but an acceptable Pentagon plan to closing Guantanamo could boost the chances it does become law. The White House has threatened to veto the defense policy bill in opposition to some of its provisions, but it's not certain it will do so.

Under current law, Carter is personally responsible for signing off on each detainee transfer to other countries and has reportedly come under increasing pressure from the White House to move faster.

Defense officials insist that closing the facility is Carter's goal as well but also say that he is being deliberate.

"The secretary would like to have this wrapped up as quickly as possible," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said Monday.

"This is not something the next president, Republican or Democrat, should have to inherit. That's the view of this secretary and this president, and he's trying to work as quickly as possible through a difficult interagency process dealing with very difficult decisions here, and he's going to be deliberate about it," he added.