Kansas sues Pentagon for Gitmo records

Kansas sues Pentagon for Gitmo records
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Kansas has sued the Defense Department for records related to the search for an alternative location to house Guantánamo Bay detainees, suggesting the information is being withheld for political reasons.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed the lawsuit Friday in federal court, saying the Pentagon has failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records on its site surveys of Kansas’s Fort Leavenworth and other locations.

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“Our concerns are heightened because the administration admits it has the records we requested and initially promised to produce them but now are inexplicably dragging their feet until after the November election,” Schmidt said in a written statement Friday. “We are seeking some court-ordered sunshine now to discourage mischief later in the final weeks before the president leaves office."

In an effort to fulfill a campaign promise from 2008, President Obama unveiled in February a plan to close the Guantánamo detention facility that relies on bringing some of the detainees stateside.

Administration officials have acknowledged that U.S. law currently prohibits them from transferring detainees to U.S. soil and that the best course for fulfilling the plan is to work with Congress.

But with the plan landing with a thud on Capitol Hill, Republicans continue to worry Obama will use an executive order to close the facility and bring detainees to the United States.

During the process of drafting the closure plan, one of the sites Pentagon teams examined to potentially send detainees was the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, much to the chagrin of Republican officials in the state.

In December, Schmidt’s office filed a FOIA request for “all documents that discuss or relate to any expenditure of federal funds, including travel or personnel costs, related to surveying potential transfer sites on the U.S. mainland,” according to the lawsuit.

Kansas wanted the information, the suit says, because U.S. law bans the use of funds to transfer detainees stateside or to construct or modify any facility in the United States.

The Pentagon told the attorney general’s office that it compiled the requested information, but that it needs “additional coordination” before being sent to the state, according to the suit.

Kansas was told the estimated completion date for the FOIA request is Nov. 15, according to the suit. 

“The defendant has not even given a firm date for making the document (which defendant has admitted is already compiled and exists) available to Kansas,” the suit says, “and has left open the option of substantially delaying its response, which would undermine the usefulness of the information Kansas seeks.”