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Pat Roberts Will Shut the Senate Down Over Closing GTMO

On a Republican National Committee conference call with reporters, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kans.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) voiced vociferous opposition to the idea of moving the Guantanamo detainee population to their states, as was recently leaked to The Associated Press. Roberts in particular reiterated a threat he made yesterday to home-state reporters to shut down the Senate to prevent the detainees from being housed at the maximum-security military prison at Fort Leavenworth. “Jim Inhofe has had a bill to basically stop the money for any transfer of detainees, i.e., terrorists, to the United States. The leadership has blocked that amendment to date but he’s going to offer it again and I think that’s certainly one step we can take. Obviously if we take away the money they can’t do it. Secondly, we have other resolutions we can pass… I’m not going to reveal all the cards we have to play.” Roberts added, in a response to CQ’s Josh Rogin, “You can always shut down the Senate by simply putting the Senate in a quorum call and objecting to any unanimous consent to go back to business.”

Interestingly, Roberts didn’t suggest that there was a danger of detainees escaping from the military prison at Ft. Leavenworth, presumably because those escapes are, to understate matters, rare. Instead he said moving detainees so close to “the intellectual center of the Army” posed security dangers to the surrounding community, although he never actually said that terrorists would flock to Ft. Leavenworth to fight the officers stationed there or try to stage a jailbreak. “The outside-in security is a big problem for us.” Roberts said. “You’d have protesters, you’d have all sorts of problems.” My experience is that the Army is not only unafraid of al-Qaeda, it’s able to handle a smattering of protesters without incident.

But these aren’t ordinary detainees, added Rogers. There are people “trained psychologically” to commit “mass murder” and convert others to their cause, and he suggested the guard population at Michigan’s Standish Maximum Correctional Facility are adequately prepared to handle the detainees. Asked about the desire from officials at the prison and the economically troubled town around it to take the detainees as an economic recovery measure, Rogers said, “If it were just confined to the Standish population that might be one thing. I’m talking about the national security of the United States.”

It’s unfortunate that Standish feels that given their economic situation that they would feel obligated to try to do something like this, and I understand why they would have that opinion. But it’s up to people like me and the Senator, who do have access — he’s on the intelligence committee, I’m on the intelligence committee — who understand the nature of who these people are and what they want to accomplish, to say, ‘I’m sorry for your economic downturn, there’s a lot better things we can do than bring terrorists to the United States and warehouse them.’ Not a good economic plan for anybody, really.

Roberts — who, incidentally, isn’t on the intelligence committee anymore — added that the Obama administration brought this opposition on itself for not “work[ing] with us. That’s all I’m asking.” He singled out Phil Carter, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for detainee policy, for “delay, delay, delay, delay” in notifying Congress about the administration’s plans. “Mr. Carter indicated that he would [work with us], but he indicated he would do it after the fact and that’s not good enough.”

Bonus: About 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Roberts admonished Rogin that “He’s the guy who cut off Daniel Pearl’s head on TV.” That almost surely isn’t true, even if KSM confessed to it.

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