The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has nearly 1,000 active probes involving the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) inside the United States, dozens of law enforcement officials disclose in a letter to President Obama.
The officials are elected sheriffs in Colorado making a case against the administration’s plan to transfer terrorists held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to facilities in the state. Forty-one of Colorado’s elected sheriffs fired off the letter after two federal prisons in Florence (Supermax and the U.S. Penitentiary) along with a state complex near Canon City were reviewed by the Pentagon for the potential transfer. The plan is part of the president’s longtime promise to close the top-security compound at the U.S. Naval base in southeast Cuba.
The big question is what will the government do with the remaining captives, indisputably the world’s most dangerous terrorists? Just a few weeks ago Obama’s Defense Secretary said that around half of the remaining 112 prisoners at Gitmo must be locked up “indefinitely.” They include 9/11 masterminds Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi as well as Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the Al-Qaeda terrorist charged with orchestrating the 2000 attack on the Navy destroyer USS Cole.
The administration has considered relocating the captives to military facilities in the U.S., including Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas and the Navy Brig in Charleston, South Carolina. This has ignited outrage among officials in both states. Kansas Senator Pat Roberts was quick to say “not on my watch will any terrorists be placed in Kansas.” Roberts also co-authored a mainstream newspaper op-ed with South Carolina Senator Tim Scott vehemently rejecting the idea.
“The notion that Kansas, South Carolina or any other state would be an ideal home for terrorist detainees is preposterous,” the piece reads. “Transferring these prisoners to the mainland puts the well-being of states in danger, posing security risks to the public and wasting taxpayer dollars. The detention facilities at Guantanamo are doing a fantastic job of holding these terrorists.” The governors of both states—Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Sam Brownback of Kansas—have also vowed to take any action in their power to stop the transfers, including suing the federal government.
Now Colorado is striking back for making the Pentagon’s shortlist. In their letter to the White House, the state’s sheriffs say the ill-conceived plan to transfer dangerous foreign enemy combatants to civilian prisons puts their citizens at risk. “We recently learned that the FBI has almost 1,000 active ISIS investigations taking place inside the borders of the United States,” the letter states.
“We believe it would be dangerously naive not to recognize that a civilian prison with an untold number of enemy combatant inmates, located in our state, would provide a very tempting target for anyone wishing to either free these detainees or simply wishing to make a political statement.”
The cops cite repeated examples around the globe of coordinated, violent attacks against prisons holding radical Islamic militants. “We strongly protest actions that might well add our sate to the list of locations where such deadly attacks have occurred,” they write. Another big concern is transporting the terrorists across many counties from the facilities under consideration to the federal district courts or federal court of appeals in Denver, creating “many safety and security threats” to communities that must be addressed by local sheriffs.
“In the 1990s, we experienced the dangers and threats to our capital city, Denver, when two domestic terrorists, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, were tried there,” the letter to Obama says. “Security during that trial was unprecedented. We can only imagine the disruptions and dangers throughout our state if enemy combatants from Guantanamo Bay were routinely transported from Canon City to the heart of our capital city of Denver.”