In a recent column in The Kansas City Star, Sen. Pat Roberts, Gov. Sam Brownback and, by implication, I were accused of objecting to the transferring of terrorist detainees currently housed at Guantánamo Bay to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., because we oppose having these dangerous men in our state. The column, by Mary Sanchez (Aug. 28), suggested our opposition to closing Guantánamo Bay and transferring terrorists from the facility is simply a case of asserting Not-in-My-Backyard. This is only partly right.
While we certainly object to these terrorists coming to Kansas, we just as strenuously object to moving them to South Carolina, Colorado, or anywhere else. They should stay right where they are. The detention facility at Guantánamo is the right place for them from both a security and legal perspective.
Created specifically to house the world’s most dangerous terrorists, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay is designed to keep both American personnel and the detainees safe and secure. No one has ever escaped from Guantánamo Bay. It is by far the most secure detention facility in the world.
In fact, each of us has traveled to the facility and seen first-hand the important work being accomplished there every day. From the cells to the courthouse, every aspect of the facility is carefully thought out to handle these hardened terrorists.
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The military tribunals currently underway at Guantánamo Bay create a clear legal process, as affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, for adjudicating the cases of these terrorists, when possible. Those efforts would be severely undercut by moving the detainees to the United States. Once these detainees hit U.S. soil, every progressive lawyer in America will file a habeas petition asserting these men have “all the rights of U.S. citizens” and seek to enforce them. Some of them will be “sprung” despite the fact that they are enemy combatants held properly under the Laws of War.
And we have to remember who these terrorists are. Former — and subsequently released — detainees include Mullah Raouf Khadim, who led a group of fighters loyal to the Islamic State. Another example is Abu Sufian bin Qumu, who was one of the leaders of the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012.
The ones left at Guantánamo Bay are even worse. They are not irrelevant old men, as so often purported in the media. They are key figures in a radical jihadist movement committed to the murder of Americans and our allies. Current detainees include men like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who masterminded the 9/11 bombings; Ridouan Isomuddin, who killed 200 people in the 2002 Bali bombings, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was a key aide to Osama bin Laden and plotted to attack a military base on Gibraltar.
If able to gain their freedom, there is no evidence that these and other detainees wouldn’t quickly return to the battlefield looking to do harm to our soldiers, our citizens and our way of life. Indeed, among the most recent releases — the Qatar 5, who were swapped for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — are already back in the terror game, despite the fact they remain in “detention” in Qatar. Do we want the same terror propagation occurring from our shores?
This is not about a Not-In-My-Backyard mentality; it is about keeping Americans, and the rest of the world, safe. We don’t want them in anyone’s backyard beyond the legal confines in which they now reside.
Mike Pompeo of Wichita is a Republican U.S. representative from the 4th District of Kansas.