May 14 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Thursday regarding the threats and legal questions posed by the potential transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States:
“Last night we learned that the supplemental war spending bill that the Senate will take up contains 80 million dollars to be used for closing Guantanamo. But the language of the bill acknowledges what Republicans have been saying for months: the administration has no plan to safely close this secure detention facility.
“And closing Guantanamo without a safe alternative would be irresponsible, dangerous, and unacceptable to the American people.
“Americans are worried that closing Guantanamo by an arbitrary deadline won’t keep them as safe as Guantanamo has, and they’re particularly worried about the administration’s reported plans to transfer some detainees to detention facilities on American soil.
“State and local officials in places like Louisiana, California, Virginia, and Missouri have been introducing resolutions to keep terrorists from coming to their communities. And one look at the experience that Alexandria, Virginia, had a few years ago during the trial of 9/11 conspirator Zacharias Moussaoui makes it easy to see why.
“Moussaoui was just one terrorist, and yet the effect his presence had on Alexandria was enough for the city’s current mayor to state emphatically that he’s absolutely opposed to relocating prisoners from Guantanamo there. ‘We've had this experience,’ he said recently, ‘Let someone else have it.’
“According to press accounts, housing Moussaoui turned parts of Alexandria into a virtual encampment. Every time he was moved to the courthouse, he was transferred in a heavily-armed convoy that shut down traffic and locked down the surrounding community. One security expert recently told the ‘Washington Post’ that housing detainees from Guantanamo would likely be even more complicated than it was for Moussaoui, with more locations for security personnel to cover and even more snipers.
“According to the same ‘Post’ article, one of Moussaoui’s lawyers said that bringing just two or three Guantanamo detainees to Alexandria would be a, quote, ‘major headache.’ And Alexandria’s Sheriff has warned that multiple detainees could, quote, ‘overwhelm the system.’
“Based on the Moussaoui experience, local business owners in Alexandria also think the arrival of detainees from Guantanamo could be a serious drag on commerce. But even more worrisome for residents is the concern that housing detainees in Alexandria could invite terrorist attacks.
“The problems that one terrorist caused for Alexandria would be duplicated in any city or town detainees from Guantanamo are sent to. Although the administration hasn't given us any details on which cities or towns these might be, we can imagine what they could look forward to, based on Alexandria’s experience with Moussaoui.
· Heavily armed agents patrolling local neighborhoods and rooftop snipers
· Streets locked down and access cut off to local businesses
· Identification checks and bomb-sniffing dogs checking cars
· Millions of dollars in costs and strained local resources
“Kentuckians don’t want to live under these conditions. I doubt any other American would either, especially if you consider that any community that becomes a home to these detainees could have to endure these conditions for years, given the possible length of terror trials.
“Some of the other locations that have been mentioned as possible destinations for the terrorists at Guantanamo include facilities in South Carolina and Kansas. One local official in South Carolina responded to the possibility by saying he didn’t have the police resources to deal with an influx of terrorists from Guantanamo. An official in Kansas said Guantanamo detainees would significantly tax his police resources.
“The administration claims that closing Guantanamo and transferring some detainees to U.S. soil would make the American people safer. But based on the experience of Alexandria, it’s easy to see why many Americans are skeptical. The administration has said that when it comes to Guantanamo, its highest priority is the safety of the American people. But if safety is our top concern, then the administration should rethink its plan to transfer terrorists to American communities.”