Legislation Drafted to Keep Gitmo Detainees out of Oklahoma

Tuesday, January 27th 2009, 10:35 pm
By: News 9

By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- President Obama said he'll close the prison camp in Cuba and now the question is, 'What do you do with the 250 terror suspects staying there?'

Oklahoma's congressional delegation thinks there's a good chance those prisoners could move from Guantanamo Bay, to Oklahoma. They're drafting legislation to make sure that doesn't happen. It is a bipartisan bill to keep those detainees out of Oklahoma.

The proposal by President Obama to close Guantanamo Bay was enough for members on both sides of the aisle to close ranks. Republican Congresswoman Mary Fallin was first to oppose the measure last week.

"I'm going to file separate legislation that they cannot come on U.S. soil and they cannot come onto the Federal Transfer Center right here in Oklahoma," Fallin said.

Fallin made good on her promise. Late Tuesday afternoon, she introduced this bill in congress, "To prohibit the use of funds to transfer enemy combatants from Guantanamo Bay also known as Gitmo to Oklahoma", or to build a center here to house them. Democratic Congressman Dam Boren who sits on the armed services committee with Fallin supports the legislation.

"There's all sorts of unintended consequences that I think the administration did not think of when they drew up this executive order," Boren said.

Boren worries that Oklahoma, which has already weathered a terrorist attack, could be at risk for another if Gitmo detainees are housed in Oklahoma.

"We obviously want security and safety for Oklahomans and Americans, and these people are bad people," Boren said.

Boren and Fallin met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who supports closing Gitmo, and didn't deny the possibility of moving the detainees to the U.S.

"We have identified a number of possible prisons here in the United States," Gates said. "I heard from members of Congress where all of those prisons are located; their enthusiasm is limited."

Fallin admits there were problems with Gitmo and believes the military tribunals should have taken place in a timely fashion. But she says bringing them to the U.S. is not the answer.

"To totally just suspend those things and to totally talk about shutting down Guantanamo without a viable plan in order for terrorists, is a great concern to me," Fallin said.

Fort Sill is one of the locations mentioned for possibly housing the detainees. Congressman Boren said that the Lawton army base was on a Department of Defense list of possible locations since 2003.

Congressmen Tom Cole, Frank Lucas and John Sullivan are all co-sponsors of Fallin's bill.

Read the entire text of the bill.