Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus reaffirmed his opposition Thursday to transferring Guantanamo Bay prisoners to the Hardin Two Rivers Detention Center. Hardin officials have been jockeying for prisoners since opening the $27 million, 460-bed jail two years ago. But it remains empty, and this week the Hardin City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of housing up to 240 terror suspects.
But Baucus quickly made it clear that he isn’t going to let that happen and wrote the following letter to Greg Smith, director of the city’s Two Rivers Authority:
Dear Mr. Smith,
It is my understanding that Two Rivers Port Authority is exploring the possibility of relocating the Guantanamo detainees to the detention facility in Hardin, Montana. I write to express my opposition to your proposal. As Senator, it is my job to do what is right for Montana, and housing potential terrorists in Montana is not good for our state
First, if these detainees were to be relocated in the Hardin Facility, there would be significant community security issues. These detainees are considered some of the most dangerous people in the world.
As the possible contemporaries of terrorists who successfully organized the September 11,2001 attacks, killing thousands of Americans, the security considerations would be monumental and would require far more than a regular detention facility could provide. These people stop at nothing. Their primary goal in life, and death, is to destroy America.
Second, those accused but not yet charged of war crimes that are housed in a Montana facility would then fall within the jurisdiction of our Montana Federal District Courts, where resources already are precious. Montana’s three federal district court judges already have the fifth busiest trial docket in the nation. Taking these cases to court is no simple matter, taxing not only our Montana federal judges but also potentially additional defense attorneys and prosecutors. This is complicated litigation with significant pre-trial and trial time required. The Federal Courthouse in Billings is already stretched thin to meet the security needs of the existing criminal dockets. It would be physically impossible for the Billings Courthouse to meet the exorbitant security that these terrorists would require.
Additionally, my staff has consulted with the US Marshal Office for Montana, an entity who would ultimately be charged with providing security and transportation of the detainees. The security required not only to house these prisoners, but to transport them, is enormous and exceeds any capacity that Montana would have. There would need to be adequate air and ground law enforcement support available in the event of the unthinkable. The Marshall service is also required to provide these inmates with access to medical care if necessary. We should not compromise the safety of our community health care facilities and hospitals with such a security risk.
There are other facilities in the United States that are in a much better position to provide the adequate security, personnel and experience necessary to bring these people to justice. We should not jeopardize the safety of our Montana communities when there are more logical options for placement of these detainees.
While I understand your need to fill this empty facility and the financial drain it is causing to your community, it should not be done at the expense of doing what is right for Montana. My office will work in every way to help support your efforts to find occupants for the Hardin Detention facility that will also be compatible with the needs and safety of our Montana communities
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