She's a Democrat and an Obama pal, so that might explain why Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was slow to join the fight. But last week, the governor added her name to the list of politicians angling to make sure Guantánamo detainees are not relocated to their states when the Obama administration shutters the detention center. Topping the list of possible new homes for Gitmo prisoners: Fort Leavenworth, located in Sebelius's state. "I'm happy to find a solution, but I would make a strong argument that this isn't it," she told NEWSWEEK. In a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, she said putting terrorist suspects there would undermine the base and pose a danger to the community.
It might undermine Obama instead. Leavenworth is one of at least three sites under examination by the Department of Defense as alternatives to Gitmo. NEWSWEEK has learned that Pentagon survey teams have visited Leavenworth and Camp Pendleton in San Diego since Obama was elected; the U.S. Naval brig in Charleston, S.C., is also on the list. In response, members of Congress representing the districts where the three facilities are located have each proposed NIMBY ("not in my backyard") bills that would prevent the government from dumping Gitmo suspects on them. "Not only is the brig within walking distance of sensitive military facilities ... but it is less than two miles away from surrounding civilian suburban neighborhoods," Republican Rep. Henry Brown of South Carolina said in a statement.
Taking a stand was surely a tougher call for Sebelius, who was briefly touted as a possible Obama running mate during the campaign. After the election, her name was mentioned in connection with a number of cabinet positions. In her letter to Gates, Sebelius worried that absorbing the prisoners might have a "negative economic impact on the community." In the short run, though, it could also create jobs: the medium-security brig at Leavenworth would require expansion and reinforcement, and it's likely that more policemen would need to be hired to patrol the area. If the economy keeps tanking, inheriting Gitmo detainees could come with a silver lining.