Will Gitmo move to Michigan?

Government officials and citizen activists warned people at a town hall meeting in Rochester High School on Monday that transferring detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to a prison in Standish, Mich. could be dangerous.

They said it will put at risk not only the Standish community, but surrounding communities, the state of Michigan and the United States of America.

“Is this self-targeting worth it?” said Peter Leitner, president of Higgins Counterterrorism Research Center, who was one of the panelists.

Leitner and other panelists speaking said the risks of moving the detainees far outweigh the benefits, because the prison could be targeted by terrorists to try to free the prisoners, local governments could have to spend extra money for security, and civilians and public places could be targeted.

The meeting was organized by Michigan Coalition to Stop Gitmo North, a grassroots organization concerned over the issue, to inform citizens of the risks and ask for their support to help stop the government from moving Guantanamo, or Gitmo, detainees to Michigan.

Among the panelists, who were all in support of the Coalition’s cause, were state senator Mike Bishop, whose jurisdiction includes Rochester Hills, and Mike Bouchard, Oakland County sheriff.

Linda Brenner, an organizer, estimated the meeting was attended by about 450 people. Most of the attendees appeared to be in support of the Coalition’s beliefs.

The Michigan State Senate and the State House of Representatives recently passed resolutions stating they do not want the Guantanamo detainees moved to Michigan.

The U.S. Congress also passed a resolution stating it will not fund the closing of Gitmo and transferring of the detainees on U.S. soil until more information is available.

Megan Brown, a spokesperson for Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said that Granholm has concerns about the possible move, and until those concerns are met, she will not support it.

Mike Moran, city manager of Standish, said that if the detainees were moved to the maximum security prison, it would help out the city’s finances.

“It would help the community,” Moran said of the possibility that the detainees be moved to Standish.

Michigan Congress voted to close some prisons to save money on the budget, including the prison in Standish.

The closing was unrelated to the issue of Guantanamo Bay. Bouchard said closing the prisons to save money was a serious safety hazard, as prisoners paroled early killed people after they were released.

He said when the prison closes on Oct. 31, the city will lose $36,000 from water and sewage revenue, but holding Gitmo detainees in the Standish prison would get this back.

The panelists said that U.S. House Representative Bart Stupak, whose jurisdiction includes Standish, also supports the possible move.

But Stupak denied this in a statement e-mailed to The Oakland Post by his spokesperson Michelle Begnoche.

“My position on transferring Guantanamo detainees to Standish prison remains the same — I only support the move if it has the support of state and local officials,” Stupak said. “My first concern has always been the impact this proposal would have on the safety of the Standish community. No proposal has been made to move the detainees to Standish as there are several options and locations under consideration to house Guantanamo detainees.”

Standish was revealed to be on the list of possible places the detainees could be moved to if the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay is closed. The Gitmo facility was created after the Sept. 11 attacks, and has been controversial because American prison workers have been accused of torturing the terror suspect detainees during interrogations, and because some detainees have not been given due process of law.

Another possible place to move the detainees was revealed to be Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, but it was recently taken off the list.

“We hail Wednesday’s announcement as a victory for the people of Kansas, that the federal government is no longer considering Fort Leavenworth to house Gitmo detainees and urge that our elected officials demonstrate the same nonpartisan, resolute opposition to transferring Gitmo terror suspects to Michigan,” said the Coalition in a press release.

Kelly Kimball, a Standish resident, said it’s not only a local issue, but a state and national issue.

“These people have no right to step on U.S. soil,” said Dave Munson, a Standish resident, regarding the detainees.

“This is just a public relations gimmick trying to push an ill-conceived campaign promise,” Leitner said, referring to President Barack Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo Bay in one year after taking office.

“They say Gitmo’s an abomination. It’s not going to be any less abomination in the United States,” he said.

“Nobody’s going to want to live here” in Standish if the terror suspects are there, Leitner said.

Attendees were asked to contact government representatives to say that moving the Gitmo detainees to Michigan is a bad idea, email [email protected] to find out what they can do.