Skelton voices concern over Guantanamo prisoners at Leavenworth

An advocate of closing the prison camps at Guantanamo wrote Defense Secretary Robert Gates Monday of his alarm that Fort Leavenworth might be used to confine some of the captives now held in Cuba, saying the choice might deter friendly Muslim countries from sending officers to train at the Army base in Kansas.

The Pentagon houses some of its most serious military offenders at the so-called Disciplinary Barracks at Leavenworth, a 512-prisoner capacity jail complex with a Death Row. It is frequently mentioned as a possible future lock-up site for some of the 229 detainees now held at the remote prison camps in southeast Cuba.

The 8.8-square-mile base is also site of one of the Army's premier training academies, the Command and General Staff College, which teaches leadership and other skills to promising American military officers as they rise through the ranks.

Senior officers of allied nations are also invited to attend some of the programs, which have addressed such far-flung themes as battling insurgencies to managing multinational military operations.

"I have strong indications that, if detainees from Guantánamo were to be transferred to Fort Leavenworth, a number of Muslim countries would decline to continue to send their students to the Command and General Staff College,'' Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote the secretary in a two-page letter he released on Monday.

"This would have a very negative outcome for our military officers, the school and the health of our relationships with Muslim nations,'' he said.

At the Pentagon, spokeswoman Cynthia Smith declined to respond.

"As a policy, we don't comment on correspondence between the secretary and members of Congress,'' Smith said. ``The secretary will provide his response directly to Congressman Skelton.''

Members of Congress have been maneuvering for months to keep Guantánamo detainees off of U.S. soil, and specifically out of their states, since soon after President Barack Obama took office and instructed his new administration to close the detention center by Jan. 22, 2010.

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