Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Thursday that he has obtained documentation showing that the Obama administration illegally spent federal funds studying whether Guantanamo Bay prisoners could be relocated to Leavenworth.
In a letter to all six of the state’s senators and representatives, Schmidt said information he obtained through a federal court order shows that the Department of Defense spent about $7,700 in airfare and other travel expenses for a 2015 site survey considering the federal prison complex at Leavenworth as a potential destination for Guantanamo detainees.
The U.S. naval base at Guantanamo, on the southern edge of the island of Cuba, has been used as a site to detain suspected terrorists since 2002, shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.
President Obama has sought to close the prison since his election in 2008 because of scandals and international criticism alleging prisoner abuse and human rights violations.
But the effort to shut it down has been thwarted by opposition from Congress, which passed a defense funding bill banning the spending of federal money on efforts to relocate the prisoners to the U.S. mainland. Schmidt said the records he obtained showed that the Department of Defense violated that ban.
In addition to the travel expenses for surveying Leavenworth, the department acknowledged travel expenses to evaluate two other sites: Florence, Colo., $11,064, and Charleston, S.C., $7,158.
“Because we know from public reports the site surveys … occurred during 2015, it is clear these expenditures for the site surveys occurred during a period of time when congressional funding restrictions were in effect,” Schmidt wrote. “While the amount of money is relatively small – a total of $25,909.53 … the admission raises the concern that the Department of Defense violated the law by knowingly expending these funds while federal law enacted by Congress expressly prohibited the agency from doing so.”
In his letter, Schmidt said he’ll be seeking more documents. He urged the Kansas congressional delegation to support him in that effort.
Facing a near-certain override if he vetoed it, Obama signed the bill banning the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to U.S. soil.
But he criticized Congress for it in a speech in February, saying it hurts the country’s standing with allies in the war on terror and is an affront to U.S. values.
“As Americans, we pride ourselves on being a beacon to other nations, a model of the rule of law,” the president said. “But 15 years after 9/11 – 15 years after the worst terrorist attack in American history – we’re still having to defend the existence of a facility and a process where not a single verdict has been reached in those attacks – not a single one.”