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This is an open letter to the president of the United States and residents of Colorado from the County Sheriffs of Colorado.
Dear Mr. President:
We, the undersigned sheriffs from the State of Colorado, write in strong opposition to your proposed actions to transfer dangerous foreign enemy combatants held at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, military detention facility to civilian prisons in our state.
As the top law enforcement officials in our counties, elected by our citizens and charged with maintaining public safety and security in our respective counties, we are concerned that utilizing current civilian prisons in our state would significantly—and unnecessarily—endanger our citizens.
The prisons being reviewed are all high security prisons, indicating that officials responsible for the detainment of these individuals believe that the prisoners represent a significant security threat to the citizens of our state. We do not question the ability of Bureau of Prisons to detain these prisoners, but we recognize that there is a more significant public safety concern—the danger posed by sympathizers who would mount an attack on these facilities or commit other acts of terror in our state to draw further attention to their causes.
We recently learned that the FBI has almost 1,000 active ISIS investigations taking place inside the borders of the United States. We believe it would be dangerously naïve not to recognize that a civilian prison with an untold number of enemy combatant inmates located in our state would provide a very tempting target for anyone wishing to either free these detainees or simply wishing to make a political statement.
While civilian prisons were built to keep inmates in, they were not designed to deter or repel organized attacks from the outside.
As sheriffs, we are tremendously concerned that our communities can and will be endangered if civilian prisons inside our state are utilized to hold enemy combatants from Guantanamo Bay. Recent history has shown us repeated examples around the globe of coordinated, violent attacks against prisons holding radical Islamic militants. We strongly protest actions that might well add our state to the list of locations where such deadly attacks have occurred.
The locations that the Department of Defense recently scouted for proposed transfer of these detainees are in close proximity to densely populated areas of Pueblo and Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs is home to the U.S. Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, Buckley Air Force Base and Fort Carson. Pueblo is home to the U.S. Army’s Chemical Weapons Depot.
Further adding to our statewide concern is the reality that any detainees housed in our state will likely be accessing the federal court system. That will require transporting them to the federal district courts or federal court of appeals, located in Denver. The transportation of these detainees from Fremont County to the Denver metropolitan area will cross many counties and will create many safety and security threats to our communities that must be addressed by Colorado sheriffs.
In the 1990s, we experienced the dangers and threats to our capital city, Denver, when two domestic terrorists, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, were tried there. Security during that trial was unprecedented. We can only imagine the disruptions and dangers throughout our state if enemy combatants from Guantanamo Bay were routinely transported from Canon City to the heart of our capital city of Denver.
In Colorado, county sheriffs are responsible for enforcement of criminal law and keeping the peace throughout the state, not a state police agency. When individual sheriff’s offices are overwhelmed, we draw from our fellow sheriffs for assistance through mutual aid requests.
Therefore, this matter concerns and affects each and every sheriff across the state.
Sheriff James Beicker, Fremont County; Sheriff Anthony Mazzola, Rio Blanco County; Sheriff Bill Elder, El Paso County; Sheriff Brett Powell, Logan County; Sheriff Brett Schroetlin, Grand County; Sheriff Bruce Hartman, Gilpin County; and Sheriff Chad Day, Yuma County.