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AG Derek Schmidt: Final documents confirm Defense Department was concerned about legality of site surveys

Release Date: Mar 23, 2017

TOPEKA – (March 23, 2017) – The federal officials who conducted site surveys of Fort Leavenworth and other mainland sites for possible relocation of terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay were aware there were concerns about the legality of their activities, newly released documents reveal.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today released the sixth and final installment of records provided to him by the U.S. Department of Defense after a federal court ordered DoD to comply with Schmidt’s Freedom of Information Act request for records related to planning for detainee relocation.

“Without changes to the law and appropriations, the plan [to move detainees to the U.S. mainland] won’t work,” Alisa Stack, director of the Defense Department’s Office of Detainee Policy, wrote in an April 10, 2015 email. [See email 3, page 1915].

The 1,211 pages of documents released today brings to 2,481 the total number of pages released under court order in response to Schmidt’s FOIA request. All or almost all of the content of almost every page was redacted to be unreadable, so very little could be learned from them. But a few notable provisions remained legible.

“Not sure if you read the clips in the morning,” a Defense Department official wrote in a July 28, 2015, email. [email 3, page 1795]. “There was an article that asserts we can’t even send teams under current law. That is not our reading. In fact, one expert rebuts the assertion in the article. Inevitably, however, as soon as the teams and the surveys become public knowledge, we will see more of these charges.”

That prediction proved correct.

“[P]lease note that [name redacted] evidently was taken to task for site surveys, being told they violated NDAA language,” the same official wrote in an August 9, 2015, email. [email 7, page 2102]. “I was told our reading of the language did not preclude such surveys. Need ground truth before we send them out.”

In December 2015, Schmidt filed a FOIA request for documents related to the Obama Administration’s planning to relocate terrorist detainees from the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S. mainland, possibly to Fort Leavenworth. When the documents were not forthcoming, Schmidt filed a federal lawsuit in July 2016, and a federal magistrate judge ordered the Defense Department to turn over the documents. That production of documents has been ongoing since September, and the most recent documents are the last scheduled to be produced.

The administration of President Donald Trump has indicated it does not intend to move detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. mainland.

The documents released Friday to the attorney general and made public today, along with all documents previously released pursuant to court order, are available at http://bit.ly/2f7Ty8Z.

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