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Kansas AG Questions Feds' $26K in Spending on Gitmo Surveys

In this Jan. 23, 2015, file photo, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt talks to lawmakers at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. (Thad Allton/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP, File)
In this Jan. 23, 2015, file photo, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt talks to lawmakers at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. (Thad Allton/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP, File)

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas' attorney general released a document Thursday showing that the U.S. Department of Defense spent nearly $26,000 surveying potential sites last year for housing terror suspects now held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and questioned whether the spending is legal.

Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt said he's concerned that the department may have violated a prohibition from Congress against spending federal money to move Guantanamo Bay prisoners to U.S. soil. Fort Leavenworth, an Army base in northeast Kansas with a maximum-security military prison, was among the sites surveyed, along with locations in Colorado and South Carolina.

Schmidt's release of the document came a week after the GOP-led U.S. House approved legislation to also halt transfers from Guantanamo, even those to a foreign country. Strong congressional opposition has blocked Democratic President Barack Obama from fulfilling a 2008 campaign promise to close the prison in Cuba for terror suspects.

Kansas officials and members of the state's all-GOP congressional delegation have been vocal critics of moving the prisoners to Fort Leavenworth or elsewhere in the U.S. In a letter Thursday to Kansas' congressional delegation, Schmidt said he obtained the one-page report after filing a federal lawsuit in July seeking documents related to the Obama administration's plan to move detainees.

Schmidt said in his letter that the spending report "raises the concern that the Department of Defense violated the law."

Republican U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts of Kansas, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Cory Gardner of Colorado, went further, saying in a joint statement that the document confirms that the Obama administration "violated the law and the will of Congress in its relentless pursuit to fulfill a campaign promise."

The White House has argued that keeping Guantanamo open drains resources and encourages violent extremists.

Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Col. Valerie D. Henderson said Thursday that the agency has a policy of not commenting on ongoing lawsuits.

In a formal response to Schmidt's lawsuit filed in August, the department acknowledged that it told the attorney general it did not expect to release documents to his office until Nov. 15 — after the election. It denied the allegation that it was violating the Freedom of Information Act.

The report released by Schmidt's office covers spending on airfare and expenses for site surveys at Fort Leavenworth, a Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina, and a federal "supermax" prison in Florence, Colorado. The department spent more than $7,000 each on visits to Fort Leavenworth and Charleston, and about $11,000 on the survey in Colorado.

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Department of Defense Guantanamo Bay Headlines

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