Pitkin Sheriff Joe DiSalvo declines to sign Guantanamo letter | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin Sheriff Joe DiSalvo declines to sign Guantanamo letter

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo doesn't always see eye-to-eye with his colleagues in other counties.

So it is not surprising, perhaps, that his opinion about Guantanamo Bay inmates possibly being transferred to prisons in Colorado differs from a majority of other sheriffs in the state.

Forty-one of 64 county sheriffs signed a letter dated Monday to President Barack Obama stating their "strong opposition" to transferring "dangerous foreign enemy combatants held" at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to prisons in Fremont County.

"We believe it would be dangerously naive 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," according to the letter, which was posted on Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith's Facebook page earlier this week.

"While civilian prisons were built to keep inmates in, they were not designated to deter or repel organized attacks from the outside," the letter states.

The sheriffs also are concerned about possibly transporting enemy combatants to federal court hearings in Denver, according to the letter.

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DiSalvo said Thursday that he didn't sign the letter because he didn't feel he had enough information about the subject. But he said he doesn't believe the underlying fears expressed in the letter are valid.

"An attack on Florence, Colorado, to free terrorists?" DiSalvo said. "I'm not sure that's a theory I would go for. Anything is possible, but I don't see that as a real possibility.

"I think it's very over-cautious."

Sheriffs from nearly every county surrounding Pitkin County, with the exception of Sheriff John Spezze of Chaffee County, signed the letter. That includes the sheriffs of Garfield, Eagle, Lake, Gunnison and Mesa counties.

Efforts to reach the sheriffs of the surrounding counties who signed the letter Thursday were unsuccessful.

The letter also was signed by Sheriff James Beicker of Fremont County, whose territory includes the two facilities under consideration, the Colorado State Penitentiary II and the Federal Correctional Complex known as Supermax.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Defense visited Fremont County's prisons in October to determine if Guantanamo inmates could be transferred there, according to The Denver Post. They also are looking at sites in South Carolina and Kansas for 53 inmates eligible for transfer, The Associated Press reported.

Congress passed a defense spending bill Tuesday — the day after the letter was sent — which expressly forbids the Guantanamo Bay inmates from being transferred to U.S. soil. However, the White House has hinted that Obama could use his executive authority to make the transfer, the AP reported.

Congress must approve any selection of a U.S. prison for the Guantanamo inmates, which lawmakers have said is unlikely, according to the AP.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

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