: Frank Morris of member station KCUR reports.
FRANK MORRIS: Leavenworth is the oldest city in Kansas. It's hilly, with lots of big trees and a fairly healthy, old downtown. But its name just says slammer.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LEAVENWORTH")
: (Singing) Leavenworth, you filthy rotten hole.
MORRIS: Inmates stare out from behind bars on just about every souvenir T-shirt. Eric Van Horn runs a shop downtown.
: And one of our other designs is called Prison City, USA - Prison Town, USA - excuse me. You scold them, we hold them.
MORRIS: There are four prisons here, hundreds and hundreds of inmates. And for some businessmen, like Phil Urban, the prospect of getting Guantanamo detainees here spells an influx of recession-proof federal jobs.
: If they're willing to build the facilities and create the jobs and it increases money flow into our community, build the facility, bring them on.
MORRIS: The U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth is, after all, the military's only maximum-security prison, the one where all the real nasties are held.
: The worst, the worst. But nobody is going to blow up a school in protest for their being here.
MORRIS: Charlie Gregor is retired Army Special Forces. Like most here, he's not worried about escapees. It's been more than 30 years since anyone broke out of the disciplinary barracks. But he is worried about bringing the war on terrorism to his front porch. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In fact, several people have escaped from Fort Leavenworth since 1991.]
: We are talking about a totally different class of prisoner.
MORRIS: One, he fears, would make Fort Leavenworth a rallying point for terrorists, same as Gitmo is now. The city, county, state of Kansas and its congressional delegation are all against the move. Gregor fears that it would paint a huge target on the 182-year-old fort.
: This is the softest and most vulnerable installation in the United States Army, as far as I'm concerned. Absolutely - and, by the way, that's the least of my concerns.
MORRIS: The worst of them involve places like Lawson Elementary, right outside the fort where Matt McCardy(ph) is picking up his first-grader.
: If I were a terrorist trying to make an impact, make a statement, you don't go after the base, you go after the easy target.
MORRIS: Many worry the mere presence of terrorism suspects would harm the Army's primary mission here: advanced education. The command and general staff college on post attracts officers from around the world. Graduates include five sitting heads of state - the president of Indonesia, for one - and lots of high- ranking military commanders, including the head of Pakistan's armed forces. U.S. Senator Sam Brownback says diplomats tell him that moving Gitmo detainees to Leavenworth could drive valued students away from the exchange program.
: The countries are Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia - key allies of the United States in the war on terrorism.
MORRIS: And there's a problem with international law. Sarah Mendelson researched closing Guantanamo for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She points out that prisons are for convicts, and that the detainees in question haven't even had a trial.
: There are pretrial detention facilities associated with various courts that have handled over 145 convictions of international terrorist cases since 2001.
MORRIS: For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris.
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