APF Conspiracy: The Hardin Scandal (Complete Archive)

  • Montana town pleads for Gitmo detainees as economic buoy




    |By David Edwards and Stephen Webster

    Published: May 21, 2009 |

    The town of Hardin, Montana, it would seem, holds the key to one of the day’s most perplexing political struggles: what to do with prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay military prison.

    Hardin, home to about 3,400 people, is in the state’s poorest county. One of the reasons for its economic condition is an unoccupied 460-bed prison facility that cost $27 million to construct. Greg Smith, the town’s economic development director, told MSNBC host Keith Olbermann on Wednesday night that they would love nothing more than to become America’s new Guantanamo Bay.

    However, Hardin’s plea is being blocked by Montana’s Democratic Senator, Max Baucus, who believes housing Gitmo prisoners in his state would pose a security risk to residents.

    “Many local taxpayers are livid at Hardin officials,” noted Time. “‘It’s been a complete fiasco since the beginning, and I don’t see how they built it without any solid contracts,’ says Mike Carpata, a forester with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as he shopped for reloading supplies at Lammer’s Trading Post, where locals and members of the Crow Tribe come to buy guns and ammo, beading supplies, or to sell for quick cash their saddles, buffalo robes and beaded-buckskin ceremonial costumes. But others remain supportive of the jail project — and the enterprise of the town’s administrators. The store’s fourth-generation owner, George Lammers, noting the drastic difference between subtropical, humid Gitmo and dry, wintry Hardin, says, ‘This place would be torture for some of those boys.’...cont'd @ RawStory.com

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  • MONTANA TOWN WANTS GITMO PRISONERS




    |AP | Last Updated: 3:40 PM, May 29, 2009|

    HARDIN, Mont. -- On Capitol Hill, politicians are dead-set against transferring some of the world's most feared terrorists from Guantanamo to prisons on U.S. soil. But at City Hall in this impoverished town on the Northern Plains, the attitude is: Bring 'em on.

    Hardin, a dusty town of 3,400 people so desperate that it built a $27 million jail a couple of years ago in the vain hope it would be a moneymaker, is offering to house hundreds of Gitmo detainees at the brand-new, never-used institution.

    The medium-security jail was conceived as a holding facility for drunks and other scofflaws, but town leaders said it could be fortified with a couple of guard towers and some more concertina wire. Apart from that, it is a turnkey operation, fully outfitted with everything from cafeteria trays and sweatsocks to 88 surveillance cameras.

    "Holy smokes - the amount of soldiers and attorneys it would bring here would be unbelievable,"...cont'd @ NYPOST.com

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  • My Hometown Should Be the Next Gitmo




    |Jordan Minnick, Age 18| PBS NewsHour Extra|

    Jordan Minnick of Hardin, Montana, explains her town's request to hold the terrorism suspects from the soon-to-be-closed military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Jordan thinks transfering the prisoners to Hardin would create jobs.

    Reports of President Obama’s intent to close Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was hot national news during his first days in office, so naturally a discussion started in my senior government class. With all of us well aware of the empty, 464-bed Two Rivers Detention Center in our town of Hardin, Montana, it didn’t take long for our witty minds to put two and two together. Gitmo detainees in our hometown…what a laugh! After all, it did sound crazy. Needless to say, crazy became reality within a few months.

    Two Rivers Authority, Hardin’s Economic Development branch, has let the sand of two years and $27 million run through their hour glass with the detention center still empty. In an effort to fill this jail, TRA has decided they want to bring terrorists to a town of 3,500, and to a facility next to the local grocery store no less; all in the name of patriotism, but mostly finances. While Hardin community members may prefer the sex offenders that TRA put in an RFP (request for proposal) for, suspected terrorists make just as good occupants.
    Why do we have an empty prison?

    Naturally, you're probably wondering how a small town ends up with a completely equipped, but vacant, prison facility. In a nutshell, the very beginnings of the concept for a new detention facility were fostered during the administration of then-Governor Judy Martz. When no one in the state rose to the occasion, the town of Hardin decided to step up, knowing they could fit the bill and benefit from the jobs that such a facility would provide.

    After undocumented promises were made and Two Rivers was more than halfway finished, then-Attorney General Mike McGrath blocked the new jail from housing out-of-state inmates. Another blow was delivered for the one-two knockout when current governor Brian Schweitzer said the space Hardin volunteered just wasn't needed for the state of Montana. TRA has since pursued litigation against the state, getting the green light to house any prisoners they want--even 240 enemy combatants from Guantanamo Bay.

    And now, two years after completion, the money bonds used to build Two Rivers are due. So there is even more pressure to fill beds. With support of the Hardin City Council and none from the Montana Congressional delegation, ‘Gitmo North’ has become a community affair and the state’s worst nightmare. Luckily for the locals, the matter is not under the state’s jurisdiction, but under the federal government’s jurisdiction. Prospects of facilities to house the prisoners from Cuba are currently being reviewed by the powers that be in Washington D.C.

    Hardin’s Economic Development Director claims that the new facility can be retrofitted within weeks for the Gitmo tenants....cont'd @ PBS.com NewsHour

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  • Hardin, Montana bids to be new Guantánamo Bay



    * Paul Harris in New York * guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 27 May 2009*

    Even the good times are pretty tough in the small town of Hardin, nestled deep in the "Big Sky" countryside of Montana. And these are not good times.

    So the city of 3,400 people has launched an unusual civic effort to bring jobs and prosperity back to its dusty streets: to become the Gitmo of the north.

    Barack Obama's plan to close Guantánamo Bay has sent politicians scrambling to promise that none of the prisoners will be rehoused on their patch. But not Hardin.

    Instead, the local council has launched an audacious bid to relocate Guantánamo detainees to the town, offering up a state-of-the-art prison facility that is currently sitting empty. Members voted unanimously to back the proposal and have been actively courting the media topromote the plans.

    Hardin's economic development director, Greg Smith, has even toured the empty prison with a camera crew from al-Jazeera. He is convinced the move would be good for Hardin and for the world.

    "This is an opportunity to both do something right for us and possibly also something that is right for the country," Smith told the Guardian.

    Certainly Hardin is a rather different environment than Cuba....cont'd @ The Guardian.co.uk

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  • The Montana Town That Wanted to Be Gitmo



    |By Pat Dawson / Hardin Sunday, May. 03, 2009|

    The coils of razor wire glint in the prairie sun like silver tumbleweeds piled against the tall chain-link perimeter fences of the forlorn Two Rivers Detention Facility in Hardin, Montana. Two years ago, the town (pop. 3,600) celebrated the completion of the state-of-the-art private jail capable of holding 464 inmates. Convinced that it would provide steady employment for over 100 locals, as well as accompanying economic benefits, the residents financed it through the sale of revenue bonds and turned it over to a for-profit prison-management corporation. On a 40-acre field at the edge of town where pronghorn antelope once grazed, they built it. But nobody came.

    Hardin tried to recover. It sued the state for supposed mixed messages of encouragement — even though Montana prohibits the incarceration of prisoners convicted out of state. But though Hardin won the case, Two Rivers stayed empty and the $27 million of bonds went into default a year ago.(See one man's struggle to adjust to life outside of prison.)

    And then, a new source of hope appeared. A campaign pledge from President Barack Obama to close the U.S. facility holding suspected terrorists at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, became an executive order....cont'd @ Time.com

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  • Smalltown USA's Guantanamo hopes



    |Al Jazeera English May 2009|

    Barack Obama has ordered the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be closed by early next year, and as the fate of the remaining 240 prisoners is decided some could be moved to the US for trial or continued detention.

    Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds travelled to the town of Hardin in the US state of Montana to find out why it has offered to take in some of the detainees.

    In depth
    They call eastern Montana "big sky country" - a vast sweep of prairie stretching from horizon to rugged horizon. Towering thunderclouds roiled the sky as we approached Hardin, population 3,400.

    It is a long way from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But if people here get their way, up to 100 detainees now held in Guantanamo will soon be living in a brand new prison on the edge of town.

    I toured the empty, never-used jail with Greg Smith, Hardin's economic development director.

    It is a windowless, low-slung tan concrete hulk surrounded by a double row of high mesh fence topped with gleaming coils of razor wire.

    Earlier this month, Hardin's town council voted unanimously to offer the US government a deal: Send Hardin the detainees that most foreign countries and other cities the US are afraid to take.

    "Why not us?" Smith asks. "They've got to go somewhere."

    He dismisses security concerns over housing inmates former Bush administration officials famously described as "the worst of the worst"...cont'd @ Al Jazeera English

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  • From concept to controversy: Timeline of Two Rivers Detention Facility



    BECKY SHAY Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Monday, May 11, 2009 |

    Here is a timeline of the troubled Two Rivers Detention Facility:

    May 18, 2004 - Hardin City Council creates Two Rivers Authority, a port authority that will serve as the city's economic-development arm.

    2004 - Big Sky Economic Development Association hosts a presentation from out-of-state investors who want to build a detention center in the region. Local, state and federal officials attend, including Paul Green representing the city of Hardin.

    State and federal officials say bed space is needed. Yellowstone County officials say the community would not support construction in Billings.

    Department of Commerce Regional Director Al Jones works with Hardin officials throughout the year to develop plans for construction in the town's industrial park.

    Aug. 3, 2004 - Hardin City Council endorses a plan for the detention center.

    October 2004 - Then-Department of Corrections Director Bill Slaughter meets with Hardin officials and says the state and U.S. Marshal's Service need beds.

    The first feasibility study conducted for Two River's Authority finds that local, state and federal agencies would support construction of a more-than-300-bed facility....cont'd @ The Billings Gazette

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  • Hardin prison drawing media attention from around globe



    BECKY SHAY Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Monday, May 11, 2009|

    People around the world have turned their attention to a detention facility in Hardin, but the small town's leaders still can't seem to catch the eye of the state of Montana.

    Two Rivers Detention Facility has been in media headlines from Chile to Norway and across the United States since its owners announced in late April that they were seeking to hold alleged terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay. The Hardin story was featured in Friday's issue of Time magazine.

    In January, President Barack Obama ordered that the center in Cuba be closed in a year and detainees held there sent to other countries or held in the United States. Montana's congressional delegation quickly and firmly rebuffed the idea of sending the accused enemy combatants to Montana.

    The Al-Jazeera News Network is sending correspondents to Hardin from its East Coast bureau this week. Al-Jazeera is a primary media outlet in the Middle East, home to many of the detainees in Guantanamo.

    Greg Smith, Two Rivers Authority executive director, has been told the story will probably be sent throughout Al -Jazeera's international network.

    Last week, Montana Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger endorsed a plan for more than 900 new prison beds and new sex-offender treatment center in Montana....cont'd @ The Billings Gazette

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  • Hardin jail tries for detainees from Gitmo




    BECKY SHAY Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Thursday, April 23, 2009 |

    Economic development officials in Hardin are looking at the soon-to-close detention facility in Guantanamo Bay as a possible fix for the jail sitting empty in Hardin.

    President Barack Obama signed an executive order Jan. 22 to close the Guantanamo detention facilities in Cuba where hundreds of enemy combatants have been held since 2002. The closure is to occur in a year, during which time remaining detainees must be returned to their home countries or detained elsewhere.

    Meanwhile, a 460-bed detention facility sits empty in Hardin. Built by Two Rivers Authority, the city's economic development arm, the facility was meant to bring economic development to Hardin by creating more than 100 high-paying jobs.

    While leaders continue to look for contracts to open the jail, which was completed in 2007, people in Hardin have approached Two Rivers executive director Greg Smith saying they have the answer: Get the contract to hold those prisoners from Guantanamo.

    Smith said he started looking into the process to contract - which still isn't clear - and has talked to other possible players, including federal agencies and staffs of the Montana congressional delegation.

    It's also not yet clear which agency would operate the facility that ends up holding the detainees.

    The Hardin City Council voted Tuesday to support Two Rivers' efforts.

    The council resolution states that the city "fully supports the efforts of the Two Rivers Authority to contact State and Federal officials for the purpose of inquiring into the possibility of housing Guantanamo detainees at the Two Rivers Authority in Hardin, Montana, and to determine whether the Two Rivers Detention Center could provide a safe and secure environment for housing said detainees."

    Nationally, the focus has been on Alexandria, Va. The town boasts a detention facility and is close to federal courts.

    That's nothing on Hardin, Smith said.

    Although federal court services are in Billings, Smith contends that the 45 miles of interstate is very likely easier to traverse than several blocks in a metropolitan area.

    Any city that takes the detainees is going to have issues to deal with, Smith said. But the federal government won't just dump detainees into an area without bolstering the system to provide them with the due process that is part of Obama's executive order.

    "There are 50 states, and some state is going to get this and they're all going to have issues and they're all going to need money," Smith said. "But we have something the others don't."

    Smith said Two Rivers Detention Center is a modern, empty facility. It is built so that with just minor conversions it can be upgraded from medium to higher security. Because the detainees would be the only prisoners in the facility, it would be easy to accommodate prisoners' dietary, language and religious requirements.

    If someone were to escape, Smith said, there aren't any huge buildings nearby to dodge into. Montana is pretty homogenous, so detainees, many of Middle Eastern descent, would not easily blend into crowds, he said.

    And bringing detainees to this area has happened before, Smith said. There were prisoner-of-war camps in Laurel during World War II. There were also internee camps in Missoula and near Powell, Wyo.

    Offering a turnkey facility is practically a patriotic duty, Smith said.

    "We're offering our president an option," he said. "If he wants it, we have it available. We want to step forward and say, 'Mr. President, we have a solution. How can we make it happen?' "

    Smith said there's really no reason for Hardin not to be considered.

    "We have to look at the obstacles to overcome and then overcome them," he said. "A lot of it is just getting people to think how it could work."...cont'd @ The Billings Gazette

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  • Hardin jail basks in national spotlight



    BECKY SHAY Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Saturday, April 25, 2009|

    The long halls of the Two Rivers Detention Facility may be empty and dark, but the building is aglow in the national spotlight.

    The executive director of Two Rivers Authority, which owns the facility in Hardin, is fielding calls and giving interviews to national media since word came out the organization would like to house Guantanamo detainees.

    After two days of working with local media, Two Rivers Executive Director Greg Smith started getting national calls Thursday. He talked to MSNBC in the afternoon and was on a Los Angeles radio talk show Thursday night. This morning he is doing a live interview with "Good Morning America."...cont'd @ The Billings Gazette

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  • Hardin jail tries for detainees from Gitmo



    BECKY SHAY Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Thursday, April 23, 2009|

    Economic development officials in Hardin are looking at the soon-to-close detention facility in Guantanamo Bay as a possible fix for the jail sitting empty in Hardin.

    President Barack Obama signed an executive order Jan. 22 to close the Guantanamo detention facilities in Cuba where hundreds of enemy combatants have been held since 2002. The closure is to occur in a year, during which time remaining detainees must be returned to their home countries or detained elsewhere.

    Meanwhile, a 460-bed detention facility sits empty in Hardin. Built by Two Rivers Authority, the city's economic development arm, the facility was meant to bring economic development to Hardin by creating more than 100 high-paying jobs.

    While leaders continue to look for contracts to open the jail, which was completed in 2007, people in Hardin have approached Two Rivers executive director Greg Smith saying they have the answer: Get the contract to hold those prisoners from Guantanamo.

    Smith said he started looking into the process to contract - which still isn't clear - and has talked to other possible players, including federal agencies and staffs of the Montana congressional delegation.

    It's also not yet clear which agency would operate the facility that ends up holding the detainees....cont'd @ The Billings Gazette

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  • Hardin hears about potential jail contract



    BECKY SHAY Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2008|

    HARDIN - Sex offenders tend to be pretty tame inmates, corrections officials said during a public meeting Wednesday night about bringing that inmate population to the jail here.

    Two Rivers Authority hosted the meeting to give information and take comment about its efforts to obtain a state contract to provide sex-offender treatment in the unopened jail it built in Hardin.

    The 2007 Legislature created and funded the treatment program, which will provide secure treatment for low-level male sexual offenders who have been convicted and are serving time in Deer Lodge. Two Rivers is the only entity seeking the contract.

    "Sex-offender treatment is not to make sex offenders feel better," said Tom Tobin, chief executive officer of Sharper Future, the California company that would provide the treatment program. "Its purpose is to do whatever we can do to stop these men who have committed a sexual offense from ever committing another one."
    Least-likely re-offenders

    Most sex-crime convicts, especially the low-level offenders who would come to Hardin, are not the "monsters" that are featured in high-profile media cases, Tobin told about 40 people at the meeting in the Hardin Middle School Auditorium.

    "The first flash that comes to mind, the first image, the first surge of emotion is not an accurate (depiction) of the real people," Tobin said....cont'd @ The Billings Gazette

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  • Hardin jail misses out on contract



    JENNIFER McKEE State Bureau | Posted: Monday, November 10, 2008|

    HELENA - A much-questioned Hardin jail is no longer in the running for a $2.7 million state correctional contract, a committee decided Monday.

    The empty 450-bed lockdown has never opened for business since it was completed late last year and has since defaulted on the revenue bonds sold to finance its construction.

    Members of the Department of Corrections committee that evaluated the jail said at a meeting that Two Rivers Authority, the economic development arm of the city of Hardin that built the jail, failed to answer several key questions about the facility, despite being given a second chance to do so.

    "Right now, we'd be contracting with a company in default," said Gary Willems, chief of Corrections' Contracts and Facility Management Bureau. "I think that might be a first, for the Department of Corrections, anyway."

    The panel concluded that Two Rivers failed to show how it would staff the jail with qualified workers, how it arrived at the per-day costs previously quoted to the state and failed to show that the jail is financially sound.

    The panel was particularly concerned that Two Rivers reported it would still be in default, even if it won the contract. The agency said it would need two state contracts to make its revenue bond payments.

    The decision means that the Butte-based Community, Counseling and Correctional Services Inc., or CCCS, will be awarded the contract for the 88-bed facility....cont'd @ The Billings Gazette

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