COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday that she will fight the possibility that detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be brought to the Naval Brig near Charleston.
The Defense Department has said it will evaluate the brig — in Hanahan — as a potential site to house detainees as part of the Obama administration’s push to close the Guantanamo prison. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is also being considered.
The Pentagon has said it will send a survey team to the military prison in South Carolina by month’s end. A similar assessment was conducted last Friday at Fort Leavenworth.
“They are wasting their time,” Haley said. “We are absolutely drawing a line. We are not going to allow South Carolina to be a magnet for terrorists.”
The Republican governor said moving the detainees to any state would violate a law passed by Congress, but she doesn’t trust that will prevent their transfer to South Carolina. President Barack Obama has “skirted the law” before, she said.
The closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center has been a top priority for Obama, who pledged on his first day in office to shut it down. But that effort has faced persistent hurdles, including staunch opposition from congressional Republicans and some Democrats.
About 52 of the 116 current detainees have been cleared for release. The remaining 64 have been deemed too dangerous.
Haley said she’s exploring all options but gave no specifics for how she’ll fight the possibility that any will come to South Carolina, other than to say, “I can get loud.”
She noted that South Carolina’s known as a strong military state.
“This is a slap in the face to the people of South Carolina who have sacrificed so much for their country,” Haley said.
On Wednesday, her predecessor, U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, wrote a letter to the Defense Department opposing the possibility. In it, he said he’s concerned about moving detainees from a remote corner of Cuba to a prison near a school, homes and a port.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina has expressed similar concerns and says there’s no study that shows that bringing the detainees to the United States will make the nation safer.
Both the House and Senate versions of the 2016 federal defense policy bill maintain prohibitions on transferring detainees to U.S. facilities. The Senate legislation, however, allows the restrictions to be lifted if the White House submits a plan to close the facility and it’s approved by Congress. House and Senate negotiators are working to reconcile the two bills.
The Navy brig has previously held an al-Qaida terrorism plotter, before he was convicted.
Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was held there for more than three years without charge as an enemy combatant before he was indicted in Miami. A jury found Padilla guilty in 2007. He’s serving a 21-year prison sentence.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.