COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Gov. Nikki Haley on Thursday criticized the federal government for keeping her in the dark about plans to potentially transfer Guantanamo detainees to South Carolina, telling a U.S. House panel that she has heard no details about what she says could be detrimental for her state.
“They’ve handled this very much on their own and have not included us in the process,” Haley, a second-term Republican, told a U.S. House Homeland Security subcommittee examining the implications of moving prisoners to certain communities.
Haley has been outspoken in her opposition to transferring the 80 remaining detainees from the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On Thursday, she told lawmakers that Defense Department officials surveyed the Naval brig 15 miles from Charleston but have said nothing about whether they still considering bringing prisoners there.
“We would welcome them talking to us,” Haley said, adding she has no answers for people wanting updates. “We have gotten no input whatsoever.”
Haley said some of her concerns about housing the detainees in South Carolina come from a marketing standpoint: She said she would have a hard time recruiting foreign investors with terrorist suspects at the brig. Knowing that dangerous individuals are nearby, Haley said, could also make travelers hesitant to visit South Carolina, thereby harming the state’s $19 billion tourism industry.
“As a mom, you don’t take your children anywhere near where you think there could be a threat,” Haley said.
The governor also referenced turmoil in the aftermath of the brutal slayings of nine members of a historic black church last summer, saying that the state is still recovering and shouldn’t have to deal with more hate or a potential terroristic threat.
“We know true hate, we know what fear it can bring,” Haley said. “We don’t need to see it again.”
Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-Louisiana, questioned Haley directly about the white man accused in the June 17 shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, asking why, if the state can detain Dylann Roof in its jails, why not detainees from Guantanamo? Haley responded that Roof’s detention differs from the others because of the potential for any site housing Guantanamo detainees to become a terrorist target in and of itself.
“You’re creating a whole new magnet for that,” Haley said.
Legislation introduced Monday maintains a ban on bringing prisoners from Guantanamo to the United States. The longstanding congressional prohibition has kept President Barack Obama from fulfilling a campaign pledge to close the facility.
Last year, Haley and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback wrote to Defense Secretary Ash Carter that they would not “be part of any illegal and ill-advised action by this Administration, especially when that action relates to importing terrorists into our states,” threatening to sue if necessary. On Thursday, Haley said she would support any fellow governor who spoke out on the issue.
“I don’t want it going into any state in the country,” Haley said. “We deserve answers as governors. We deserve answers as to what you’re trying to do with our states.”
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