Gov. Nikki Haley told members of Congress Thursday that she has not heard any updates from the Pentagon or White House on plans to possibly close a terror detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and relocate terror detainees to the Charleston area.
The Naval Consolidated Brig in Hanahan was among a handful of sites surveyed last year to possibly house detainees.
“The President claims that Guantanamo Bay serves as propaganda and as a recruitment tool for terrorists,” Haley told a House Homeland Security Committee. “Well, of course it does… and so too certainly would a similar facility in Charleston, South Carolina.”
Two Democratic congressmen on the panel pressed the governor about whether a detention facility outside Charleston would truly be unsafe. They noted at least three American residents accused of terror plots have been housed at the naval brig in the past.
“In 2002, a suspected terrorist was transferred… into the naval brig in Charleston, South Carolina. The same location being looked at today for some of the transfers,” US Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La, asked. “Did his presence cause concern?”
US Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-MS, also drew the “terrorist” comparison to accused Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof, who is currently housed at a Charleston County facility. The comparison angered South Carolina Republican US Rep. Jeff Duncan, who said “global terrorist organizations” have “a completely different mindset than individuals who are deranged and commit heinous crimes in this country.”
Haley, who was not yet governor by the time those prisoners were transferred elsewhere, argued the Guantanamo detainees were “a different level.” She also insisted she is not worried so much about whether military prison officials could protect residents, but of the impact on tourism or new industries coming to Charleston.
“The issue is: why do you want to bring these detainees that have done these types of terrorist acts onto American soil, when you don’t have to?” the governor said.
President Obama has pledged to close the Guantanamo prison since before election in 2008. Knowing this, Congress has repeatedly passed legislation preventing the detainees from being brought to U.S. soil. The White House has sought for a way around the limitation, however. The President released a plan in February stating 13 American sites were under consideration. The Defense Department has not publicly acknowledged that Charleston is among those sites, but has notified state leaders of survey teams visiting the brig.