Charleston is once again being considered as a possible replacement site to house inmates from the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
The U.S.-sponsored news service Voice of America first reported that a Defense Department team will visit the naval brig in Charleston this week as it studies alternative lockups should the American government close the Guantánamo Bay prison. The team visited the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas last week.
There are only 116 War on Terror detainees remaining at the detention center in Cuba. Current federal law explicitly prohibits bringing them to the states for any reason. But the Pentagon is concerned about spiraling costs ($397 million in 2014) to hold a small number of inmates at such an isolated site. President Obama has also pledged throughout his presidency to close the prison. A Pentagon spokesman told the Voice of America that the Defense Department hopes to introduce plans for Guantanamo’s closure when lawmakers return from their August recess.
South Carolina’s congressional delegation condemned the news. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who lives in the Charleston region, said he does not understand how the move makes the country safer. ““It is unbelievable that the president believes they need to assess whether the Naval Brig, which is right next to an elementary school and a residential neighborhood, as well as just a short drive from one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, is a better option for housing dangerous terrorists than Guantanamo Bay,” he told the Charleston Post & Courier on Friday.
The Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston is located at the Naval Weapons Station near Hanahan. Voice of America reports the Pentagon is contemplating a plan that would house about 50 detainees at Charleston.