U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., toured the Consolidated Naval Brig Charleston in Hanahan with a Pentagon team on Wednesday, as the Defense Department considers the site as a potential detention center for suspected terrorists and other detainees if the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba is closed.
Scott, along with most South Carolina lawmakers, is opposed to moving terrorists to any sites on American soil. He reiterated his opposition at a press conference shortly after meeting with the assessment team for about 45 minutes.
“Enemy combatants must stay in Guantanamo Bay,” Scott told reporters outside the Naval Weapons Station where the brig is located. “We must keep the law as it is today.”
There are only 116 War on Terror detainees remaining at Guantanamo. 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. About 50 of the detainees would be housed at Charleston, under an initial plan reported by the government-sponsored news service Voice of America last month.
President Obama has also pledged throughout his presidency to close the prison, concerned about potential human rights abuses that civil rights groups claim occurred there. The Pentagon is also looking at a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as another potential site.
Scott, area Congressman Mark Sanford, R-SC, and other members of the Congressional delegation wrote to the President last week to inform him that they are prepared to use all possible means to keep terrorists in Guantanamo.
The Charleston brig has housed a small number of terror-linked suspects in its history, although it never hosted enemy combatants who were captured overseas. Among its inmates include Jose Padilla, a New York native initially charged with plotting a radioactive “dirty bomb” attack. However, that was later dropped to criminal conspiracy charges. Another detainee was Ali al-Marri, a Kuwaiti student arrested in the United States and held for six years before he accepted a plea deal for a conspiracy charge.