South Carolina’s attorney general joined his counterparts in two other states in a letter to the White House this week stating that any attempt to relocate detainees from Guantanamo Bay to their states would be “illegal action” and should be rejected.
In a letter to President Barak Obama, Attorney General Alan Wilson, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt noted that Obama’s own appointee U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch testified in Congress Tuesday that federal law does not allow transfer of detainees to the U.S. mainland.
The Pentagon announced in August that it would survey facilities as potential sites to transfer the remaining detainees, including the Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston near Hanahan, Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and a closed prison in Colorado. There are 111 War on Terror detainees remaining at the detention center in Cuba.
The most recent defense spending bill approved this month explicitly prohibits using federal funds to transfer the detainees to the U.S. mainland 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, concerned about potential human rights abuses that civil rights groups say have occurred at the military facility.
South Carolina lawmakers vehemently oppose having the detainees inside their borders. Wilson told South Carolina Radio Network on Thursday that the president lacks constitutional authority to move the detainees. He said if the administration does have the legal right to move the detainees, he want it explained to himself and the other state prosecutors. “That way we can assess whether or not we’re going to bring legal action. Which I am exploring all options should they decide to pursue that course of action,” Wilson said
The state attorneys general said the lack of transparency in any potential transfer plans have led to conflicting public statements about the federal government’s intentions. The attorneys general asked the administration for an explanation not later than December 4 of its intentions and an articulation of its claimed legal authority to transfer detainees to the mainland.