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Pentagon proposal outlines plans to close Guantanamo Bay detention facility

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By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published Feb. 25, 2016

The Naval Consolidated Brig in Hanahan is one of 13 potential sites that could house detainees transferred from the controversial U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

President Barack Obama called again on Tuesday for the closure of the facility at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon submitted a 21-page report to Congress that outlines a plan (.pdf) for closure.

The report does not list the 13 U.S. facilities under consideration for the transfer, but politicians have confirmed that the Charleston site, as well as others in Kansas and Colorado, are on the list.

Obama has been pushing for the closure of the U.S. prison in Cuba since before his election, saying it costs taxpayers millions of dollars to operate every year and exacerbates anti-U.S. feelings. The president faces steep opposition to getting congressional approval.

“Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values. It undermines our standing in the world. It is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of rule of law,” Obama said.

Many S.C. lawmakers are against the transfer and have vowed to block it. Gov. Nikki Haley has said she will fight any efforts to transfer terrorists into the state.

"President Obama is ignoring the dangerous reality that the terrorist threat to our nation is growing every day and doubling down on closing Guantanamo Bay. But we have made our stance very clear: we will fight any attempt to bring terrorists into our states. This is no time to send terrorists back to the battlefield," Haley said in a statement on Facebook.

The Navy brig, located on Naval Weapons Station Charleston, a division of Joint Base Charleston, opened in 1990 as a medium-security prison for military prisoners serving 10 years or less. It has 400 cells.

Republican Tim Scott, South Carolina’s junior U.S. senator, has said that upfitting the Hanahan prison to handle the detainees would be too expensive and risky since it sits “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.”

The Obama administration has been slowly decreasing the Guantanamo Bay prison’s population by transferring detainees to other countries — mostly in South America and the Middle East — after reaching agreements. The Pentagon document said 91 detainees from around the world remain at the prison.

If it closes, 30 to 60 detainees who have been deemed too dangerous for release to other countries will be transferred to a U.S. facility.

The Cuba facility was set up by the George W. Bush administration to detain suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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