State of the Union Address, January, 2015 – Obama: “Since I’ve been president, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of Gitmo in half. Now it’s time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It’s not who we are.”
As the President’s second and final term comes to a close, Obama looks to make good on his promise of closing down the infamous prison at Guantanamo Bay. Approximately 116 prisoners deemed too dangerous to be harbored in countries throughout the world will be relocated to prisons in mainland America. One possible location is Charleston, S.C.
Political debates regarding prisoner relocation have burned through Congress since August, when government officials created a list of areas in the United States that possess the capacity to hold Guantanamo prisoners, pending review from a Pentagon survey team. The naval base in Hanahan, a very close neighbor to Charleston, is one of the first locations on the list. However, locations in Kansas and Illinois are also under consideration.
Governor Nikki Haley responded to the possible relocation in a press conference quoted by The State saying, “We are absolutely drawing a line that we are not going to allow any terrorists to come into South Carolina.” Haley holds that, “We’re not going to allow that kind of threat. We’re not going to allow that kind of character to come in.” Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott have both expressed their concern on the issue as well as their opposition to relocating the Guantanamo residents to Charleston.
However, according to an article from the Washington Post published in August, the list of possible locations is narrowing quickly, as a top-security facility in Illinois is no longer an option. According to officials cited in the Washington Post article, “Thomson is no longer being considered, and the White House is again looking at other federal facilities.”
CisternYard News spoke to Dr. Douglas Friedman, Department Chair of the International Studies Department at the College, about the issue. According to Friedman, Guantanamo Bay was originally supposed to be a coaling base for U.S. naval ships. In 2001, however, after the 9/11 terror attacks, part of it was converted into a top-security facility for prisoners deemed too dangerous to host in the mainland.
So why close the prison? As years have past, the Cuban government has raised issues with the United States on holding prisoners in their country. “Using foreign territory as a prison is controversial,” Friedman explained, “especially when the host country has an objection.”
Could the naval facility in Hanahan safely hold all of the detainees? According to Friedman, there has yet to be an escape, so perhaps it is safe to assume that the facility is secure. However, according to an official statement issued by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to The State, “If detainees must be moved, they should go to a maximum-security location in a remote area. Charleston does not meet that criteria.”
Will the residents of Guantanamo be moved? Will they come to Charleston? As the President’s final term draws to a close, these questions remain unanswered.