Politics & Government

Detainees in S.C.? White House undecided

Congressman Gresham Barrett answers questions during a GOP debate at the Newberry Opera House.
Congressman Gresham Barrett answers questions during a GOP debate at the Newberry Opera House.

WASHINGTON - The White House said Friday no decisions have been made about transferring detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the Navy brig in Charleston or other prisons on the U.S. mainland.

"Multiple options are being considered," said White House spokesman Ben LaBolt, adding, "No decisions have been made about where to hold military commission proceedings (trials) for detainees."

The White House issued its statement after U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, a candidate for the Republican nomination for S.C. governor, issued a news release asking Gov. Mark Sanford "to fight the Obama administration's decision to transfer up to 10 suspected terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to Charleston."

Barrett's news release continued:

"Earlier today, I learned that President Obama intends to transfer terrorists from the detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay to the Naval Brig in Charleston. This decision is deeply disturbing and jeopardizes the safety and security of countless families in South Carolina and across the country.

"Just moments ago, I spoke with Gov. Mark Sanford and urged him to do everything within his power, including pursuing legal action, to stop the transfer of detainees to South Carolina. I am committed to doing all that I can to make certain that no terrorist steps foot on our state soil."

Asked about Barrett's comments, Emily Tyner, his press spokesman, said, "Fox News reported on it and that is how we found out."

However, Fox made no mention of the transfer of any detainees. It said holding trials for detainees was "very much in play as an option" in Charleston, adding, earlier this year, Pentagon officials inspected the brig as a possible site.

Reaction to the reported transfer plan by S.C. politicians was quick and sharp.

The possibility is "deeply disturbing" because it invites unwanted security dangers, said Barrett of Westminster, in the Upstate.

"Whether it happens now or later, I'm doing everything I can to see that South Carolina is not the recipient for these terrorists," he said.

U.S. Rep. Henry Brown, R-Hanahan, whose district includes Charleston, called the idea "extremely unsettling," saying more thought needs to be given before moving the prisoners anywhere in the United States.

Sanford likewise opposes a prisoner transfer to the Lowcountry, spokesman Ben Fox said.

"While some of this may be premature, given that the White House has not contacted our office, we'd join in the belief that a permanent jail solution in Charleston is a mistake, and we'd resist it with others at the state and federal level," Fox said.