‘We know true hate’: SC governor pleads against Gitmo detainee transfers to US

© Deborah Gembara
Guantanamo Bay detainees transferred to the US would invite violence, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley testified to a US House subcommittee Thursday, as President Obama’s promise to close the prison continues to lie at Congress’ feet.

“You could pay the state of South Carolina to host these terrorists, and we wouldn’t take them for any amount of money. There is no price,” said Republican Governor Haley in front of House Homeland Security subcommittee members on Thursday, according to C-SPAN.

“What company is going to invest in a state where they keep these heinous terrorists? They’re not going to. Who is going to come vacation in a state that is now known to house these terrorists?” she implored.

With just eight months left in office, Obama is trying to fulfill a campaign pledge to close the military prison before he leaves. He signed an executive order to that effect in 2009, although Congress has passed legislation to prevent the relocating of detainees to the US mainland.

Representative Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania), who chairs the House subcommittee, wants to keep the detainees in Guantanamo Bay prison.

“The American people do not want Gitmo terrorist detained in their communities, their neighborhoods or down the street from their children’s schools. Fortunately, Congress passed legislation that prohibits transferring Gitmo detainees to the homeland – and the president signed it,” said Rep. Perry. “However, he’s still moving forward with his legacy-driven agenda, which includes closing Guantanamo, despite the will of the people.”

Under a plan submitted to Congress in February, there are 80 detainees still held at the prison, and less than half are cleared for release, while 46 detainees are considered too dangerous. Among the latter is the alleged principal architect of the 9/11 terror attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, whom the CIA repeatedly tortured, waterboarding him 183 times.

The Obama administration is said to be considering 13 sites in the US, among them the Naval Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, which defense officials have examined, along with Fort Leavenworth of Kansas, where former Army private Chelsea Manning is held. Manning was convicted in 2013 for espionage for disclosing nearly three-quarters of a million classified and sensitive military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks.

Congressman Perry, however, argued in his opening remarks that housing terrorists on US soil will make them a magnet for protests, create legal avenues for detainees’ lawyers to explore for release from detention, and even make the facility a future terrorist target.

“Consider the propaganda value for ISIS if it successfully sprang a hardened terrorist on American soil. Anyone who thinks that this impossible is suffering from, as the 9/11 Commission puts it ‘a failure of imagination,’” said Rep. Perry. “With about 30 percent of released detainees having been confirmed or suspected of rejoining the fight, Gitmo detainees clearly remain dangerous and want to kill Americans.”

Perry added it could also become “an attractive target for lone wolves and other radical Islamic extremists may be inspired to perform jihad in the American homeland.”

During her testimony, Gov. Haley brought up June’s massacre in Charleston where suspected killer Dylann Roof allegedly killed nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church as they prayed with him.

"Last summer, the people of Charleston stared hate directly in the eye. We know true hate, and we know what fear it can bring,” Haley told the committee. “We don't need to see it again, nor do we wish it on any other state. Keep the terrorists where they are, where they belong.”

Ranking member Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) seized on the issue of suspected killer Roof, currently imprisoned in South Carolina, to counter the arguments made by Haley.

“And has that posed any security issues, to your knowledge, to the people of Charleston?” Thompson asked Haley, according to Voice of America.

“We won’t let it pose any security issues,” Haley responded. “But I can tell you right now it is a constant reminder.”

In his opening remarks, Thompson said Guantanamo Bay prison, which was opened under the Bush administration, had served its purpose and was “draining Department of Defense resources.”

“There is no evidence to suggest that housing Gitmo detainees will bring additional attacks attention or danger to the US, in fact America has along track records of incarcerating dangerous terrorists, some of them the most dangerous terrorists in the world…at US maximum security prisons such as the Supermax facility in Colorado,” said Thompson.

In fact the man [Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman] who tried to bring down the World Trade Center in 1993 and his co-conspirators have been serving multiple life sentences in the Supermax since 1997. No one…has ever escaped. The plan that Obama delivered to congress represents the most secure way to close the prison at Gitmo…Focus on the facts, not baseless fear…,” he added.