Berkeley County Council is set to sign a resolution Monday opposing the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the transfer of detainees to the Navy brig in Hanahan.
County Supervisor Bill Peagler cited two reasons why he plans to introduce a resolution at the special council meeting: “The safety of the people of Berkeley County and the safety of the economy of Berkeley County.”
“Closing the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility and relocating the terrorists to the Consolidated Naval Brig Charleston in Berkeley County would place our people and our economy in great danger,” he said in a statement.
In November, the Republican-majority council, following the lead of some Upstate counties, unanimously approved a resolution disapproving the Refugee Resettlement Project, a federal program designed to relocate refugees from the Middle East.
The Obama administration is considering holding Gitmo detainees — suspected foreign fighters and terrorists — on American soil. One possible site here would be the medium-security brig in Hanahan, which would need a major upgrade to meet the maximum security requirements. Other possible sites are in Kansas and Colorado.
Department of Defense spokesman Cmdr. Gary Ross said Wednesday that no decision has been made on where Guantanamo detainees might be housed.
“The administration continues to work on the closure plans,” he said. “We do not have a timeline on when it will be submitted.”
That hasn’t prevented politicians from weighing in. Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford and state Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, all have spoken out against the proposal.
Peagler, Dorchester County Council Chairman David Chinnis and Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey also issued a joint statement in September against bringing the prisoners to Hanahan.
It’s unclear if Berkeley’s resolution would have any practical effect on future cooperation between the county and the Naval Consolidated Brig, should any detainees be moved there.
Council members reached on Wednesday said they expect the resolution to pass. Councilman Ken Gunn said he plans to support it, partly because of the cost to the county’s economy if detainees are moved here.
The resolution says housing terrorists “could do irreversible economic harm to Berkeley County and the entire Lowcountry region, potentially jeopardize over 31,000 SPAWAR Atlantic-related jobs and jeopardize a significant number of tourism-related jobs.”
The Hanahan brig has housed terrorist prisoners before, including Yaser Esam Hamdi, a U.S. citizen captured in Afghanistan; Jose Padilla, the “dirty bomber”; and Ali Saleh al-Marri, arrested in Illinois as an alleged al-Qaida association.
In 2007, Kuwaiti-born Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed was pulled over for speeding near the Charleston Naval Weapons Station when Berkeley County deputies found in his vehicle explosives and a laptop containing a video on how to make a bomb detonator. In 2009, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for providing support to terrorists.
Councilman Tommy Newell said President Barack Obama is “out of touch with the voice of America” to put South Carolinians at more risk.
About 90 detainees remain at detention facilities at Guantanamo, which was opened after the 9/11 attacks.
The council meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Berkeley County Administration Building, 1003 Highway 52, Moncks Corner.