COLUMBIA — S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson joined two of his counterparts in urging President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team not to transfer terror detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States.
In a letter Tuesday, Wilson and fellow Republican Attorneys General Cynthia Coffman of Colorado and Derek Schmidt of Kansas asked Trump to intervene on any relocation plan of Gitmo prisoners to sites in their states as a matter of "unparalleled concern."
"We would be derelict to accept conclusory press reports and assume he will leave office with Guantanamo operational," the letter said, referencing President Barack Obama.
"There remains a very real possibility the president may choose to push beyond his executive authority and move these terrorists to our country."
The U.S. Department of Defense studied the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig at the Charleston Naval Weapons Station in Hanahan, a military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and the Supermax prison in Colorado as options to house detainees. No decision has been made by the Pentagon.
Obama issued an executive order two days after entering office in 2009 to move toward closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Earlier this year he submitted a plan to Congress that was sparse on details and did not include numbers of how many would relocate to the United States or where.
"We remain committed to exercising all legal options available to us to stop any effort to transfer detainees to American soil," the letter said.
State Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, served as Trump's state director and showed him the Brig shortly before the February primary. Trump held a press conference and promised not to bring any detainees to the area.
"We want to keep it open, and that's the way I feel," Trump said about the Guantanamo Bay detention center. "I don't want people coming into this area."
S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley testified before a House Homeland Security subcommittee in April on the repercussions to the safety and economic stability of Charleston should detainees be relocated to Hanahan.
"You send a chill factor into a state that you can’t put a cost on, that you can’t pin a reason on, that you can’t give a reason for," Haley told the panel. "I know we have the best military in the world. My military will do whatever it takes to protect the people of South Carolina.”
Members of the South Carolina congressional delegation sounded off against any potential transfers from Guantanamo, including U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan.
"We believe the administration has likely accepted the reality that closing Gitmo would legally be a bridge too far due to congressional restrictions," said Allen Klump, Duncan’s deputy chief of staff. "Our biggest priority right now is to ensure that those restrictions are renewed before the end of the year."
In September, the U.S. House voted 224-174 in favor of preventing the transfer of any Guantanamo Bay terror detainees until the pending fiscal 2017 defense budget gets passed or Obama leaves office.
The move and others have hamstrung Obama from fulfilling a long-standing campaign goal of his.
"What is also true is we have greatly reduced the population," a frustrated Obama said in a Monday press conference. "You now have significantly less than 100 people there. There are some additional transfers that may be taking place over the next two months."
Currently, 60 detainees remain housed at Guantanamo Bay.
Emma Dumain contributed to this report from Washington.