Friday, August 21, 2015

Pentagon looking for US locations to house Guantanamo detainees amid opposition at home

US defense chief Ash Carter said Thursday the Pentagon is examining domestic sites to transfer detainees currently held without any trials at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, amid unrelenting opposition from local officials and lawmakers.

Pentagon teams had already gone to a military prison at Leavenworth, Kansas and would soon travel to a naval brig at Charleston, South Carolina to analyze requirements, Carter said at a Pentagon briefing.

However, the Pentagon's suggestion that a portion of the 116 detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay may be transferred to an location inside South Carolina immediately drew criticism from the state governor Nikki Haley, who called it "a slap in the face to the people of S.C." to ever consider putting "terrorists in our backyard."

"Let's be very, very clear, this is a violation of federal law," said Haley in a statement. "Congress has never given him (US President Barack Obama) the support to move these terrorists into any of our states. We are absolutely drawing a line that we are not going to allow any terrorists to come into South Carolina."

Haley was not alone in opposing the Obama administration's closure plan of Guantanamo Bay, as a number of influential political figures voiced their opposition to the idea of housing those terror detainees in their home state.

Earlier, Senator Pat Roberts, a Republican from the state of Kansas, issued blistering remarks at the Obama administration to fight against the administration's efforts to house Guantanamo detainees inside his state.

"Congress has consistently stopped Obama by law from moving a single detainee to the US," said Roberts in a statement. "Not on my watch will any terrorist be placed in Kansas."

As his presidency is entering its final stage, Obama recently launched a renewed push to fulfil one of his promises of 2008 election campaign by closing Guantanamo Bay.

According to officials familiar with the Obama administration's plan, the White House initially sought to transfer some of the 116 Guantanamo detainees to either a federal prison in Thomson, Illinois, or the naval brig in South Carolina.

However, the Justice Department later said it could not support the use of the Thomson federal prison, since former US Attorney General Eric Holder pledged publicly in 2012 that his agency would not relocate Guantanamo detainees to Thomson prison when the Justice Department purchased the prison from the state of Illinois.

The challenges of relocating part of the prison population at Guantanamo Bay have long been plaguing the Obama administration. Under the current US law, the White House is banned from spending money to move detainees to US homeland.

Meanwhile, apart from the part of Guantanamo population to be brought to the United States, whose number still remains elusive for the administration, the White House was currently struggling to clear a backlog of another 52 detainees who would be transferred home or to a third country.

The majority of the 52 prisoners come from Yemen, but as violence and terrorist attacks continue to convulse Yemen, the Obama administration would have to locate other countries willing to accommodate those prisoners.

    Xinhua -

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