A renewed push by the White House to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been bogged down by an internal disagreement over its most controversial provision — where to house detainees who will be brought to the United States for trial or indefinite detention, according to U.S. officials.
The White House had intended to provide lawmakers with a new road map for shuttering the facility — a top priority for President Obama’s remaining time in office — before lawmakers went on their August recess.
As part of the plan, the administration had considered sending some of the 116 detainees remaining at the prison to either a top-security prison in Illinois or a naval facility in Charleston, S.C.
But during a recent video teleconference among top administration officials, Scott Ferber, senior counsel to the deputy attorney general, said the Justice Department could not support the use of the federal prison in Thomson, Ill., according to the officials, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Ferber said the Justice Department had made a public commitment in 2012 when it purchased the facility from the state of Illinois that it would not relocate detainees to Thomson. Then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee: “We will not move people from Guantanamo, regardless of the state of the law, to Thomson. That is my pledge as attorney general.”
Holder’s commitment, made during sworn testimony, was apparently overlooked by officials when the most recent plan was drawn up.
Thomson is no longer being considered, and the White House is again looking at other federal facilities, officials said.
“Funding for Thomson prison was approved based on the understanding that no detainees from Guantanamo would be held there, and therefore, Thomson is not part of those discussions,” a senior administration official said.
The last-minute dispute is another sign of the many difficulties plaguing the White House’s attempt to make good on Obama’s promise to close the military detention facility before he leaves office in 2017.
So the first and obvious choice for relocation of Gitmo detainees is 100% out of the picture. That leaves the Naval Brig at Charleston, something that I don't think Gov. Nikki Haley, Charleston area Representative Mark "Appalachian Trail" Sanford, or Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott are going to actually support this in any way.
Gitmo detainees are the ultimate NIMBY problem, and putting them in a red state will probably cause packs of crazed Islamophobes to show up with rocket launchers and storm the place anyway, not to mention the endless screaming about "OBAMA'S TERROR ATTACK ON AMERICA" headlines during the 2016 election.
So unless another blue state steps up and does the job, this still isn't happening, no matter how much Gitmo needs to be closed.