South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley delivers the State of the State in the House chambers at the South Carolina Statehouse, Jan. 20, 2016, in Columbia, S.C.
Photo by Sean Rayford/AP

Haley shows how not to make the case against Guantanamo transfers

The Obama administration has already reduced the Guantanamo Bay prison population to 80 individuals, but the White House isn’t done trying to reduce that total to zero. Under a recently released blueprint, the administration still intends to transfer some of the remaining detainees to U.S. facilities, including possibly the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, South Carolina.
The state’s Republican governor, Nikki Haley, was on Capitol Hill yesterday to make her case against any possible transfers, though her arguments were surprisingly weak. The Huffington Post reported:
It’s “the city we call the holy city,” “the number one vacation spot in the country,” “the friendliest state in the union,” “the most patriotic state in the Union,” Haley told members of the House Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee. “Why would anyone want to put terrorists in Charleston?”
The South Carolina governor then switched to a more somber note. “We looked hate in the eye last year,” she said, referring to the shooting by a white gunman, who killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston. “Our state is still recovering from that.”
The governor may not have fully thought this one through. Haley was referring, of course, to the brutal mass shooting at Mother Emanuel in Charleston last year, which she and others characterized as an act of domestic terrorism. And yet, the shooter was arrested and locked up – in a Charleston prison.
The terrorist’s imprisonment hasn’t affected the community’s tourism, its patriotism, or its friendliness.
Indeed, one of the strangest things about Haley’s argument is the extent to which it seems to be a case against having corrections facilities altogether. It’s “the city we call the holy city,” “the number one vacation spot in the country,” “the friendliest state in the union,” and “the most patriotic state in the Union.” So why would anyone want to put murderers, rapists, and child molesters in Charleston?
But the governor stuck to her unpersuasive arguments anyway, insisting that “tourism and economic development would suffer” if even some prisoners were transferred to South Carolina facilities. The problem, of course, is that this argument has already been proven false.
Charleston’s Post and Courier reported several years ago that in 2005 the Bush/Cheney administration made the Navy’s brig in South Carolina the only facility on American soil that housed people the administration deemed “enemy combatants.”
Yaser Hamdi, Jose Padilla, and Ali Saleh al-Marri were all locked up for a time in South Carolina, in a prison just outside Charleston.
Tourism and economic development remained unaffected. Local residents did not live in a constant state of fear. There were no additional strains on law enforcement or the criminal justice system.
If Haley believes it’s fine when President George W. Bush imprisons suspected terrorists in South Carolina, but it’s an unacceptable outrage when President Obama does the same thing, she’s going to need much better talking points.