COLUMBIA, S.C. — A Pentagon team is coming to South Carolina this week to evaluate whether the Navy brig near Charleston could be suitable to house detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, officials said Tuesday.
Officials with the Department of Defense began notifying the state's delegation Tuesday that they would be in the state Wednesday, a congressional official with knowledge of the issue told The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to discuss the visit publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
A U.S. official also confirmed that the team was scheduled to be in Charleston on Wednesday. That official also was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center has been a top priority for President Barack Obama. The effort has faced hurdles, including staunch opposition among both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
About 52 of the 116 current detainees have been cleared for release. The remaining 64 have been deemed too dangerous.
A similar assessment has already been conducted at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Gov. Nikki Haley and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback wrote last week to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, threatening to sue the Obama administration if detainees are brought to either state.
Both the House and Senate versions of the 2016 federal defense policy bill maintain prohibitions on transferring detainees to U.S. facilities. The Senate legislation, however, allows the restrictions to be lifted if the White House submits a plan to close the facility and it's approved by Congress.
House and Senate negotiators are working to reconcile the two bills.
South Carolina's Navy brig has previously held a man accused in an al-Qaida terror plotter. Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was held there for more than three years without charge as an enemy combatant before he was indicted in Miami.
A jury found Padilla guilty in 2007. He's serving a 21-year prison sentence.
Baldor reported from Washington.