Unsubstantiated news reports suggesting Guantanamo detainees are headed to Charleston has prompted a war of press releases between S.C. gubernatorial hopefuls.
Fox News "broke" the story on Oct. 30, claiming that the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston is a possible destination for a handful of detainees awaiting military hearings. The brig has already housed two suspected terrorists, Jose Padilla and Ali al Marri.
The White House and the Department of Defense have said no decisions have been made.
Within hours, Congressman Gresham Barrett told the P&C, "We want to make sure that people understand that it is totally unacceptable". Barrett acknowledged that his source was Fox News. "Whether it's confirmed or it's a rumor, we want to make sure people understand exactly what our position is," he said.
Days later, Lt. Gov. André Bauer issued a statement calling on fellow candidate Henry McMaster to take legal action as the state's attorney general against the speculative transport of detainees.
Barrett took things a step further on Tuesday, issuing a press release along with a letter to President Barack Obama.
"Bringing known terrorists to South Carolina for a military trial endangers our state's citizens and makes them potential targets for some future terrorist attack," he wrote. He also called on his fellow candidates to sign on to the letter.
While agreeing to the letter, McMaster took a swipe at Bauer's "shock" in learning that Charleston was a potential detainee relocation site. "I can't understand why anyone would be surprised by the news," said McMaster. "Barack Obama announced his plans to close Guantanamo Bay during the presidential campaign."
In response to Barrett's letter, Democratic candidate Mullins McLeod had a request of his own. Writing a letter to Barrett, McLeod says he understands the concern people may have, but it is our duty to do whatever the president needs in the fight against global terrorism.
McLeod, clearly not buying into Barrett's concerns, stated: "With all due respect, I'd request that you take your letter and shove it."
Late last week, Barrett launched a protest website to collect voter names, zip codes, and e-mail addresses, pledging to send their names to the White House among those opposing the detainee transfers. And Bauer called on the state's top elected officials (including himself, of course) to meet and discuss the situation.