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NEFA Brief (9 November 2009)

November 9, 2009


Founded in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, The NEFA Foundation is regarded as a leader in the fields of terrorism investigation, research, and analysis that sheds light on the activities of terrorist organizations and the individuals and entities providing support to them. NEFA is frequently cited by U.S. and other governments’ defense-focused agencies. NEFA is widely regarded by major news organizations, including ABC, NBC, CNN, and Fox News, as a leading provider of open source information regarding the threats posed by Islamic extremists. Writers for The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Toronto Star, along with other major and internationally-circulated newspapers, frequently quote materials published by NEFA. Representatives of The NEFA Foundation provide expert witness testimony in public hearings focused on terrorism held by the United States Congress and regularly testify at terrorism trials.

NEFA Brief (9 November 2009)
A Product Licensed for Publication on SCHotline by The NEFA Foundation

Prepared by NEFA Foundation Associate Researcher Michael S. Smith II

The Case Against the Transfer of Guantanamo Bay Detainees to Charleston Area Federal Facilities (Part I in a Series)

In light of the Obama administration’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO) detention facility, policy-makers will soon decide where to transfer suspected terrorists currently held there. The United States Navy Brig located in Charleston, South Carolina is said to be among the leading choices currently being considered by those policy-makers.

Critics of prospective plans to move GTMO detainees to Charleston say the Navy’s brig there was originally constructed for the purpose of housing military prisoners serving sentences of less than 10 years, not securing dozens or perhaps even hundreds of persons who took up arms against the U.S. or are suspected of having been involved in plots to attack America.

For these critics, and opponents like U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham who are concerned about the numerous occurrences of recently released GTMO detainees reappearing on the radar screens of U.S. and other government agencies as suicide bombers or high-profile actors affiliated with militant Islamic organizations, this presents a disturbing reality. On November 5, Sen. Graham stated that “the recidivism rate [for former detainees] is through the roof.”

This trend signifies to some opponents of the prospective transfer of GTMO detainees to Charleston a strong likelihood that many individuals still detained at GTMO possess substantial ties to terrorist organizations that seek to harm the West, America chiefly. These opponents also suggest it is likely some detainees who may not have been radicalized prior to their arrivals at GTMO have been, for years, detained alongside extremists who may be cultivating support for their agendas among other detainees.

These opponents point to the Islamic extremists in the United States who use America’s prison system as a means to both cultivate support for and recruit new members for radical organizations as a reality policy-makers should remain mindful of.

South Carolina’s junior-ranking senator in the U.S. Senate, Jim DeMint, has also been vocal in his opposition to any plans to move GTMO detainees to Charleston. Sen. DeMint on November 5 announced plans to propose an amendment to the FY 2010 Commerce, Justice, Science Federal appropriations bill to prevent terrorist detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from being transferred to U.S. soil. “While I strongly support efforts to prevent detainees from being tried in civilian courts, that step alone is not enough to protect Americans from terrorists being brought to their communities,” DeMint explained.

Other critics of this plan say the movement of those detainees to Charleston will elevate the importance of the city in terms of attracting the attention of extremist groups.

Those critics, many of them Federal and State-level officials elected to represent the interests of South Carolinians, say moving GTMO detainees to a thriving commercial seaport that is home to a wide range of Federal defense-oriented facilities will elevate Charleston’s profile in a negative way, one which could prove detrimental to the state’s security and business interests.

These officials believe it is imperative for policy-makers charged with selecting prospective destinations for GTMO detainees to ensure places with dense populations, especially locations home to high-profile military and commercial facilities, not be considered appropriate locations to relocate suspected terrorists.

In follow up to in-depth research and analysis conducted of the Goose Creek, South Carolina stop in 2007, and a subsequent report and updates published on this subject, The NEFA Foundation has analyzed recent arrest reports that suggest significant security issues already exist in the greater Charleston area (example provided below). Analysts at The NEFA Foundation regard the high-density, urban population and high-value assets such as its booming seaport — one of the busiest on the Eastern Seaboard with over one million containers and 2,000 ships coming through the port every year — a nearby Air Force base, the Naval Weapons Station, SPAWAR facilities, and the longest cable-stayed bridge in the Americas as chief reasons Charleston presents an unsuitable option for policy-makers who will decide where GTMO detainees will be moved. This prospective transfer itself, if made, would present an overwhelming detriment to the tourism and shipping businesses that represent much of Charleston’s economic lifeblood.

Additionally, in the wake of recent shooting incidents and failed terror plots targeting Fort Hood, Fort Dix, the North Carolina Quantico Marine Base Plot, and the Recruiting Post in Arkansas to name just a few, NEFA analysis underscores the fact that extremists invariably tend to focus their attention on such high-profile installations. Attacks on American military bases can be a powerful political statement and rallying cry against U.S. military involvement in conflicts in the Muslim world. In July 2006, Al-Qaida published a video of American Al-Qaida spokesman Adam Gadahn, during which the California-native explicitly encouraged those with burning grievances against U.S. military actions in Iraq “to go on a shooting spree at the Marines’ housing facilities at Camp Pendleton.” Directives such as this can serve as a persuasive impetus for these types of plots.

Further, there are numerous vital locations within an approximate 100 mile radius of the Charleston Navy Brig. One finds numerous densely populated cities and towns, military bases, and sites like The Savannah River Plant. Many of these cities, including Columbia, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Savannah, are centers for national security infrastructure and state government, home to high-profile college and university campuses, or are major tourist destinations. Not only are many of them historically significant, they are home to critical infrastructure, like the harbors of Charleston and Savannah. NEFA analysts forecast security at all of these places could be significantly jeopardized by the transfer of suspected terrorists — three 9/11 co-conspirators included among them — to Charleston.

Other concerns articulated by these analysts with regard to the prospective transfers of GTMO detainees to Charleston will be addressed in later parts of this series.

The NEFA Foundation recently obtained a police report detailing the July 4, 2008 arrest of a Moncks Corner, South Carolina man alleged to have been in unlawful possession of explosive devices, including:

– Approximately 2,000 loose rounds of bean bag and rubber 12 gauge ammunition.
– An additional 3,776 packaged 12 gauge bean bag and rubber ammunition.
– 20 cases of 40MM rubber pepper ball ammunition.
– Six 20 pound kegs of smokeless powder and ½ pound of OC pepper.
– Two crates which contained 50 contact detonators for M61 Grenades, in each crate.
– Approximately 40 canisters of MORTOR / GRENADE powder.

These materials cataloged in a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) bomb squad officer’s inventory of materials, discovered on July 4, 2008, were being stored inside a retail storage facility unit located in close proximity to an entrance leading into the Charleston Naval Weapons Station. Based on Federal laws and local statutes regulating the storage of such materials, it was alleged that those materials were stored illegally.

Names Redacted by The NEFA Foundation

On the above date [4 July 2008] and time the [Reporting Officer] responded to [Company Name Redacted] Storage in reference to information. The manager stated she filed notice of auction in reference to a storage unit.

The manager stated the suspect, [Redacted] had not paid the rental fee in several months.

She stated when she looked in the unit, she noticed boxes of shotgun shells. The manager asked me to take a look and direct her of the disposal options of such items.

I entered the storage unit. I noticed several boxes of empty shotgun shells. I also noticed several round drums, bearing a red “EXPLOSIVE” placard. I could see another box that contained cylinder cans, bearing labels identifying the contents as GRENADE / MORTOR PROPELLANT.

I noticed several boxes in the unit was (sic) bearing the initials “USCG.” I believed the initials to stand for UNITED STATES COAST GUARD.

I placed a call to the Charleston Office of the Coast Guard. I requested a representative to identify the items, and verify the contents were stolen.

I notified SGT. [Redacted].

I also called a Naval Investigator, [Redacted]. I advised [Aforementioned Naval Investigator] of the contents of the storage unit.

[Aforementioned Naval Investigator] contacted members of the SLED bomb squad.

Chief [Redacted] and [Redacted] of the Coast Guard arrived on scene. They relayed information and verified the items were not stolen.

I called the suspect and he also arrived at the location. The subject was mirandized and began interviews with the [Aforementioned Naval Investigator].

The suspect stated he was a contractor for the government. He stated his business would make and sell ammunition to various government entities.

The suspect stated his business started going into debt and he was unable to continue his operations. The suspect stated the warehouse he was using shut down and he had to move his inventory to the present location.

The suspect stated he knew he was in violation of several statutes at the time he placed the items in the unit. The suspect also stated his ATF License had expired due to him not having an approved location to keep the inventory.

[Redacted] and [Redacted] of SLED’s bomb squad arrived and began an estimated inventory of the storage unit.

The estimate was approximately 2,000 loose rounds of bean bag and rubber 12 gauge ammunition. There was an additional 3,776 packaged 12 gauge bean bag and rubber ammunition. There were 20 case (sic) of 40MM rubber pepper ball ammunition. There were six 20 pound kegs of smokeless powder and ½ pound of OC pepper. There were two crates which contained 50 contact detonators for M61 Grenades, in each crate. There were approximately 40 canisters of MORTOR / GRENADE powder.

[SLED bomb squad officer] contacted ATF.

ATF agents [Redacted] and [Redacted] arrived on the scene.

[ATF agent] interviewed the suspect.

[Both ATF agents] and [SLED bomb squad officer] took possession of the detonators and they were shipped to an unknown location.

The suspect was taken into custody and placed in the front seat of [Reporting Officer]’s vehicle. The suspect was transported to the detention center and booked on the charges of unlawful possession of explosive devices (E-585817) and improper storage of explosives (E-585818).

Once the suspect was booked, warrants were obtained, signed by Judge [Redacted] and served on the suspect.


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