NAVAL WEAPONS STATION CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Once a storage depot for Cold War missiles, this military base is quiet these days, with miles of oak and pine, freshwater marshes, fishing piers, and a sleepy golf club.
But the serenity of the 16,000-acre base could change soon if, as nearby residents suspect, the Obama administration chooses suburban Charleston as the next lockup for some of the 240 or so detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Debate has simmered here for months, mostly out of the national spotlight, over whether the base should be the next lockup for the men accused in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks or swept up early in the war on terror.
''I'd like to see them out in the middle of the desert somewhere,'' said Mayor Michael Heitzler of Goose Creek, which, along with the town of Hanahan, abuts this sprawling, secluded base.
"But you don't win wars by pushing responsibility down the road. If it's our time to serve, it's our time to serve.''
On his third day in office, President Barack Obama fulfilled a campaign pledge by ordering that the prison camps at Guantánamo be emptied within a year. Attorney General Eric Holder is leading a task force to determine which detainees to transfer to the United States and prosecute for alleged crimes and which to send overseas.
Holder said the detainee dilemma was ''indisputably the most daunting challenge I face'' as the country's top law enforcer.
So far, only France has agreed to accept a single prisoner.
Holder and other administration officials say no decision has been made on where to move the Guantánamo detainees, but opposition is mounting overseas -- and in U.S. communities with military prisons from Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to San Diego.
''We have just enough resources to do traffic control,'' said Hanahan administrator John Cribb, whose bedroom community of 15,000 has a 32-member police force.
Some residents wonder whether moving suspected terrorists into the brig -- which currently houses military violators -- might make their community a target of al Qaeda cells or others who hate America.
Opponents have powerful allies. Former vice president Dick Cheney is campaigning to keep the men at Guantánamo. And Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, argued in a floor speech that the White House should keep ''some of the most dangerous men alive'' exactly where they are.
Hanahan property owners fear that the publicity of housing Guantánamo detainees at the 400-cell brig would scare off prospective homeowners and harm property values in this community of church-goers, where evening social life revolves around after-school sports.
''Imagine that young couple thinking about buying here,'' said Hanahan Police Lt. John Blackmon. ``It brings a little bit of anxiety that's gonna increase.''
Blackmon believes the military is equipped to prevent any terrorism suspects from busting out of the brig. But if the Obama administration chooses to move Guantánamo detainees here, ``Little ole Hanahan's gonna have a dot on the map.''
Town officials plan to lobby for federal funds for the police force.
Residents believe that the Charleston brig may top the list of prospective sites because it housed the only three enemy combatants the Bush administration held on U.S. soil -- including José Padilla, who was ultimately tried and convicted in Miami of supporting al Qaeda.