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Republicans critical of Obama, Durbin, Quinn Illinois Gitmo

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WASHINGTON -- President Obama ordered the federal government Tuesday to buy the Thomson Correctional Center in northwest Illinois to house Guantanano detainees as the administration revealed that military trials would be conducted at the prison.

Meanwhile, critics of Obama's plan to move the suspected terrorists now at the military prison in Cuba to Thomson -- 150 miles west of Chicago -- included all seven Republican members of the Illinois congressional delegation: Peter Roskam, John Shimkus, Mark Kirk, Judy Biggert, Don Manzullo, Aaron Schock and Tim Johnson together in a rare joint press conference at the Capitol. The GOP Senate and House leaders, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), as well as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), also objected to the transfer.

The Obama order to buy the nearly vacant Thomson facility comes as the president has struggled to close Guantanamo, a central campaign pledge. Abuses at Guantanamo that some called torture -- and the detention of suspected terrorists without charges -- gave the U.S. a black eye and provided al-Qaida with a recruiting tool.

On his first day in office, Obama signed an executive order pledging to shut the prison by Jan. 22, 2010, a deadline Obama conceded will not be met because of the unforeseen complexities in dealing with the disposition of suspected terrorists.

The administration says its military commission court -- now at Guantanamo -- will be moved to Thomson; it's not known how many trials will end up being conducted there. A military trial is not an open proceeding; no family or friends would be allowed in the courtroom, only legal and law enforcement officials and international observers, such as the Red Cross.

There are about 210 detainees at Guantanamo. Some have been or will be transferred to other countries. Five will face federal trial in New York City, with others to be sent to courtrooms in other parts of the U.S. The remaining detainees will be transferred to Thomson.

The White House has refused to state any number. Sen Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has said about 100; White House briefers told the Illinois congressional delegation between 50 and 100. Those coming to Thomson fall into two categories: those awaiting military trials and those who, for now, will be detained without any trial.

Obama picked Thomson in his adopted home state in part because Gov Quinn and Durbin championed the plan, Thomson wanted it and there was no political roadblock in the Democratic-run state that would block the sale. Durbin and Quinn promoted Thomson it as a jobs-creation program in a part of the state with a high unemployment rate. Quinn and Durbin were at the White House on Tuesday afternoon for briefings on the acquisition.

Earlier Tuesday, Quinn was sent a letter pledging federal support to work with state officials "to identify and mitigate" any risks in connection with the transfer of the Guantanamo detainees to Illinois. The letter to Quinn was unusual in that it was signed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and National Intelligence Director Dennis C. Blair.

In related developments:

• Under Illinois law, several appraisals of the prison must be made in order to establish a selling price. Quinn told the Chicago Sun-Times that he expected the federal government to purchase Thomson for "at least" the $145 million it cost to build in 2001.

• GOP critics said that as long as detainees will be held at Thomson without charges or trial, the Obama White House would be, as Roskam said, "simply moving Guantanamo to Illinois." White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that Thomson would not become another rallying point, "not nearly to the degree -- not in any way, shape or form nearly to the degree that currently exists." Congress would have to vote to lift a ban barring detainees not facing trial from being transferred to U.S. soil.

*The Bureau of Prisons would purchase Thomson and operate 75 percent of it as a federal prison; 25 percent would be leased to the Defense Department for the Guantanamo detainees. Durbin, outside the White House, said that with security upgrades, Thomson will become "the safest prison in America."

2 Comments

Republican opposition to the Gitmo transfer goes something like this: "Let's not do anything that might make the terrorists mad!"


We are theoretically living in a democratic society. We go to war with other countries in support of their civil rights and to promote democracy. And, yet, we have held these prisoners for YEARS without trial.

So, the solution of this government is to "close" Guantanamo and simply shift the hostages to another facility. I wonder how their families and country mates feel about this.
Are we Americans that stupid?
If an American were being held ANYWHERE in the world, we would be all over the map trying to get them released. Anyone holding this person would be described as "terrorist".
Adam Clayton Powell, back in the sixties, addressed this country and its failure to 'walk the walk'.
We talk the talk. Oh, how Obama does talk the talk.
But, we sure don't do a very good job of walking the walk.
Adam Clayton Powell predicted that one day, unless we begin to address our insane behavior, it would be Burn, Baby, Burn.
The message of 9/11 was simple: You may have your Nuclear weapons, but we have GAS.
Come to think of it, we all have GAS - in our lawn mowers, in our cars. ANYONE can freely walk up to the gas pump and get a gallon for $3.00.
Adam, Ole Boy, wherever, you are, would you remind us again?
What was that you said: "Burn, Baby, Burn"

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 16, 2009 5:02 AM.

Gov. Quinn expects feds to pay state at least $145 million for Thomson prison was the previous entry in this blog.

Quinn, Durbin at the White House discuss Guantanamo detainees transfer to Illinois is the next entry in this blog.

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