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Illinois panel approves Thomson sale for Illinois Gitmo prison. Durbin, Quinn praise decision; Biggert objects

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Below, from Durbin and Quinn......followed by Bigger

DURBIN, QUINN STATEMENT ON RECOMMENDATION TO APPROVE SALE OF THOMSON CORRECTIONAL CENTER

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn today commended the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) for their 7-4 decision in favor of the closure of the Thomson Correctional Center.

Senator Durbin and Governor Quinn issued the following statement:

"We are pleased the bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability has endorsed the sale of the Thomson Correctional Center to the federal government and rejected the partisan rhetoric.

Elected officials, community and business leaders and the residents of Northwest Illinois are wholeheartedly supporting this proposal because they understand that this is an opportunity to create up to 3,800 jobs and generate more than $1 billion in a region that desperately needs both.

Fully utilizing Thomson and upgrading this facility to make it the safest prison in the nation will not jeopardize the safety and security of our country or our state; we would never endorse a plan that would do so. Despite the fear-mongering and nay-saying of a vocal few, we stand with state, county and local law enforcement officers and state's attorneys from across the area, and with our nation's military commanders, who know that this is about making our country safer by removing the deadly recruiting tool that Guantanamo has become.

This should not be a political or partisan issue. This is about doing what's right for our troops, for our national security and for the people of Illinois. We will continue doing everything we can to make this sale a reality and bring the jobs and other economic benefits to our state."

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Biggert Urges Illinois Commission to Reject GITMO Prison Plan

Washington, DC - U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13) this morning called on members of a state panel to reject plans to bring terrorist detainees from the U.S. Naval facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Illinois. Later today, the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability is scheduled to hold an advisory vote on the proposed closure of the prison for the purposes of selling the facility to the federal government for housing military detainees. In a letter to the Commission, Biggert urged members to use today's vote as an opportunity to highlight the many serious legal and security objections raised by Illinois residents who are concerned the plan, including the closure of Guantanamo Bay, poses an unnecessary risk to national security.

"This isn't just about where to hold a few extremely dangerous individuals," said Biggert. "The decision to close Guantanamo and bring these detainees onto American soil carries serious implications for our local and national security. And it raises many unanswered questions, including whether foreign enemy combatants should be tried in U.S. civilian courts. The Administration has done little to earn the confidence of Illinois residents that this plan will make America safer, and today, the Commission has an opportunity to make that message clear."

The letter was sent to Commission Co-Chairs Senator Jeffrey Schoenberg and Representative Richard Myers, as well as Representatives Patricia Bellock, Kevin McCarthy, Elaine Nekritz, Raymond Poe, Al Riley, and Senators Bill Brady, Michael Frerichs, Matt Murphy, Dave Syverson, and Donne Trotter. The full text of the letter can be found below:

January 6, 2010

Dear Members of the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability:

As you prepare to vote on the recommendation by the Illinois Department of Corrections to close the Thomson Correctional Center, I ask that you give serious consideration to the far-reaching state, national and international security implications of the proposed use of this facility for housing terrorist detainees that are currently being held at the U.S. Naval facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

While the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability traditionally has focused its attention on economic matters directly impacting the State of Illinois, your consideration of this issue presents a critical and unique opportunity for the people of Illinois, through their elected legislators, to exercise their voice over a decision that carries with it enormous consequences for the country as a whole.

This Christmas, Americans were reminded of the ongoing threat that we face from terrorist factions overseas whose goal is death and destruction to America and all things American. While, as a nation, we breathed a collective sigh of relief that the attempted airline bombing on December 25th did not end in greater tragedy, the incident shined a stark spotlight on potential gaps in America's security apparatus. It also has raised many additional unanswered questions regarding the Administration's broader plans, including those related to the Thomson facility, for dealing with foreign enemy combatant detainees.

As you may know, the attempted bomber of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 was reportedly trained by Al Qaeda operatives in a terrorist camp located in Yemen. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has since claimed responsibility for the attack and includes among its ranks terrorist leaders like Said Ali Shiri, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee. Just this week, the U.S. Embassy in Yemen was forced to suspend operations entirely due to likelihood of imminent terrorist activity. In light of these facts, the Administration yesterday was forced to reconsider the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to Yemen, where the effectiveness of long-term detainment has been called into serious question.

As the Administration's plans change with the international and political climate, the number, nature, and status of those detainees that may be brought to Illinois remains an open question with no answer in sight before the future of the Thompson facility is to be decided. And, unfortunately, this is not an isolated example of where the Administration has failed to address the serious questions from Congress, Illinois leaders, and others regarding how it intends to deal with the immense security, legal, and logistical considerations of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Congress does not have access to detailed backgrounds of the individual detainees who would be brought to Illinois; the Administration has not stated how it intends to deal with detainees should the courts find fault with the government's use of authority; and no full risk assessment has been presented to the people of Illinois regarding the potential, added terrorist threat resulting from the government's decision to make Illinois home to the next Guantanamo Bay.

As a federal legislator and former attorney, I especially question how bringing these detainees onto American soil and granting some the full rights and privileges of a civilian trial will improve the security and safety of 300 million Americans. The Administration has put itself in a very tenuous position by opting to cherry-pick which detainees should be tried in federal court, which should be tried by military commissions, and which should continue to be held without trial. Instead, we should try all detainees before military commissions, ensuring due process, equal justice, and national security. Military commissions are constitutional and well established in American and Western jurisprudence. Furthermore, these trials should be held away from civilian population centers where they could become focus points for disruption and create unnecessary security hazards for area residents. At present, the most appropriate location to carry out these trials continues to be to be at our military facility in Cuba -- out of our civilian courts and away from our heartland.

In light of recent terrorist activity, the President has announced his intention to quickly review and respond to potential gaps in our air travel and homeland security procedures and capabilities, and I know I join many of my colleagues in Congress who stand fully prepared to work with the Administration to harden our defenses against future terrorist threats. However, the Administration has yet to offer any indication that it will suspend or reverse its misguided decision to close the Guantanamo Bay facility as we reevaluate our relationships overseas, consider options for strengthening our security, and improve the intelligence operations that inform these important decisions.

These plans should go hand-in-hand as part of a cohesive national strategy that will prevent the kind of attack on American soil that took the lives of 3,000 innocent Americans on September 11th, 2001. And while some would like to dismiss the legitimate questions and policy considerations surrounding the closure of Guantanamo Bay as little more than "fear mongering," the fact remains that the world is a dangerous place and we should not take such major actions without considering the threats we currently face around the globe. Others claim that closing the base at Guantanamo Bay would remove a key recruiting tool from terrorist organizations, but the same argument holds little weight when the chosen alternative is to simply relocate the object of terrorist propaganda to American soil. Indeed, this logic only serves to highlight how this new detention facility could become a draw for terrorist threats.

I ask that you, as members of the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, consider the decision you will make on this matter not solely as a budgetary item, but as an opportunity to show that, in Illinois, we put the security of our families first, and we expect our leaders in Washington to do the same. Please send a clear message to our Governor and the Administration that if they continue to push this plan on Illinois, they will be doing so without the consent of the people who will bear the greatest burden for their mistakes.

Sincerely,

Judy Biggert

Member of Congress

13th Congressional District of Illinois

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2 Comments

In light of recent terrorist activity, the President has announced his intention to quickly review and respond to potential gaps in our air travel and homeland security procedures and capabilities, and I know I join many of my colleagues in Congress who stand fully prepared to work with the Administration to harden our defenses against future terrorist threats. However, the Administration has yet to offer any indication that it will suspend or reverse its misguided decision to close the Guantanamo Bay facility as we reevaluate our ugg outletrelationships overseas, consider options for strengthening our security, and improve the intelligence operations that inform these important decisions.

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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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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on January 6, 2010 2:16 PM.

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