Closing Gitmo update: some prisoners headed to Illinois


From the Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet comes the scoop tonight that the Obama White House has settled on a destination for at least some prisoners from Guantanamo Bay:

WASHINGTON–The White House will announce Tuesday that President Obama will seek to acquire the Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois to house detainees now held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

I reported in Saturday’s editions of the Sun-Times that the Obama administration had settled on the nearly vacant Thomson and would be making the announcement soon.

Obama has directed the federal government to proceed with the acquisition of Thomson to house federal inmates under Bureau of Prisons authority and a “limited number” of detainees from the Guantanamo Bay Military prison–estimated to be under 100– to be housed in a portion of Thomson to be operated by the Department of Defense.

The Bureau of Prisons would occupy 75 percent of the facility and the Defense Department would use 25 percent of the space for the detainees. The plan calls for two “entirely separate facilities side by side.”

“Closing the detention center at Guantanamo is essential to protecting our national security and helping our troops by removing a deadly recruiting tool from the hands of al Qaeda. Tomorrow’s announcement is an important step forward as we work to achieve our national security objectives,” an official said in a statement.

Perhaps anticipating the major firestorm from the right regarding the move to bring terror suspects (and perhaps the remaining old men and minors still languishing in the infamous Bush-Cheney-era prison camp) onto American soil, the administration is couching the move in terms most Americans (and certainly most Illinoians) can understand: jobs, jobs, jobs.

Gov. Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) champions of the project–arguing that it will create a jobs boom in a part of the state with high unemployment–will be briefed by administration officials at the White House Tuesday afternoon on how the acquisition will proceed. GOP members of the congressional delegation have been critical of the plan.

Looks like the White House is looking to complete their campaign promise shopping list before Christmas…

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