Illinois' "Gitmo" Could Hold Military Tribunals: Report

One mayor says Thomson is leading candidate

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    A U.S sailor climbs down from a guard tower overlooking detainees at the U.S. military prison for 'enemy combatants' on October 28, 2009 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    One argument against housing Guantanamo Bay inmates at the Thomson Correctional Center in northwest Illinois could already be moot.

    Administration officials have floated a plan to hold military tribunals at whichever prison ends up taking the inmates, according to the Chicago Tribune. Right now, it looks as though Thomson is the leading candidate, the Sun-Times reports.

    Over the weekend the Obama administration put out feelers about potentially transferring up to 200 inmates from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to domestic prisons. The Thomson prison was mentioned as a destination, but some Illinois Republicans lambasted the plan as a bad idea.

    Among their complaints is the idea that carting inmates to and from court would pose a serious security risk.

    Inside Thomson Correctional Facility

    [CHI] Inside Thomson Correctional Facility
    NBC5 goes inside the "Illinois Gitmo."

    By holding tribunals at the prison, there would be no need to transport the prisoners to places like Rockford and Chicago for trials in federal courts. 

    "The current thinking is it will be one-stop shopping," Charles Stimson, a former Pentagon official in the Bush administration and current legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation in Washington told the Tribune.

    In order to make the transition easier, some officials recommend that the government house only foreign detainees at the prison and build a secure, on-site courtroom that allowed outside groups to observe and prosecutors to present classified evidence.

    The administration official, who spoke to the Tribune anonymously, said it is too early in the planning stages to theorize about what steps the government would take with detainee trials.

    Meanwhile, officials who toured the Thomson prison Monday left the impression that the northwest Illinois facility is leading the pack for becoming the next Gitmo.

    "My impression is this is probably their No. 1 choice," Dixon Mayor Jim Burke, one of dozens of local officials briefed Monday about federal interest in the prison, told the Sun-Times.

    Other’s said it’s too early to tell who is the front-runner, because other prisons need to be inspected.

    "This is a very preliminary assessment," said Harley Lappin, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

    An early estimate of the economic benefit of housing the detainees in Illinois leads some to believe the prison could create up to 500 new jobs and generate $85 million in payroll.