Military Trials Planned for Thomson

By Dick Johnson, Mary Ann Ahern and Steve Bryant
|  Thursday, Dec 17, 2009  |  Updated 6:15 PM CDT
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Illinois GOP Leaders React to Illinois' New Gitmo

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Thomson "Will Be the Most Secure Prison in America"

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin comment on the decision to reopen a rural prison in Northwestern Illinois.

Illinois GOP Leaders React to Illinois' New Gitmo

Illinois Republicans say their reservations about housing Guantanamo Bay detainees at Thomson Correctional Center isn't about fear-mongering. It's about not rushing into a decision without legitimate questions being answered.
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The White House is planning to hold military commission trials of suspected terrorists at the Thomson Correctional Center, a senior administration official said this afternoon.

The news comes a day after the announcement that the Federal Bureau of Prisons plans to buy the under-utilized facility in rural northwest Illinois and transfer up to 100 Guantanamo detainees there over the coming months.

In a call with reporters, the administration acknowledged that it would be a violation of current law to transfer individuals from Guantanamo Bay to Illinois unless they were destined for a federal trial or military tribunal.

A senior administration official said that detainees whose status entitles them to federal trials will be transferred to the jurisdictions where the trial will take place. Other detainees will face military commissions in separate facilities, and detainees who will be accommodated by another country will stay in Guantanamo for the time being until arrangements are worked out.

Guantanamo will not be immediately closed.

"I don't have a date certain to give you, " said Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Speaking at the White House, Governor Quinn said that he and Senator Durbin received letters "from more than 30 county boards and chambers of commerce" in Thomson and the areas surrounding.

"We believe and security and safety at all times," Quinn said, promoting his stance that the prison plan will not pose a security threat.

For his part, Senator Durbin touted Illinois as the first state to build a super-max prison, said that moving prisoners to Illinois would end the threat Guantanamo poses to Americans around the world, and argued that this "great opportunity" would bring "some of the best jobs" to Illinois at a time when state unemployment sits near 11 percent.

Obama's Council of Economic Advisers said previously that activating Thomson could create 840-910 temporary jobs and 3,180-3,880 ongoing jobs, increasing local earnings by a cumulative $793 to $1,015 million.

Speaking in Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley said the decision to move the inmates belonged to the federal government, but that the government is "going to pay for every police" should terror trials be held here.

The Thomson decision is part of a complicated plan for shutting down the controversial Guantanamo detention center, which has become a focal point for criticism of anti-American sentiment.

As one of the first acts of his presidency, Obama ordered the center shuttered -- but doing so has proven a difficult proposition, largely due to the logistics of where to move the center's 210 terrorism suspects.

Thomson Prison proved an attractive candidate due to its rural location near the Mississippi River and the Iowa state line, and its under-utilization. The prison was completed in 2001 but left largely vacant due to changing budget priorities after the 9/11 attacks.

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