From Gitmo to Thomson

FROM GITMO TO THOMSON…. This is a welcome, important step towards closing the detention facility at Gitmo once and for all.

Dozens of terrorism suspects being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be moved to a little-used Illinois state prison that will be acquired and upgraded by the federal government, an Obama administration official said.

The critical step toward fulfilling President Obama’s pledge to shut the Guantanamo detention center will be announced Tuesday, said the official, who reported that Obama has ordered the acquisition of the eight-year-old Thomson Correctional Center, about 150 miles northwest of Chicago.

As part of the plan, over the next six months, federal officials will upgrade the facility, to the point that it will have a security level described as “beyond supermax.”

This afternoon, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, both of whom support the transfer, will be briefed on the policy at the White House.

The developments are likely to be welcomed by the local community, which has been very hard hit by the recession, and is counting on the prison, which is now almost empty, to be a source of economic renewal for the area. Indeed, a Republican state representative from the area, who has a background as a law enforcement official, said a month ago, “This is a tremendous opportunity and we would be idiots to waste it.”

This is not to say the plan will face no resistance. Congressional Republicans will no doubt argue that the administration is “bringing terrorists to America,” and Rep. Mark Kirk (R), who’s running for the Senate in Illinois, wants to exploit baseless fear for political gain, even if his arguments are completely ridiculous.

But the split won’t fall along traditional left-right lines — some prominent conservative leaders are on board with the transfer plan, too. In a joint statement prepared by the Constitution Project, David Keene, founder of American Conservative Union, Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and former representative and presidential candidate Bob Barr, the conservatives said moving suspected terrorists to the Thomson prison facility “makes good sense.” They added, in a message to the GOP, “The scaremongering about these issues should stop.”