FROM GITMO TO THOMSON?…. There’s a near-empty prison in rural Illinois, in a town called Thomson. The federal government is reportedly eyeing the facility as “a leading option” to house suspected terrorists from Guantanamo Bay

Locals seem to think it’s a good idea

News that the federal government seems interested in transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the Thomson Correctional Center was greeted warmly in this small, rural farm town along the Iowa border.

After holding out hope that the sprawling $145 million prison might improve the economic conditions in this remote area of the state, residents say any prisoners would be a welcomed sight.

…but a couple of Illinois Republican congressman have embraced the usual nonsense.

[Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.)] acknowledged “extraordinary unemployment” in northwestern Illinois–he put the rate at 17 percent — but added: “The issue is: ‘Are you going to exchange the promise of jobs for national security?’ National security trumps everything. That’s the safety of the people.

The lawmaker, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was concerned that “al-Qaida would follow al-Qaida” to northwestern Illinois if Thomson became the prison to replace Guantanamo Bay, which he believes is perfectly adequate. […]

House Republican Mark Kirk of Northbrook, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, is circulating a sharply worded letter among the state’s congressional delegation and state officials, urging the White House not to transfer suspected terrorists to the prison.

“If your administration brings al-Qaida terrorists to Illinois, our state and the Chicago metropolitan area will become ground zero for Jihadist terrorist plots, recruitment and radicalization,” Kirk, a five-term congressman, wrote in the letter to President Barack Obama.

This is sheer idiocy. Maybe Manzullo and Kirk know better and want to create a panic for political reasons; or maybe they’re just cluelessly popping off. Either way, there’s really no excuse for federal lawmakers to be this wrong.

It’s hard not to wonder if these guys are even listening to themselves. Locking up terrorists is bad for security? Federal prisons are “ground zero for Jihadist terrorist plots”? It’s like listening to children.

Let’s try to put this in a way that even Reps. Manzullo and Kirk could understand: the United States has already tried and convicted literally hundreds of terrorists. They’re held in federal detention on American soil. The prisons have not become magnets for terrorism; there have been no escapes; there have been no attempted escapes; and there have been no efforts at breaking anyone out of any of the facilities. It’s not an academic exercise — it’s reality.

[T]he apocalyptic rhetoric rarely addresses this: Thirty-three international terrorists, many with ties to al-Qaeda, reside in a single federal prison in Florence, Colo., with little public notice.

According to data provided by Traci L. Billingsley, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, “federal facilities on American soil currently house 216 international terrorists and 139 domestic terrorists. Some of these miscreants have been locked up here since the early 1990s. None of them has escaped.”

A certain amount of political cowardice is to expected, but Manzullo and Kirk are just embarrassing themselves.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.