Mark Kirk’s ongoing ignorance on detainee policy

MARK KIRK’S ONGOING IGNORANCE ON DETAINEE POLICY…. For nearly two years, there’s been a debate about transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to a maximum-security prison in Thomson, Illinois. Much of the local community wants it to happen, recognizing the enormous economic benefits. A Republican state representative from the area said last year his GOP colleagues in Congress would be “idiots” to block the move.

Right on cue….

“We should not bring Guantanamo terrorists to the heartland. It would make us a new mecca for terrorists, for Al Jazeera and other network attention and I think would lower the security of the entire United States,” — Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), asked about the possibility of a detainee transfer to a prison in Illinois.

Now, Mark Kirk has been working on this issue for quite a while, and has no excuse for idiotic rhetoric on the subject. In other words, he’s had plenty of time to read up on detainee policy, move beyond irrational hysteria, and appreciate the not-that-complicated details here.

But the man still has no idea what he’s talking about.

Honestly, I have to wonder if Mark Kirk can even hear himself speak. Locking up bad guys in a state-of-the-art, maximum-security facility “would lower the security of the entire United States”? In what universe does that make sense?

For that matter, what makes Kirk think detention facilities for terrorists somehow become magnets for other terrorists? Let’s try to put this in a way that even 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.

Kirk is easily confused, but I’d love for him to address a simple point: 33 international terrorists, many with ties to al Qaeda, currently sit in a single federal prison in Florence, Colo. No one really notices or cares; it hasn’t become “a new mecca for terrorists”; it certain hasn’t undermined national security. So what’s the problem?

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 be expected, but Kirk is just embarrassing himself.

Or at least, he would be, if he weren’t winning: “On Friday, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet reported that the Illinois Republican delegation successfully stripped a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act that would have allowed a transfer of Guantanamo detainees.”