Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Illinois Prison Plan Foes Fear Area Would Be Terror Target

From the Los Angeles Times, "Officials seek to reassure Illinois residents on Guantanamo prison transfer":

At a public hearing on Obama's plan to convert a state facility in Thomson, Ill., to a federal prison housing detainees, opponents say the area would become a target for terrorists.

Facing anxious citizens afraid of becoming terrorist targets, federal officials confirmed Tuesday that some of the most notorious Guantanamo detainees could be sent to Illinois if the Obama administration buys a state prison.

The proposed federal prison in Thomson would be the site for military tribunals for five alleged plotters in the 2000 bombing of the U.S. destroyer Cole, said Alan Liotta, the Defense Department's principal director for detainee policy, at a public hearing on the plan.

The prison could also house some of the alleged Sept. 11 plotters, perhaps including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, if they are convicted in an upcoming federal trial in New York City, officials said.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, plans to sell the underused Thomson Correctional Center to house up to 100 Guantanamo detainees and other maximum-security inmates. Thomson, about 150 miles west of Chicago along the Mississippi River, now houses about 200 minimum-security inmates, far below its capacity.

The state Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, which conducted the six-hour hearing, could not torpedo the federal prison plan even if it wanted to. Its recommendation on whether to sell the site would merely be advisory. The panel said it would not vote on the proposal before Jan. 14.

Quinn, who was en route to Germany, did not attend.

Surrounding communities welcome the proposal, as do many state officials, because of the estimated 3,000 jobs it could create.

But that brought no comfort to opponents, who called the plan too risky.

"Terrorists would want to hit us to make a point, here in the Midwest, in the American heartland," Amanda Norms told the Associated Press. "Is a little economic gain worth the risk?"

She was among dozens of demonstrators who massed outside in the cold.

See also, the New York Times, "Plan to Move Guantánamo Detainees Faces a New Delay." (Via Memeorandum.)