Republicans were lining up to criticize the Obama administration Tuesday
over its decision to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a prison
in Illinois, accusing President Obama of increasing the threat to America's
security by making the U.S. home to suspected terrorists.
The White House announced Tuesday that the government will
acquire the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Ill., an underutilized
1,600-cell prison in a sleepy town near the Mississippi River, to house
detainees currently held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo.
"The president has directed that the federal government proceed with the
acquisition of the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois to house
federal inmates and a limited number of detainees from the Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba," a senior administration official said in a statement released by the
The president appears to believe that the closure of GITMO is a victory in and of itself and moving these prisoners anywhere is justified. It's absolutely true that this prison is underserved. It's also true that as a result the local economy has suffered. It's also true that the government in Thomson is very happy with this move. Beyond that, nothing is certain. I don't know if the folks of Thomson want this. The polling nationally is heavily against this.
The president believes that moving these guys out of GITMO will be viewed as a significant human rights victory. That's of course nonsense. The conditions at GITMO are much nicer for the prisoners than they would be in a super max. Thomson is cold seven out of twelve months. The prisoners will see very little sunlight. Many will spend most of their time in isolation.
The America haters aren't going to be satisfied. They believe that none of these folks should remain detained indefinitely. They don't view them as enemy combatants but as criminals. They want them tried for crimes and released if they're found not guilty. President Obama has already said that some of these folks won't get that. If a terrorist is housed indefinitely in Thomson, that's no different to America haters than if they're housed indefintely in GITMO.
The terrorists are certainly not going to care. If the president thinks that this will remove a recruiting tool, he's sadly mistaken. The terrorists will simply turn Thomson into a symbol of America's treachery.
Beyond that, this is a logistical head ache. There are criminals at Thomson. The government will either need to move them elsewhere or make sure that none makes contact with a terrorist. If a terrorist is injured or worse at the hands of a regular inmate, that is a complete PR debacle. If a common criminal is recruited into Al Qaeda, that is a PR debacle and worse.
Furthermore, moving everyone onto U.S. soil immediately gives them significantly more rights. It will be very difficult to house them indefinitely if they are on U.S. soil. We'll have much less leeway to interrogate if they are on U.S. soil. Each prisoner will be stacked with all sorts of new rights once they are on U.S. soil. All sorts of evidentiary issues will be raised. Depending on how evidence was gathered against them, the government will have all sorts of problems using that evidence in court.
Whatever short term PR victory Obama will have, it will be short lived. As soon as the world sees a bunch of these guys stuck in a cell 23 hous a day, the same human rights issues will be raised. The same folks that demanded that GITMO be closed will now demand that each be tried or released. All Obama will do is now put pressure on his administration to give each and everyone a trial in a timely manner. Since some of these guys have been waiting eight plus years, there will be plenty of calls to make that time immediately.
Sure the economy of Thomson will improve. Thomson has about six hundred people in it. They may all think this is great but they are six hundred out of hundreds of millions. The majority will think this is looney.