With every passing day, it's looking more and more like Guantanamo detainees will be relocated to Northwest Illinois. Yesterday, senior White House officials provided some concrete details about their plan for moving a limited number of terror suspects to Thomson ...
With every passing day, it's looking more and more like Guantanamo detainees will be relocated to Northwest Illinois. Yesterday, senior White House officials provided some concrete details about their plan for moving a limited number of terror suspects to Thomson Correctional Center, including the disclosure that the administration plans to hold military tribunals within the facility itself. The Tribune summarizes the news:
Under the Obama plan, the federal government would buy the prison from Illinois. The Pentagon would upgrade the facility from maximum security to "super-max," and would oversee construction of a mini-courthouse within the facility, similar to the one at Guantanamo.
As many as 75 detainees could face tribunals at Thomson, officials said, though the final number to be tried could be far smaller.
Many state and local officials support the plan, including GOP State Rep. Jim Sacia, who represents a district neighboring the Thomson site. A former FBI agent, Sacia told the Daily Herald today that he was "not even remotely concerned" about the threat of terrorism on Illinois soil, calling the issue a "red herring." Rep. Jan Schakowsky echoed that point on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show last night. During her appearance, she questioned the political motives of outspoken Republican critics such as Rep. Mark Kirk during these tense negotiations. Watch it:
All the demagoguery from the right has led to some surprising statements. A prime example is Rep. Aaron Schock's interview on MSNBC's Hardball yesterday. Not only did the freshman congressman question the wisdom of shutting down Guantanamo, but he openly defended the use of torture. "I would not limit our intelligence agencies' ability to get information from people," Schock told host Chris Matthews. "If they have a ticking time-bomb or some critical piece of information that can save American lives, I don't believe that we should limit waterboarding or quite frankly any other alternative torture technique, if it means saving Americans' lives." Watch that, as well:
To be sure, there are several more steps that need to be taken before the Thomson plan is a done deal.
First, Congress needs to modify a law passed this year barring the transfer of detainees to American soil for any purpose other than prosecution. This brings up the issue of the “Fifth Category” detainees. These are the Guantanamo inmates who the government does not have sufficient evidence to prosecute in federal courts or military commissions but who they consider too dangerous to release or transfer. Senior administration officials won't state publicly how many of these prisoners are incarcerated at Guantanamo, but the figure could be as high as 75. While the White House has suggested that Thomson could end up holding some of these inmates, they have not made clear how that would work in legal terms. "The problem with Guantanamo isn't the fact that it's not inside the lower 48," Nation D.C. editor Chris Hayes said on MSNBC's Countdown last night. "The problem with Guantanamo is ... there is indefinite detention in which people have no legal recourse." Watch it:
Applying due process (so indefinite or preventive detention is not required) solves the Gitmo problem. Simply relocating the prisoners does not. How officials in Washington address the former issue is going to be worth watching in the coming weeks.