Transfer of Gitmo Detainees to Illinois Prison Brings Panic, Relief

100 prisoners will be ferried to a near-vacant Midwestern prison--a move some hail as an economic boon

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The White House is set to announce a major step towards closing the controversial prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by removing some 100 prisoners. The detainees will go to a near-vacant prison in Thomson, Illinois, about 150 miles from Chicago, the longtime home of President Obama. Liberals have long decried Obama's sluggishness in shuttering Guantanamo, while conservatives have staunchly resisted the prospect of housing detainees, including alleged terrorists, on U.S. soil. What does this decision mean for the future of Guantanamo, detention, and the tense politics surrounding those issues?

  • Will Be Absolutely Secure The American Prospect's Adam Serwer cites experts and officials. "The American Correctional Association and the Federal Prison Officers' Union, however, have released statements supporting the decision to move Gitmo detainees to the U.S. A conservative legal group, The Constitution Project, supports the transfer of detainees to the Illinois facility. An anonymous administration official told the Washington Post that the prison's security level would be 'beyond supermax.'"
  • Will Terrorists Be Released Into U.S.? National Review's Andrew McCarthy frets. "It's an outrage. It will inevitably result in trained terrorists being released in the United States -- bank on it," he writes.
  • Boon for Thomson Community Washington Monthly's Steve Benen gushes, "The developments are likely to be welcomed by the local community, which has been very hard hit by the recession, and is counting on the prison, which is now almost empty, to be a source of economic renewal for the area. Indeed, a Republican state representative from the area, who has a background as a law enforcement official, said a month ago, 'This is a tremendous opportunity and we would be idiots to waste it."
  • The Death of NIMBYism Salon's Thomas Schaller argues that the move "disproves the idea that NIMBYism -- not in my back yard -- prevailed in the decision." Schaller notes that Thomson officials welcome the revenue that will come with the decision. "Of course, local officials in Thomson, Ill., seem less worried about physical security than they do economic security. [...] Seems fear of terrorism stops at the water's edge of local economic development."
  • Watch For McCain's Reaction Spencer Ackerman suggests Sen. John McCain's response will speak volumes about him and the GOP. "McCain, recall, has long advocated shuttering the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," he writes. "But as McCain has struggled to maintain relevance within his caucus, his positions have softened considerably. ... Whichever way McCain goes will be barometrically significant: either he stands firm and tells the right to stop its juvenile demagoguery; or he caves in and reveals himself to be as callow and spineless as many on the left long argued."
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