Gitmo detainees should move to Ill.

By Lauren Kelly

Federal authorities inspected an Illinois state prison Nov. 16 to determine if it is fit to house terror suspects and detainees from the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval base when it closes next year.  Thomson Prison, a nearly vacant facility located 150 miles west of Chicago, would become a super-maximum security federal prison if authorities select it to house the suspects.

This would be a positive move for the state and federal government, and should be seriously considered as beneficial to the political climate surrounding the detention of enemy combatants.

Less than one month into his term, President Barack Obama claimed he would close the controversial Guantanamo Bay base. The fact that the federal government is investigating facilities within U.S. borders is a huge step toward greater accountability of a situation that has been questionably handled in past years.

If the detention center were on U.S. soil, more transparency would be mandatory and American citizens would likely demand more information and responsibility because the prison would be in the heart of the country.

The proposal to move detainees to Thomson drew heavy criticism from Republicans, many of whom claimed it would become a terrorist target and Illinois would be susceptible to an attack.

This is an outlandish idea. Terrorists could attack anywhere in the United States as it is, and the transfer of detainees to a small Illinois town would not give them more reason to stage an attack in the Midwest than already exists.

Not only would the prison benefit the political climate surrounding terrorism, it could also help the economy. Thomson cost millions of dollars to build and it is not currently being utilized. It costs taxpayers too much money to sit in disuse.

More than 2,000 jobs could potentially be created at Thomson, and $1 billion in federal funding would be put into the Illinois budget for purposes of managing the facility, according to a Nov. 17 Chicago Tribune article.

This fact should not be overlooked. Any federal funding and job creation would benefit Illinois, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

Transferring terror suspects to Thomson is a smart move by the Obama administration and could result in some unforeseen benefits in addition to economic development and accountability of the U.S. government in dealing with terror suspects.