Wed, Dec 16, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Illinois may host Gitmo inmates

PLANS Barack Obama has directed the government to buy Thomson Correctional Center to house ‘a limited number of detainees’ from Guantanamo, an official said

AP AND REUTERS , WASHINGTON

The White House was to announce plans yesterday to acquire an Illinois prison and to send a limited number of detainees there from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, a US official said.

US President Barack Obama has directed the government to proceed with buying Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois “to house federal inmates and a limited number of detainees” from Guantanamo, the official said.

“Closing the detention center at Guantanamo is essential to protecting our national security and helping our troops by removing a deadly recruiting tool from the hands of al-Qaeda,” the official said.

This “announcement is an important step forward as we work to achieve our national security objectives.”

When Obama took office in January, he gave himself one year to close the prison. But Republicans and others criticized his administration’s plans to transfer the prisoners to the US and try them in civilian courts as a security risk.

Congress enacted a law barring Guantanamo detainees from being brought onto US soil except if they were going to be prosecuted. Democrats, who control both houses of Congress, are planning to lift that restriction if the administration comes up with an acceptable plan for how to handle the prisoners.

A part the Illinois prison in a rural area west of Chicago would be used to house detainees from the naval detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which was opened in 2002 to house suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The US official said Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin will be in Washington yesterday to be briefed at the White House on the decision.

Durbin and Quinn said last week that the Illinois facility, which is mainly empty, would be turned into a federal maximum security prison, and a portion of it would be leased to the Defense Department to house some detainees.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors are considering a trial in New York for a Guantanamo Bay detainee named Majid Khan, who grew up in the US before allegedly enlisting in al-Qaeda, a person familiar with the discussions said on Monday.

Khan is among fewer than 20 detainees at Guantanamo labeled high-value by the US government — people thought to be senior members of al-Qaeda or to have extensive knowledge of the terror network.

The US Justice Department is weighing whether to put him on trial in federal court in Brooklyn, but no decision has been made, according to the person discussing the deliberations on condition of anonymity.

Attorney General Eric Holder already has said that self-declared Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four accused henchmen will be tried in federal court in lower Manhattan.

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