[JURIST] White House officials are considering purchasing a prison facility in northwestern Illinois to house terrorism suspects currently being held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], according to media reports Saturday. The Thomson Correctional Facility [IDOC backgrounder], a maximum security prison located about 150 miles west of Chicago, is reportedly a leading alternative [AP report] being considered by the Federal Bureau of Prisons [official website] and other authorities involved in the decision on what to do with detainees from Guantanamo. Upon learning of the story, US Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) [official website] issued a letter [text] to President Barack Obama, urging the president not to transfer detainees to the Thomson Facility because he fears, "the Chicago Metropolitan Area will become ground zero for Jihadist terrorist plots, recruitment and radicalization." While it is not clear whether the prison would be the only domestic facility for Guantanamo transferees, in order to hold detainees in US, Congress would have to change [LAT report] a law specifically prohibiting detainee transfers into the US except for trials.
The disagreement over the Illinois facility highlights the issues with the president's initiative to close the prison [JURIST news archive] at Guantanamo Bay. Last week the Center for American Progress (CAP) [advocacy website] issued a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] that said the failure to meet the self-imposed deadline for closure of Guantanamo was result of several missteps by the Obama administration. According to CAP, the shortfalls included failing to sufficiently staff the review task force and misreading Congress on key issues. The report also claimed that mistakes were made in deciding to keep a modified version of the Bush-era military commissions and the administration's request of Congress for $80 million to close the facility and relocate the detainees, which provided impetus for Congressional opponents to obstruct the process.