9/11 plotters may be transfered from Gitmo to Illinois prison

Last Updated: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 - 14:00

Chicago: Plotters of the 9/11 attacks and USS Cole bombing suspects, currently in Guantanamo Bay prison, could be transfered to an Illinois jail under the Obama
Administration`s plan to close the detention centre in Cuba.

At a public hearing on the administration`s plan to move
Guantanamo detainees to the Thomson Correctional Centre near
here, Defence Department`s principal director for detainee
policy Alan Liotta said the proposed federal prison would host
military trials for five alleged plotters in the 2000 bombing
of the US Navy destroyer USS Cole.

The prison could end up housing some of the September 11
plotters, perhaps also mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, if
they are found guilty in a federal trial in New York City, the
Chicago Tribune on Wednesday quoted officials as saying.

Meanwhile, hundreds of locals gathered at the hearing
raising concerns that shifting the terror suspects to Illinois
could make their state a target for terrorists, but officials
sought to assure them the safety issues will be taken care of.

The federal facility at Thomson is not likely to be
operational before 2011.

It would take at least six months to open the prison if
the federal government succeeds in buying it from the state,
director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Harley Lappin said
during the Illinois legislative hearing at Sterling.

The Obama administration had announced last week that the
government would buy the Thomson Correctional Center, about
150 miles from chicago, and bolster security at it to house "a
limited number of detainees from Guantanamo".

The move is part of President Barack Obama`s campaign
promise to close the Guantanamo detention centre, which was
opened in 2002 after the September 11, 2001 attacks to house
foreign terror suspects.

Speaking before the 12-member Commission on Government
Forecasting and Accountability, Lappin said stringent measures
including a new perimetre fence would make the Thomson centre
"the most secure of all federal prisons in the country".

He said once the facility gets the `Super Max` status, it
would be comparable to federal prison in Florence, Colorado,
where "there has never been an escape or an internal attack".

Liotta also assured state residents that the area would
be safe. "The security of the facility and that of the
surrounding community is our paramount concern," he said.

The US holds 210 prisoners at Guantanamo. About 100
detainees are likely to be transfered to the Thomson prison.

The White House has said over 3000 jobs and a billion
dollar in economic activity would be generated once the prison
is operational.

"If it will create jobs and it is such a good idea why
not take every criminal in the world and bring them here?" a
Sterling resident said outside the hearing.

State Senator Matt Murphy asked "How are you sure
al Qaeda will not use Thompson in the future as a recruiting
tool?" Protesters displayed boards and said "terrorists do not
belong in this country, whether it is Illinois or any state in
this country".

Another resident said shifting terror suspects in their
backyard would "make us a target of foreigners who want to
attack US soil".

"Terrorists would want to hit us to make a point, here in
the Midwest, in the American heartland," a protester said
adding, "is a little economic gain worth the risk?"

However Governor Patt Quinn, who was not present at the
meeting, has said the prison would have maximum security and
"no visitors, other than lawyers, would be allowed to visit
the detainees".

The prison, built at a cost of USD 145 million in 2001,
has remained largely empty due to funding problems. It has
1,600 cells but currently houses only about 200
minimum-security inmates.

Issues that dominated the meeting was whether or not the
state will lose money in selling the correctional centre to
the federal government, whether giving up an underused
facility was wise given the overcrowding in the state`s
prisons, and whether the safety of Illinois residents is at
stake in housing terror suspects in their "backyards".

The panel`s recommendation would be advisory in nature
and the Governor does not have to follow them.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 - 14:00

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