Illinois prison may not house Guantanamo prisoners after all

In December, the Obama administration signaled its intention to move some federal prisoners as well as detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from Clinton, Iowa.

However, on May 19 the House Armed Services Committee “unanimously approved a defense bill for 2011 that bans spending money to build or modify any facility inside the United States to house Guantánamo detainees,” the New York Times reported.

At TalkLeft, Jeralyn posted an excerpt from the bill summary:

The Committee firmly believes that the construction or modification of any facility in the U.S. to detain or imprison individuals currently being held at Guantanamo must be accompanied by a thorough and comprehensive plan that outlines the merits, costs, and risks associated with utilizing such a facility. No such plan has been presented to date. The bill prohibits the use of any funds for this purpose. Additionally, the bill requires the Secretary of Defense to present Congress with a report that adequately justifies any proposal to build or modify such a facility in the future.

Last fall prominent Iowa Republicans fanned fears about terrorists in the heartland as a political weapon against President Obama and Representative Bruce Braley, who represents the Iowa counties closest to Thomson, Illinois. At the time, Braley expressed support for the plan to convert the Illinois facility, saying his constituents “have told me with a resounding voice they want these jobs to come to their area.” Some jobs will almost certainly come to the area in 2011 or 2012, because the federal government still plans to purchase and renovate the Thomson Correctional Center to use for federal prisoners, with or without detainees from Guantanamo.

Iowa Democrats Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell are among the 61 members of the House Armed Services Committee. I don’t know whether they were present at Wednesday’s meeting, where the defense authorization bill passed by a 59 to 0 vote.

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