Three conservative leaders support transfer of Gitmo detainees to Illinois

Three conservative leaders on Sunday said they support transferring terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay to a prison in Illinois, a move opposed by several Republican lawmakers. 

In a letter circulated by the Constitution Project, 2008 Libertarian Party presidential nominee and former Rep. Bob Barr, American Conservative Union founder David Keene and Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist say that civilian prisons and courts are safe and appropriate places to handle suspected terrorists. 

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They specifically addressed Republican charges that bringing Gitmo detainees onto the U.S. mainland could elevate the risk of an attack.

“The scaremongering about these issues should stop,” they wrote. “It makes sense for the community, which will benefit from the related employment and has absolutely no reason to fear that prisoners will escape or be released into their communities.”

A group of Illinois Democrats suggested that a little-used but modern prison in Thompson, Ill., could house suspected terrorists. Their announcement comes as the Obama administration continues to struggle to develop a plan to shutter the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

Republican Reps. Mark Kirk and Don Manzullo, who represent northwestern Illinois, oppose the plan, arguing that the prisoners could increase the risk of a terror attack in the state. Democrats such as Gov. Pat Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin say that the move could create jobs in a state struggling economically. The move would also hasten the Obama administration’s plan to close Gitmo by its self-imposed January deadline.

Administration officials have said that without a plan, it is unlikely to meet the deadline. It is not clear if the plan, even if it is approved, could allow the administration to close down the base by January. The Justice Department last week announced it would hold civilian trials in New York for Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terror suspects. 

The trials are seen by many Democrats as a step forward in the closure process, but Republicans have argued they could increase the risk of a terror attack and offer constitutional protections to individuals who do not deserve them.

“But most of all it makes sense for America because it is a critical link in the process of closing Guantanamo and getting this country back to using its tried and true, constitutionally sound institutions,” the conservative leaders wrote.

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