King lashes out against White House purchase of Thomson prison

In a letter sent to the White House on Thursday, Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) said the deal "clearly tips [the] administration's hand" that is has not abandoned its "reckless" plans to transfer foreign terror suspects to the United States. 

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The Department of Justice's Bureau of Prisons will assume control of the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Ill., under a deal struck between administration officials and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday. 

King argues the $165 million in Justice Department dollars used to buy the Thomson prison would have been better used for other homeland security priorities, from procuring more Coast Guard warships to bolstering cybersecurity measures within U.S. government networks. 

The New York Republican pointed out the Department of Justice already owns four closed state prisons in Alabama, Mississippi, West Virginia and New Hampshire

“It is difficult to believe the claim that your administration intends to use the Thomson facility solely for housing criminals since the federal government already owns four additional empty prison facilities that are awaiting activation," King said. 

House Republicans have been opposed to the buy since the Obama administration, in 2009, began entertaining the idea of moving terror suspects from the U.S. military base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States. 

Thomson was one of the locations reportedly being eyed by the Obama administration to house terror suspects once the Guantanamo facility closes. 

The White House had repeatedly said it planned to close the Guantánamo Bay prison within President Obama's first term in office, but has acknowledged it will not be able to keep that promise. 

But the Thomson sale has renewed attacks from congressional Republicans that the administration is attempting to deliver on that promise again. 

"There is overwhelming, bipartisan opposition to the president’s plan to transfer terrorists from the secure detention facility at Guantanamo Bay into the United States. Terrorists don’t deserve the same legal rights as the Americans they’re targeting," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. 

"We should be focused on stopping terrorists, not defending them," he added in a statement issued after the Thomson sale was announced. 

The Thomson prison deal also effectively forces American taxpayers to pay for bringing foreign terrorists to the U.S., according to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). 

The move also circumvents efforts by House Republicans to scuttle the sale earlier this year. 

GOP Reps. Hal Rogers (Ky.), who heads the House Appropriations Committee, and House Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science subcommittee chief Frank Wolf (Va.) spearheaded the effort to kill the Thomson deal in the House. 

"In the very least, the purchase of Thomson [correctional facility] is a waste, and as a Guantanamo-like facility, it could be a disaster,” Rogers said in a statement issued Tuesday. 

— Ramsay Cox and Jordy Yager contributed to this report.